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Venezuela to Stop Taking US Deportees If Sanctions Renewed

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela said it will stop accepting deportees from the US if the Biden administration follows through on a threat to renew sanctions.

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Migrant deportation flights “would be immediately revoked” as of Feb. 13 if the US takes “the wrong step of intensifying economic aggression against Venezuela,” Vice President Delcy Rodríguez said Tuesday on X.

Her comments follow the Biden administration’s decision to revoke a license awarded to state-owned gold producer Minerven by the same date unless the Nicolás Maduro government allow opposition candidates to compete in this year’s election.

Rodríguez said the Venezuelan government would also review “any existing cooperation mechanism as countermeasure” if measures were taken against the nation’s oil and gas industry.

The White House resumed direct deportation flights in October after facing intense pressure to address a migration crisis that has been fueled by political instability across Central and South America. The move was part of an agreement reached between both nations following months of secret talks.

The threat strikes at the heart of one of the Biden administration’s main motivations for making a deal with Maduro — slowing the flow of migrants leaving the South American country for the US border. While the US is pushing for democratic ideals in Venezuela, it’s also having to balance that with practical and political concerns about immigration and the global oil supply.

Read More: Secret Talks, Oil Sanctions: Inside a US-Venezuela Breakthrough

That debate could lead Maduro to calculate he has additional leverage in an US presidential election year, Teneo’s Nicholas Watson wrote in a note on Tuesday. He may also be considering that a potential second Trump term could mean “an end to relief and a return to more adversarial relations,” Watson said.

The US has sent a total of about 1,300 people back to Venezuela on 11 flights last year after they were restarted, according to Witness at the Border, a non-governmental organization that follows and often criticizes US policy. That is just a blip of the 7.7 million refugees that have fled Venezuela in recent years during the country’s economic and political crisis, according to the United Nations.

--With assistance from Eric Martin.

(Updates starting with background in the 6th paragraph.)

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