FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela, a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration told Reuters on Thursday.
The United States has a “high degree of certainty” that the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is paying Iran with tons of gold, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The oil sectors of Iran and Venezuela both are under tough U.S. sanctions. The official declined to specify the measures being weighed but said options would be presented to Trump, who has been a fierce critic of the governments of both Iran and Venezuela.
At least one tanker carrying fuel loaded at an Iranian port has set sail for Venezuela, according to vessel tracking data from Refinitiv Eikon on Wednesday, which could help ease an acute scarcity of gasoline in the South American country.
The Iran-flagged medium tanker Clavel earlier on Wednesday passed the Suez Canal after loading fuel at the end of March at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port, according to the data.
The shipment marks the latest sign of cooperation between the two OPEC nations, which are both deeply at odds with the United States.
Starting last month, several flights from Tehran have brought materials to Venezuela to help it restart the catalytic cracking unit at its 310,000 barrel-per-day Cardon refinery, drawing U.S. condemnation.
Venezuela’s 1.3 million-bpd refining network has all but collapsed due to under-investment and lack of maintenance in recent years under Maduro, a socialist who has served during an economic collapse. Last year, the United States sanctioned state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to oust Maduro.
Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga and Luc Cohen; Editing by Will Dunham