President Joe Biden offered to remove oil trading sanctions imposed on Venezuela in exchange for assurances the nation would send supply to the U.S., Reuters reported.
A senior delegation of U.S. officials told their Venezuelan counterparts over the weekend that the Biden administration would be willing to remove oil sanctions on the condition supply was transported directly to the U.S., two sources close to the investigation informed Reuters.
The officials sent to Venezuela reportedly met up with President Nicolás Maduro, the first meeting of its kind between the two nations in years.
“As it relates to Venezuela, the purpose of the trip that was taken by administration officials was to discuss a range of issues, including, certainly, energy security, but also to discuss the health and welfare of detained U.S. citizens,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday. “We’re never going to miss an opportunity to do exactly that.”
She said that the discussions lasted several days and were ongoing, but she didn’t answer a question about Biden’s view on negotiations with figures like Maduro. Under Maduro’s authoritarian regime, Venezuela consistently ranks as one of the least “free” countries in the world, according to Freedom House.
On Tuesday, Biden announced that the U.S. would immediately ban the import of all Russian oil and petroleum products. Oil prices in the U.S. and worldwide skyrocketed following the announcement. The average price of gasoline, which is largely determined by the price of oil, hit its highest level ever recorded, AAA data showed.
“The problem is (Biden) still won’t say ‘yes’ to American energy,” House Republican Whip Steve Scalise told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview on Tuesday. “He’s, right now, begging dictators, Iran, Venezuela to produce oil but he keeps saying ‘no’ to American energy.”
Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, echoed Scalise’s sentiment.
“If the reports are true that the Biden administration is brokering the purchase of Venezuelan oil, I fear that it risks perpetuating a humanitarian crisis that has destabilized Latin America and the Caribbean for an entire generation,” he said in a statement Monday. “Nicolás Maduro is a cancer to our hemisphere and we should not breathe new life into his reign of torture and murder.”
“As such, I would strongly oppose any action that fills the pockets of regime oligarchs with oil profits while Maduro continues to deprive Venezuelans of basic human rights, freedoms, and even food,” Menendez said.
Experts also questioned whether turning to Venezuela would help Americans at the pump. “This won’t help ease the pain at the pump for American consumers,” Francisco Monaldi, the director of the Rice University Baker Institute’s Latin America Energy Program, told The Wall Street Journal, saying Venezuelan production would be a “drop in the bucket in the world oil market.”
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