11 March 2019 — Counter Currents
Imperialists are intensifying their economic war against the Bolivarian Venezuela.
A Reuters report said:
The U.S. is pressing India to stop buying oil from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government. The report referred to Washington’s top envoy for Venezuela.
“We say you should not be helping this regime. You should be on the side of the Venezuelan people,” Elliott Abrams told Reuters in an interview.
The Trump administration has given the same message to other governments, Abrams said, and has made a similar argument to foreign banks and companies doing business with Maduro.
Abrams described the U.S. approach as “arguing, cajoling, urging.”
“If that leads to people to cooperate voluntarily, we’re glad,” Abrams said.
Asked whether India had agreed to stop buying oil from Maduro’s government, Abrams said: “I don’t want to characterize the discussions, which continue.”
The issue will be discussed on Tuesday during U.S.-India diplomatic consultations in Washington, an Indian official said, adding that India “was very cognizant of the U.S. position” on Venezuela.
The U.S. this week threatened more sanctions to cut off Maduro’s financial lifelines.
The talks with India come as the U.S. and its regional allies threaten more sanctions to cut off revenue streams to Maduro’s government and force him to step down.
The U.S. announced Venezuela’s asset freezes and visa bans targeting top Venezuelan government officials. Washington wants India to do the same.
The Indian market is crucial for Venezuela’s economy because it has historically been the second-largest cash-paying customer for Venezuela’s crude.
The talks over Venezuela come as trade tensions rise between Washington and New Delhi, and when the U.S. is also pushing India to cease buying Iranian oil.
The U.S. is planning to end preferential trade treatment for India that allows duty-free entry for up to $5.6 billion worth of its exports to the U.S.
Manuel Quevedo, Venezuela’s oil minister, attended a conference in New Delhi in mid-February seeking to “double” the country’s crude exports to India while boosting Venezuelan imports of Indian refined products. He also said he was open to barter payments.
But Venezuela’s exports to India remained relatively stable in the month since the Trump administration slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA , meaning shipments were not nearly enough to make up for the fall in U.S. sales.
Venezuela directly exported 297,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude to India in February, according to Refinitiv Eikon data, which does not include barrels first shipped to other ports such as Singapore or Rotterdam. India imported 342,000 bpd of Venezuelan crude in January, and an average of 340,000 bpd last year.
That was well off the more than 400,000 bpd India used to import, on average, and not nearly enough to make up for the drop in U.S. imports to 104,800 bpd in February from more than 500,000 bpd before the sanctions hit.
Lawmakers from both major U.S. parties are also pressuring India. Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted on February 13 that Indian refiner Reliance Petroleum’s purchases of Venezuelan oil would undermine Guaido’s “legitimate government” and “lead to calls for secondary sanctions on Reliance.”
Albio Sires, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, wrote to India’s ambassador in Washington on February 12 expressing concern about what Sires called Venezuela’s “attempts to work around U.S. efforts to hold Maduro accountable and approach one of our strongest partners in the process.”
Venezuelan oil made up just 4.2 percent of India’s total imports in January, data show. Venezuela is also not a top foreign policy priority for India, as it is for other major buyers like Russia, said Moises Rendon of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“The U.S. has enough leverage to get India to pull away the relationship with Venezuela,” Rendon said. “That’s why the U.S. role here is key.”
U.S. sanctions block U.S. firms from doing business with specific foreign governments or companies.
Any move by the U.S. to prevent purchases of Venezuelan crude would be part of a strategy known as “secondary sanctions,” in which Washington applies penalties to companies not based in the U.S.
That strategy, and even the threat of using it, was vital in Washington’s pressure campaign to cut off revenue to Iran, which eventually helped force Tehran to negotiate a nuclear deal with six world powers in 2015.
But it has drawn criticism from some foreign governments that argue that the U.S. should not be able to force its policy decisions on firms in other countries.
Banks on notice
John Bolton, U.S. National Security Advisor, this week put foreign banks “on notice” that they risked U.S. sanctions for hiding Venezuelan assets.
Russia to defend its Venezuela oil assets in ‘toughest way possible’
Nicolas Maduro’s staunchest international ally — Russia — reaffirmed last week its full support to Maduro and the Venezuela government and Maduro’s efforts to prevent what Moscow sees as interference in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.
