Maduro says Venezuelan oil will not be stopped
Petroleumworld 02 11 2019
Venezuela´s oil trade will not be thwarted by US sanctions, a defiant Nicolas Maduro told reporters in Caracas today.
"Our oil tankers won't be blocked," he said. "No one will block our oil. Venezuela always will have market options."
US sanctions on Venezuela´s state-owned PdV have already disrupted the flow of Venezuelan crude into the US market, which had been taking around 500,000 b/d before the sanctions were announced by Washington on 28 January. US sales of diluent to Venezuela have also stopped, impacting Venezuela´s heavy sour production. PdV is now casting a wide net to place its crude cargoes and secure alternative products supply .
Maduro is facing a political challenge from Juan Guaidó, the head of the National Assembly whom most Western countries now view as the country´s legitimate president.
In today´s press conference at the presidential palace, Maduro dismissed Guaido's interim presidency as illegitimate, and vowed that anyone named by him to a post in PdV or its US refining subsidiary Citgo would immediately face Venezuelan justice.
Guaidó has already named ambassadors to many countries that recognize his executive authority, and talk of oil appointments has been in the air for the past week.
Maduro confirmed that the rubber-stamp National Constituent Assembly (ANC) would soon call early elections for the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which many countries deem to be the last democratically elected institution left in Venezuela.
ANC president Diosdado Cabello yesterday said the only detail missing "is the date." The government-controlled supreme court and electoral authority (CNE) would quickly ratify an ANC call for early legislative elections.
In an ominous step, the high court ruled today that a transition government statute approved by the National Assembly is illegal.
The US, Canada and most of Latin America are demanding that Maduro step down and allow in humanitarian aid now piling up in the Colombian border city of Cucutá.
Maduro called the aid a "cheap show" designed to justify a military intervention, and pledged to block it from entering. "If they really want to help us they would lift the sanctions so we can buy food ourselves," he said.
Venezuela "won't accept humanitarian aid" under any circumstances, Maduro said. "We are not beggars."
Venezuelan national guard troops in Tachira state this week blocked the Cucutá border crossing highway with trucks and steel containers and posted guards to prevent aid cargoes from entering Venezuela.
Maduro accused the US government of seeking to destabilize Venezuela, comparing the situation to Iraq and Syria.
The US administration has not ruled out a military option in Venezuela. But the Pentagon says its planning is limited to protecting the lives of US diplomats and personnel inside Venezuela, and warns that the armed forces in that country remain loyal to Maduro.
In a significant development today, Venezuela´s parallel supreme court in exile that backs Guaidó issued a ruling that petitions "the international community to support the opening of a humanitarian aid channel through diplomatic or any other means, including a military coalition on a peace mission", paving a legal path for possible intervention.
Guaidó and his international supporters reject the plan for new assembly elections and proposals for dialogue as ploys by Maduro to stay in power.
They have encountered resistance from Mexico and Uruguay that are pushing for talks. A new EU-led contact group met yesterday in Montevideo and agreed to send a technical mission to Venezuela and meet again in early March.
Russia, China, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and several Caribbean countries recognize Maduro as president.
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