Venezuela’s gov, opponents resume talks; US eases sanction

Nov 25, 2022, 8:56 PM | Updated: Nov 26, 2022, 12:47 pm
President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, left, jokes with Nicolas Maduro G...

President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, left, jokes with Nicolas Maduro Guerra, son of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, after signing an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

              President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, left, jokes with Nicolas Maduro Guerra, son of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, after signing an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Venezuelan opposition delegate Gerardo Blyde Perez, left, signs an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Representatives from the Venezuelan government, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrad, Norwegian diplomat Dag Nylander and Venezuelan opposition representatives pose for a photo during the signing of an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, right, Venezuelan opposition delegate Gerardo Blyde Perez shake hands after signing an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, prepares to sign an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Venezuelan opposition delegate Gerardo Blyde Perez, prepares to sign an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              From left, Venezuelan opposition delegate Gerardo Blyde Perez, Mexico's Foreign Minter Marcelo Ebrad, Norwegian diplomat Dag Nylander and President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, applaud after signing an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Norwegian diplomat Dag Nylander, left, and President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, confer during a signing ceremony for an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, left, jokes with Nicolas Maduro Guerra, son of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, after signing an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Venezuelan opposition delegate Gerardo Blyde Perez, left, signs an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Representatives from the Venezuelan government, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrad, Norwegian diplomat Dag Nylander and Venezuelan opposition representatives pose for a photo during the signing of an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, right, Venezuelan opposition delegate Gerardo Blyde Perez shake hands after signing an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, prepares to sign an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Venezuelan opposition delegate Gerardo Blyde Perez, prepares to sign an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              From left, Venezuelan opposition delegate Gerardo Blyde Perez, Mexico's Foreign Minter Marcelo Ebrad, Norwegian diplomat Dag Nylander and President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, applaud after signing an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Norwegian diplomat Dag Nylander, left, and President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, confer during a signing ceremony for an agreement to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor during a ceremony at a hotel in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The agreement signed by representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of their country's complex crisis. The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              FILE - View of the Jose Antonio Anzoategui oil complex in Barcelona, Anzoategui State, Venezuela, July 3, 2022. The Biden administration on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, eased some oil sanctions on Venezuela in an effort to support newly restarted negotiations between President Nicolás Maduro’s government and its opposition. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)
            
              FILE - A Chevron sign is displayed outside one of the company's gas stations in Bradenton, Fla., Feb. 22, 2022. The Biden administration is easing some oil sanctions on Venezuela in an effort to support newly restarted negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opposition. The Treasury Department is allowing Chevron to resume “limited” energy production in Venezuela after years of sanctions that have dramatically curtailed oil and gas profits that have flowed to President Nicolás Maduro’s government. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
            
              Nicolas Maduro Guerra, right, son of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, looks on as Jorge Rodriguez speaks, after they arrived as part of the Venezuelan government delegation to Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. The government of Venezuela and its opposition are set to resume this weekend long-stalled negotiations to address their country's complex crisis. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Jorge Rodriguez, center, from the Venezuelan government delegation, center, speaks to the media as he arrives at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. The government of Venezuela and its opposition are set to resume this weekend long-stalled negotiations to address their country's complex crisis. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Camila Fabri, right, wife of Colombian businessman Alex Saab who was extradited to the U.S. last year, looks on as Jorge Rodriguez speaks, as part of the Venezuelan government delegation at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. The government of Venezuela and its opposition are set to resume this weekend long-stalled negotiations to address their country's complex crisis. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Jorge Rodriguez, from the Venezuelan government delegation, center, speaks to the media as he arrives at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. The government of Venezuela and its opposition are set to resume this weekend long-stalled negotiations to address their country's complex crisis. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Venezuela’s government and its opposition on Saturday agreed to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor, while the Biden administration eased some oil sanctions on the country in an effort to boost the newly restarted talks between the sides.

