The Biden administration will maintain political support for Venezuelan self-proclaimed puppet “Interim President” Juan Guaido, while the EU no longer legally recognizes him as after he lost his position as head of parliament following legislative elections in Venezuela in December 2020.
Former White House Special Envoy and War Architect Elliott Abrams told the Miami Herald he expected “no major changes” after meeting incoming foreign policy officials, while Guaido’s US representative Carlos Vecchio was a guest at the fabricated Biden inauguration.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other high-ranking officials have expressed a desire for improved relations with the US based on respect and cooperation, not violence, bribery or corruption.
The South American nation has been hit with successive destructive rounds of punishing coercive measures by the US Treasury Department, affecting sectors from banking to food imports, with special focus on derailing Venezuela’s oil industry.
One of the Trump administration’s final acts saw the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklist three individuals, six vessels and 14 companies allegedly involved with Venezuela’s oil sector.
The sanctioned individuals are Italian national Alessandro Bazzoni, Swiss Philipp Apikian and Spanish-Venezuelan Francisco D’Agostino, who is also the brother-in-law of high profile opposition leader and Guaido ally Henry Ramos Allup.
Geneva-based Swissoil, owned by Apikian, and Malta-based Elemento are the two main companies targeted, with both accused of brokering and assisting in shipments of Venezuelan crude. US sanctions have seen state oil company PdVSA forced to use a network of intermediaries which then reroute cargoes to final customers, most of them in Asia.
The other blacklisted companies are allegedly owned or controlled by Bazzoni, D’Agostino or Elemento. In addition, Liberian-, Cameroonian- and Russian-flagged vessels were sanctioned for having reportedly transported Venezuelan crude in recent months.
US citizens and firms are now forbidden from dealing with the designated individuals and entities, which also see any US-based assets where they hold a larger than 50% stake blocked.
With the outgoing and incoming administrations tightening the blockade against the Caribbean nation, fuel suppliers, oil companies and aid groups are reportedly looking to press the Biden White House to allow crude-for-diesel swap deals once again.
The sanctions architecture has shut Caracas out of traditional financial channels, with crude for gasoline or diesel exchanges increasingly relied upon before Washington’s clampdown.
Diesel shortages in particular can have devastating effects on sectors such as agriculture or public transportation, while also affecting electricity generation.
PdVSA has restarted some of the country’s refineries with Iranian assistance, but operations have been frequently halted and production is still far from meeting the current demand.
US sanctions have been deemed responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and classified as “collective punishment.”
A number of multilateral bodies, including the United Nations, have criticized the measures for their impact on the Venezuelan population, while the Maduro government has filed a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court (ICC), describing sanctions as a “crime against humanity.”
Venezuela Analysis / ABC Flash Point News 2021.