The Venezuelan army has decided to accompany Iranian oil tankers, which carry the country’s additional oil needs to prevent any attempt by the United States to stop it.
There are currently five Iranian tankers on the high seas, expected to arrive within days.
The Venezuelan Defense Minister said that the tankers “will welcome” them in the Special Economic Zone of Venezuela, which extends about 370 km in front of its shores.
It is reported that the United States, which imposes sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, is currently considering steps to prevent such shipments.
The US-backed opposition leader, Juan Guaido, said the need to import oil highlighted the mismanagement of the government of President Nicholas Maduro, of the Venezuelan oil industry.
Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, but production has decreased significantly over the past two decades, and the country is suffering from an acute economic crisis.
The country has suffered a severe shortage of oil in recent weeks, and this has resulted in people queuing for days to fill their tanks.
The five tankers, Fortune, Forrest, Petunia, Vakson, and Claville, carry 1.5 million barrels of fuel, and passed through the Suez Canal earlier this month, according to shipping data at the Refinive Icon website.
“When these tankers enter our economic zone, they will be accompanied by boats and aircraft of the National Armed Forces to welcome and enter and thank the Iranian people for their solidarity and cooperation,” the Venezuelan Defense Minister, General Vladimir Pedrino, said in an interview broadcast on state television.
The permanent Venezuelan delegate to the United Nations, Samuel Moncada, stressed that the tankers are “civilian ships carrying vital goods for our people. They come from a country with which we have legal commercial relations.”
Speaking to the UN Security Council, he added: “Preventing these tankers from reaching our ports, in the midst of the epidemic, will be considered a crime against humanity.”
Iran also warned that it would retaliate if it blocked the roads in front of the tankers.
A fleet of the United States Navy and Coast Guard ships patrol the Caribbean in patrols to counter drug trafficking. And US officials have not announced any plan to stop Iranian tankers.
The commander of the US Army’s Southern Command, Admiral Craig Waller, said he was following Iranian shipments to Venezuela “with concern”, but ruled out the possibility of any confrontation with them.
He said: “Our focus, while respecting Venezuela, is to share intelligence and try to find out what Maduro and his associates are seeking.”
US President Donald Trump earlier this month rejected reports that the United States, apparently, was behind a failed attempt to topple Maduro.