US conveys to Venezuela candidate bans must be lifted by November

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government has conveyed concerns to Venezuela’s president that it must lift bans for all opposition presidential candidates by the end of November in exchange for sanction relief, a U.S. senior official said Wednesday.

Washington is providing what the official described as “limited sanction relief” to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, following an agreement between him and the political opposition on Tuesday.

The sanction relief will primarily touch on Venezuela’s oil and gas sector, according to the U.S. official, who did not go into further details. He did note that the sanction relief would not affect the judicial process focused on Citgo Petroleum or other Venezuelan frozen assets in the United States or other jurisdictions.

That deal set conditions for the next year’s presidential election along with the promise of some sanctions relief, but some opposition candidates currently remain banned from taking office even if they were to defeat Maduro’s ruling socialists and win the election.

U.S. officials have communicated to Venezuela that the best way forward would be for Maduro’s government to release political prisoners and allow free and fair elections by removing current bans on some candidates.

The senior U.S. official, who spoke on background during a briefing with reporters, added that Washington could reconsider the incentives it has given to Venezuela if conditions for a fair election are not met.

(Reporting by Marianna Parraga and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Diane Craft)

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