Venezuela: Oil Corporations Lobby Biden Administration for Sanctions Reversal

A removal of the ban on swap deals could boost Venezuela’s oil production and ease fuel shortages.


Mérida, January 28, 2021 ( – US oil giant Chevron and India’s largest refiner Reliance Industries are pressing for a rollback of sanctions against Venezuela.

According to Bloomberg, representatives from both companies have been holding virtual talks with US State Department officials this week in an attempt to reverse some of the unilateral measures imposed by the Trump administration.

Starting with financial sanctions in 2017, Washington levied successive rounds of sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry. These included an embargo, secondary sanctions and the blacklisting of shipping companies, vessels and other businesses accused of dealing with Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.

One of the latest measures saw the Treasury Department target crude-for-fuel swap deals in the run up to the US presidential elections and threaten a host of multinational corporations into winding down their involvement with the Venezuelan oil sector.

Reliance, one of said companies, is now allegedly lobbying the Biden administration to lift the ban on swap agreements.

The giant refiner and other Indian customers were poised to take over as one of PDVSA’s main trade partners following the January 2019 US oil embargo, but secondary sanction threats from the Trump White House halted plans.

Venezuela’s oil sector, the country’s main source of foreign income, saw output fall to historic lows under the weight of US sanctions. Crude production averaged 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) over 2020, significantly down from 1.9 million bpd in 2017. A restart of swap deals could boost output levels while also alleviating the country’s severe fuel shortages, both gasoline and diesel.

In turn, California-based Chevron is reportedly looking to “build goodwill” with officials and reiterate its commitment to remain in Venezuela. The corporation currently has a sanctions waiver which expires in June.

Chevron has stakes in four joint ventures with PDVSA, chief among them the Petropiar crude upgrader in the Orinoco Oil Belt.

The incoming Biden administration has signalled its plans to stick by its predecessor’s Venezuela policies, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterating Washington’s support for self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido while looking to make sanctions “more effective.”

For its part, the Nicolas Maduro government has called for improved relations with the US government based on mutual respect. Caracas has also denounced US sanctions as a crime against humanity before the International Criminal Court (ICC).