U.S. puts sanctions on five Iranian ship captains for bringing oil to Venezuela
25 Jun 2020

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on five Iranian ship captains who delivered oil to Venezuela, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed Washington’s backing for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Speaking at a news conference, Pompeo said the ships delivered about 1.5 million barrels of Iranian gasoline and related components, and warned mariners against doing business with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose ouster Washington seeks.

“As a result of today’s sanctions, these captains’ assets will be blocked. Their careers and prospects will suffer from this designation,” Pompeo said in a statement later.

“We will continue to support the National Assembly, interim President Guaido, and the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore democracy,” Pompeo added to reporters.

President Donald Trump’s administration is seeking to block Iran’s energy trade and also bring down Maduro. It has threatened reprisals and warned ports, shipping companies and insurers against assisting the tankers.

Venezuela’s exports are hovering near their lowest levels in more than 70 years and the OPEC member’s economy has collapsed. Yet Maduro has held on, frustrating the Trump administration.

In a statement on Twitter, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called the sanctions “an excess of arrogance” and “more proof of the Trump hawks’ hatred of all Venezuelans.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi wrote in a tweet that Washington’s action signaled the failure of its pressure campaign and said Iran and Venezuela “remain steadfast in countering unlawful American sanctions.”

Iran has sent five tankers since April to the socialist government of fuel-starved Venezuela. The shipments have done little to alleviate hours-long lines at gas stations.

By Humeyra Pamuk, Matt Spetalnick, Arshad Mohammed and David Brunnstrom, Reuters, 24 June 2020

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