With an eye on “free and fair” elections in Venezuela, the Biden administration issued a license in October to the benefit of Chevron and other U.S. companies pursuing activities in the OPEC country. Now, the pressure is on again for Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro to announce a clear election timeline amid tensions following recent arrest orders and detentions of his opposition supporters.

General License No. 44 was issued on Oct. 18 by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). It authorizes transactions in Venezuela spanning the production, lifting, sale and export of oil and gas to the payment of invoices and new investments. It expires six months from its issue date—April 18.


Global Energy Watch: Chevron and the US’ Geopolitical Chess Match with Venezuela

Washington has already warned Caracas, Venezuela that the license issued in October could be revoked at any time if Maduro’s government failed to do its part to advance toward democratic elections, now slated for the second half of 2024.

But, with at least 33 arrest orders and detentions of Venezuelans, including members of democratic opposition, civil society, former members of the military and journalists, the U.S. is “deeply concerned,” the U.S. State Department said Jan. 23 in a press release.

“Arrests without due process run contrary to the spirit of the October 2023 electoral roadmap agreement,” the State Department said, adding that the actions could “have consequences.”

Brian A. Nichols, the U.S. assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs at the State Department, is also deeply concerned by recent actions, which he said Jan. 23 on the social media platform X were “based on unsupported allegations.”

The license was issued a day after the conclusion of positive negotiations in Barbados between Venezuela’s ruling party and the opposition regarding freeing political prisoners and removing bans on numerous opposition leaders, among other advances.

“The Barbados electoral roadmap calls for a culture of tolerance and political coexistence, as well as a level playing field for all political parties. We continue to press for a more open political environment, competitive presidential elections and due process,” Nichols said.


Venezuela: Geopolitics, Sanctions, Elections and Citgo

Luis Vicente León, the president of the Caracas-based polling company Datanalisis, said there were many uncertainties regarding the political and economic scenarios for 2024, but Maduro stepping down in exchange for U.S. oil is not one of them.

“The government will try to preserve power by all means, including: consolidating its institutional control; using economic resources to increase public spending, salaries and bonuses; increasing its control over the media and communications; encouraging further divisions within the opposition; as well as political neutralization of any dangerous electoral enemy,” León wrote Jan. 25 on X (formerly Twitter).

Chevron is the last American energy producer in Venezuela, and has played a big part in helping Venezuela boost its production and exports. The company has been allowed to maintain its operations in the Caribbean country as part of U.S. efforts to combat Chinese and Russian influences, especially in the oil and gas industry.

Chevron’s continued presence also is a way for Washington to retain a so-called American beachhead in Venezuela, should a regime change bring to power a more U.S. friendly government, analysts say.

But with the shaky political atmosphere in Venezuela, the future of Chevron in the OPEC country remains uncertain.