The first Iranian ship arrives in Venezuela, showing no signs of US threat

Venezuela (AP)-The first of the five tankers loaded with gasoline from Iran arrived in Venezuela ’s waters on Saturday night and is expected to temporarily alleviate the fuel shortage in South American countries while countering the Trump administration ’s response to this Sanctions by two American enemies.

The tanker Fortune did not immediately show signs of US interference as it relaxed through the Caribbean waters to the Venezuelan coast and Venezuelan officials celebrated their arrival.

"Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Twitter:" Iran and Venezuela have always supported each other in difficult times. "Today, the first ship with gasoline arrived in the hands of our people."

In the rapidly developing relationship between Iran and Venezuela, this tanker and the four behind it are completing high seas trips, both in Washington It is said that both countries are ruled by repressive regimes.

Russ Dallen, the head of Miami-based investment company Caracas Capital Markets, used ship tracking technology to confirm the location of Fortune magazine. He said the last Clavel of the five ships was about 3.5 days behind the leading tanker.

Venezuela is at the top of the world ’s largest oil reserves, but it must import gasoline because production has declined over the past two decades. During the economic crisis, critics accused the socialist government of corruption and mismanagement, leading Venezuelans to seek escape from poverty, shortages of basic commodities, and large numbers of immigrants.

Iranian tankers hold enough gasoline estimated by analysts to supply Venezuela for two to three weeks.

Severe gasoline shortages have plagued Venezuela for several years, although until recently the problem has exempted the largest capital, Caracas, from population centers and political locations.

Drivers have to wait in line, waiting all day to wind through nearby areas to fill up with government-subsidized gasoline, which is less than a penny a tank. Wealthy drivers with dollars turned to the black market, where gasoline prices were as high as $ 12 per gallon. This is a great asset for Venezuela, where the monthly minimum wage is equal to less than $ 5.

The United States accused Iran and other countries of supporting Venezuelan President Nicola Maduro. The countries that support opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legal president of Venezuela come from nearly 60 countries. They argued that Maduro illegally won the 2018 election and banned his most popular opponent. .

In the new relationship between Caracas and Tehran, Iran has recently shipped some key chemicals to help start the Venezuelan refinery and produce gasoline.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Saturday that the United States should not interfere with the transportation of oil to Venezuela. Rouhani said in a statement that the United States has created “unacceptable conditions” in different parts of the world, but Iran “never” will trigger conflict.

"If our tankers are in the Caribbean or anywhere else in the world, they will also face problems if they face any problems caused by Americans." "We hope that Americans will not make mistakes."

United States Officials announced that there are no plans to intercept Iranian tankers. However, the Trump administration has put more pressure on Maduro and recently offered him a $ 15 million reward for arresting him for prosecuting him in a US court for drug traffickers.

The United States also recently deployed a fleet, including naval destroyers and other battleships, patrolling the Caribbean Sea, which American officials called the anti-drug mission. The Maduro government considers this a direct threat.

Maduro continued to rule with the support of the Venezuelan army and its international allies (including Cuba, Russia, and China). The United States says that these countries are engaged in "malicious activities and interventions" worldwide.

In a statement, the Trump administration said, “We will not insist on their support for Nicolás Maduro ’s illegal and tyrannical regime,” the party quoted its support of socialist leaders. Maximum pressure "exercise. "It will continue until Maduro's control of Venezuela ends."

A rebellious Maduro appeared on the national television a few days before the warship's arrival, expressing a strong response to any U.S. aggression against Iranian tankers . He showed images of soldiers shooting at anti-aircraft missiles streaking in the Caribbean.

"They want to enslave us," Maduro said on Thursday.

Maduro ’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said that the Venezuelan armed forces would welcome five Iranian tankers and escort them across the country ’s waters and into the country by boat and plane. The country. port.

Eric Farnsworth, deputy chairman of the Inter-American Commission and the American Association Research Center, said he did not want the United States to take action against Iranian tankers. He said such a move is easy to escalate, especially in the Persian Gulf, Iran can retaliate against American ships.

“(This will unnecessarily undermine the narrative. Venezuela has the largest proven oil supply in the world and must import gasoline from all over Iran because they have become international pariahs,” Farnsworth said. "If they don't, Caracas claims that the motherland has won a huge victory and tries to portray the United States as a powerless country."


Scott Smith on Twitter: @ScottSmithAP

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