The Vice President of the Economic Area in Nicolas Maduro’s government Tareck El Aissami confirmed that the Fortune – the first Iranian tanker carrying gasoline – has entered Venezuelan waters, in an attempt to alleviate the critical fuel shortage in this South American nation that, contradictorily, has huge oil reserves.
In detail, the tanker contains 262,924 barrels of gasoline. It will be followed by The Fores, Petunia, Faxon, and Clavel, expected to arrive in the coming days, also from Iran. The vessels will deliver a total amount of 1.5 million barrels of fuel.
ÚLTIMO MINUTO | Primer buque iraní navega (6:45am) en aguas del estado Nueva Esparta, en trayecto que se desarrolla con completa normalidad, indica jefe de la Misión por parte de la @ArmadaFANB, Aníbal Brito, nos reporta @Javienny
— VTV CANAL 8 (@VTVcanal8) May 24, 2020
In view of a paralyzing gasoline shortage, Nicolas Maduro has resorted to the COVID-19 quarantine to keep everyone home. However, and given the imminent need to maintain mobility, the regime is considering solutions in the short, medium, and long term.
The most immediate measures include the arrival of these Iranian tankers carrying millions of barrels of gasoline, which Maduro allegedly paid with gold.
The most remarkable aspect is that Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the hemisphere. It also has an enviable infrastructure for hydrocarbon production, refining, distribution, and sale.
However, 20 years of chavista government, with high doses of corruption and inefficiency, have practically paralyzed state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela. Just a few years back, PDVSA had been one of the most highly respected energy companies worldwide.
Comunicado del Gobierno Legítimo sobre traslado de tanqueros iraníes hacia Venezuela pic.twitter.com/OE9x49ZEfR
— Centro de Comunicación Nacional (@Presidencia_VE) May 21, 2020
Privatizing the domestic market
In the more distant future, the regime’s plans include a private market for fuel import and sales. It also includes raising prices to end the black market.
Under this plan, state-owned company PDVSA would allow private companies to import and distribute fuel. This way, authorities hope to avoid U.S. sanctions against State entities.
Revising the country’s gasoline distribution system would mean the end of the price control mechanism. These regulations have allowed Venezuelans to fill their tanks practically for free. It would also constitute a radical change of the country’s national politics to relax the State’s monopoly on the nation’s most important resource. On the other hand, PDVSA would recover millions of dollars a year, currently lost to subsidies.
Iranian technicians are repairing the paralyzed plants at PDVSA’s Cardon and Amuay refineries. In April, more than a dozen flights from Tehran transported workers, supplies, and spare parts for these refining complexes. The airplanes went back carrying 9 tons of gold, valued in $500 million.
In territorial waters
Early this Sunday, government officials stated that the first Iranian vessel was already near the Island of Margarita, Nueva Esparta State, in the eastern part of the country.
Navy Admiral Anibal Brito told state news TV station VTV that the route went smoothly.
The first tanker arrived after loading gasoline at the Bandar Abbas port in Iran and officially sailing off on May 16.
A regional threat
The agreements between Iran and Venezuela have been heavily criticized by the country’s political opposition. They have also been questioned by the United States and international organizations.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro assured that sending these vessels is an attack against peace and stability in the region. He added it is an unacceptable act of provocation by Iran and qualified Iran’s military presence as “despicable.”
Envío d buques iraníes a #Venezuela en apoyo d un gobierno ilegítimo es un atentado contra la paz y estabilidad regionales y un acto d provocación inaceptable d la República Islámica de Irán. Reiteramos tb q presencia militar y d inteligencia irani en el Hemisferio es repudiable
— Luis Almagro (@Almagro_OEA2015) May 24, 2020
For his part, Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, former Bolivian president, agreed that the five Iranian tankers carrying gasoline to Venezuela represent a danger for the region. He warned that Iranian hit forces are currently settling in Venezuela, with the authorization of the Maduro regime.
In an interview with El Nacional, Quiroga stated that “what is happening is extremely concerning because Iran is an outlaw regime burdened by sanctions and seeking for nuclear weapons. It is also probably the State with the most satellites around the world.”
Iran “has many terrorist groups that it arms, funds, supports, and trains; additionally, it has the Quds, which are basically heavily armed groups with enormous firepower.”
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