The U.S. government on Monday moved to ease a crippling sanction imposed by the Trump administration on Venezuela by allowing companies to export propane to the troubled South American country, a step that could mitigate a shortage that has pushed people to cook on charcoal or wood grills.
By AP – Regina García Cano and Jorge Rueda
Jul 12, 2021
The Biden administration’s policy decision of wide impact in Venezuela comes as the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro has begun to allow foreign aid into the country and taken other steps to signal it is willing to engage with Washington.
The license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury authorizes non-U.S. companies to export liquefied petroleum gas to Venezuela without risking sanctions. The authorization is valid for one year.
“It is obviously a humanitarian gesture to the Venezuelan government because in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, people are cooking with wood on wood stoves instead of with propane,” said Russ Dallen, managing partner at Caracas Capital Markets.
But the U.S. move was announced on the same day that opposition leaders claimed to have been the targets of Maduro’s security forces. “The timing could not have been worse” for Washington, Dallen said.
Maduro’s opposition in a statement accused armed security forces of seeking to detain leader Juan Guaidó. The bloc said security forces also arbitrarily detained a former congressman.
Guaidó told reporters from the basement of his residence in Caracas that members of the Venezuelan security forces intercepted his vehicle and threatened to arrest him. He said the agents “pointed long weapons” at the vehicle and ordered him to open the doors, but then withdrew amid protests from neighbors.
“The intimidation has never stopped us,” said Guaidó, who is considered by the U.S. and dozens of other nations to be Venezuela’s legitimate leader and has previously negotiated humanitarian aid.
Venezuela’s government did not respond to requests for comments on the sanctions.
The Treasury Department has previously relaxed other measures, including granting licenses for six teams of the Venezuelan Baseball League so that MLB players could participate in the local tournament and issuing other licenses that allow the Central Bank of Venezuela to carry out certain transactions related to the coronavirus pandemic.