The US has reportedly contacted trading houses and oil refineries around the world and instructed them to curtail their dealings with Venezuela or face sanctions themselves, Reuters reported Thursday, citing three unnamed sources.
According to the sources, the demand is unjust, since the US is asking for the cessation of trade that is not, on paper, prohibited by US sanctions.
"This is how the United States operates these days. They have written rules, and then they call you to explain that there are also unwritten rules that they want you to follow," one of the sources said.
They explained that, according to State Department's new demands, any kind of oil trade with Venezuela — direct, indirect or barter — will be considered a violation.
The US reportedly seeks to use the oil trade garrote as leverage against elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has proven himself a difficult target to oust, and to replace him with opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Due to US-imposed sanctions, Venezuela's overall exports of crude oil and fuel dropped to 920,000 barrels per day in the first month of sanctions, roughly 30 percent less than 1.5 million bpd in the prior three months, according to Refinitiv Eikon and state firm PDVSA data.
In the meantime, Russia remains a staunch supporter of Maduro, who won re-election in 2018, recognizing him as the legitimate president of the country.