U.S. Sanctions Are Aimed at Venezuela’s Oil

(NY TIMES)  — When President Trump slapped surprise oil sanctions on Venezuela aimed at toppling President Nicolás Maduro, exports plunged and banking froze as the effects hit harder and faster than expected.

How ordinary Venezuelans will endure the magnitude of the American sanctions is still unknown. But in recent days it has become clear that Venezuela’s state oil company, the main target of the sanctions as Mr. Maduro’s bankroller, has found a few ways to survive, with some Russian help.

If Mr. Maduro hangs on, many in Venezuela fear that the sanctions imposed last week will push the already suffering nation of about 30 million people into an even greater humanitarian catastrophe.

A refinery complex owned by Venezuela’s state-run oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, or Pdvsa. The company is surviving, for now, with some Russian help.CreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times
“I’m not sure the U.S. has a Plan B if this doesn’t work in getting rid of Maduro,” said Francisco Rodríguez, a Venezuelan economist at Torino Capital, a brokerage firm. “I’m afraid that if these sanctions are implemented in their current form, we’re looking at starvation.”

Venezuelan oil exports to the United States, which provide the biggest source of cash for Mr. Maduro’s government, plummeted 40 percent last week. Customers suspended contracts, banks suspended Venezuelan accounts, and a dozen tankers filled with Venezuelan crude sat stranded across the Caribbean.

“We can’t charge, we can’t receive money. Our finances are paralyzed,” said Reinaldo Quintero, head of the Venezuelan Oil Chamber, an industry group that represents the country’s 500 biggest oil service companies. “There will be major collateral damage.”

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