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US sanctions five Iranian ship captains over fuel shipments to Venezuela

Sanctions come weeks after Tehran sent 1.5 million barrels of fuel to Caracas, which is experiencing acute shortage of petrol
Iranian-flagged Fortune oil tanker arrives at El Palito refinery in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, on 25 May (AFP/File photo)
By MEE staff in Washington

The United States has imposed sanctions on five Iranian ship captains it accuses of delivering fuel to Venezuela, the Treasury Department said.

Washington has frequently placed sanctions on Iran's shipping sector, and earlier this month designated 121 tankers, container ships and other vessels for secondary sanctions after Tehran sent more than 1.5 million barrels of gasoline and petrochemical components to Caracas.

"The Treasury Department will target anyone who supports Iranian attempts to evade United States sanctions and who further enables their destabilising behavior around the world," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement

"The Iranian regime's support to the authoritarian and corrupt regime in Venezuela is unacceptable, and the Administration will continue to use its authorities to disrupt it."

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According to the Treasury Department, the five captains have worked for the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and the National Iranian Tanker Company, both of which have already been slapped with US sanctions.

Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, is almost out of petrol following years of mismanagement and US sanctions on its oil. Over the past few months, authorities have imposed rationing at petrol stations nationwide, handing control over to military personnel, World Oil reported.

The country's oil refining network is believed to be operating at about 10 percent of its 1.3 million-barrel-per-day capacity as it also struggles with hyperinflation and the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The shortage has forced it to rely on imports, but US sanctions have limited the sources and types of fuel it can receive.

Iran's foreign ministry has vowed to continue sending oil shipments to the South American country despite US sanctions against both countries.

Earlier this month, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he planned to visit Iran to sign cooperation agreements in energy and other sectors.

"I am obliged to go to personally thank the people," Maduro said on 1 June in an address broadcast on state television. He did not provide a date for his visit to the Islamic Republic.

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