In a recent development, the European Union (EU) has decided to prolong sanctions against 54 Chavista leaders in Venezuela, despite the Spanish government’s attempt to grant them amnesty.
This decision comes as a response to the Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, proposing amnesty for these individuals under the pretext of following the footsteps of the United States. While the US has eased energy-related sanctions against Caracas, personal sanctions, including the $15 million reward for the capture of Nicolás Maduro, remain in place.
EU’s Approach to Sanctions
The EU has indicated that these measures do not harm the general population and can be reversed based on progress made towards restoring democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in Venezuela.
EU has reduced the extension of sanctions for human rights violations and undermining democracy from one year to six months. Additionally, the EU has expressed its attention towards positive steps following the political agreement in Barbados between the Maduro government and the opposition, with the support of the US.
However, the EU states that the removal of sanctions is contingent upon the presence of credible elections, respect for democratic institutions, the implementation of a complete electoral calendar, and the release of all political prisoners. Currently, none of these conditions are met, and only the electoral calendar appears feasible.
Reaction from the Chavista Government
The Chavista government has reacted strongly to the EU’s decision, denouncing it as arrogant and illegal. They have labeled the European policy as colonialist and interfering in Venezuelan affairs. Maduro government further stated that this extension of sanctions disqualifies the EU from participating in Venezuelan electoral processes, despite the Barbados Agreement including European observation of presidential elections.
International Allies and Opposition
Timing of this decision puts pressure on Maduro, as the US has given him until November 30th to make progress in releasing political prisoners, especially American citizens, and rehabilitating opposition leader María Corina Machado.
The initial proposal by the Spanish Foreign Minister garnered significant support during a recent meeting, but it faced opposition from Germany and the Netherlands. The Chavista backlash against the primary elections in Germany hindered the possibility of an agreement, despite Venezuela finding a newfound ally in Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, known for his pro-Putin stance. Hungary and other Eastern European nations have become staunch defenders of the Venezuelan regime, with Russia being the main international ally of the Bolivarian revolution.
Maduro recently hosted Hungary’s Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjártó, at the Miraflores Palace, where several agreements were signed to strengthen bilateral relations.
Implications and Future Outlook
EU’s decision to extend sanctions for six months instead of a year indicates that Brussels is sending a message that there is a willingness to lift sanctions, but it is dependent on the effective implementation of the Barbados Agreement.
Recent decision of the Venezuelan Supreme Court, controlled by the Maduro government, to “invalidate” the results of the opposition primaries has raised doubts about the implementation of the agreement. By setting the extension date for six months, the EU can assess whether the US has renewed the oil license granted on October 18th.
Among the 54 sanctioned individuals, Tibisay Lucena, the head of the electoral body, has been removed from the list following her death in April due to cancer. The remaining individuals will continue to face travel restrictions, asset freezes, and an arms embargo.
Decision by the European Union to extend sanctions against Chavista leaders demonstrates their commitment to promoting democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in Venezuela. Despite the Spanish government’s attempt to grant amnesty, the EU is holding firm in its stance, emphasizing the need for credible elections, respect for democratic institutions, the implementation of an electoral calendar, and the release of political prisoners.
This extension of sanctions puts pressure on the Maduro government to make significant progress in these areas. With Hungary and other Eastern European nations as staunch defenders of the Venezuelan regime, the international dynamics surrounding Venezuela remain complex.
The future outlook will depend on the implementation of the Barbados Agreement and the actions taken by the Maduro government in response to international pressure.