Washington, DC – Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement in response to reports that a delegation of senior Biden administration officials traveled to Venezuela to meet with President Nicolás Maduro:
“I congratulate the Biden Administration on a successful delegation to Venezuela that resulted in the release of two American citizens - Gustavo Cárdenas and Jorge Alberto Fernández - who were unjustly detained in the country, as well as a commitment from President Maduro to restart the important political negotiations in Mexico City.
“Thanks to President Biden’s efforts, we now have a real opportunity to advance meaningful negotiations between President Maduro and the opposition. It is important for the United States to be a credible interlocutor and meet the commitments we make in support of a diplomatic and peaceful resolution of the longstanding political crisis in Venezuela. The Biden Administration should take the necessary steps to suspend oil sanctions on Venezuela in support of negotiations while maintaining necessary pressure on human rights violators and corrupt actors in Venezuela through individual sanctions.
“All actors in Venezuela must have the welfare of the Venezuelan people as their priority as they negotiate an end to the conflict. The Trump-era oil sanctions currently in place have only deepened the suffering of the Venezuelan people and failed to weaken Maduro’s control of the country.
“Our re-engagement with Venezuela and Maduro’s positive response thus far is a step in the right direction, and additionally serves to shift Venezuela away from the malign influence of Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Suspending oil sanctions is in part justified by the need to support our allies in Europe and elsewhere as we work with them to join in ending their imports of Russian oil.
“I am thankful for Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens for his tireless efforts to secure the release of our American prisoners, and grateful the President’s decision to engage with President Maduro to advance a peaceful, negotiated solution to the country’s crisis. As Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will continue to urge President Maduro to stop the crackdown on Venezuelan civil society activists, free all remaining unjustly imprisoned American prisoners, and implement the institutional reforms needed to prepare the country for free and fair elections. I also remain ready and committed to assist the Biden Administration to support the resumption of negotiations in Mexico City and engage with both President Maduro as well as key actors from the Venezuelan opposition.”