The sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on those who sell oil to the Maduro government supposedly apply to all countries that want to commercialize black gold with the “Chavista” dictatorship.
This apparently does not seem to worry Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) who this week assured that nothing would stop him if he wanted to sell oil to Venezuela. The Mexican president assured that he would sell gasoline and fuels for humanitarian reasons despite the sanctions imposed by Washington on several Venezuelan officials, as well as his state run oil company.
It should be noted that López Obrador clarified that he has not received any request from Nicolás Maduro. “He has not made any requests to us. In the event that the request was made to us and it was a humanitarian need, we would do so”, the Mexican president assured. “Mexico is an independent, sovereign country, we make our own decisions and we do not meddle with the policies of other countries, it is the self-determination of the peoples. No one has the right to oppress others, no hegemony can crush any country, “added López Obrador.
The position could damage relations with the United States, who happens to be Mexico’s neighbor and its largest trading partner. During the past years López Obrador has managed to navigate a positive relationship with the president of the United States, Donald Trump, while neglecting Trump’s broader attacks on Mexicans and immigrants.
It is also unclear whether Mexico would be in a position to sell gasoline. Although it is an oil-producing nation, a lack of refining capacity forces it to buy most of its gasoline from the United States. The country’s energy ministry said last year that three-quarters of Mexico’s gasoline is imported.
The United States has imposed sanctions aimed at suffocating the Nicolás Maduro administration and has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela, although he has no de facto power within the country.
Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, but it must import gasoline because production has plummeted due to the lack of investment in technology to refine petrol in the last 20 years. Critics also blame corruption and mismanagement, while Maduro blames US economic pressure.
Threats of US legal and financial actions have even led some companies in China and Russia to stop some deals with Venezuela’s oil industry, although Iran, which is also under sanctions, sent five gasoline tankers to Venezuela last month. Some of these freighters never reached their destination despite the fact that the Iranian government assures that it will continue to send freighters if Caracas asks for more.
López Obrador’s left-wing government has never recognized the Venezuelan government as a dictatorship and it is believed that the Mexican president is in some way sympathetic to the dictator Nicolás Maduro.
US investigates two Mexican oil companies
Some weeks ago, the Trump government reported that it was investigating two Mexican firms for helping the Nicolás Maduro regime to trade oil in international markets, despite the fact that US restrictions are still in force in Venezuela.
Mexican companies Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group would already be the main recipients of crude from Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA, according to an oil deal released by English news agency Reuters last March.
“We have an active investigation by the State Department, by the Treasury Department and by the US Embassy (in Mexico)”, Elliott Abrams, US special envoy, explained to the Mexican newspaper Reforma.
“We are working with the Mexican government. We have informed you of our great concern about this. Our hypothesis is that they are shell companies that work for some of the people who have been engaging in oil and gold smuggling for several years, “Abrams added.
According to public records in Mexico, Schlager is managed by one of the owners of another Mexican firm called Libre Abordo, being the second Mexican company to receive millions of barrels of Venezuelan oil under a food exchange agreement.
Meanwhile, Libre Abordo has received about 7.2 million barrels of Venezuelan crude since December in six major shipments to Asia and has one more in the process of loading, according to the same documents.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexico, has not positioned himself around the operations of Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group and it is unknown if the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Ministry of Finance has any investigation open.
The Treasury Department has already sanctioned Rosneft Trading and TNK trading, subsidiaries of Russian oil company Rosneft, for helping to market Venezuelan oil on the international market.
In January 2019, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA for allegedly serving as a vehicle for corruption by the Maduro regime and being against Venezuelan democracy, in addition to freezing its assets around the world and prohibit doing business with it.