At the same time, Russia, which vowed to defend its oil assets in Venezuela as early as the political crisis began in January, sees risks to its investments in the Latin American country and pledges to react “in the toughest way” possible within international law if those investments are threatened, Russia’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Vladimir Zaemsky, told Russian government-run newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta in an interview published this week.
Russia’s state-controlled oil giant Rosneft has extended US$6 billion of loans to Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA. As of December 31, 2018, Venezuela still owed Rosneft US$2.3.
Rosneft is also said to be helping Venezuela to get the oil products it needs to dilute its heavy crude after the US sanctions choked off American naphtha exports to Venezuela.
There certainly are risks to Russia’s investments in Venezuela, but those risks are associated with Washington’s behavior, rather than with Venezuela’s government, as the case with PDVSA’s US-based refining subsidiary Citgo has shown, ambassador Zaemsky told Rossiyskaya Gazeta (in the interview with a headline ‘Russia is not abandoning its friends’).
All Russian investment projects have been approved by the relevant Venezuelan and international law and therefore, are under their protection, Zaemsky said.
He added: “If attempts are made to deprive Russian companies of their investments in Venezuela’s economy, Russia will react to this in the toughest way, employing all available means under international law.”
Referring to Citgo, Zaemsky said that Russia sees in this a US policy of unfair competition, citing another example – “unprecedented US pressure on Europe. over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project in an attempt to squeeze Russia out of the EU gas market.
Similarly, Washington basically appropriated assets of a large oil refining business, without paying a cent for it and hiding behind tales of its transfer to “the legitimate president Juan Guaido”, Rossiyskaya Gazeta quoted Zaemsky as saying.
The Russian ambassador to Venezuela also reaffirmed Moscow’s stance that Russian-Venezuelan relations are strategic and the countries continue to strengthen them.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said on Friday, after talks with visiting Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, that Moscow supports Maduro and the “measures taken by Nicolas Maduro’s government to prevent further destabilization”, also expressed this position last week.
On Saturday, in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Venezuela, Lavrov “condemned the threats the US has made toward the country’s lawful leadership, which is an overt interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and a severe violation of the international law.” The Russian foreign ministry informed this.
While the global superpowers spat over the handling of the crisis in Venezuela, the Latin American country’s oil industry has been hit hard by the US sanctions against it and its state oil firm PDVSA. Venezuela struggles to find buyers for its oil, after the sanctions essentially ban exports to what was its largest market until recently, the US, as well as imports from the US of naphtha, which the country uses to dilute its thick heavy oil to make it flow.
Russia’s Rosneft is reportedly making shipments of naphtha to Venezuela to help it make its heavy oil suitable for processing and exports.
Two Rosneft tankers will be sending 1 million barrels of heavy naphtha to Venezuela in the next few weeks, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing shipping reports and a source with knowledge of the plans.
These naphtha shipments could bring some immediate relief, but they would be lower than Venezuela’s typical monthly heavy naphtha imports of 2-3 million barrels, according to Bloomberg.
Venezuelan army begins surveillance over power lines
The Venezuelan Army has introduced an air surveillance system over the country’s power lines to protect its energy system and prevent further incidents, Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said.
“The Venezuelan National Armed Forces launched an air surveillance system for power lines today, and since yesterday they have occupied all strategic facilities for physical protection at various levels in order to stabilize the system and prevent any other attacks”, Lopez said Sunday as broadcast by the channel VTV.
Media outlets have subsequently reported about power outages in 21 out of 23 Venezuelan states. Venezuelan President Maduro has blamed the U.S. for waging an electricity war against Venezuela.
Nonexistent “German Dam” explosion behind power outage: finds Rubio
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a vocal critic of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, tweeted that there was an explosion on the “German Dam” – without realizing that “German Dam” is the name of the journalist who reported the explosion.
Rubio tweeted on Sunday that as a result of the explosion “critically ill patients have died, the Caracas metro remains out of service & few if any flights have arrived at or departed from Caracas in over 20 hours.”
The problem with Rubio’s assertions is that there is in fact no “German Dam” in Venezuela. A confused Rubio appeared to have used the name of a South American journalist reporting on the outages as the actual reason for the blackout.
