Maduro announces new round of negotiations with US less than one month before Venezuelan elections

The last meeting between the countries was held in Mexico in April; Venezuela rejected US interference in ‘internal affairs’

July 03, 2024 by Brasil de Fato
Maduro announced that the president of the National Assembly, Jorge Rodríguez, will be the head of the delegation for the negotiations (Photo: Prensa Presidencial

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced this Monday, July 1, that he will resume dialogues and negotiations with the United States this Wednesday. The last meeting between the governments of the two countries was held on April 9, in Mexico.

“I received the proposal from the United States Government to reestablish conversations and direct dialogue. After thinking for two months, I accepted. Talks will resume next Wednesday with the US government so that the agreements signed in Qatar are fulfilled and to re-establish the terms of dialogue with respect and without manipulation,” he stated on his program Con Maduro +.

The agreement Maduro refers to was signed between the two countries at the end of last year in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Washington released businessman Alex Saab and, in return, Caracas announced the release of 10 Americans imprisoned in the country. The talks were mediated by the Qatari government. The two parties also spoke about the lifting of sanctions and migration issues.

The president of Venezuela announced that the head of the National Dialogue Commission will be the president of the National Assembly, Jorge Rodríguez. He will be accompanied by the governor of the state of Miranda, Héctor Rodríguez Castro. Maduro stated he wanted to resolve “this sterile conflict with the North” and said he was “a man of dialogue.”

Over the last decade, the tense relationship between the two countries was made worse with the imposition of unilateral coercive measures, or sanctions, by the United States on Venezuela. The United States began imposing sanctions against the Venezuelan economy in 2014 and scaled up in 2015 when Obama declared Venezuela a “threat to national security”. The objective was to put pressure on the Venezuelan government and try to force the Bolivarian Revolution out of power. In 2017, the US increased the number and intensity of sanctions, and started limiting Venezuela’s sale of oil to other countries. Oil has been the main source of revenue for the Venezuelan government for a century.

The measures led the South American country to a serious economic crisis in recent years. In October 2023, the US issued licenses so that Venezuela could sell its oil on the international market. The US government’s decision was taken after the Venezuelan government signed an agreement in Barbados with part of the opposition to define the initial rules for the 2024 election.

The document determined that Venezuela’s elections should be held in the second half of 2024, that there would be a review of disqualifications and that the election would have the observation of international organizations. The right-wing opposition leader María Corina Machado was one of the figures who was disqualified due to “inconsistency and concealment” of assets in the declaration of assets that she should have presented to the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR) while she was a deputy in the National Assembly (2011-2014). She requested an analysis of her sentence in December 2023, and the Venezuelan court issued the decision at the end of January 2024 confirming her disqualification. 

After this, the US began to threaten the return of sanctions and the limiting of licenses. The main one, license 44, expired in April 2024 and was replaced by the United States Treasury Department with license 44A, which determines that companies that do business with the state-owned oil company PDVSA must request authorization from the Foreign Assets Control Agency (OFAC) of the US to resume business. In practice, it is a way of making the negotiation process with the Venezuelan state company more bureaucratic and difficult.

The last meeting between the two countries was held on April 9 in Mexico City. On that occasion, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again said that it rejects US interference and stated that it had passed on to the US representatives the agreement signed in Doha on the suspension of sanctions and migration issues, but the US was not complying with what was agreed upon. The resumption of talks between the two parties suggests that progress may be made with regards to the lifting of sanctions.

July 28 elections

The country’s electoral race has 10 candidates. President Nicolás Maduro is seeking re-election for a third term. He will face nine opposition candidates, the main one being former ambassador Edmundo González Urrutia. González is supported by María Corina Machado, who has been disqualified for 15 years by Venezuelan justice and will not be able to run.

In June, 8 of the 10 candidates signed an agreement to respect the election results. Edmundo refused to participate and did not sign the document. In addition to him, Enrique Márquez, from the Centrados party, did not sign.

This article was first published in Portuguese at Brasil de Fato, it has been lightly edited.