The Biden administration is weighing the possibility of easing sanctions on Venezuela so that the country can begin producing more oil and selling it on the international market, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
The move would be aimed at reducing global dependence on Russian oil amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and at isolating Russia from one of its key allies in South America, the person said.
Biden administration officials, including National Security Council Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez and US special presidential envoy for hostage affairs Roger Carstens, were dispatched to Caracas over the weekend for talks on the issue, the person said, as well as to discuss the American citizens currently detained in the country. The New York Times first reported the officials’ travel to Venezuela.
Remember: Washington imposed sanctions on Venezuelan oil in 2019 and closed its embassy in Caracas after deeming Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s election victory in 2018 to be a sham.
U Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the US and allies were actively exploring ways to ban Russian oil imports, thereby damaging Russia’s economy even further. The West has been reluctant so far to impose significant sanctions on Russia’s energy sector because of how it might impact the global economy, but are now getting closer to doing so as Europe works to diversify its energy sources.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has already criticized the discussions, tweeting over the weekend, “Rather than produce more American oil,” Biden “wants to replace the oil we buy from one murderous dictator with oil from another murderous dictator.”
But the source with knowledge of the talks said that merely increasing American oil production would not make up for the amount lost by cutting off Russia.