Treasury sanctions Iranian ship captains after gasoline delivery to Venezuela

Energy

Iranian flagged fuel tanker ‘Fortune’ is seen after it was docked at El Palito refinery in Puerto Cabello, state of Carabobo, Venezuela, on May 26, 2020.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department on Wednesday slapped fresh sanctions on five Iranian ship captains who delivered gasoline to Venezuela, whose once-thriving oil industry has suffered a breakdown.

The Iranian shipping sector is a frequent target of the Trump administration for its financial support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

Earlier this week, five Iranian tankers brought approximately 1.5 million barrels to the gas-starved country, which was once a prominent fuel exporter. The move was likely to anger Washington as the two OPEC nations sidestep U.S. sanctions.

“The Treasury Department will target anyone who supports Iranian attempts to evade United States sanctions and who further enables their destabilizing behavior around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wrote in a statement. “The Iranian regime’s support to the authoritarian and corrupt regime in Venezuela is unacceptable, and the administration will continue to use its authorities to disrupt it.”

The five Iranian captains’ designated work for Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and National Iranian Tanker Co. and, over the past month, have captained vessels identified as blocked property.

“Mariners who do business with Iran and Venezuela will face consequences from the United States of America,” Mike Pompeo, the nation’s top diplomat, said Wednesday at the State Department. ”The Maduro regime has mismanaged Venezuela’s abundant natural resources to the point that it must import gasoline from Iran, and Maduro’s claims of equal and fair gasoline distribution are fooling no one,” he added.

Gasoline is scarce in Venezuela due to a near-complete breakdown of the OPEC nation’s 1.3 million barrel-per-day refining network. Oil, the country’s biggest export, has plummeted more than 60% since Maduro succeeded dictator Hugo Chavez as Venezuela’s president in 2013.

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