U.S. Warships Stay Away After Warning
MARACAY, Venezuela (Dispatches) -- The fourth cargo of a group of Iranian tankers reached the Caribbean Sea on Wednesday as the receiving nation, Venezuela, began preparations to distribute the imported gasoline among desperate citizens, according to Refinitiv Eikon and a government official.
Iran is providing the South American country with up to 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and components to help it ease an acute scarcity that has forced Venezuelans to wait for hours in lines in front of stations.
Formally, Venezuela has the world’s cheapest gasoline after over two decades of frozen prices at pump as part of a heavy fuel subsidy, but insufficient distribution has created a black market where a liter is offered at least $2.
While applauded by the Venezuelan government, the Iranian supply has been criticized by U.S. authorities as both OPEC-member countries are under sanctions. But the vessels have so far navigated undisturbed to their destinations after Iran’s somber warning to the U.S. to keep clear from their path.
As tanker Faxon was entering the Caribbean, the third vessel of the flotilla, the Petunia, was heading to El Palito refinery, where the first vessel, the Fortune, is docked since Monday. The second cargo, on vessel Forest, is discharging at the Cardon refinery since Tuesday, according to the Eikon data.
Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s Constituent National Assembly, distributed a message among governors late on Tuesday asking them for support for a new fuel supply system.
"We will increase distribution,” he said to explain a plan drafted earlier by President Nicolas Maduro to secure and supervise supply to stations. People will also pay for gasoline in a new way, he suggested, without elaborating on details.
Iran’s ambassador in Venezuela, Hojjatollah Soltani, denied in a TV interview on Tuesday that Venezuela will pay for the fuel with gold, as U.S. officials have claimed.
"There is no need for such a thing because there are other ways, such as bartering food, including coffee and cocoa,” he told Iran’s Arabic-Language Al-Alam TV.
The Venezuelan economy has been in tatters, hurt by U.S.-instigated political instability, and American sanctions. People have had to endure shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicines, which have forced millions to flee the country.
U.S. sanctions have mainly targeted Venezuela’s oil industry – once one of the world’s biggest – battering the country’s primary source of revenue.
Venezuela, which sits on the world’s biggest oil reserves and boasts one of the biggest refiners in the region, has seen its 1.3 million barrel-per-day refining network collapse due to lack of investments due to U.S. sanctions and suspicious power failures which officials have blamed also on Washington.
The U.S. has stepped up sanctions aimed at ousting Maduro in recent months.
Soltani said the sanctions are no longer effective, hailing Iran’s fuel shipments to the South American country as a "victory” for the entire international community.
"Unilateral U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, Iran and several other countries have lost their effectiveness and are not as effective as before,” he said.
"The US has been trying to use dollar as leverage to help its own economy flourish and exert pressure on other states, but the countries opposed to the U.S. do not submit to American bullying.”