The Iran-flagged Forest products tanker has entered Venezuelan waters, the first of three shipments that will provide another fleeting respite for Venezuela's chronic fuel crisis.
The three Iranian tankers are carrying a total of up to 832,000 bl, likely including gasoline. Following in the wake of the Forest are the Fortune and the Faxon, due to arrive on 1 October and 4 October, respectively, according to vessel-tracking data.
Venezuela's national oil company PdV, and other state-owned entities such as power utility Corpoelec, have struggled to repair equipment in the face of myriad challenges, including US sanctions and years of labor flight, mismanagement, theft and corruption.
PdV's efforts to replenish domestic gasoline supply have focused on the 305,000 b/d Cardon refinery, where attempts to repair an 86,000 b/d fluid catalytic cracker and 54,000 b/d naphtha reformer have so far been mostly unsuccessful.
Cardon is currently producing about 20,000 b/d of 70-89 octane gasoline with a high sulphur content, barely covering about 18pc of an estimated national gasoline demand of 110,000 b/d, according to two PdV refining managers. PdV traditionally markets gasoline with 91 and 95-octane levels.
Over the past week, sporadic protests over the lack of fuel and basic services have often been met with repression. In a recent report, UN high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet documented systemic human rights violations in Venezuela. But she also warned that US plans to tighten sanctions by cutting off diesel supply would worsen conditions on the ground.
"Additional sanctions on diesel exports might further aggravate the already critical gasoline shortage and hinder the distribution of humanitarian aid and essential goods," Bachelet told the Human Rights Council on 25 September. "I would like to reiterate my call for the lifting of economic sanctions to facilitate the allocation of resources during the pandemic."
The US first imposed oil sanctions on Venezuela in January 2019, adding to financial sanctions levied in August 2017, in a bid to force President Nicolas Maduro out of power. As the Maduro government continues to resist the pressure, attention has shifted to 6 December legislative elections that US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido has vowed to boycott. But some opposition rivals plan to participate anyway in spite of conditions that are not deemed free and fair.
In the latest diplomatic outreach from Brussels, two senior EU officials are currently in Venezuela to meet with government and opposition political groups, civil society organizations, private-sector representatives and the church.
Among the possible political scenarios is a postponement of the elections in order to establish credible conditions.
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Source : Argus