US Seizes Iranian Oil Being Transported To Venezuela

US authorities have seized a cargo of four tankers that were headed to Venezuela. US officials said on Thursday that the cargo was seized from tankers it was targeting for carrying Iranian oil to the South American nation.

The move comes after many sanctions from the US against Venezuela. In recent years, the Trump Administration has stepped up the pressure against Maduro and allies. Maduro continues to be in power but the latest move from the US leaves Venezuela with little oil.

A senior US official told the Associated Press that no military force was used and that the ships weren’t physically taken. It is unclear where the tankers and cargo went after they were stopped by US authorities.

Iran’s ambassador to Venezuela said on social media on Thursday that neither the ships nor their owners were Iranian. The Venezuelan government has not spoken on the seizures.

Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government has heavily relied on Iranian oil over the last few months. In May, the country saw the arrival of five Iranian tankers carrying fuel. The tankers were brought in to alleviate the fuel shortages that the country has faced in recent months.

The fuel shortages have led to long lines across the country. A few years back, Venezuela was among the countries with the cheapest fuel. That has changed over the last two years, with prices going up due to how valuable filling up a gas tank has become. The prices are now mostly calculated in dollars since the fuel is coming from other places.

Venezuela doesn’t produce enough gasoline to supply its population. The South American nation has tried to solve those problems by bringing in fuel from allies. Earlier this year, reports revealed that the country was doing business with India. In June, India’s largest private refinery halted purchases of Venezuelan oil.

Some of India’s business with Venezuela quickly came to a stop due to fears of sanctions from the US. The announcement from India’s largest private refinery came after at least two others made a similar decision.

The seizures are part of the long list of moves that the US has made to put pressure on Maduro. The socialist government of Venezuela remains in power despite the many sanctions from the US.

Last year, the US delivered some of the toughest sanctions against the South American nation. The sanctions prevent US businesses from doing any business with the country. The announcement by the US quickly led to the exit of many US companies. The Trump Administration has also gone after officials. Some of the sanctions have come after controversial elections.

Venezuela plans to hold parliamentary elections but part of the opposition has already said it won’t be participating. The last time the country held parliamentary elections was in 2015. In that year, the socialist government suffered a huge defeat, losing most of the seats and power in the National Assembly. The government later set up a constituent assembly, a move that was heavily criticized by part of the international community.