German Dam, an experienced journalist, tweeted that a transformer had exploded in Bolívar, partially collapsing the Venezuelan electric grid.
The original Rubio tweet remains live on the U.S. Senator’s feed, which is part of a long thread about the blackouts in Venezuela.
Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez specifically named Rubio as a culprit, during a televised address to the nation.
Electricity supply returning
After a three-day power outage in Venezuela, the country’s electrical systems are starting to return, particularly in the capital city of Caracas.
Photos taken in the early morning of Sunday show that important buildings throughout the city are no longer in a blackout, and show electrical service is returning throughout the Venezuelan capital.
Data from the Electric Corporation of Venezuela said power was slowly being reestablished across the country. The state of Miranda where Caracas is located has restored 20 percent of its normal electricity capacity, meanwhile 40 percent of the capital now has power. Anzoategui has 25 percent of its power as of 7:00 am local time while Guarico has 15 percent. Barinas has gained 10 percent of its power. Aragua, Carabobo and Yaracuy in the north have yet to get any electricity.
The automated control system of the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant, which is popularly known as El Guri, was attacked. Inside this high-tech power plant, three of five backup generators were electronically sabotaged, Jorge Rodriguez, vice president of communication, tourism and culture revealed Thursday in a statement.
“Deaths” in hospital: False report
On Friday, Rodriguez clarified that the reports that 79 people died in hospitals because of the electrical failure were “false”.
“They didn’t know we had a generator system set up to prevent from happening everything they are saying has happened,” Rodriguez said to the press.
Rodriguez says it is “false” that there were 79 deaths in hospitals across Venezuela because of the country’s electrical attack as many mainstream media are reporting.
“Seventy nine deaths. This is false,” declared Rodriguez in a Friday press conference.
“This is false because President Maduro already had already installed a generator system in all hospitals knowing that this type of energy attack could occur,” said the minister.
Rodriguez reiterated to the press that Commissioner Michelle Bachelet was sending a UN Human Rights delegation. He assured reporters that the Maduro administration would show delegates “the confessions” of those who caused the nearly nationwide blackout.
“We will bring to her the confessions of these criminals so the world can call for human rights in Venezuela,” said Rodriguez, adding, “If there is any international rule of law we have to denounce this type of barbarity.”
The minister ended by saying: “An essential human right is the right to peace … Mr. Rubio, Bolton, Abrams – we have the right to peace!”
Hospital administrators at the public General Hospital Lidice told the hospital experienced no blackout because the generator system kicked in when the electrical system went down two days ago.
“When the light went out the electrical generator was automatically activated,” a hospital doctor told.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Friday: “There is no food, there are no medicines, now there is no energy,” and added that Maduro would be next to fall.
The New York Times: Opposition burned “aid”
The New York Times published Sunday an investigative report confirming that the Venezuelan Armed Forces were not guilty of burning trucks of “humanitarian” aid on the Colombian-Venezuelan border.
The mainstream media said, “Maduro burned humanitarian aid”. This was propagated to justify imperialist interference in Venezuela.
Guaido agreed to work to “restore democracy”, said USAID Administrator
US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green held phone talks with Juan Guaido, self-declared “interim president” of Venezuela, during which they agreed to “work together to help restore” democracy in Venezuela, the agency said. This report was carried by a part of the MSM in January.
“Green reaffirmed the United States” commitment to continue supporting the Venezuelan National Assembly, as well as other key democratic actors like local civil society organizations that are involved in human rights documentation and the independent media. Administrator Green also underscored the US government’s condemnation of Nicolas Maduro, and reaffirmed USAID’s commitment to promoting citizen-responsive governance in Venezuela, in pursuit of a Hemisphere of Freedom”, the USAID said in a statement in January.
During the talks, Green reiterated that the U.S. was “ready to provide emergency aid throughout Venezuela to help meet this increasing humanitarian need”, according to USAID.
“The Administrator and interim President Guaido closed their conversation with a mutual commitment to work together”, it added.
The agency noted that it would continue to be in contact with Guaido’s team to work out concrete plans in the coming days.
The information in this roundup show the extent of imperialist intervention in Venezuela, and the Venezuelan people’s hard fight to follow the path they have chosen.