The agreement signed in Mexico City by representatives of President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition, including the faction backed by the United States and led by Juan Guaidó, marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of the South American country’s complex crisis.

The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil.

The broad terms of the agreement for the United Nations-managed social fund were announced by the head of a group of Norwegian diplomats guiding the negotiations.

Venezuelan resources held in the international financial system will be directed to the fund, though neither side in the talks nor Norway’s chief facilitator, Dag Nylander, said whether the U.S. or European governments have agreed to allow frozen assets to be funneled to the new mechanism.

“In line with UN norms and procedures, (the fund’s) objective would be to support the implementation of social protection measures for the Venezuelan people,” Nylander said. “The parties have identified a set of resources belonging to the Venezuelan state frozen in the international financial system to which it is possible to progressively access, understanding the need to obtain the authorizations and approvals” from foreign institutions and organizations.

A U.N. report published earlier this year estimated humanitarian needs at $795 million to help about 5.2 million people in Venezuela through health, education, water and sanitation, food and other projects.

Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. ramped up economic sanctions against Venezuela and granted Guaidó authority to take control of bank accounts that Maduro’s government has in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other U.S.-insured banks.

Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president in January 2019, arguing that his capacity as then-president of the country’s National Assembly allowed him to form a transitional government because Maduro had been re-elected in a sham vote in late 2018. Dozens of countries, including the U.S., Canada and Colombia, recognized him as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

European banks also hold Venezuelan frozen assets.

About 7 million people have left Venezuela amid a complex political and humanitarian crisis. Three-quarters of those who remain in the country live on less than $1.90 a day, an international measure for extreme poverty.

About $3 billion is expected to be progressively directed to the fund.

The dialogue formally began in September 2021, but Maduro’s delegates walked away from negotiations in October 2021 after businessman Alex Saab was extradited on money laundering charges from Cape Verde to the U.S. Maduro conditioned a resumption on the release of Saab.

The Treasury Department on Saturday announced its decision to allow California-based Chevron to resume “limited” energy production in Venezuela after years of sanctions that have dramatically curtailed oil and gas profits that have flowed to Maduro’s government.

The decision by the Biden administration is the latest step in the softening of hostile relations between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. It came weeks after a major prisoner swap in which Venezuela freed seven imprisoned Americans in exchange for the U.S. freeing two nephews of Maduro’s wife. Maduro released two other Americans in March.

Under the new policy, profits from the sale of energy would be directed to paying down debt owed to Chevron, rather than providing profits to Venezuela’s state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., commonly known as PDVSA.

Treasury’s move “brings added transparency to the Venezuelan oil sector,” Chevron said in a statement. The company added that the decision “means Chevron can now commercialize the oil that is currently being produced from the company’s Joint Venture assets. We are determined to remain a constructive presence in the country and to continue supporting social investment programs aimed at providing humanitarian relief.”

A senior U.S. administration official, briefing reporters about the U.S. action under the condition of anonymity, said that easing the sanctions was not connected to the administration’s efforts to boost global energy production in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that the decision was not expected to impact global energy prices.

The agreement over the social fund is part of a broad agenda that is expected to advance in December, including the conditions for the presidential elections that are supposed to take place in 2024, the release of political prisoners and the withdrawal of decisions that bar many politicians from running for office.

The fund is a tangible result from a process that many see with skepticism after negotiations mediated by the international community in previous years failed to bring the sides to an agreement.

David Smilde, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America and professor at Tulane University, said that after the long break in negotiations, “it is up to the two sides to show the exhausted Venezuelan population that they can actually address their needs and return the country to a functioning democracy.”

“However, this should be seen not as the end point of the negotiations but as a restart,” Smilde said. “The more important issues of justice and democracy are on the agenda for future meetings. Making progress will be difficult, but both sides have much to gain by rising to the occasion.”

___

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report from Washington.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Venezuela’s gov, opponents resume talks; US eases sanction