Spanish – The U.S. government has reportedly extended business licenses to American companies in Venezuela to avoid ceding space to Russia or China.
In October 2019, the U.S. Treasury Department renewed a license that allowed companies like Chevron to continue operating in Venezuela for another three months; however, the reason behind this decision was unclear.
A source associated with the oil industry told the PanAm Post that the licenses would reportedly be renewed to avoid “giving in to powers like Russia or China that will expand in Venezuela.”
The source confirmed what has already been published by news agencies such as Reuters and Bloomberg, which have reported that the Russian company Rosneft is the one that maintains the “leading role” in favoring the regime with tactics and maneuvers that allow it to export oil.
“There are people within the White House who think it is critical and important to have U.S. companies in Venezuela so as not to cede those spaces to Russian or Chinese companies, but there are also those who believe that we should exercise maximum pressure to force a change in the South American country,” he said.
A report by the Bloomberg news agency revealed that with the help of the Russian state oil company Rosneft, the dictatorship sent almost two million barrels of oil to Asia. The ships turned off the satellite tracking devices to prevent exposing their location, evade international sanctions, and avoid arrest.
La petrolera rusa Rosneft en 2019 se convirtió en el mayor receptor de crudo venezolano, amortizando así miles de millones de dólares en préstamos otorgados a Venezuela en la última década. En abril se termina de pagar la deuda
— Jose Toro Hardy (@josetorohardy) January 13, 2020
The fact is that Nicolás Maduro’s regime would have found a way to export crude oil without letting those involved fall victim to sanctions. He is likely awarding shipments to joint ventures so that the goods would reach continents such as Asia and Africa.
According to Reuters news agency, the companies involved “would not violate the sanctions as long as the proceeds of the sale are used to pay off outstanding debts.” The agency affirms that companies such as Chevron Corp would have carried out this operation.
“Lawyers consulted by some oil companies interested in acquiring Venezuelan crude said that sales are allowed under sanctions provided that the money destined to pay debts remains out of Maduro’s reach, which is the main intention of the measures,” one of the sources told Reuters.
Intelligence firms linked to the oil industry told the PanAm Post that, according to industry data, fewer than 5% of the 300 tankers that held Venezuelan cargo in 2019 were owned by Chevron. However, Chevron and the other four U.S. companies still in the South American country are waiting for the U.S. to renew their license to operate in Venezuela, which expires on January 22.
“We hope that the General License 8D will be renewed so that we can continue operations in the country in the long term. We remain focused on our core business operations and on supporting the more than 8,800 people who work with their families and us,” Chevron spokesman Ray Fohr told the PanAm Post.
“The Russians have been taking control of the Venezuelan oil industry, especially with exports, and they also control the two main gas fields and manage shares in different refineries in Venezuela,” Francisco Monaldi, a researcher at Rice University’s Baker Institute, told the PanAm Post.
“If foreign companies like Chevron leave Venezuela, the oil industry could virtually fall into the hands of the Russians. They will find the opportunity to expand, although it is not yet clear how they would do it,” he explained.
“The Russians have taken over the oil sector to collect their debt and are also the best positioned during the political transition in Venezuela. They have made a brilliant move. If Maduro remains in power, Russia will retain “ownership” of Venezuela’s oil sector. If another president takes over, Russia will have the option to sell all its assets and make a lot of money. It is a genius move in any case,” he said.