THE United States has blacklisted a Cuban state oil import and export company, for importing oil from Venezuela.
According to the US Treasury Department last Wednesday, Havana-based Cubametales had received and chartered shipments of oil from Venezuela to Cuba, and had expanded its operations to include other oil products such as sulfur fuel and diluted crude oil.
The designation comes as the US ramps up pressure on Havana over its support of the President Nicolás Maduro administration in Venezuela, which the Donald Trump administration has said is illegitimate and corrupt. The US said that Cuba has been providing support, including defence, intelligence and security assistance, to the Maduro regime in exchange for oil.
Cubametales and Venezuela state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PdVSA), are also responsible for setting the terms and conditions for up to 53,000 barrels of PdVSA oil exports a day to be shipped to Cuba on a quarterly basis, as part of a 2000 agreement between the governments of Cuba and Venezuela, according to the Treasury department statement.
“Maduro is clinging to Cuba to stay in power, buying military and intelligence operatives in exchange for oil. Treasury’s sanctions on Cubametales will disrupt Maduro’s attempts to use Venezuela’s oil as a bargaining tool to help his supporters purchase protection from Cuba and other malign foreign actors,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “Treasury’s decision to remove restrictions on PB Tankers and unblock previously sanctioned vessels is a reminder that positive changes in behaviour can result in the lifting of sanctions.
“…As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of this entity, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 per cent or more by the designated entity, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control). OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.”
In addition to the designation of Cubametales, the US delisted PB Tankers S.p.A. (PB Tankers).
“OFAC designated PB Tankers on April 12, 2019, for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy. As a part of this designation, six vessels were identified as blocked property in the interest of PB Tankers; one vessel, named the Silver Point, was used to deliver oil products from Venezuela to Cuba. Following the company’s designation, PB Tankers terminated its charter agreement with Cubametales, which had chartered the Silver Point to transport oil between Venezuela and Cuba,” stated the Treasury department.
“Likewise, PB Tankers took additional steps to increase scrutiny of its business operations to prevent future sanctionable activity.
“Treasury recognizes the actions that PB Tankers has taken to ensure that its vessels are not complicit in propping up the illegitimate former Maduro regime in Venezuela. As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property, which had been blocked as a result of PB Tankers’ designation, are unblocked, and all otherwise lawful transactions involving US persons and PB Tankers are no longer prohibited.”