President Nicolas Maduro

NEW YORK CITY - Venezuela threatened to halt deportation flights from the U.S. after sanctions were reimposed by the Biden administration on its oil and gas sector. Earlier on Tuesday, the the United States Department of State reimposed sanctions on Venezuela's oil and gas as well as its state-owned mining company. The Department of Treasury gave companies transacting with, Minerven, Venezuela's state-owned gold mining company until Feb. 13 to wind down operations.

Delcy Rodríguez, vice president to the Maduro government, called the decision "rude and improper blackmail" and a "deliberate attempt to hit the Venezuelan oil and gas industry" on X. She stated that if the sanctions aren't removed, the country will stop receiving deported Venezuelan migrants starting Feb. 13.

The U.S. had previously eased sanctions in Venezuela in exchange for commitments from the Maduro administration to take steps toward a freer and fairer election taking place this year following negotiations with the opposition in Barbados. This caused for some oil traders and entrepreneurs to set their eyes on Venezuela once again.

Venezuela could earn about $16 billion from oil if they sanctions continued be eased, according to Francisco Monaldi, director of the Latin American Energy Program at Rice University's Baker Institute in Texas.

However, the prospect seems further away following a decision by the Venezuelan Supreme court ruled to uphold a 15-year ban on opposition leader María Corina Machado. Machado is a long time foe to Maduro and won the opposition's independently run presidential primary with 90% of the votes last year. She would take on Maduro in the presidential elections that should be set to take place this year.

Earlier this week, Machado was barred from running and accused Venezuelan authorities of intimidation. She called the court ruling blocking her presidential candidacy "judicial criminality." After the ruling, Machado tweeted that her campaign's "fight to conquer democracy through free and fair elections" is not over.

Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado is barred by Venezuelan authorities
Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado is barred by Venezuelan authorities from holding public office. AFP

Deportation flights to Venezuela had resumed in October 2023 in response to to a large influx of migration from the country, an influx that has strained cities all over the country. The flights to Venezuela also came after the country's government agreed to work on its electoral conditions, however now that sanctions have been reimposed, it is unclear where the deported migrants will go.

The U.S. Department of State released a statement saying that the U.S. will continue to to work with Venezuela if they adhere to the rules of the Barbados agreement.

"We will continue to work with the international community and all peaceful democratic actors across the political spectrum in Venezuela and leverage mechanisms at our disposal to encourage a return to the principles in the Barbados agreement," the statement said.

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