Russia is helping to keep embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro financially afloat by purchasing large quantities of Venezuelan oil, according to a former executive at Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.
Juan Fernández told FOX Business’ Trish Regan that Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft is using companies with ties to the United States to get its product into Venezuela, in violation of U.S. sanctions.
“The production of crude oil in Venezuela is going down. The refineries in Venezuela are not working. So now they are using Rosneft as the vehicle to buy gasoline in the open market,” he said on Tuesday. “One of the companies we know that is doing business with Rosneft is Vitol. There are several companies doing business with Russia that have operations and affiliates in the U.S.”
Fernández said the Trump administration has a role to play in curbing these imports.
“I think that a warning from the U.S. government will be very useful in order to put pressure on these companies.”
The Trump administration imposed sweeping sanctions on Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) in January aimed at curbing Venezuela’s crude exports to the U.S. But the administration has yet to prevent companies based outside the U.S. from buying up Venezuelan oil, in a strategy known as “secondary sanctions.”
However, President Trump hinted on Tuesday that more economic pressure may soon be on the way.
“We really haven’t done the really tough sanctions yet. We can do the tough sanctions,” Trump said while speaking at a joint press conference with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in the White House Rose Garden. “And all options are open, so we may be doing that. But we haven’t done the toughest of sanctions, as you know. We’ve done, I would say, right down the middle. But we can go a lot tougher if we need to do that.”