Talks between Venezuela's Maduro, opposition expected; U.S. easing some restrictions -sources

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores dance during the May Day celebrations in Caracas, Venezuela May 1, 2022. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

By Vivian Sequera, Matt Spetalnick and Marianna Parraga

CARACAS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the country’s opposition are expected to announce a resumption of political negotiations in Mexico, as Washington eases some restrictions on Maduro’s heavily sanctioned government, people familiar with the matter said.

President Joe Biden’s administration, as soon as Tuesday, will authorize U.S. oil company Chevron Corp (NYSE:) to open negotiations with Maduro’s government, temporarily lifting a U.S. ban on such discussions, two people told Reuters.

However, there is no final U.S. decision yet on renewing Chevron’s current, limited license to operate in Venezuela, the sources said. Chevron is the last U.S. oil producer to maintain a presence in Venezuela, home to the world’s largest crude reserves.

Chevron will be authorized to talk with the government and state-run oil firm PDVSA on the future of the company’s operations in Venezuela, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter. The permit is needed because of U.S. sanctions prohibiting dealings with PDVSA or any sanctioned officials.

The decision to allow contacts between Chevron and PDVSA has “guardrails” to prevent going beyond what was authorized. It was made in consultation with the opposition. The official said the U.S. moves were intended to smooth the way for the Mexico talks and the steps are contingent on Maduro’s government acting “constructively” in negotiations.

Washington also has agreed to remove Erick Malpica, a former PDVSA official and the nephew of Venezuela’s first lady, Cilia Flores, from a U.S. sanctions list, the official said. The official said he was being delisted because he was “no longer part of the regime structure.”

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