18:33 GMT28 November 2020
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    Washington slapped Venezuelan state oil giant PDVSA with crushing sanctions in early 2019, putting pressure on customers not to deal with the company and seizing $7 billion of the company’s overseas assets. The measures were part of an ongoing US bid to topple the democratically elected government of President Nicolas Maduro.

    Venezuela’s crude oil exports fell to historic new lows in October, averaging 359,000 barrels per day (bpd), the lowest showing since 1943, Reuters has reported, citing Venezuelan oil ministry figures.

    Export figures dipped to 381,000 bpd in June and 388,000 bpd in July before jumping to 440,000 bpd in August and 703,000 bpd in September as customers sought to stock up on supplies before new US restrictions set in.

    The Trump administration has continued to ratchet up oil sanctions pressure against Caracas, setting an October-November deadline for the expiry of a ‘humanitarian’ oil-for-fuel swap exemption to bestrictions for Venezuela’s traditional crude customers, including Italy’s Eni, Spain’s Repsol and India’s Reliance Industries. Companies caught continuing to do business with PDVSA and its subsidiaries have been threatened with severe secondary sanctions.

    According to Reuters’ data, all of the above companies were said to have complied with the US restrictions, refraining from the purchase of Venezuelan crude in October.

    About 104,000 bpd of the crude, or 28 per cent of exports, were said to have gone to Cuba, which has no fear of new sanctions from Washington, with a third of the 359,000 bpd total said to have gone to unnamed Asian customers.

    Venezuela has recently stepped up measures to try to conceal the source and origin of its crude exports, including via ship-to-ship transfers not listed as originating from PDVSA-owned ports. The company opened a new tanker-to-tanker transfer point by La Borracha Island off the country’s east coast last month. Other tricks have included changing the flags of its supertankers, and using third countries for export operations.

    Venezuelan authorities have repeatedly blasted Washington for its sanctions policy, describing it as “criminal". President Maduro has accused the Trump administration of seeking to overthrow his democratically elected government and replace it with a puppet president to plunder the Latin American nation’s vast oil and mineral resources.

    Venezuela has the largest confirmed oil reserves in the world, with more than 300 billion barrels of proved reserves. Even before sanctions were introduced, the country’s oil exports gradually declined from a high of nearly 2 million bpd in 2015 to an average of 1.001 million bpd in 2019.


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