The Naval Siege at the Centre of US Strategy Against Venezuela

By Ernesto Cazal

The scenario of economic-financial-commercial asphyxiation imposed by the United States government on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is one more piece of the puzzle in the strategy of unrestricted warfare it is carrying out against the Caribbean Basin country.

Specifically, it has repercussions on the navigation chart of ships that are from Venezuela or have commercial and other relations with the state and private companies. To support such a suffocating agenda, the U.S. Navy has multiple deployments around the globe, functioning as military police and mobile units stationed for naval operations and military exercises of various kinds.

“By sea we can get to the site faster, stay there longer, take with us everything we need, and we don’t have to ask anyone for permission,” reads the Navy’s 21st Century Naval Force Cooperation Strategy.

The Pentagon’s full-spectrum doctrine contemplates a privateering for itself and its most trusted allies, and a military restriction on anything sailing under Treasury Department-sanctioned flags or threatening to castrate its plans, as well as those of the White House itself.

In recent years, Venezuela has been harassed by this strategy, which, together with the blockade imposed by Washington and its consequences, and other operations in support of “regime change,” have led to a siege on the high seas and the Caribbean coast.

The Main Target: the Oil Industry

Recently, Reuters reported that oil tankers with cargoes of oil ready to be marketed “have been trapped” for almost two months on the high seas due to the fact that “the world’s refineries are shunning the South American country’s oil to avoid falling into U.S. sanctions, according to industry sources, PDVSA documents and shipping data”.

PDVSA’s oil exports are Washington’s main target.

At the same time that the Treasury Department blacklists ships and traders involved in the trade and transportation of Venezuelan oil, it threatens to add more to its list of “sanctioned” entities.

Reuters quotes Refinitiv Eikon data:

“At least 16 oil tankers carrying 18.1 million barrels of Venezuelan oil are trapped in waters around the world, while buyers avoid them to avoid sanctions. That’s almost two months of production at Venezuela’s current rate”.

The agency says that some of the vessels “have been at sea for more than six months and have sailed to various ports but have not been able to unload. Oil cargoes are rarely loaded without a buyer. Those that are in the water without a buyer usually sell at a discount”.

The financial burden on each tanker adds up to large losses as the daily delay in unloading oil continues. The cost of a ship carrying Venezuelan oil is at least $30,000 per day.

The oil companies that have PDVSA as a client have not been able to find a buyer as a result of the unilateral coercive measures. “Even PDVSA’s long-standing clients are struggling to complete transactions that are allowed under sanctions, for debt payment or food exchange,” one executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

This is a critical situation for Venezuelan exports, at a time when most oil-producing countries continue to have difficulty trading their high inventories in an over-supplied market.

All of this is helping the United States to reduce the appetite of many buyers for Venezuelan oil.

Basically what the Donald Trump government has achieved is to mount a naval siege on the Venezuelan crude oil trade, preventing the state led by Nicolás Maduro from being able to supply itself with foreign currency for essential goods and services to the Bolivarian Republic and its population, while at the same time undermining the oil industry managed by PDVSA.

That goal was clear from the outset, when Trump decided to issue an executive order last year that deepened the picture of economic, financial and trade “sanctions” against Venezuela. The latest events confirm this thesis.

A Blow to Venezuela’s Trade and Technological Cooperation

A month ago, when the first ships from Iran were crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean coast to supply the Venezuelan oil industry with gasoline and technology, U.S. spokespersons had threatened to prevent them from unloading through the harassment of Iranian cargo ships by the Navy.

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But it is one thing to intimidate one country and another to do so against two, especially if one of them controls the Strait of Hormuz, the main commercial artery of oil in the world, where one of every five barrels in the world passes through daily. That is why the cargo ships arrived at their destination without any problems beyond poorly executed psychological operations.

In this case, due to the emerging dynamic in which there is a bloc in ascent that challenges the Anglo-imperial hegemony, an effectiveness subordinated to Washington’s interests was not allowed in relation to the sanctioning strategy.

But what happens with other countries and companies worldwide is a very different case. Let us take, for example, the Venezuelan crude oil cargo ships that set sail for Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia or Togo, countries where the US presence is very strong and which have not been able to buy oil produced by PDVSA as a result of the unilateral coercive measures of the White House and the naval surveillance conducted in those latitudes.

It is in these cases that coordination between the Navy and the United States Department of the Treasury is necessary, albeit informally.

Due to this strategy, up until February 2020, Venezuela estimated 116 billion dollars in losses due to the blockade.


In view of the latest developments, we can conclude that the much heralded naval blockade against Venezuela sponsored by the Trump Administration has been deployed in an informal manner. It no longer functions in a frontal manner as it did in 1902, when German, British and Italian ships surrounded the country then presided over by Cipriano Castro, or even as they did against Cuba in the 1960s, when the United States determined that island sovereignty could not be erected in its “backyard.”

By early April, a new phase of escalation of the naval blockade had begun with the U.S. Navy’s “counter-narcotics operations” in the Western Hemisphere, opening up space for large-scale psychological operations in the Caribbean and for coordination of Southern Command forces and intelligence with Pentagon partner countries, especially Colombia and Brazil.

It is in this context that the navigation of a U.S. Navy destroyer near the Venezuelan coast last Tuesday, June 23, should also be understood, which General Vladimir Padrino López, Venezuela’s Defense Minister, calls “an act of provocation.”

Padrino López warned that if U.S. ship operations occur in Venezuelan waters there will be a “forceful” response from the Bolivarian National Armed Forces. “Don’t dare to sail your warships in our jurisdictional waters, to carry out military operations,” the general added.

Although provocations are a tactic that the U.S. naval army usually uses against its adversaries, crossing foreign maritime boundaries not only in the Caribbean but also in other parts of the world (such as the South China Sea or the Persian Gulf itself), gringo generals generally authorize this type of operation to gather intelligence and to cause concern. For which objectives: military, commercial or even both?

Without a doubt, the pressure of the Southern Command and its destroyers marauding in the Caribbean, combined with the strategy of the Treasury Department, are building an encirclement high and wide along the coasts that puts the Bolivarian Republic on alert and economically injures the majority of us who live in Venezuela.

(Misión Verdad, June 25, 2020. Translated from original Spanish by Internationalist 360°.)

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