WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration is in “no rush” to lift U.S. sanctions on Venezuela but would consider easing them if President Nicolas Maduro takes confidence-building steps showing he is ready to negotiate seriously with the opposition, a White House official told Reuters.

Signaling that the new U.S. president may be unlikely to loosen the screws on Venezuela anytime soon, the official emphasized that existing sanctions have enough special provisions to allow for humanitarian aid shipments to help Venezuelans cope with economic hardships and the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Maduro’s Socialist government has been “actively preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

This suggests that for now Biden is prepared to stick with the specific sanctions, including crippling oil-sector penalties, imposed by former President Donald Trump.

Biden’s administration has made clear it will continue to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. Dozens of countries have backed Guaido’s claim following Maduro’s re-election in 2018 in a vote Western governments called a sham.

“We’re in no rush to lift sanctions,” the official said.

“If the regime undertakes confidence-building measures that show that they’re ready and willing to engage in real conversations with the opposition ... if they’re ready to take serious steps, then we will consider the alleviation of sanctions.”

Saturday, April 10, 2021