The U.S. is sanctioning a Cuban business for importing Venezuelan oil during America’s ongoing effort to force the South American country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, from power.
The United States Treasury is focusing on Cuban oil company Cubametales for its extended support of the Venezuelan government, based on a press release Wednesday from the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The sanctions on Cubametales “will disrupt Maduro’s attempts to use Venezuela’s oil as a bargaining tool to help his supporters purchase protection from Cuba,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the press release.
The Treasury Department says state-run Cubametales ensures all imports and exports of fuel to and from Cuba, and has managed a close business relationship with Maduro.
Mnuchin added, “Maduro is clinging to Cuba to stay in power, buying military and intelligence operatives in exchange for oil.”
The U.S. tightened restrictions on travel to Cuba last month in reaction to what the Treasury Department called its “destabilizing role” in the region. The U.S. sanctioned Maduro in 2017. Since he was chosen two years earlier, he has overseen an increasing political, humanitarian and economic crisis including chronic shortages of essentials like food and medicine.
The U.N. says the Venezuelan crisis has made some four million people to flee the country since 2015.
The U.S. and about fifty other countries have identified opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president. Guaido’s campaign to oust Maduro has not been successful, in spite of the recognition from world leaders.
The U.S. also declared Wednesday it lifted sanctions on Italian shipping company PB Tankers. Treasury had authorized it in April for shipping Venezuelan oil to Cuba.
“Treasury’s decision to remove restrictions on PB Tankers and unblock previously sanctioned vessels is a reminder that positive changes in behavior can result in the lifting of sanctions,” Mnuchin said in a statement.