Abrams’ suggestion to Biden to lift oil sanctions on the regime

This Thursday the special representative of the State Department for Venezuela during the Administration of former President Donald Trump, Elliott Abrams, suggested to President Joe Biden, the conditions for the end of sanctions against the oil industry, in exchange for the Chavista regime allowing the access of the World Food Program to Venezuela.

Abrams addressed Biden in a lengthy article explaining the procedure that he suggests to the president to manage the sanctions that weigh on the Venezuelan oil industry under the command of Nicolas Maduro.

Here is the article published by Abrams:

As part of the broad economic sanctions against the Maduro regime in Venezuela and especially the oil sector, the Trump administration banned swaps of Venezuelan crude oil for gasoline and diesel.

There has been a debate on this step. The humanitarian argument against banning diesel trades was simple: Diesel-powered trucks are critical in the food and agricultural sector, so the shortage of diesel will eventually affect the food supply. Why is a diesel shortage anticipated? The Maduro regime, through corruption and incompetence, has destroyed Venezuela’s oil sector, including its refining capacity. The country has a refining capacity of about 1.3 million barrels per day, but is actually refining at most 10% of that amount.

So far, it’s hard to show that the exclusion of diesel (and gasoline) swaps has led to shortages, but advocates of allowing diesel swaps suggest that a real shortage is looming. It’s worth noting that the Maduro regime gives Cuba thousands of barrels of diesel per day, suggesting that the product is still available in Venezuela.

The humanitarian argument is that many Venezuelans are already hungry, so we must not do anything that could interfere with the food supply, it runs into a crude fact: many Venezuelans are hungry, but the cruel regime refuses to allow the World Food Program (WFP) operate there.

Why not? Simple. The regime uses access to food as a weapon of social and political control, for example, by requiring citizens seeking food to show their membership card from the ruling party to obtain it.

Consider this from the July 2019 report by OCHCR, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on Venezuela:

The Government has not demonstrated that it has used all the resources at its disposal to guarantee the progressive realization of the right to food, nor that it has unsuccessfully sought international assistance to address the gaps… On May 13, 2016, the Government declared “state of exception and economic emergency ”and created the Local Food Supply and Distribution Committees (CLAP) as part of the local structure of“ community councils ”…. OHCHR received reports from people who, despite not having adequate access to food, were not included in the distribution lists of the CLAP boxes because they were not supporters of the Government … The list of beneficiaries of these programs [sociales] it is administered by the local structures of the governing parties, as opposed to government institutions. The interviewees reported that members of these local structures monitor the political activity of the beneficiaries… As the economic crisis deepened, the authorities began to use social programs in a discriminatory way, for political reasons, and as an instrument of social control…

While Venezuelans are starving, the regime has blocked WFP because WFP principles (political neutrality, food distribution based on need) would undermine the regime’s use of food as a weapon.

Today, there are serious efforts to negotiate WFP’s entry into Venezuela. And that gives us an answer to the question about the diesel change. The Biden administration should make the diesel swap permit conditional on the permit for WFP to work in Venezuela. It is logical: if diesel exchanges are intended to help the food situation, we demand that the regime allow serious and direct aid to Venezuelans who need it. Let’s not allow the brutal Maduro regime to shed crocodile tears on diesel as it continues to block WFP. In this way, the true beneficiaries will be the people of Venezuela.

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