WASHINGTON — U.S. officials met representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Mexico this week to express concerns about Venezuela’s electoral process, a White House official said on Friday.

The secret meeting was held as an April 18 deadline approached for the United States to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry in response to what Washington sees as Maduro’s failure to make good on commitments for free and fair elections later this year.

The Biden administration has vowed to reinstate oil sanctions that it suspended in October unless Maduro makes progress on meeting his promises for the July 28 presidential election.

His government has set up major obstacles to participation by the opposition, including barring its leading candidate, Maria Corina Machado, from running against Maduro.

“The purpose was to express our concerns about Venezuela’s electoral process,” a White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson said of the meeting.

Daniel Erikson, the White House’s senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs, led the U.S. delegation in the talks, which were held on Tuesday in Mexico City. Bloomberg News was first to report on the meeting.

The NSC spokesperson declined to provide details on the discussions, including whether the participants talked about sanctions on OPEC member Venezuela or if any progress was made or differences narrowed.

The Venezuelan Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s aides are still discussing a range of options ahead of the expiration on Thursday of a temporary U.S. license that has allowed Venezuela to freely sell its crude, according to people familiar with the matter.

No final decision has been made, the sources said.

The U.S. provided the partial sanctions relief in October in response to an election deal reached in Barbados between Maduro’s government and the opposition. The agreement included the right of the opposition to choose its own presidential candidate.

The Biden administration’s diplomatic engagement with Maduro and the easing of U.S. sanctions marked a major shift away from former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy.

Weighing on current U.S. deliberation are concerns about whether reimposing sanctions on Venezuela’s energy sector could spur higher global oil prices and increase the number of Venezuelan migrants heading for the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. in January reimposed some non-energy sanctions after Venezuela’s Supreme Court upheld the election ban on Machado over what it said was her support for sanctions and accusations of corruption, which she denies. Washington has also condemned the arrests of opposition activists by Venezuelan authorities.

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