AFP: Venezuela wants to secure an upcoming oil and fuel delivery from Iran with its armed forces. Defense minister Vladimir Padrino López announced in Caracas on Wednesday that as soon as the Iranian ships approached Venezuela, they would be accompanied by army ships and aircraft. He is in contact with his Iranian counterpart to coordinate the arrival of the ships. The fuel shortage in the South American country has increased in the wake of the corona crisis.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Sarif warned the United States on Sunday not to send its navy to stop delivery. Such an intervention would be “illegal and a form of piracy,” Sarif wrote in a letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The Iranian news agency Fars had previously reported that four US warships had been sent to the Caribbean because of a “possible confrontation” with Iranian tankers.
The United States has sanctioned both Venezuela and Iran. Washington wants to prevent all Iranian oil exports as far as possible. The Commander of the U.S. Army’s South Command, Admiral Craig Faller, announced Monday “US concern” about Iranian activities in relations with Venezuela. However, he did not explicitly go into Iranian tankers.
Venezuela’s leftist head of state Nicolás Maduro thanked Iran in a television speech on Wednesday for the “support”. However, neither Maduro nor his defense minister said when the Iranian ships should arrive in Venezuela.
According to media reports, the fuel for Venezuela is transported by five tankers. They left Iran a few days ago for the Venezuelan Caribbean waters. Padrino López announced that the tankers should be militarily secured as soon as they reached the Venezuelan “economic zone” in the Caribbean.
In such a zone, according to the UN definition, a state has the exclusive right to economic use. However, other states may cross the area with ships and airplanes.
Venezuela has been suffering from a severe economic crisis for years, most recently exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Although the country has the largest oil reserves in the world, it is dependent on fuel supplies.
Venezuela is also caught up in a bitter power struggle between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó. The President of Parliament Guaidó proclaimed himself transition president at the beginning of last year. He is supported by the government of US President Donald Trump. Iran, like Russia, is behind Maduro.