The United States Department of the Treasury announced today that the White House was placing sanctions on 34 oil tankers owned or operated by PDVSA, the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, in order to stop them from shipping fuel to Cuba. Two companies connected to the operation of the vessels were also sanctioned.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin explained the reason for the sanctions in the following way:
Cuba has been an underlying force fueling Venezuela’s descent into crisis. Treasury is taking action against vessels and entities transporting oil, providing a lifeline to keep the illegitimate Maduro regime afloat (…) Cuba continues to profit from, and prop up, the illegitimate Maduro regime through oil-for-repression schemes as they attempt to keep Maduro in power. The United States remains committed to a transition to democracy in Venezuela and to holding the Cuban regime accountable for its direct involvement in Venezuela’s demise.
Cuba has been Venezuela’s closed ally throughout the Bolivarian period. The relationship between the two countries was forged by Chavez and Fidel Castro, and continues into today.
Chavez drew much criticism during his presidency for his stance on Cuba. In 2007, Chavez said that Cuba and Venezuela were “the same nation”, and that the two countries “deep down [share] one government”. Today, regime critics blame Cuba for helping to maintain Maduro in power for the sake of its own interests.
The ties connecting the two countries are more than ideological. Venezuela provides Cuba with subsidized oil as part of an agreement that was forged between Chavez and Castro in the early 2000s.
The relationship between Cuba and Venezuela hinges on a two-decade long political, security, and economic alliance, particularly given Cuba’s reliance on a barter system for Venezuelan oil imports. Cuba is a major importer of crude oil from Venezuela, and in return, sends assistance to Venezuela in the form of political advisors, intelligence and military officials, and medical professionals, all of whom are used to ensure Maduro’s hold on power and complete social control over the people of Venezuela. Cuba’s influence has contributed to Venezuela’s failure. Maduro continues to send aid to Cuba as Venezuelans suffer from a deepening humanitarian crisis while denying entry to food, medicine, and other supplies provided by the United States and our allies and partners.
For a full list of the sanctioned entities, click here.
Venezuela Readies for “Operacion Libertad”
Venezuelans are getting ready tonight for “Operacion Libertad” (Operation Freedom), the name that the opposition has given to the protests that are scheduled to take place tomorrow throughout the country.
Speaking at a rally in Caracas this afternoon, interim president Juan Guaido told supporters that the Maduro regime “is afraid”, and that Venezuelans should take to the streets as a result. He said:
We either stay in hour homes or we take to the streets to achieve the change [in government] once and for all.
Guaido said that there are a total of 358 rally points across the country at which protesters are to meet tomorrow, and that he was sure that Venezuelan “will not surrender” in their struggle against the regime.
Below, two tweets from Guaido from his rally in Caracas this afternoon:
The path has been difficult, years of struggle during which nothing has been given to us for free.
But today we know that the difference that will allow us to achieve an end to the usurpation [of the presidency by Maduro] is organization. We got to this point thanks to taking to the streets and we will continue to do so until we reclaim our rights.
Let’s go organize ourselves. We each have a thing to do: talk to people, create Aid and Freedom Committees, and tell others about the protest points. Todavía podemos ser más de cara al inicio de la #OperaciónLibertad. [Note: I’m not quite sure what this phrase means. I think it means “We still have time to become part of the start of #OperationLiberty].
See you on the streets!
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