Shipping companies and insurers that take part in sending crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba have been “put on notice,” U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said in a tweet, following a declaration by the Venezuelan opposition-dominated National Assembly that all oil exports to Cuba must be suspended in the wake of the five-day blackout that wreaked havoc on the already struggling South American country.
“The Venezuelan National Assembly has decreed the suspension of crude exports to Cuba following the collapse of the national electrical grid. Insurance companies and flag carriers that facilitate these give-away shipments to Cuba are now on notice,” Bolton tweeted.
Cuba is the closest regional ally of Venezuela and a major importer of its crude. The “on-notice” tweet is part of the latest escalation between Venezuelan and the United States after Washington slapped a fresh round of sanctions on PDVSA in January following Nicolas Maduro’s inauguration for a second term as president.
Since then, Washington has increased the pressure by declaring its support for National Assembly President Juan Guaido.
The declaration was followed by action. The U.S. seized PDVSA assets in the United States and set up a new account where importers of Venezuelan crude in the U.S. would transfer payments, to which only Guaido’s camp would have access.
Despite these actions, Maduro has clung on to power with the help of Russia, which, along with China, Turkey, and Bolivia, has taken the stance that he is the elected president.
Meanwhile, Washington has turned to importers of Venezuelan crude, insisting that they stop buying it in a bid to cut off access to the market of Venezuela’s virtually one and only export commodity right now.
Most recently, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked India to stop buying Venezuelan crude to sop being “the economic lifeline for the Maduro regime.” India is Venezuela’s second-largest oil buyer.