The US special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, has claimed that Caracas has been continuing to ship oil to some countries despite Washington's effort to prevent this with economic sanctions. Abrams said that $3 billion worth of oil had been delivered to China and $900 million more shipped to Cuba, Venezuela's long-time ally.
The US envoy stated that Caracas was shipping the oil to China in order to repay some of its debt, arguing that instead it could have used the money to alleviate the food and medicine shortages afflicting the country. Abrams, however, failed to clarify how Venezuela was supposed to do so, as the US has imposed sanctions on its oil trade, cutting the country off from most of its buyers.
Abrams also claimed that Caracas had signed a $209 million contract on military purchases with Russia, without specifying when this was done. He added that under the purported agreement, Russia will supply Sukhoi fighter jets and military helicopters to the country.
Maduro has grossly mismanaged Venezuela’s resources. In May, while hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans went hungry, Maduro gave Russia $209 million for a defense contract to buy their continued support. Venezuelans want true democratic leadership, not repression.— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) June 16, 2019
Earlier, responding to previous US claims that Venezuela had bought new weaponry from Russia in June 2019, Moscow dismissed the rumours by saying that no new military contracts are expected to be signed between the two countries in the near future. The cost of a single Su-35 fighter jet, the most frequently ordered Russian jet by foreign clients, amounts to roughly $83 million, whereas Mi-171 military transport helicopters (upgraded version of the legendary Mi-8) and Kamov Ka-series attack helicopters cost about $4 million and $16 million each respectively, meaning that for a sum as modest as $209 million, Venezuela would only be able to buy two jets and a few choppers with what’s left.
Economic and Political Crisis in Venezuela Amid US Pressure
Venezuela has been struggling with a severe economic crisis in recent years that has led to shortages of certain foodstuffs and medicines, a problem that was exacerbated by a political crisis in 2018 and 2019. In January, opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself an interim president, immediately receiving support from the US and a number of Western countries. He later led a coup attempt in April 2019, but which ultimately failed.
Accusing Caracas of human rights violations, Washington imposed economic sanctions against the country, which severely limited its ability to sell the main export commodity that had largely filled its budget – oil. Caracas, as well as several other countries supporting legitimately elected President Nicolas Maduro, condemned the US move.