HAVANA TIMES – The US Treasury Department has put four companies operating in the Venezuelan oil sector on a sanctions list, saying Friday it was aimed at increasing the pressure on President Nicolas Maduro, reported dpa news.
“We continue to target companies that transport Venezuelan oil to Cuba,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “Maduro relies on the support he receives from the Cuban military and intelligence services to retain his hold on power because he does not have the support of the Venezuelan people,” he added.
Four shipping companies that own nine vessels were named and targeted with the sanctions as they transport Venezuelan oil to Cuba, which the US wants to punish for supporting Maduro, noted Bloomberg.
The shipping lines to be punished by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control include three companies based in Monrovia, Liberia — Jennifer Navigation Ltd., Lima Shipping Corp. and Large Range Ltd., along with a fourth based in Italy, PB Tankers S.P.A.
The Trump administration had sanctioned two shipping firms a week ago for carrying oil from Venezuela to Cuba, but that represented only a small percentage of the shipments. Now, the new sanctions will cover up to half the oil supply Cuba receives, said Bloomberg.
The move is the latest against Caracas, as the US works to force Maduro to step down. Washington has recognized the opposition leader Juan Guaido as head of state and is one of more than 50 countries that are backing the self-declared president.
Since the start of the year, the US has stepped up sanctions against Venezuela, hitting the oil sector in particular, along with the gold exports sector, as it seeks to dry up capital flows available to the government.
Cuba admits having tens of thousands of professionals, especially doctors and educators working in Venezuela, but denies having influence in the intelligence services or military.