March 29, 2020

U.S. imposes new sanctions on Russian firm working in Venezuela

By Guido Lanfranchi.

On February 19th, 2020, the United States administration has imposed financial sanctions on Rosneft Trading S.A. – a company accused by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin of brokering “global oil deals involving the sale and transport of Venezuelan crude to provide a lifeline to the illegitimate Maduro regime”. The company targeted by the new sanctions is a subsidiary of the Russian global energy giant Rosneft Oil Company, which had already been sanctioned by the US administration in 2014.

Discussing the new listing with the press, US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliot Abrams stressed that the sanctions on Rosneft Trading S.A. – which come in the wake of another round of sanctions targeting the Venezuelan state-owned airline – are only a first step. “There will be other steps; there will be other targets; there will be more sanctions” – he said, announcing that the administration will attempt to persuade major consumers of Venezuelan oil, especially Asian countries, to reduce their imports from the Latin American country. 

Mr. Abrams declared that the aim of the sanctions is to “force the Maduro regime into a negotiation for a presidential election” – an outcome that the US administration sees as the optimal way out of the current crisis. The Special Representative highlighted that “the United States remains firmly committed to the people of Venezuela and to the cause of freedom there”, and that this cause enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress, where Republicans and Democrats alike back Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.  

In response to the case recently filed by Venezuela before the International Criminal Court concerning the impact of US sanctions, Mr. Abrams rejected the accusation of crimes against humanity as “absurd”, noting in turn how “a number of Latin American countries have brought the Maduro regime before the ICC”.

In the wake of the imposition of sanctions, Rosneft accused the US administration of selectivity, highlighting that licenses to operate in Venezuela had been granted to US-friendly companies, such as Chevron. Questioned on this issue, Mr. Abrams declined to give specific information on future US sanctions. However, he announced that the administration will engage in conversations with “all the affected parties”, including US companies, although those conversation will remain private until further decisions will be reached. 

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