Biden’s Dance With a Latin Dictator

A pumpjack owned by Petroleos de Venezuela SA in Caracas, April 21.


ronald pena / Shutterstock

Is the Biden Administration preparing to ease sanctions on Venezuela to increase global oil supply? The State Department denies it, but it is a potentially damaging US policy shift that Congress is monitoring.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador returned from a visit to Havana this month and announced the next day that the United States had agreed with Caracas to buy one million barrels of Venezuelan crude per day. This would require lifting US sanctions designed to squeeze Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship and help return the country to democracy.

A US State Department official told us last week that “current sanctions related to Venezuela remain in effect” and that “there are no new changes or agreements.” But López Obrador knows that U.S. engagement with Venezuela — and with Cuba — is the goal of many Democrats in Washington. He also knows that companies like Chevron are lobbying to ease sanctions so they can continue to operate in Venezuela.

In March, the Biden Team sent three representatives to Caracas to speak with Mr. Maduro. Venezuela later released two of the more than half a dozen American hostages it was holding. The regime used the meeting to spread a propaganda message that Washington had now recognized its legitimacy. Rumors continue that back channel talks are still ongoing.

Pressure to ease sanctions is also coming from the left on Capitol Hill. Last week, 18 Democrats wrote to President Biden, asking him to remove sanctions they called “one of the leading causes” of suffering for the Venezuelan people. But the real leading cause is Mr. Maduro’s socialist policies that have created hyperinflation, poverty, widespread corruption and malnutrition and produced millions of Venezuelan refugees.

The letter also notes that providing police sanctions should be done “without hindering or delaying urgent action needed to transition the US economy away from fossil fuels.” That would do the trick, as Venezuela’s oil industry is a notorious polluter.

Mr. Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, destroyed the nation’s oil infrastructure and usurped the national oil monopoly. Even if US investors are allowed to start pumping again, Venezuelan supply will not have much of an impact on global oil prices. But it does show that America’s progressive organizations appear to have put the appeasement of Latinos above their climate change principles.

Meanwhile, the Maduro regime still murders dissidents and holds hundreds of political prisoners. There have been no free and honest elections in Venezuela for two decades. The regime supports the Cuban dictatorship with its oil shipments, while Havana remains the most destabilizing, anti-democratic agent in the Western Hemisphere. Both are allies of Russia.

The Biden Administration’s sanctions against the dictator are ongoing even as the agency takes action to limit US oil and output. No contradiction can be understood other than the triumph of ideology over reason.

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Appears on May 17, 2022, print edition as ‘Biden’s Dance with a Dictator.’ Biden’s Dance With a Latin Dictator

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