CARACAS, Venezuela (Dispatches) -- The second of three ships loaded with gasoline from Iran has entered fuel-starved Venezuela, defying U.S. sanctions on both countries.
The Iranian tanker Forest arrived Tuesday at a Venezuelan port carrying 275,000 barrels of gasoline, and the Fortune vessel pulled into Venezuelan waters on Wednesday, said Russ Dallen, head of the Miami-based investment firm Caracas Capital Markets, who tracks Venezuela shipments.
The Faxon — the third Iranian tanker en route — is expected to reach the South American nation this weekend, Dallen said, adding that the flotilla is delivering an estimated 815,000 total barrels of fuel.
In recent weeks, Venezuela which has the world’s largest oil reserves shut down gas stations nationwide due to shortages in the face of the U.S. sanctions, sparking long lines with frustrated drivers waiting hours and days to fuel up their cars.
The Venezuelan government blames the lack of gasoline on U.S. sanctions aiming to drive President Nicolas Maduro from power and replace him with American puppet Juan Guaidó.
Five Iranian tankers earlier this year delivered 1.5 million barrels of fuel and additives, easing a severe gasoline shortage that Venezuelans had endured.
Maduro said Tuesday the U.S. financial sanctions have caused Venezuela’s oil revenue to plunge 99 percent over the last six years.
He said 30 billion dollars have been lost each year since 2015, adding "it’s impossible to imagine the amount of pressure placed on our economy.”
"For every 100 dollars obtained through oil sales in 2014 we
receive one today,” which means oil revenues fell from more than 56 billion dollars in 2013 "to less than 400 million dollars last year”, Reuters quoted him as saying.
According to Maduro, Venezuela experienced the "sharpest” foreign exchange losses in its history between 2014 and 2019. "In six years we lost 99% of our foreign exchange revenues,” he said.
The main reason for the huge drop in revenues was "the war declared on oil prices,” to "attack the world’s major producers,” he said.
With most shipowners and oil traders shunning business with Venezuela for fear of the sanctions, Iran has emerged as the only country helping Caracas bring its refineries back to service and cope with an acute fuel shortage.
On Tuesday, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza was quoted as saying that his country had learnt from Tehran how to confront the coercive U.S. measures.
Washington has sought to disrupt the deepening bilateral trade between the two countries.
Last month, the U.S. government went on a full-throttle propaganda campaign, claiming that it had seized 1.116 million barrels of Iranian fuel because it was bound for Venezuela.
Iran, however, asserted that neither the ships were Iranian nor their owners or their cargo had any connection to the Islamic Republic.
Leading American magazine Foreign Policy said this month Tehran is now sharing its lessons in resilience” with the beleaguered Venezuelan government.
"The simple fact that Iran, which has faced a broad campaign of sanctions for more than a decade, has recently come to the aid of Venezuela, which has been under concerted sanctions pressure for only a few years, suggests a remarkable degree of economic resilience. When comparing the two economies, the most salient question is not whether Iran will become like Venezuela, but rather whether Venezuela will become more like Iran,” the U.S. publication said.