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Beleaguered by US sanctions, Venezuela looks to boost oil exports to India

Feb 12, 2019 (Agencia EFE via COMTEX) --

New Delhi, Feb 12 (EFE).- Besieged by sanctions imposed by the United States, Venezuela's national oil company seeks to circumvent international restrictions by doubling its petroleum supply to India, the South American country's oil minister told EFE in an interview on Tuesday.

According to Maj. Gen. Manuel Quevedo, the US Treasury Department's sanctions on the state-owned company PDVSA that dominates Venezuela's oil and gas industry – that generates more than 90 percent of its export revenue – could provoke losses of at least $20 billion and have put pressure on Caracas to find new ways of increasing trade with partners such as India.

"We currently have commitments with India totaling 366,000 barrels (of crude oil) per day," Quevedo, who also acts as PDVSA chairman, said during his EFE interview in New Delhi. "We want to increase that number, very soon, to at least twice as many barrels."

After Caracas decided to suspend its oil supply to the US following the latter's declaration of support for opposition figurehead Juan Guaidó – who proclaimed himself interim president on Jan. 23, thus contesting the legitimacy of President Nicolàs Maduro – it saw the chance to expand its hydrocarbon exports to India, the world's second-most populous country and the nation with the seventh-largest gross domestic product.

Quevedo explained that Venezuela's goal was to bring the amount of oil supplied to India to similar level sold by the Caribbean country to China.

"All the oil that India needs, Venezuela has it," he said, adding that all possible forms of payment – including barter arrangements – were on the table.

This strategy would make China, India and Russia Venezuela's three main trading partners, all of which have previous experience eluding diplomatic pressure exerted by Washington.

"We need to remember that we're being persecuted by the government of Donald Trump, an obsessive persecution that seeks to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution," said the oil minister, who was appointed to the post by Maduro in 2017 in a move that political analysts said was intended to placate the military (in which Quevedo is a high-ranking commander).

An increase in oil and natural gas production is crucial for a country in desperate need of cash flow, as Venezuela is undergoing a profound economic crisis despite possessing around a quarter of the planet's oil reserves.

According to data from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Venezuela has seen its oil production drop from almost 2.4 billion barrels per day in 2013 to 1.92 billion daily barrels in 2017.

This significant reduction was caused by an accumulation of factors such as a drastic fall in oil prices and the heavy losses stemming from corrupt practices that depleted the PDVSA's profit margins.

Quevedo said that, given the current tensions with the US, Venezuela would work towards ending the supply of petrochemical products that still had a certain degree of dependency on the American market.

"We are going to apply diversification measures, we already are doing this," he said.

By Indira Guerrero


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