The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, is doing its part to allow Chevron Corp. to recoup outstanding debts in Venezuela. To get there, Washington has had to make two risky board moves in a geopolitical chess match with Venezuela, especially as it keeps an eye on its much wanted ‘free and fair’ presidential elections.

As tensions again start to rise in Venezuela amid mounting pressures for President Nicolás Maduro to allow barred opposition leader María Corina Machado to participate in elections in 2024, only time will tell if Washington’s moves were the right ones.

OFAC granted two licenses to California-based Chevron in the last two years related to its joint ventures in the OPEC country.

Under the first, General License No. 41, Chevron was allowed to take a more hands-on approach to boosting its oil production and oil exports.

The license and resulting effect of Chevron on the Venezuelan oil sector was arguably the most positive thing to happen in Venezuela since U.S. sanctions were imposed in 2019 by the Trump administration.

Under the second, General License No. 44, Chevron and others were allowed to pay invoices for goods or services, make new investments and deliver oil and gas to creditors of the Venezuelan government—including creditors of entities of state-owned PDVSA—for the purpose of debt repayments.

But General License No. 44 expires in six months, giving Chevron limited time to do anything other than keep a short-term focus and investment mindset.

Combined, the two licenses greenlit Chevron to return its production in Venezuela to around 200,000 bbl/d—the the capacity its four joint ventures—Petroboscan, Petroindependiente, Petropiar and Petroindependencia—were producing at or near before the recent oil sector meltdown.

Chevron’s CEO Mike Wirth says the company produced around 130,000 bbl/d in the third quarter 2023, up 117% compared to the third quarter 2022. And Wirth says production in Venezuela could reach 150,000 bbl/d by year-end 2023. According to OPEC, Venezuela produced around 733,000 bbl/d in September, far from a peak of around 3.2 MMbbl/d in 1997.

But now Washington is warning Maduro and company that it could change its mind on General License No. 44 if María Corina Machado isn’t reinstated soon.

Talk about certain uncertainties. At the moment, Chevron is unlikely to put the pedal to the metal and invest more in Venezuela. And for many pundits, that’s a good strategy for now, or as they say in Venezuela, “por ahora.”