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How Venezuela Beat U.S. Oil Sanctions

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Mexico to Sell Fuel to Venezuela if Asked: López Obrador

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Monday that Mexico would sell gasoline to Venezuela for “humanitarian” reasons if asked to, despite U.S. sanctions on the Andean nation and its state-run oil firm, PDVSA, El Universal reported. “If a request were made, and it was a matter of humanitarian need, we would do it,” the president said during his regular morning news conference, Reuters reported. “We make our own decisions and do not mess with the policies of other countries,” he added, in a nod to U.S. sanctions against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whom the United States and dozens of other countries deem illegitimate. López Obrador has said he would not take sides in the political dispute. Andrés Rozental, a former Mexican deputy foreign minister, told Reuters that López Obrador’s comments would likely “raise eyebrows” in the United States, but he added that it remained to be seen whether the president’s remarks were just rhetoric. Venezuela is undergoing a sharp gasoline shortage, even as tankers carrying fuel from Iran have arrived in the South American country in recent weeks. The move prompted threats of further sanctions from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Iran plans to maintain fuel shipments to Venezuela, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources.

China Becomes Top Importer of Crude From Venezuela

China last year replaced the United States as the number-one importer of oil from Venezuela, according to a new special report by Reuters published last Friday. After the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump tightened sanctions on Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA in August, Chinese state-owned China National Petroleum Cop., or CNPC, stopped loading oil at Venezuelan ports over fears of being sanctioned, with Chinese import data showing purchases beginning to slow. By late 2019, import data showed purchases had suddenly stopped. In reality, however, China never stopped buying, instead using intermediaries such as subsidiaries of Russia’s Rosneft and a roundabout delivery method that made it seem as if the oils’ origin was Malaysia, according to the special report, which tracked these routes. Between July 1 and Dec. 31, vessels delivered at least 18 shipments of 19.7 million barrels of rebranded Venezuelan crude to Chinese ports, according to Reuters’ review of ship-tracking data, internal PDVSA documents and interviews with four oil analysts who have tracked flows of Venezuelan oil around the globe. Those 18 shipments amounted to more than 5 percent of Venezuela’s total exports last year.

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Venezuela’s Supreme Court Orders Two Parties’ Takeovers

Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which is loyal to President Nicolás Maduro, has ordered the takeover of two of the country’s main opposition political parties, the Associated Press reported. The takeovers follow the court’s move last Friday to name a new elections commission, a task that legislators say belongs to the National Assembly, which the opposition controls. Legislative elections in Venezuela are due this year. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court targeted the Justice First party, suspending and replacing its board of directors. The move came a day after the court took the same action against the Democratic Action party. The decisions were part of a “necessary restructuring process,” the court said in rulings posted on Facebook. In a speech on state television, Maduro accused the country’s opposition parties of robbing Venezuela of its wealth and planning to topple his government through a foreign-led invasion. Control of the Justice First and Democratic Action parties was given to former opposition members who have joined Maduro’s side. José Brito was tapped to lead Justice First, and José Bernabé Gutiérrez was named to lead Democratic Action. Gutiérrez replaced the Democratic Action party’s longtime chairman, Henry Ramos Allup. “They can rob us of the symbols and color of Justice First, but never the desire for freedom and justice,” party legislator Ángel Alvarado said of Maduro’s government, The Wall Street Journal reported. The National Assembly, which the opposition has controlled since legislative elections in 2015, is the only branch of Venezuela’s government that Maduro does not control. On Tuesday, Maduro said that will change in the next election, the Associated Press reported. “With the popular vote we are going to remove them from the National Assembly,” Maduro said. “We are going to take them out.” The United States and dozens of other nations recognize the National Assembly’s leader, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s legitimate president. The future of that recognition is unclear if Guaidó loses his position.

By Latin America Energy Advisor 

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