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‘Unwritten Rules’: US Demands Foreign Oil Companies Cut Ties With Venezuela

CC0 / / Oil rig
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The verbal demand reportedly exceeds the scope of sanctions established on paper, sources say.

The US has reportedly contacted trading houses and oil refineries around the world and instructed them to curtail their dealings with Venezuela or face sanctions themselves, Reuters reported Thursday, citing three unnamed sources.

According to the sources, the demand is unjust, since the US is asking for the cessation of trade that is not, on paper, prohibited by US sanctions.

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The US imposed additional sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry earlier this year; despite that, companies have continued ship fuel to Caracas from India, Russia and Europe, Reuters reports. In February, the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a ban on the use of its financial system for oil deals with Venezuela after April. But just this week, the US State Department reportedly called up foreign firms to say that the scope of the sanctions is wider.

"This is how the United States operates these days. They have written rules, and then they call you to explain that there are also unwritten rules that they want you to follow," one of the sources said.

They explained that, according to State Department's new demands, any kind of oil trade with Venezuela — direct, indirect or barter — will be considered a violation.

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According to Reuters' sources, the US is particularly interested in cutting supplies of gasoline and oil products used to dilute heavy Venezuelan oil to make it suitable for export. Diesel and jet fuel are excepted from this due to "humanitarian reasons," one source explained.

The US reportedly seeks to use the oil trade garrote as leverage against elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has proven himself a difficult target to oust, and to replace him with opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Due to US-imposed sanctions, Venezuela's overall exports of crude oil and fuel dropped to 920,000 barrels per day in the first month of sanctions, roughly 30 percent less than 1.5 million bpd in the prior three months, according to Refinitiv Eikon and state firm PDVSA data.

In the meantime, Russia remains a staunch supporter of Maduro, who won re-election in 2018, recognizing him as the legitimate president of the country.

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