US puts 6 oil tankers on Venezuela sanctions list

The U.S. Treasury Department

The U.S. on Tuesday targeted six oil tankers in new Venezuela-related sanctions, escalating pressure on the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The Treasury Department added five Venezuela-flagged and one Panama-flagged vessels linked to Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA, to its sanctions list.

"Today's action further targets the former Maduro regime's corruption in the oil sector and the mechanisms used to transport oil to the Cuban regime in return for security and intelligence assistance," said the department in a statement.

Treasury Deputy Secretary Justin Muzinich accused Cuba and Venezuela of circumventing sanctions by changing the vessels' names and facilitating the flow of oil from Caracas to Havana.

"The United States will continue to take necessary action to protect the people of Venezuela," said Muzinich.

The U.S. no longer recognizes Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela, instead throwing its weight behind opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom it recognizes as the country's interim president.

Washington has been focusing on economic and diplomatic pressure against Venezuela, imposing sanctions on Maduro and top officials as well as several governmental departments as it seeks the president's resignation.

Cuba, along with Bolivia and Mexico, have thrown support behind Maduro.

Since the beginning of the year, Venezuela has been embroiled in political unrest as Maduro and Guaido engage in a struggle for leadership amid a dire economic crisis in the Latin American nation.

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