Nicolás Maduro has launched a new plan to convert oil tankers into warships, guarding them with active personnel of the Venezuelan Armed Forces (FANB), faced with the possibility that the United States may try to block the shipment of crude oil to Cuba.
Buques de PDVSA que maneja el régimen de Maduro estarán “custodiados” a partir de hoy, por personal activo de la FANB. Así lo informó ayer a través de un correo electrónico, el Gerente de Flota Buque Tanques PDV Marina: Ramón Sosa #PDVSA #RegimendeMaduro #Venezuela #PDVMarina pic.twitter.com/mQMJeudiSK
— Alexandra Belandia R (@abelandia) May 16, 2019
“PDVSA ships under the control of the Maduro regime will now be ‘accompanied’ by active personnel of the Venezuelan Armed Forces. This notification was made through email by Ramon Sosa, Manager of the Fleet of Oil Tankers.”
The ships used by state oil company, PDVSA, some of them flying under Panamanian flags, will now be protected by Venezuelan military with weapons, prepared to face any blockade.
An e-mail sent to the FANB officials notes that the decision was made “in order to carry out training and custody functions” with respect to the vessels.
According to Hebert García Plaza, a top army general, who was a minister under Nicolás Maduro, and is now in exile, Operation Sovereign Oil, with which at least 15 vessels will have military weapons, will be managed by 47 professional military.
Los buques en los que se embarcará los oficiales son: Yavire, Yare, Paramaconi, Negra Hipolita, Luisa Caceres de Arismendi, Rio Orinoco, Rio Apure, Río Caroni, Proteo, Nereo, Eos, Hero, Zeus, Icaro y Teseo, serán TN y TF con sus armas de reglamento y 2 AK por barco.
— Hebert García Plaza (@HJGarciaPlaza) May 15, 2019
Lawyer Rocío San Miguel, a specialist on the Venezuelan military, denounced that the Maduro regime is converting commercial vessels into military vessels; a situation that could have consequences.
“What will happen with several of these ships that have a Panamanian flag? What will happen if a foreign military vessel on patrol in the Caribbean, requests inspection on the high seas, with military of the FANB on board?” San Miguel questioned.
The decision of the Maduro regime is a reaction to the oil embargo imposed by the United States on all shipping lines and vessels that send Venezuelan crude to other countries, especially Cuba. The United States implemented a naval blockade in order to prevent the delivery of Venezuelan oil to Cuba.
Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) said that “it is evident that the sanctions designed to block the flow of oil from Venezuela to Cuba are not working. Cuba is the source of great influence and support for the Maduro regime in Venezuela due in large part to the free oil they receive in return. It is oil in exchange for repression,” he said.
The US senator stressed that “cutting off the supply of oil to the Castro regime would be the most effective action we can take to put an end to the brutal regime of Nicolás Maduro.” He added that “it is clear that the US must consider the use of naval assets to block the flow of oil between the two dictatorships. The president proposed the idea of a total embargo on Cuba and I completely agree with him.”
Hijacking, pirates, and ghost ships to send oil to Cuba
The decision to militarize oil tankers arises after an action that could only be described as a hijacking by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin), which took control of the Venezuelan oil tanker Manuela Sáenz to force it to transport gasoline and diesel to Cuba, in contravention of the international sanctions and the orders of the interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó.
On May 1, intelligence officials decided to replace the captain of the “Manuela Sáenz” when he refused to take the ship to the island, and intimidated the crew who had protested the measure. Under threats, they boarded the ship, and in this way ensured the transfer of these fuels to the island.
After the oil embargo that the United States imposed on the Maduro regime, to accelerate its fall, the dictatorship is now seeking new ways to get oil to Cuba. Now it also engaging in piracy.
According to Miami Diario, the dictatorship is using pirates to ferry oil to more than 30 foreign vessels in order to evade the Treasury Department’s penalty.