U.S. Tightens Squeeze on Venezuela Oil Trade, Blacklisting Four Tanker Owners
03 Jun 2020

The Trump administration Tuesday tightened its web of sanctions around the Maduro regime in Venezuela, blacklisting four companies allegedly involved in the country’s oil sector.

By sanctioning the firms and their vessels, which are registered in the Marshall Islands and Greece, the U.S. Treasury Department is attempting to cut off the flow of revenue President Nicolás Maduro needs to preserve his power. Targeting the private sector with financial sanctions also helps the administration avoid a military confrontation, U.S. officials say.

As Russia, one of Maduro’s last allies around the globe, eases its logistical support for Venezuela’s energy sector in the face of a costly U.S. sanctions campaign, Caracas has increasingly relied on relationships with Iran, narco-traffickers and other illicit networks to trade its oil and gold for fuel and cash, current and former U.S. officials say.

The economy-crippling sanctions have accelerated an economic deterioration that U.S. officials and Venezuela analysts say was already under way because of the Maduro regime’s systemic corruption and mismanagement. Despite a deepening six-year economic depression compounding political opposition to the regime, Mr. Maduro has been able to hold on to power through the aid of those allies.

Iran, another top U.S. foe, has recently begun shipping Venezuela the gasoline and other refined oil products it needs to keep the economy afloat and the country’s military fueled. Venezuela is using international brokers to sell its crude, U.S. and Western officials say, to pay back Iran.

The Venezuelan representative to the United Nations didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The Maduro government has condemned the accusations and the sanctions as U.S. propaganda and economic warfare, blaming Washington for its economic woes.

Those blacklisted on Tuesday include Afranav Maritime Ltd., based out of the Marshall Islands, and its Panamanian oil tanker, the Athens Voyager. Another target is Greece-based Seacomber Ltd., the registered owner of the Chios I tanker. Afranav couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. A representative for Seacomber didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

By Ian Talley, The Wall Street Journal, 2 June 2020

Read more at The Wall Street Journal

Photo (edited): Teo Romera [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

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