First Iranian Gas Tanker Reaches Venezuela

An Iran oil tanker reached Venezuela on May 23. The U.S. has sanctions on both countries and the arrival of the tanker has brought up questions of U.S. intervention. The Iranian tankers hold enough gasoline to supply Venezuela for two to three weeks.

Even though Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, the country has had to strictly ration gasoline due to shortages from economic sanctions. Last year, Venezuela’s inflation hit 800,000 percent and 4.8 million people have fled the country. 

Critics of Nicolás Maduro’s regime say their corruption and mismanagement has not helped the economic crisis and has led to mass immigration. 

“Iran and Venezuela have always supported each other in times of difficulty,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted. 

“Venezuelans need free and fair presidential elections leading to democracy and economic recovery,” U.S. State Department representative Morgan Ortagus said. “Not Maduro’s expensive deals with another pariah state.” 

“We will not abide by their support of the illegitimate and tyrannical regime of Nicolás Maduro,” the Trump administration said. “[Maximum pressure against Maduro] will continue until Maduro’s hold on Venezuela is over.”

Venezuela is currently experiencing a presidential crisis. The sitting president, Maduro, is not recognized by 60 states. Instead, these states support Juan Guaidó, the head of the opposition-majority party National Assembly. 

Because the U.S. does not recognize Maduro as the legitimate president, the U.S. has no formal relations to Venezuela. The U.S. has imposed sanctions to persuade Maduro to step down. 

The economic sanctions put on the country have not been doing it’s intended job of pressuring Maduro to step down. Instead, innocent Venezuelans have been suffering. If Maduro’s regime is as oppressive as the U.S. makes it out to be, why would the U.S. make Venezuelans endure even more hardship?

The U.S. should be supporting the Venezuelan people while they work toward ousting Maduro. The U.S. is no better than Maduro if the representatives will not help the people of the country. 

Although U.S. officials announced there is no plan to intercept the Iranian tankers, anything seems to be possible in 2020. The U.S. has tense relations with both countries and any engagement made by U.S. ships could further escalate the situation and put Iranians, Venezuelans, and Americans in more danger. 

Iran is also under sanctions from the U.S. after Donald Trump abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May 2018. Both Iran and Venezuela are dealing with an economic recession and are resorting to relying on their allies – China, Russia, and Cuba. 

If the U.S. were to intercept the Iranian tankers, and there are four more on the way, the situation could severely escalate. Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society research center, said if the act were to escalate in the Persian Gulf, Iran could retaliate against U.S. ships. 

Maria Kuiper