Sec. of State Pompeo says U.S. ‘prepared to provide more aid than any other country’ to Venezuela
The Trump administration is trying to make it harder for Nicolás Maduro to send oil to Cuba.
The Treasury Department on Friday announced sanctions against two shipping companies and one vessel for transporting oil between Venezuela and Cuba, as the United States has declared that Venezuela’s oil resources belong to Juan Guaidó’s interim government and not Maduro.
An additional 34 vessels owned by PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-run oil company, were also identified as blocked property by the Treasury Department. The U.S. government and lawmakers have said that Venezuela sends oil to Cuba in exchange for security and intelligence services, using a lucrative natural resource to help Maduro maintain power instead of helping to alleviate Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.
“Cuba has been an underlying force fueling Venezuela’s descent into crisis. Treasury is taking action against vessels and entities transporting oil, providing a lifeline to keep the illegitimate Maduro regime afloat,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “Cuba continues to profit from, and prop up, the illegitimate Maduro regime through oil-for-repression schemes as they attempt to keep Maduro in power. The United States remains committed to a transition to democracy in Venezuela and to holding the Cuban regime accountable for its direct involvement in Venezuela’s demise.”
The two companies who were sanctioned are the owner and operator of a crude oil tanker named Despina Andrianna, which the Treasury Department said delivered oil from Venezuela to Cuba in February and March. The companies are the Liberia-based owner Ballito Bay Shipping and Greek operator ProPer In Management. The Treasury Department also listed the names of the 34 PdVSA-owned vessels that are part of the ongoing exchange of oil between Venezuela and Cuba.
The sanctions come a day before planned protests by Guaidó supporters in Venezuela.
“POTUS is taking action against a vital source of the Maduro regime’s wealth,” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted. “Venezuela’s oil belongs to the Venezuelan people!”
“Today will be a bad day for regime in Cuba for a couple of reasons,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted. “Sanctions on the tankers stealing oil from Venezuela is one.”
Rubio also sent a letter Friday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mnuchin urging them to declare armed militia groups in Venezuela known as colectivos a terrorist organization and designate Maduro’s regime as a transnational criminal organization.
“The crisis in Venezuela continues to destabilize the region and threaten U.S. national security,” Rubio wrote. “Given that the United States and over 50 other nations now recognize Interim President Juan Guaidó — and therefore no longer recognize the regime of Nicolás Maduro as the official Government of Venezuela — it is time for the Executive Branch to take important and necessary steps to further isolate Maduro and make clear to the world his regime’s illegality, criminality, and depravity.”