The US has granted Chevron a limited license to restart pumping oil in Venezuela in the most significant easing of sanctions on the country since the harsh measures were imposed by the Trump administration.
The move came after the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro signed a deal with an opposition coalition to unlock about $3 billion in Venezuelan funds that were frozen by US and European banks. Under the deal, the funds will go toward humanitarian and economic development projects.
According to the Treasury Department, the license granted to Chevron prohibits the Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA from receiving profits from any oil sales by Chevron. The license is only limited to Chevron and does not allow any other companies to work with PdVSA.
The Treasury Department said that all other sanctions on Venezuela will remain in place and that the US will “vigorously enforce these sanctions.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, Biden administration officials said the license is good for six months and that it could be revoked or amended at any time if Maduro stops the talks with the opposition coalition, which have been taking place in Mexico.
The Trump administration first imposed sanctions on Venezuela in 2017 and ratcheted up the pressure in 2019 when the US recognized Juan Guaido as the “interim president” and backed a failed coup against Maduro. The US continued to increase sanctions on Venezuela after the failed coup to the point where the country was essentially under a US trade embargo, a policy that has had a devastating impact on the civilian population.
The Biden administration’s effort to get oil flowing out of Venezuela is likely an effort to keep global prices down. The issuance of the license comes as the US and its allies are planning to implement a price cap on Russian oil that could backfire and cause Russia to cut production significantly.