On December 3, the United States imposed economic sanctions on six ships for transporting oil from Venezuela to Cuba, as part of Washington’s campaign to force out Venezuelan ruler Nicolás Maduro, whose government the United States considers to be a dictatorship.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury said that six ships belonging to state-owned company Petróleos de Venezuela S. A. (PDVSA) that had been included in the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) blacklist, banning them from engaging in any transaction with U.S. individuals or entities.
It also identified another vessel, the Esperanza, as property of Caroil Transport Marine Ltd., based in Havana, which was sanctioned in September. OFAC had designated the Esperanza in April, when it was under the name of Nedas, the Department of the Treasury said in a press release.
“While the Venezuelan people continue to take to the streets to demand basic services and a return to freedom and prosperity, Maduro chooses to ship a vital natural resource to Cuba in exchange for Cuban security and intelligence services that preserve his influence in Venezuela,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Cuba continues to prop up Nicolás Maduro, subverting the Venezuelan people’s right to self-determination and undermining Venezuelan institutions,” Pompeo added, promising that the United States would continue to hold Cuba responsible for its actions concerning Venezuela.
Washington, which does not recognize the Maduro government because it considers his re-election a sham, accuses Havana of being one of Maduro’s main allies. Maduro also clings to power with the support of Russia and China, despite the open challenge from Juan Guaidó, president of the National Assembly, whom the United States and more than 50 other nations recognize as interim president since January.
“I denounce new illicit and non-conventional actions from the U.S. government aimed at depriving Cuba of oil supplies,” Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez said on Twitter.
“Those are gangster-like practices of threats and punishments against legitimate commercial relations between sovereign States. Cuba continues to fight on,” he added. These measures have strained the supply of fuel on the island.
The sanctions, in addition to several punitive measures that the Donald Trump administration has imposed since 2017 against Venezuelan and Cuban officials, former officials, and entities, intend to show how Maduro supplies oil to the “Cuban dictatorship” while Venezuelans “are starving,” said the Treasury.
The six designated vessels are Ícaro, Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi, Manuela Sáenz, Paramaconi, Terepaima, and Yare.
Since September, PDVSA has billed Cubametales — the Cuban state-run oil import and export company that OFAC blacklisted in July — for about 1.3 million fuel oil barrels that were delivered three months earlier, the Treasury said. The money received for these shipments was to be transferred to a Russian bank account, it said.
Elliott Abrahams, U.S. special representative for Venezuela, said on November 27 that the Maduro administration had sent an oil shipment to Cuba valued at $900 million.