Caracas, May 25 (efe-epa).- The first of five Iranian tankers carrying a total of 245 million liters (64.7 million gal.) of gasoline to Venezuela has docked in the Andean nation, Vice President Tareck el Aissami said Monday.
“Images of the arrival of the first ship Fortune to our El Palito refinery. We are advancing and winning,” El Aissami wrote in a Twitter post including photos of the tanker at the petroleum complex in Puerto Cabello, west of Caracas.
Venezuela is one of the world’s largest producers of oil, but must import naphtha and other substances needed to refine its heavy, high-sulfur crude into fuel.
Sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States with the aim of toppling leftist President Nicolas Maduro have prevented Venezuelan refineries from obtaining those substances, resulting in gas shortages that have forced drivers to sit in line for hours – and even days – to fill up their tanks.
Besides gasoline, the Iranians, who are also dealing with US sanctions, will supply Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA with naphtha and other commodities necessary to resume refining domestic crude.
“A heart-felt thank you to President (Hassan) Rouhani … and to all of Iran, for your solidarity, for your support, for your courage, for your resoluteness,” Maduro said Sunday after the Iranian ships entered Venezuelan territorial waters.
The delivery is part of cooperation between Venezuela and Iran, “two peaceful peoples” whose only agenda is pursuing economic and social development, Maduro said.
“We will never bow down to the US empire,” he said. “Venezuela has friends in this world and brave friends who put everything on the line for our homeland.”
The Trump administration denounced the deal between Caracas and Tehran and said that the US would closely monitor the shipment.
Venezuela interpreted those comments as a threat of military action and lodged a complaint against Washington with the United Nations.
Iran, meanwhile, cautioned the US not to move against the ships, according to semi-official Iranian news agency Mehr.
“If our tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world face trouble caused by the Americans, they (the US) will also be in trouble,” Rouhani said Saturday in a telephone conversation with the emir of Qatar, Mehr reported.
“Iran will never initiate a conflict,” Rouhani said. “We have always the legitimate right to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity and to serve our national interests, and we hope that the Americans will not commit an error.” EFE