McGovern, Meeks, Lee and Castro Welcome Progress on Restoring Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela

Washington, DC – Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, and Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, issued the following statement in regard to the partial agreement for electoral conditions signed on October 17, 2023, between the Venezuelan government led by Nicolás Maduro and the Unitary Platform opposition alliance, and the October 18 General License 44 issued by the Department of Treasury which eases economic sanctions on the Venezuelan oil sector:

“We welcome the partial agreement on electoral conditions reached this week between the Venezuelan government and the political opposition, the parallel easing of economic sanctions on the Venezuelan petroleum sector announced by the Department of Treasury, and the release of five political prisoners, including opposition political figures. These measures are a victory for the Venezuelan people and a win for U.S. diplomacy. If fully implemented, they will put Venezuela on the path to a better future and ease forced migration.

“We have long criticized the Trump Administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Venezuela as immoral and ineffective. Last June we urged the Biden Administration to pursue a better strategy to address the rollback of democracy and the severe violations of fundamental rights committed by the Maduro government. The steps taken this week create important incentives that will contribute to fully restoring the human rights of the Venezuelan people.

“The electoral agreement confirms that presidential elections will be held in 2024 and political parties will choose their own candidates. The Maduro government has committed to update the electoral registry, audit the electoral system, allow the presence of international elections observers and ensure equal access to news media. These commitments are important first steps towards implementing the recommendations of the 2021 Final Report European Union Election Observation Mission.

“The new Treasury license recognizes these steps towards restoring democracy. Easing sanctions on Venezuela’s principal industry will restore hope and empower the Venezuelan people by alleviating the humanitarian crisis they have endured for years, and ease forced migration.

“This week’s announcements strengthen the ongoing Mexico-based negotiations process and will be welcomed by U.S. partners in the region struggling to care for the millions of Venezuelan migrants who have fled their country.

“There are safeguards in place to protect the integrity of these measures. The electoral agreement includes a verification mechanism, and Venezuela must meet deadlines for more prisoner releases and must announce a process to lift candidate bans. Many sanctions remain in place. The new Treasury license is temporary through April 18, 2024, and can only be renewed if the government follows through with all commitments and releases wrongfully detained Americans.”