Spanish – The socialist government of Pedro Sánchez continues to give oxygen to the regime of Nicolás Maduro. It is no longer just an international lobby to garner support to help re-legitimize the tyranny. Spain appears to have set out to buy some of the oil that the United States stopped importing from Caracas. Statistics from the Corporation of Strategic Reserves of Oil Products (Cores) reveal that in July, Spanish operators doubled the purchase of Venezuelan oil compared to the previous month.
The figure rose from 153,000 tons of oil in June to 383,000 in July, according to the latest publication by Cores, representing a monthly increase of 60%. The Spanish oil companies- with the multinational energy company Repsol at the top- have increased imports of Venezuelan crude to 2015 levels when there was no threat of sanctions from the United States, according to the Spanish newspaper OK Diario.
The United States government has been warning Spain, and in particular, Repsol, not to help the Venezuelan regime evade the economic sanctions imposed by Washington, as Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran have already done. At the end of October 2019, it was revealed that the Treasury Department was evaluating whether to sanction the European country if it continued to cooperate with Maduro, according to Bloomberg.
The partnership in Hugo Chávez’s time between the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and the Spanish company Repsol has left nothing but an enormous debt that Venezuela pays with barrels of oil. OK Diario indicates that Repsol has limited that relationship to the collection of the debt. Likewise, it has lowered the investment in the South American country from 2,273 million Euros in 2016 to 300 million in 2020. The Spanish company has insisted that it complies with all international laws and downplays the importance of the White House’s warnings.
Spain disregards warning
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is engaged in a battle with Repsol and other European oil companies such as Italy’s Eni, as part of the pressure on the Venezuelan regime. Washington has even gone so far as to demand that Repsol put an end to the payment system it maintains with PDVSA if it does not want to be subject to “devastating sanctions.”
Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela and Iran, issued the warning in April, according to EFE. “We have asked Repsol to stop these activities, and for now, we understand that they have done so. We are grateful for that and encourage them not to change their minds.”
The upturn in Venezuelan oil imports by Spain, recorded in July 2020, breaks the downward trend that the figures had been showing. In October 2019, when it was revealed that the Department of the Treasury was considering imposing sanctions on Spain, Venezuelan crude oil imports stood at 172,000 tons. By April 2020, when Elliot Abrams issued a strong warning to Repsol, the figure had dropped to 76,000 tons.
Pedro Sánchez stands by Maduro
Despite the low profile, compared to the unconditional support by countries such as Cuba, Russia, and Iran, the Spanish government has progressively become an ally of Maduro. While Spain offers protection to opposition leaders such as Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, it has also taken in fugitive Chavistas.
The most emblematic case was that of Hugo “El Pollo” Carvajal, who was wanted by the United States because of his links to drug trafficking, but he managed to flee suspiciously. It was evident that Pedro Sanchez intended to let Carvajal escape. The former Venezuelan general is a key figure in the U.S. investigation against the Maduro regime.
Sánchez’s administration is in alliance with Pablo Iglesias, a well-known ally of Chávez and Maduro. The Spanish Vice President has been involved in corruption and money laundering scandals linked to Chavismo. In 2017, it was revealed that Podemos, Iglesias’s party, was reportedly financed with illicit contributions from Venezuela and Iran.
Sánchez’s most recent flirtation with the Venezuelan dictatorship featured his efforts along with the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, to try to give Maduro legitimacy through the European Union observation of the electoral fraud that was scheduled for December 6. Madrid even announced the change of its ambassador in Caracas to put in his place, one who would not be uncomfortable for the regime. This operation was not successful because Maduro refused to postpone the election date.