By Kareem El Damanhoury, CNN
The Venezuelan government and American oil company Chevron have signed a contract in Caracas on Friday to resume operations in Venezuela, according to the country’s state broadcaster VTV.
“This contract aims to continue with the productive and development activities in this energy sector, framed within our Constitution and the Venezuelan laws that govern oil activity in the country,” said Venezuelan oil minister Tareck El Aissami, who was slapped with United States sanctions in 2017.
He attended the signing ceremony along with representatives from Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company PDVSA and Chevron.
April 2023 will mark Chevron’s 100th anniversary in Venezuela, El Aissami said at the event.
The move comes after the United States granted Chevron limited authorization to resume pumping oil from Venezuela last week, following an announcement that the Venezuelan government and the opposition group had reached an agreement on humanitarian relief and will continue to negotiate for a solution to the country’s chronic economic and political crisis.
The US has been looking for ways to allow Venezuela to begin producing more oil and selling it on the international market, thereby reducing the world’s energy dependence on Russia, US officials told CNN in May.
A 6-month license was granted to Venezuela by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) last week, and the US can revoke it at any time. Additionally, any profits earned will go to repaying debt to Chevron and not to the Maduro regime, according to a senior official.
In 2017, OFAC said El Aissami had played a “significant role in international narcotics trafficking,” according to a news release.
The Treasury Department said he “facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela to include control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base, (and) narcotics shipments of over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States.”
In addition, the department said El Aissami is linked to coordinating drug shipments to Los Zetas, a violent Mexican drug cartel, and provided protection to a Colombian drug lord.
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CNN’s Sam Fossum, Scott Zamost, Drew Griffin, Kay Guerrero and Rafael Romo contributed to this report.