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Feb 23, 2021

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New Orleans (5-13, 4-6) vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (4-16, 1-10)

American Bank Center, Corpus Christi, Texas; Wednesday, 8 p.m. EST

BOTTOM LINE: New Orleans goes for the season sweep over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi after winning the previous matchup in New Orleans. The teams last played on Jan. 20, when the Privateers outshot Texas A&M-Corpus Christi from the field 51.

5 percent to 41.9 percent and had seven fewer turnovers en route to a 19-point victory.

SUPER SENIORS: New Orleans has relied heavily on its seniors. Damion Rosser, Troy Green, Derek St. Hilaire and Lamont Berzat have collectively accounted for 65 percent of the team’s scoring this year and 64 percent of all Privateers points over the team’s last five games.

RAMPING IT UP: The Islanders have scored 66 points per game against conference opponents thus far, an improvement from the 57.2 per game they managed in non-conference play.TOUGH TO DENY DAMION: In 18 appearances this season, New Orleans’ Rosser has shot 50 percent.

WINLESS WHEN: New Orleans is 0-11 when scoring fewer than 73 points and 5-2 when scoring at least 73.

COLD SPELL: New Orleans has lost its last 10 road games, scoring 66.3 points, while allowing 79.8 per game.

DID YOU KNOW: New Orleans has scored 75 points while allowing 79.6 points over its last five games. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has managed 68.8 points and given up 78.2 over its last five.

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Exclusive: Biden in No Rush to Lift Venezuela Sanctions, Seeks 'Serious Steps' by Maduro

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden’s administration is in “no rush” to lift U.S. sanctions on Venezuela but would consider easing them if President Nicolas Maduro takes confidence-building steps showing he is ready to negotiate seriously with the opposition, a White House official told Reuters.

Signaling that the new U.S. president may be unlikely to loosen the screws on Venezuela anytime soon, the official emphasized that existing sanctions have enough special provisions to allow for humanitarian aid shipments to help Venezuelans cope with economic hardships and the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Maduro’s Socialist government has been “actively preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

This suggests that for now Biden is prepared to stick with the specific sanctions, including crippling oil-sector penalties, imposed by former President Donald Trump on the OPEC nation, despite the failure to force Maduro from power.

But Biden, by contrast, intends to move away from the mostly unilateral approach of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign and enlist more countries to help seek a diplomatic solution, the official said in an interview.

Biden’s administration has made clear it will continue to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. Dozens of countries have backed Guaido’s claim following Maduro’s re-election in 2018 in a vote Western governments called a sham, though cracks recently have appeared in Guaido's international support.

“We’re in no rush to lift sanctions,” the official said. “If the regime undertakes confidence-building measures that show that they're ready and willing to engage in real conversations with the opposition ... if they're ready to take serious steps, then we will consider the alleviation of sanctions."

The official did not specify what steps Maduro would need to make but said he could not be allowed to use negotiations as a “delaying tactic” to consolidate power and divide the opposition, as he has been accused of doing in the past.

Maduro, who calls Guaido a U.S. puppet, has shown no signs of giving ground. Having retained support of the military as well as Russia, China, Cuba and Iran, he has rejected or ignored previous demands for such concessions.

The Biden administration also appears to have little sense of urgency for major gestures toward Cuba despite hopes for a softer approach after Trump, often citing its support for Maduro, rolled back historic Obama-era détente with Havana.

Some Biden advisers had suggested earlier that he could start by loosening up the flow of remittances from Cuban Americans and ease restrictions on family travel to the Communist-ruled island.

But while acknowledging such changes could have a positive impact, the official said a Cuba policy shift was not currently among Biden’s top priorities, which include the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery and rebuilding alliances abroad.

“Frankly, first things first,” the official said.

There has also been no sign of any immediate plans to rescind Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, though Biden officials have said Trump’s last-minute decision to return Havana to the U.S. blacklist is under review.

(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Mary Milliken and Nick Zieminski)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

Tags: Venezuela, United States

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