Tag Archives: Venezuela

Venezuelan leader, Maduro says ‘US spy’ captured.

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Venezuela’s president says US man was arrested in Falcon state where he was spying on the Amuay and Cardon refineries.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday that a “US spy” was captured while spying on the largest refining complex in the country, which is going through a severe fuel shortage crisis.

In a live broadcast on state television, Maduro said the man was arrested on Thursday in the northwest state of Falcon where he was spying on the Amuay and Cardon oil refineries.

Maduro said he was “a marine, who was serving as a marine on CIA bases in Iraq”.

“He was captured with specialised weapons, he was captured with large amounts of cash, large amounts of dollars and other items.”

Maduro did not give further details but said the detainee was giving a statement in custody.

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Amuay and Cardon make up the Paraguana Refining Center, which has a nominal processing capacity of 971,000 barrels per day. Both have experienced multiple outages in recent years that the opposition blames on mismanagement and lack of maintenance.

There was no immediate comment from the US State Department or the White House.

Nicolas Maduro also said authorities had foiled a plot aimed at blowing up a third refinery, El Palito in Carabobo state [File: Manaure Quintero/ Reuters]

Word of the alleged US spy came after a Venezuelan court last month sentenced two former US Green Berets to 20 years in prison for their role in a failed incursion in May.

While US President Donald Trump’s administration denied having anything to do with the blundered incursion, Washington backs Venezuelan opposition politician Juan Guaido who seeks to overthrow Maduro.

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Maduro also said Venezuelan authorities had dismantled a plot on Wednesday that was aimed at blowing up a third refinery, El Palito in Carabobo state. He urged the nation’s oil workers to be on alert for more attacks.

“The gringo empire wants revenge against Venezuela,” he said. “It wants to prevent Venezuela from producing all petroleum products, gasoline.”

Hit by US sanctions that have exacerbated acute fuel shortages, the government on Friday announced a new fuel distribution initiative and said it was planning new refining projects, without providing further details.

The petroleum industry was the cornerstone of Venezuela’s economy a century ago, but production has fallen to a fraction of the 3.2 million barrels per day produced just over a decade ago.


#Newsworthy…

Iran issue warning to US against seizure of oil tanker to Venezuela.

Reports suggest four US Navy warships are in the Caribbean for a ‘possible confrontation with Iran’s tankers’.


Iran’s foreign minister on Sunday warned the United States against deploying its navy in the Caribbean to disrupt Iranian fuel shipments to Venezuela.

According to an oil shipment analyst, five Iranian-flagged tankers loaded with tens of millions of dollars worth of fuel are heading towards Venezuela.

In a letter to United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, Mohammad Javad Zarif warned against “America’s movements in deploying its navy to the Caribbean in order to intervene and create disruption in [the] transfer of Iran’s fuel to Venezuela”.

He said any such action would be “illegal and a form of piracy” adding the US would be responsible for “the consequences”, according to a foreign ministry statement.

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A senior official in US President Donald Trump’s administration told Reuters news agency on Thursday that the US was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela.

Iran’s Fars News reported on Saturday it received information that four US Navy warships are in the Caribbean for a “possible confrontation with Iran’s tankers”.

Zarif’s deputy summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents Washington’s interests in Tehran, to communicate Iran’s “serious warning” on Sunday. Abbas Araghchi said any potential threat to Iran’s tankers would be met with a “quick and decisive response”.

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The US has imposed unilateral sanctions aimed at ending oil exports by both Iran and Venezuela, both major crude producers.

Full speed ahead
Five Iranian tankers likely carrying at least $45.5m worth of petrol and similar products are now sailing to Venezuela, part of a wider deal between the two US-sanctioned nations amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The tankers’ voyage come after Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolas Maduro already turned to Iran for help in flying in chemicals needed at an aging refinery amid a petrol shortage, a symptom of the wider economic and political chaos gripping Latin America’s one-time largest oil producer.

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For Iran, the tankers represent a way to bring money into its cash-starved country and put its own pressure on the US, which, under President Trump, has pursued maximalist campaigns against both nations.

But the strategy invites the chance of a renewed confrontation between the Islamic Republic and the US both in the Gulf, which saw a series of escalating incidents often involving the oil industry last year, and wider afield.

“This is like a new one for everyone,” said Captain Ranjith Raja, an analyst who tracks oil shipments by sea at the data firm Refinitiv, of the petrol shipments. “We haven’t seen anything like this before.”

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All the vessels involved belong to Iranian state-owned or state-linked companies, flying under the Iranian flag. Since a pressure campaign on Iranian vessels began, notably with the temporary seizure of an Iranian tanker last year by Gibraltar, the country’s ships have been unable to fly flags of convenience of other nations, a common practice in international shipping.

Nothing to lose
The ships all appear to have been loaded from the Persian Gulf Star Refinery near Bandar Abbas, Iran, which makes petrol, Raja said. The ships then travelled around the Arabian Peninsula and through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea, according to data collected from the ship’s Automatic Identification System, or AIS, which acts as a tracking beacon.

Given the crushing US sanctions imposed on Iran, also-sanctioned Venezuela appears to be a country that would have nothing to lose from accepting the shipments.

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Raja said Refinitiv had no data on any Iranian petrol shipment ever going to South America before.

TankerTrackers.com, a website focused on the oil trade at sea, first reported the ships likely were heading to Venezuela.

The capacity of the five ships is some 175,000 metric tonnes. On the open market, the petrol and product carried within them would be worth at least $45.5m, though Iran likely reached a discounted, non-cash deal with Caracas given the circumstances the two nations face, Raja said.

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It remains unclear how the US will respond to the tankers. On Thursday, the US Treasury, State Department and Coast Guard issued an advisory warning the maritime industry of illegal shipping and sanctions-dodging tactics by countries including Iran.

The advisory repeated an earlier promise of up to $15m for information disrupting the Revolutionary Guard’s finances. It also warned anyone “knowingly engaged in a significant transaction for the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport or marketing of petroleum” faced US sanctions.

The US State Department and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Analysts already have been warning about the growing chance for a renewed confrontation between the US and Iran.

In April, the US accused Iran of conducting “dangerous and harassing” manoeuvres near American warships in the northern Gulf.


#Newsworthy…

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