15:58 GMT15 January 2021
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    Venezuela is suffering from an acute economic crisis that has been exacerbated by economic sanctions imposed against the country by the US in 2019, essentially crippling the nation's oil refineries among other things.

    Five Iranian oil tankers are reportedly sailing towards Venezuela purportedly carrying fuel for the Latin American state, online media outlet Al-Masdar News reported citing maritime services' information. Three tankers, Fortune, Petunia, and Forest are currently crossing the Atlantic, while two more, Faxon and Clavel are crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

    One monitoring service, Marine Traffic, however, indicates that only one of the ships, Forest, is heading towards South America without indicating the specific country, while the others are yet to announce their destination ports. It's also unclear what cargo are they carrying from the information provided by the maritime monitoring system.

    Even if the tankers are heading towards Venezuela, they might face trouble because the US recently deployed three destroyers and a littoral combat ship, the USS Detroit, to the Caribbean Sea. The US Navy could potentially intercept the vessels if they receive such orders.

    Both Venezuela and Iran have of late been suffering due to the American sanctions, especially their oil industries. The Latin American state's refining capabilities have reportedly been crippled by the joint impact of sanctions and economic crisis, leading to fuel shortages.

    US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams earlier claimed that Tehran is supplying Caracas with equipment needed to restart the country's refineries in exchange for gold from Venezuelan reserves. However, Iran slammed the claims as "baseless" and, in turn, condemned Washington's attempts to destroy the Venezuelan economy and to topple its president, Nicolas Maduro. Tehran suggested that the accusations were made only to serve as a pretext for new sanctions against both countries.

    Washington has been actively pressing the Venezuelan president to step down using sanctions against the country's economy as leverage. Maduro, however, refused to leave his post, surviving a coup attempt reportedly organised with aid from the US and a kidnapping attempt planned by American private military company Silvercorp. The US, however, denied any connection to Silvercorp's actions, despite Maduro accusing President Donald Trump of orchestrating the attempted kidnapping.


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    refinery, Oil, tanker, Venezuela, Iran
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