US weighs seizing Venezuelan oil – reports

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Shipments could be confiscated to recoup unpaid debt incurred under crippling US sanctions

Washington is considering a proposal by US oil major Chevron to allow the company to accept and trade Venezuelan oil cargoes to recoup unpaid debt, Reuters reported on Monday, citing its sources.

People close to the discussions said that Chevron representatives in recent months held at least one high-level meeting with US diplomats along with Venezuelan opposition envoys.

Chevron has been lobbying for a year to secure a change in its license to operate in Venezuela. The energy giant wants Washington to reinstate trading privileges it enjoyed for a time under then-President Donald Trump’s administration. Back then the company, along with other foreign producers, were permitted to take and export Venezuelan oil to recoup dividends and debt from joint ventures with state-run oil company PDVSA.

Under that arrangement, Chevron was allowed to trade up to two million barrels per month of Venezuelan crude until mid-2020. Venezuela owes hundreds of millions of dollars to Chevron from joint ventures.

“The Biden administration has more and more incentives to ease sanctions on Venezuela after Trump’s failed strategy,” one of the sources told Reuters. “One of the most important ones is to bring something to the negotiation table” with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, he added.

The US State Department spokesperson said the government “does not preview sanctions actions.” According to the official, sanctions “deny the Maduro regime revenue streams that finance repression and line the pockets of regime officials, as well as protect the US financial system from exposure to corrupt and illicit financial flows.”

Most Venezuela-related trade permitted by Washington since 2019 has been through oil-for-fuel swaps that ensured Venezuelan crude could not be resold, and that no cash payments would get to Maduro’s government or to PDVSA.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has repeatedly called for restarting political negotiations with Maduro after they were suspended in October, said last month a US offer to loosen sanctions if talks resume “is not indefinite” and could be reversed.

The Maduro government has long withstood US and European sanctions. Last year, Venezuela was denied access to its almost $2 billion of gold reserves stored in the UK, with London saying Maduro should not be recognized as its president “for any purpose.”

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

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