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US to Rescind Venezuela Gold License After Opposition Candidate Barred

(Bloomberg) -- The US will rescind a license awarded to Venezuela’s state gold producer after Nicolás Maduro’s government banned the opposition’s leading candidate from participating in elections this year.

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The operations authorized in the license, which had been issued in October alongside others on oil and gas production following Maduro’s agreement with members of the opposition, are to be wound down by Feb. 13, according to a statement from the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. A ban on state-owned gold miner Minerven was imposed in 2019 to prevent lucrative sales that keep the military loyal to the government.

“You either buy into their whims or they request sanctions again, they’re extremist people who hate Venezuela,” Maduro said in reference to the opposition on state television Monday evening, without referring to the license.

Maduro has been backsliding on his promise of free and fair elections, jailing aides to the opposition presidential candidate, María Corina Machado, and using Venezuela’s top court to uphold a ban against her and others holding office.

The US will allow a six-month suspension on energy sanctions to expire in April if Machado is barred from running, two US officials said Monday, and is also considering additional measures, according to the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

By reimposing gold sanctions while holding off on making moves on the more significant oil sector for now, the Biden administration can signal it’s seriousness about bringing back penalties without taking action that’s so aggressive as to destroy any chance of negotiation.

Read More: US Set to Renew Venezuela Oil Sanctions After Candidate Ban

“Despite having small practical impact, it is a sign that the US is willing to move forward in reviewing sanctions,” said Jose Ignacio Hernandez, head of Public Debt at Aurora Macro Strategy. “It’s more of an image thing.”

--With assistance from Nicolle Yapur, Eric Martin and Andreina Itriago Acosta.

(Adds context from second paragraph, Maduro’s comments in third paragraph, Hernandez’s comments in seventh paragraph)

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