By Nidhi Verma and Aftab Ahmed
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The United States is preparing to impose more sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, in an attempt to choke financing to President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
“You will be seeing something on that in the not too distant future,” Trump told a news conference in Delhi when asked if Washington would impose more sanctions on Venezuela or on Indian firms that buy Venezuelan oil from third parties after imposing sanctions on a trading unit of Russian oil giant Rosneft.
“There could be very serious sanctions,” he said without giving details. “You are going to see in a little while. You are asking a question right in the middle of us doing something.”
The United States imposed sanctions last week on Rosneft Trading SA as it emerged as a key intermediary for the sale of Venezuelan oil.
India and China are the important buyers of Venezuelan oil, with India importing about 342,000 barrels per day for Venezuela in 2019, according to tanker data obtained by Reuters.
Reliance Industries Ltd, operator of the world’s biggest refining complex, and Nayara Energy, part-owned by Rosneft, are the only Indian buyers of Venezuelan oil. The two firms had been purchasing Venezuelan oil from Rosneft.
U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told Reuters on Monday that new sanctions against Venezuela’s oil sector will be more aggressive in punishing people and companies that violate them.
Trump said Venezuela had been “wealthy 15 years ago and very wealthy 20 years ago, the wealthiest in all of Latin America.”
“When you look today they don’t have water, they don’t have basic food, they have no medicines… We are watching Venezuela very closely. We don’t like it, not at all,” he said.
Since the latest sanctions were announced, Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA has shifted several oil cargoes from Rosneft Trading to TNK, another Rosneft affiliate, Reuters reported on Monday, citing internal PDVSA documents.
Rosneft units take Venezuelan oil as repayment for billions of dollars in loans extended to Venezuela in recent years. They also swap Venezuelan crude for imported fuel that the poverty-stricken South American country desperately needs.
Other firms taking Venezuelan oil as repayment of loans or late dividends – including U.S. oil major Chevron Corp and Spain’s Repsol SA – have not been sanctioned by Washington.
(This story refiles to correct typographical error in penultimate paragraph)
(Editing by Timothy Heritage)