Venezuela's government and its opposition have agreed to create a UN-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor.

The accord, signed in Mexico, ended 15 months of stalemate between the two sides, heralding a potential easing of a grinding economic and political crisis in Venezuela.
The accord, signed in Mexico, ended 15 months of stalemate between the two sides, heralding a potential easing of a grinding economic and political crisis in Venezuela. (Reuters)

The US government has responded to the social accord between Venezuela's government and opposition by allowing a major US oil company to resume operations in Venezuela.

The government of Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan opposition led by Juan Guaido broke a political stalemate on Saturday with a broad social protection agreement.

The US Treasury Department said the accord marks "important steps in the right direction to restore democracy" in Venezuela, and responded by issuing a license to Chevron Corp. to resume limited oil extraction operations in the South American country.

The license will remain in effect for six months while the Biden administration assesses whether the Maduro government meets commitments made in the accord, Treasury said.

Chevron said it would "continue supporting social investment programs aimed at providing humanitarian relief" in the country and that the "decision brings added transparency to the Venezuelan oil sector."

The relaxation of curbs on Chevron's operations in Venezuela, which has the world's largest oil reserves, would allow the nation to move toward re-entering global oil markets.

READ MORE: Venezuelan govt, opposition break political stalemate with social accord

Reviewing sanctions

The accord also paved the way for the United Nations to oversee a trust fund of frozen assets of the Maduro government to be used for a variety of social projects, including programs related to education, health, food security, flood response and electricity.

"We have identified a set of resources belonging to the Venezuelan state, frozen in the global financial system, to which it is possible to access," said Dag Nylander, an envoy from Norway, which facilitated the negotiations. The amount to be released was not specified.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said in a statement that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was committed to supporting the parties, calling the breakthrough "an important milestone that has the potential to deliver broader benefits for the people of Venezuela."

International efforts to resolve the Venezuelan crisis have gained strength since Russia's offensive in Ukraine and the pressure it has placed on global energy supplies.

A joint statement by Canada, the United States, Britain and the EU pledged "willingness to review sanctions" on Venezuela but demanded that it release political prisoners, respect press freedom and guarantee independence of the judiciary and electoral bodies.

The powerful Democratic chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, said the Biden administration should move slowly.

"If Maduro again tries to use these negotiations to buy time to further consolidate his criminal dictatorship, the United States... must snap back the full force of our sanctions that brought his regime to the negotiating table in the first place," Menendez said in a statement.

Despite its huge oil reserves, Venezuela suffers grinding poverty and a political crisis that has led a UN-estimated seven million Venezuelans to flee the country in recent years. Food, medicine and such basics as soap and toilet paper are often in short supply.

READ MORE: Venezuela govt seeks 'social agreement' with opposition to unblock funds

Source: AFP