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Biden under fire for shutting down US oil production, urged to impose sanctions on Venezuela

FIRST ON FOX: A group of top Senate Republican leaders is urging President Biden to block oil sanctions relief for the Venezuelan government, an authoritarian regime which continues to oppress its opponents. 

The seven lawmakers, led by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, sent a letter to the president Friday, calling on him to cancel the so-called General License 44, which is set to come up for renewal later this week. They argued that Venezuela’s government has failed to meet key requirements related to ensuring fair elections that it agreed to when the Biden administration issued the six-month license last year.

“History has proven time and time again that appeasing dictators does not work. We strongly urge you to reinstate and fully enforce all U.S. sanctions on the [Nicolás] Maduro regime,” they wrote. “We must not cede American leverage by lifting U.S. sanctions while the Maduro government deliberately disregards its obligations.”

“If the U.S. fails to take a credible stance on ensuring free and fair elections are held in Venezuela, the prospects of a democratic Venezuela will continue to diminish, which will further embolden authoritarian aggressors such as the People’s Republic of China, Iran, and Russia,” the lawmakers continued.

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In October, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro signed an agreement with the nation’s opposition leaders, agreeing to freer elections as part of a deal in which the U.S. Treasury Department eased sanctions on the South American country’s key oil sector. 

However, the Maduro regime almost immediately began taking actions in apparent violation of the deal, cracking down on the opposition and imprisoning political opponents ahead of Venezuela’s upcoming presidential election slated for July 2024. The State Department said in October it would not renew the General License 44 absent progress by the Venezuelan government.

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The October agreement broadly authorized oil and gas transactions with Venezuela and came a year after the Biden administration granted a separate license for California-based energy firm Chevron to continue drilling in Venezuela. According to federal data, U.S. oil imports from Venezuela have spiked from zero barrels in December 2022 to nearly 5 million barrels in January.

Dan Sullivan

In 2019, the Trump administration imposed heavy sanctions on the nation’s oil industry after a dispute arose between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido over the 2018 presidential election. Those sanctions led to a precipitous fall off in U.S. imports of Venezuelan oil.

In a statement on Tuesday to Fox News Digital, Sullivan, who serves as the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, expressed deep concern with Biden – both potentially for maintaining sanctions relief for Venezuela and recent actions his administration has taken to curb domestic production.

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“Joe Biden needs to wake the hell up and stop appeasing dictators and the eco-colonialists – fast,” he said. “The world is on fire and Biden is still focused on appeasing his most far-left radical supporters at the expense of America’s national security.”

Sullivan noted that the Department of the Interior is expected to soon finalize regulations blocking off 13 million acres of land across the National Petroleum Reserve, an area in North Slope Borough, Alaska, set aside by Congress for resource development. Bloomberg reported last week the agency is expected to finalize those rules this week.

Deb Haaland in September 2023

“The NPR-A is one of the world’s most prolific oil basins and Biden wants to lock up more than half of it. Literally, during the same week, his administration is expected to renew their lifted oil sanctions for the Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela,” Sullivan said.

“Alaska, more than any other state, has taken the brunt of this administration’s failed energy policy,” he continued. “This rule, once finalized, is on track to be the 61st action by his administration targeting Alaska. Like many others, it ignores the laws on the books and has been done without real consultation of impacted Alaska Native communities.”

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Calls placed to The White House were not returned at press time. 

Joining Sullivan in penning the letter to Biden were Republican Sens. James Risch of Idaho, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska and Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida.

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