With little fanfare, the Biden administration on Oct. 18 eased sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, which should allow the beleaguered socialist nation to export more oil to the United States and to global markets. Venezuela is one of the world’s most oil-rich countries, but incompetent, repressive dictators and US sanctions have wrecked much of the industry and left it pumping a fraction of its potential.
The Biden administration says the sanctions relief is aimed at cajoling Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro into holding free-ish elections next year. The deal has a six-month shelf life and can either be extended or canceled, based on whether Maduro seems to be abiding by the terms.
But there’s good reason to think the Biden administration cares about oil supplies at least as much as the prospect for democracy in Latin America. Research firm ClearView Energy Partners thinks Venezuela is one of four sources of additional oil the Biden administration has been trying to draw on to the market for the last several months. Two other sources — Iran and Saudi Arabia — may now be off the table due to the mushrooming war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. The fourth source is Russian crude, via relaxed enforcement of a US-led price cap scheme that went into effect last December.
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