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The United States will ease some oil and gas sanctions against Venezuela after the South American country's government and opposition agreed to hold elections next year, the Treasury Department said Wednesday.
In response to those "democratic developments," the Treasury "has issued General Licenses authorizing transactions involving Venezuela's oil and gas sector and gold sector," and is "removing the ban on secondary trading" in debt securities, a statement from under secretary for terrorism Brian Nelson said.
It added, however, that those authorizations could be amended or revoked at any time if the electoral deal falls through.
In order to uphold the agreement, the United States warned Venezuela that they must "define a specific timeline and process for the expedited reinstatement of all candidates" by the end of November, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
"All who want to run for president should be allowed the opportunity," he said, while also calling for the release of "all wrongfully detained US nationals and Venezuelan political prisoners."
The agreement between Washington and Caracas comes just a day after the Venezuelan government and opposition reached a deal in Barbados -- mediated by Norway -- to hold elections in late 2024.
But that accord allows for the exclusion of certain candidates under Venezuelan law, which would include opposition frontrunner Maria Corina Machado.
US officials speaking on the condition of anonymity Wednesday evening, however, said they believed Caracas was planning to eventually allow such candidates to participate.
"Failure to abide by the terms of this arrangement will lead the United States to reverse steps we have taken," Blinken said in his statement.
Also on Wednesday, a charter flight from Texas arrived at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas carrying some 130 Venezuelan migrants, the first such deportation flight following an agreement earlier this month between the two countries.
The deal provides for the "orderly, safe and legal repatriation" of undocumented Venezuelan migrants, who until now had been deported in small numbers on commercial flights, mixed in with regular passengers.
Oil, gas, gold
In concrete terms, the sanctions easing means the US government is re-authorizing the purchase of Venezuelan oil and gas for a period of six months, which may be renewed "only if Venezuela meets its commitments under the electoral roadmap as well as other commitments with respect to those who are wrongfully detained."
Regarding the gold sector, no time limit has been specified, with the Treasury Department stating it seeks to reduce black market trading.
Washington is also allowing renewed trading in Venezuelan debt securities on the secondary market, although the ban on the primary market -- meaning debt securities newly issued by the Venezuelan government -- remains in force.
The easing of sanctions on Venezuelan oil had been eagerly awaited by the markets, leading to a fall in the price per barrel despite the war between Israel and Hamas and the risk of escalation in the Middle East.
The United States had already flagged the possibility of easing the sanctions, and the announcement Tuesday that Venezuela's government and opposition had agreed to elections ramped up speculation.
An exact election date will be defined by the country's National Electoral Council, according to the text of the deal.
The two sides had resumed talks seeking to end the country's political and economic crisis, after a nearly yearlong suspension.
The opposition, backed by several countries including the United States, did not recognize President Nicolas Maduro's 2018 re-election in a vote widely dismissed as fraudulent.
The following year, Washington ramped up sanctions against Caracas first imposed in 2015 over the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
But the energy crisis sparked by Russia's war on Ukraine saw renewed global efforts to solve the crisis in Venezuela, which has the world's largest oil reserves.
Last year, US delegates went to Caracas to meet Maduro, even though it does not recognize him as a legitimate leader.
After initial talks between the government and the opposition, Washington granted a six-month license to US energy giant Chevron.
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