Nicolas Maduro’s regime uses at least five different tricks to evade international sanctions and fulfill the shipment of oil to Cuba. Chavismo has implemented measures including turning ships into “ghosts” and warships, smuggling oil, changing the names of the sanctioned ships, and abducting the crew.
The United States has found it difficult to stop the flow of crude oil that Venezuela sends to the island, as the dictatorship has found a way to scoff at the sanctions and achieve its goal.
Cuba is one of the principal allies of Venezuela. The country received 100,000 barrels of petroleum each day owing to various cooperation agreements. The island sends doctors, military, intelligence officers, etc. to Venezuela. In return, Maduro sends them petroleum. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is using sanctions to interrupt these trade relations in an attempt to put further pressure on Maduro’s dictatorship and the Cuban regime.
Sanctioned vessels have changed their names
An article by Bloomberg reveals that Maduro’s regime is changing the name of the ships and shutting down their transmitters to make them “disappear” from the radars so that they can reach Cuba.
The vessel, Ocean Elegance, an oil carrier that has been delivering Venezuelan crude oil to the island for the past three years, was renamed Ocean after being sanctioned in May. The S-Trotter, another ship on the sanctions list, is now known as the Tropic Sea.
The same thing happened with the oil tanker Nedas, which after being sanctioned in April, made a hidden delivery to Cuba because it turned off its satellite tracking system. The vessel was not followed for 42 days, but shipment reports show that it delivered oil to Cuba.
According to Bloomberg, after the ghost deliveries, the vessel discreetly changed its name to Esperanza. El Nedas has delivered 2 million barrels of crude oil to Cuba this year according to shipping reports.
Abducting the crew
In an action that could be described as kidnapping, the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) forcibly seized the Venezuelan oil tanker “Manuela Saenz” on 1st May to compel it to transport oil to Cuba, in violation of international sanctions and the orders of Venezuelan President Juan Guaido.
The news portal Infobae reported that intelligence officials decided to replace the captain of “Manuela Saenz” when he refused to bring the ship to the island and intimidated the crew who had protested the move. Under threat, they boarded the ship, thus ensuring the transfer of gasoline and diesel to the island.
“Ghost” boats and pirates
Both the Manuela Saenz and the Nedas turned off their satellite transmitters on their way to Cuba to avoid disclosing the location, thereby evading international sanctions and avoiding detention.
According to Miami Diario, the dictatorship is using pirates to smuggle oil to more than 30 foreign vessels to evade the Treasury Department’s penalty.
Likewise, the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, PDVSA, escapes international embargoes and seizures by transferring crude oil at sea; a measure that resembles the one used by smugglers or drug traffickers to evade justice.
The modus operandi of the state-owned company is to make a kind of handover: it transfers barrels of crude oil at sea to foreign vessels that carry the cargo to its destination, thus avoiding seizures or sanctions.
Facing the possibility that the United States might try to block the shipment of crude oil to Cuba, Nicolas Maduro decided to convert some oil tankers into warships after guarding them with active personnel of the Venezuelan Armed Force (FANB).
The Venezuelan military is now prepared to face any blockade. It will protect the ships used by the state oil company PDVSA, some of them with Panamanian flags.
An email sent to FANB officials indicates that the decision was taken “to carry out training and custody functions” of the vessels.
According to Major General Herbert Garcia Plaza, former minister of Nicolas Maduro, now in exile, the Sovereign Oil Operation has at least 15 vessels that will have the required military weaponry, and each will also have two AK-47 assault rifles.