Donald Trump has announced sanctions on Venezuela’s oil business and that’s a useful little proof – indication wouldn’t be strong enough – of the manner in which he’s not in fact beholden to Russia. Because major losers here are in fact the Russians. Trump does something that imperils Russian economic interests? He’s not working for them then, is he?[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] The Trump administration has tightened the screws on Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro, announcing sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil company PDVSA in what the US national security adviser admitted was partly an attempt to counter strategic threats from Cuba and Iran. At a briefing in the White House, the US treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told reporters the sanctions would help punish “those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline” and boost Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader who last week declared himself Venezuela’s rightful interim president and was recognized by the United States. [/perfectpullquote]
Not a million miles away from that UN Oil for Food program in Iraq then. But it’s this bit:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] The Republican senator Marco Rubio celebrated the fresh sanctions, tweeting: “All property & interests of PdVSA are now blocked and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.” Rubio, thought to have been a major influence in Trump’s decision to recognize Guaidó, added: “Venezuela’s oil belongs to the Venezuelan people and the money for oil will now go to them through the legitimate government of Guaido.” In a second tweet, Rubio posted a photograph of Maduro and wrote: “All bad things must also come to an end.” In the latest sign of coordination between Guaidó and the White House, Guaidó also announced on Monday plans to name a new board for PDVSA and its US refining subsidiary, Citgo. The move would help kickstart the recovery of an industry “that today is living through a dark moment,” Guaidó tweeted. [/perfectpullquote]
Aaaah, Citgo:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] A group of U.S. investors is seeking Washington’s approval to acquire the nearly 50 percent collateral in U.S. refiner Citgo held by Russia’s largest state-owned energy firm Rosneft, one of the investors said. The move would prevent Moscow from seizing a large part of the U.S. refiner in the event of a full-blown default by its current owner, Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA. Texas-based Citgo operates a 749,000 barrel per day refining network in the United States. With Venezuela’s economy devastated by five years of recession, President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government has increasingly turned to ally Russia for the cash and credit it needs to survive – offering prized state-owned oil assets in return. Rosneft has snapped up some coveted oil fields in the OPEC nation, giving it growing control over Venezuelan crude exports and a stronger foothold in energy markets across the Americas. Venezuela handed Rosneft ROSN.MM the 49.9 percent collateral in Citgo PDVSAC.UL in return for a $1.5 billion loan two years ago. The remaining 50.1 percent of shares in Citgo is collateral to holders of PDVSA’s 2020 bond. [/perfectpullquote]
These sanctions hit that Russian interest in Citgo. That’s not the action of a President beholden to Russian interests, is it?