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Published On: Tue, Feb 6th, 2018

U.S. is considering restricting the sale of Venezuelan oil: Tillerson

nsnbc : U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States is still considering restricting the sale of Venezuelan oil. Tillerson also campaigned against fund-raising and other activities of the Lebanese Hezbollah in Argentina and the region.

Rex Tillerson (archives) 2018Tillerson made his remark on Sunday during his visit to Argentina. The U.S. Secretary of State and former Total oil manager said the U.S. wants “free and verifiable elections” in Venezuela, and wants to apply enough pressure to end the crisis in the Latin American country.

The Venezuelan Socialist party (PSUV) administration has faced widespread domestic and international criticism for pushing up presidential elections at an earlier date than expected, giving the opposition less time to prepare, and overwhelmingly favoring President Nicolas Maduro – say many domestic and international observers.

However, Tillerson also said he wants to mitigate the negative effect sanctions would have on U.S. oil companies, Venezuellan citizens, and other regional countries that rely on Venezuelan oil. He said:

“The situation is becoming quite dire in Venezuela, so one of the aspects of considering sanctioning oil is what effect would it have on the Venezuelan people, and is it a step that might bring this to an end, to a more rapid end. … Not doing anything to bring this to an end is also asking the Venezuelan people to suffer for a much longer time.”

Venezuela is said to sit atop the world’s largest proven oil reserves and is the third-largest supplier to the U.S. The U.S. oil industry says that a ban on petroleum imports from Venezuela would hurt U.S. jobs and drive up gasoline costs.

While sanctions would negatively affect U.S. businesses, Venezuela’s neighbors who receive subsidized oil, or the ordinary citizen, some say sanctions would also negatively affect President Maduro, while others say sanctions would only help the PSUV leadership and Maduro to entrench themselves further by allowing them to blame the domestic crisis on “the big American conspiracy”.

Venezuela remains highly dependent on U.S. oil exports, especially for importing food and medicine, which are in short supply as crude prices have plunged and spiraling inflation erodes its economy. Tillerson commented on potential sanctions saying:

“This is under study, it’s under consideration. … We’ve had exchanges in Mexico City, we’ve had exchanges today about it, and I think the point being that all of us in the region want to see Venezuela return to its constitution.”

Venezuela’s pro-government constitutional assembly last month ordered the presidential election to be held by the end of April — months ahead of when the country’s presidential voting has traditionally taken place.

Hezbollah marching on Israeli flag_2017_Lebanon_archivesSpeaking at a joint press conference with Tillerson, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said that Argentina does not recognize “the political process and authoritarian deviation of Venezuela,” nor the assembly. He also said Argentina is against the restrictions on freedoms and bans imposed on opposition leaders under Maduro’s government. “We’re always closely following the situation in Venezuela, which has now drifted toward a health and humanitarian crisis of extraordinary proportions,” Faurie said.

Tillerson and Faurie also said that they had agreed to work together to stop the Lebanon-based Hezbollah (Party of God) and its military wing from raising money in Argentina and other countries of Latin America. Hezbollah is a legal political party Lebanon and its militia is likewise legal in Lebanon. The United States – and many others – designate Hezbollah as an Iranian-backed terrorist organization.

Argentine prosecutors believe Hezbollah and Iran were responsible for the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people in Argentina’s worst terrorist attack.

“We did specifically discuss the presence of Lebanese Hezbollah in this hemisphere, which is raining funds obviously, to support its terrorist activities,” Tillerson said. “So it’s something that we jointly agree we need to attack and eliminate.”

CH/L – nsnbc 06.02.2018

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