The US on Tuesday added four crude oil tankers and two products tankers linked to PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, to its sanctions list.
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The US Treasury Department put these six vessels on its list of Specially Designated Nationals:
- Panama-flagged crude tanker Icaro
- Venezuela-flagged crude tankers Paramaconi, Terepaima and Yare
- Venezuela-flagged products tankers Luisa Caceres de Arismendi and Manuel Saenz
The department also noted that Greece-flagged crude tanker Nedas, which was already listed on the SDN, had changed to the Cuba-flagged tanker Esperanza.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the vessels sanctioned Tuesday were being used by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to send oil to Cuba.
"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," Pompeo said.
"Cuba continues to prop up Nicolas Maduro, subverting the Venezuelan people's right to self-determination and undermining Venezuelan institutions."
On Monday, Pompeo reaffirmed the US policy to push Maduro from power through sanctions pressure.
"We've learned from history that the risks from using military force are significant, so we've instead worked to deprive Maduro and his cronies of oil revenue that ... should go to the Venezuelan people," Pompeo said in a speech in Kentucky.
In his speech, Pompeo criticized Cuba and Russian oil company Rosneft for their continued support of the Maduro regime.
Rosneft "continues to prop up the corrupt and illegitimate Maduro leadership," Pompeo said. "They take billions of dollars out of the Venezuelan economy each and every year."
The US, which recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate president, has said it will not lift sanctions on PDVSA until Maduro is removed from power.
"We think that the funds available to the regime are diminishing," Elliott Abrams, the US State Department's special representative for Venezuela, said last week. "The gravy train days that they had 10 years ago are over."
Venezuelan oil output averaged 650,000 b/d in October, up from 600,000 b/d in September, according to the latest S&P Global Platts survey. Venezuelan oil production has fallen by 1.24 million b/d over two years.
Earlier this year, S&P Global Platts Analytics estimated Venezuelan oil output would fall to 375,000 b/d by the end of next year, in its low-case scenario, under which Maduro retained power, the US imposed secondary sanctions similar to its Iran oil sanctions and creditors accelerated their pursuit of PDVSA assets.
-- Brian Scheid, email@example.com
-- Edited by Bill Montgomery, firstname.lastname@example.org