Thursday, August 11

The US and Venezuela negotiate on the release of US hostages



The Biden Administration intensifies its contacts with the Maduro regimesending for the second time this year the US president’s special envoy for the hostage release, Roger Carsten, to negotiate with the dictatorship in Caracas. On a previous visit, in March, there was also talk of oil productionSince the sanctions on Russia have raised the price of that fuel. Already this week, France suggested that Venezuela re-enter the international crude oil market, which would imply that the White House should finish lift several standing sanctions against Chavismo.

In March, the person in charge of Latin America in the National Security Council of the White House traveled to Caracas, John Gonzalez; the US ambassador to Venezuela, james storyand Carstens himself, who met Maduro in person.

On this new trip, Story, who works from Colombia, has accompanied Carstens again.

After the first visit, Chavismo released two Americans that it had imprisoned: Gustavo Cardenasone of the so-called Citgo six, the executives of that refining company who were arrested in Venezuela in 2017 on corruption charges, and Jorge Fernandeza tourist arrested last year accused of terrorism for being in possession of a drone.

It was Nicholas Maduro who reported the visit on television, revealing that on this occasion the US envoys met with the head of the parallel congress controlled by the regime, Jorge Rodríguez, to continue the March talks. The dictator did not give more details. Rodríguez is the brother of Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez.

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In a previous visit, in March, oil production was also discussed, since the sanctions against Russia have made the price of that fuel more expensive

The US delegation also met with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, whom Washington recognizes as interim president of Venezuela, after rejecting Maduro’s re-election in 2018 as fraudulent. The White House has pressured Maduro so that the regime returns to negotiations in Mexico with the opposition led by Guaidó. The dictatorship has not yet agreed on a date to return to that negotiating table.

After the first meeting in Caracas, to which Maduro did attend, there were two partial liftings of sanctions against Venezuela. The White House allows since last month the Spanish oil company Repsol and Italy’s Eni start sending oil from Venezuela to Europe to compensate for the cuts in the supply and the acquisition of crude oil from Russia, after the sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine.

In May, the US government allowed US oil company Chevron negotiate some licenses directly with the Venezuelan regime, although at the moment it is not allowed new drilling or exports of Venezuelan crude.

On the other hand, a former director of the state oil company PDVSA and nephew of the Venezuelan first lady, has been eliminated. Carlos Erik Malpica-Flores, from the official list of US sanctions, in which he was included for corruption. This decision was criticized by opponents of Chavismo, whom Washington recognizes as legitimate representatives of the Venezuelan people.

Five other Citgo executives are still detained in Venezuela: Tomeu Vadell, Alirio Zambrano, José Luis Zambrano, Jorge Toledo and José Pereira. Also in custody is Matthew Heath, a US Navy veteran arrested in 2020 for alleged terrorism and arms trafficking who has denied the charges. Heath is in a Venezuelan hospital after what his attorney described last week as a suicide attempt.

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Two other Americans who remain in detention are veterans of the United States special forces Luke Denman and Airan Berrywho were arrested in 2020 after a calamitous failed raid aimed at overthrowing Maduro.

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