WASHINGTON (Rahnuma) : The U.S. on Friday designated two companies in the Venezuelan oil sector and 34 vessels owned by Caracas’ state-run oil company in a bid to further ramp up economic pressure on President Nicolas Maduro.
Ballito Bay Shipping Inc. and ProPer in Management Inc. were blacklisted for operating in Venezuela’s oil sector, according to the Treasury Department. Despina Andrianna, a ship the U.S. agency said was used to ship oil to Cuba, was also designated.
“Treasury is taking action against vessels and entities transporting oil, providing a lifeline to keep the illegitimate Maduro regime afloat,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “Cuba continues to profit from, and prop up, the illegitimate Maduro regime through oil-for-repression schemes as they attempt to keep Maduro in power.”
The 34 vessels were designated blocked property of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, which the U.S. designated in January amid a political stalemate in the Latin American nation.
Venezuela has been rocked by protests since January, when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.
Tensions flared when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president days later — a move supported by the U.S., most Latin American countries, and many in Europe.
Venezuela has been in the throes of humanitarian and economic crises amid a political deadlock between Guaido and Maduro.
Washington has ramped up diplomatic and economic pressure on the Venezuelan president, including the sanctioning of his state-run oil company, in a bid to get him to cede power.
But Maduro, who is strongly supported by Russia and Cuba, has refused to step down, instead insisting he is the target of a U.S.-orchestrated coup.
The political stalemate comes as Venezuela grapples with a worsening economic crisis that has led to acute shortages of goods and which has repeatedly resulted in widespread power outages.
Its economy has been in precipitous decline following a global downturn in the price of crude oil, the country’s main export.