Folding the Hand

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The United States and Venezuela reached a deal this week that will see Washington ease sanctions on the oil-rich South American country, in return for Caracas allowing a competitive and internationally monitored presidential election next year, the Guardian reported.

The sanctions will be relaxed once Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro restarts talks with the country’s opposition, officials said.

Negotiations between Maduro and Venezuela’s opposition broke down last year when the authoritarian government banned some candidates from running in the 2024 presidential polls.

On Tuesday, both government and opposition representatives agreed to a series of electoral guarantees for next year’s election, following a Norway-brokered meeting in Barbados, Reuters added.

Under the agreement, the election will take place in the second half of next year, and international observers – including from the European Union and United Nations – will oversee the vote.

The deal also said that each side can select its own candidates, but did not reverse a ban on some opposition figures that prevent them from holding office.

In a joint statement, Western governments welcomed the Barbados agreement, calling it a necessary step toward the “restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”

But as the US continues to study the details of the agreement, questions remain about when Washington will loosen sanctions and how far it will go.

The US has put a time limit on sanctions relief, allowing for reversals if Maduro does not uphold his end of the deal. Analysts said the agreement signals a new approach in US–Venezuela relations, moving away from the “maximum pressure” strategy pursued over the past few years, the Washington Post noted.

Venezuela has been reeling from an economic and humanitarian crisis that has seen millions of its citizens leaving the country. The US imposed a series of sanctions on the Venezuelan government, further tightening them in 2019 following the country’s disputed presidential vote the year before.

In 2019, Maduro survived an international campaign supported by numerous Western governments, including the US, to oust him. This effort was led by opposition politician Juan Guaidó, who fled to the US earlier this year after support for him dwindled as further attempts to oust Maduro failed.

Relations between Caracas and Washington began improving in early 2022 when senior US officials held talks with their Venezuelan counterparts.

The Biden administration’s decision to re-engage with Maduro after years of isolation is aimed at steering the country away from Russia and also to explore alternative sources to Russian oil imports.

Venezuela is home to the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

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