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A coalition of prominent Senate Republicans is urging President Biden to refrain from granting oil sanctions relief to the Venezuelan government, an authoritarian regime known for its suppression of political dissent. Spearheaded by Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska, the group of seven lawmakers penned a letter to the president, urging him to revoke General License 44, scheduled for renewal later this week. They assert that the Venezuelan government, led by Nicolás Maduro, has failed to uphold its commitments, particularly regarding the promise of fair elections, made when the Biden administration initially issued the six-month license.

In their correspondence, the lawmakers emphasize the futility of appeasing dictatorial regimes and stress the importance of maintaining U.S. sanctions on the Maduro regime to retain diplomatic leverage. They caution that lifting sanctions without adherence to democratic principles would not only undermine efforts for a free and fair electoral process in Venezuela but also embolden other authoritarian regimes globally, including China, Iran, and Russia.

The backdrop of this plea is the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, where despite promises of electoral reforms, the Maduro government has intensified its crackdown on opposition figures and dissenting voices. Such actions, including the imprisonment of political opponents, cast doubt on the regime’s sincerity in fulfilling its obligations under the October agreement, which prompted the easing of sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector by the U.S. Treasury Department.

The agreement, signed amidst negotiations with opposition leaders, aimed to pave the way for more transparent elections in Venezuela. However, the regime’s subsequent actions have raised concerns about its commitment to democratic processes. This skepticism has prompted calls from Senate Republicans for the Biden administration to reconsider its stance on sanctions relief.

The issue of U.S. oil imports from Venezuela adds another layer of complexity to the debate. While sanctions imposed during the Trump administration led to a sharp decline in Venezuelan oil imports, recent data indicates a resurgence in imports under the Biden administration. This raises questions about the coherence of U.S. foreign policy regarding Venezuela and underscores the need for a principled approach aligned with democratic values and national interests.

Senator Sullivan, a vocal critic of Biden’s energy policies, has expressed dismay over the potential renewal of sanctions relief for Venezuela, juxtaposed with the administration’s measures to restrict domestic oil production. He highlights the imminent finalization of regulations that would restrict oil development in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, exacerbating the economic challenges faced by the state.

The letter to President Biden reflects broader concerns within the Republican Party about the administration’s foreign policy decisions and energy agenda. It underscores the imperative of prioritizing democratic principles and national security interests in dealings with authoritarian regimes while fostering energy independence and economic growth domestically. Despite attempts to reach The White House for comment, no response was received at the time of publication. Alongside Senator Sullivan, prominent Republican senators, including James Risch, John Barrasso, Bill Hagerty, Pete Ricketts, Marco Rubio, and Rick Scott, have lent their voices to this bipartisan appeal to the administration.