Venezuela has begun importing heavy crude from Iran as the White House maintains severe economic sanctions on both countries. While the Biden administration has sought to increase ties with Tehran and Caracas, recent development suggests that a deal with either government is unlikely.
Documents from Venezuela’s state oil company show that 200,000 barrels of Iranian heavy crude oil arrived in mid-April. A second shipment – double in size – is currently being discharged at the Jose port. Iran is also delivering diluting agents to Venezuela, helping Caracas access its reserves.
The Iran-Venezuela trade relationship grew as both countries faced ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions during the Trump presidency. President Joe Biden was expected to roll back the sanctions on Tehran and Caracas, adopting policies similar to Barack Obama. However, the Biden administration has expanded the economic wars started by Donald Trump.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, the White House reached out to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for talks. Biden was hoping the South American country’s massive oil reserves could compensate for the Russian oil the US was attempting to remove from the market.
The talks with Maduro resulted in two American prisoners being released, but that was two months ago. Last week, the US reaffirmed support for Juan Guaido’s coup attempt against Maduro, suggesting Washington isn’t serious about adopting a new policy.
Negotiations with Iran have been stalled for months. The White House is attempting to extract additional concessions from Tehran before agreeing to lift Trump-era sanctions. The Iranian government has maintained a hardline position against any changes to the initial deal that Trump withdrew the US from in May 2018. A European delegation is traveling to Iran in what is being presented as a last-ditch effort to revive negotiations.
The US has attempted to disrupt trade between Iran and Venezuela by pirating ships and selling the seized oil. In October 2020, Washington claimed it made $40 million selling stolen Iranian crude.