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White House: US Not in 'Active Conversation' on Venezuelan Oil

FILE - An oil tanker is seen at Jose refinery cargo terminal in Venezuela in this undated file photo.

The United States is not currently discussing importing oil from authoritarian Venezuela, the White House said Monday, dampening speculation that Washington could look to Caracas for help in combating tight supplies.

"It's not an active conversation at this time," press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

The United States does not recognize leftist President Nicolas Maduro as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. However, President Joe Biden is looking for ways to relieve pressure on oil prices from the COVID-19 pandemic and now the war unleashed by major oil producer Russia against Ukraine.

Speculation grew last week over a potential thaw between the United States and Venezuela after the South American country released from prison two Americans, including a former executive of oil giant CITGO. This came days after a high-level US delegation met with Maduro.

The CITGO executive, Gustavo Cardenas, is one of the so-called "CITGO 6" — five Venezuela-born American citizens and one with U.S. permanent residency — who have been held in Venezuela since 2017, accused of corruption.

The meeting was seen as a possible turning point in relations, since the United States ended its Venezuelan embassy operations in 2019, after Maduro claimed victory in a 2018 election that many countries deemed illegitimate.

Along with more than 50 countries, the United States recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president and imposed a battery of sanctions seeking to displace the socialist ruler, including an embargo on oil imports.