Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is “sending signals” to the Biden administration, but Washington will not ease sanctions without concrete steps to hold free elections in Caracas. A senior White House official reported this to Reuters.
The comments appear intended to dispel rumors that President Biden may ease pressure on Venezuela in response to Maduro’s agreement to allow the World Food Program (WFP) to begin operations there and the regime’s release from house arrest of six former CITGO executives.
The new White House administration is still reviewing tough sanctions imposed by Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, and aides to the US president have made it clear that they are in no hurry to ease the pressure on Maduro, whom they consider a dictator.
“Based on specific actions, we will respond,” the official said. “But otherwise, we are going to continue to work with international partners to increase multilateral pressure to achieve this goal – holding free and fair elections.”
Last month, Maduro struck a deal with WFP to supply food to 185,000 schoolchildren in a country suffering from a humanitarian crisis triggered by an economic collapse.
On Friday, Venezuela released the so-called “6 Citgo” from prison and placed them under house arrest. This happened three years after the arrest of the company’s executives, who were accused of corruption. Washington welcomed the move but reiterated the need to give leaders complete freedom.
“We are following these developments very closely,” the White House official said. “We see that Maduro is sending signals, but we are going to act based on concrete steps on the part of Venezuela.” The Biden administration has made clear that it will continue to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela. Dozens of countries backed Guaido’s statement after Maduro’s re-election in 2018 in a vote that Western governments called a sham. However, Maduro has retained the support of the military and Russia, China, and Cuba.