Venezuela will continue to sell oil to India: envoy

Bid to step up crude production hit by sanctions imposed by the U.S.

Venezuela’s crude shipments to India, its third largest export market after the U.S. and China, fell 21% in the first six months of the year, but the country’s Ambassador in Delhi has said plans are on to boost production at home and that oil trade with India will continue unabated despite U.S. sanctions.

“Venezuela has been affected by U.S. sanctions. These are economic sanctions, aggression, against the people of Venezuela. As a result, production has come down. But we will continue our oil trade with India,” Ambassador Augusto Montiel told The Hindu in an interview.

Venezuela shipped 2,80,000 barrels per day (bpd) of heavy crude to India in the first half of the year, down from 3,55,500 bpd shipped in the corresponding period of last year, according to a Reuters report, which cited trade documents of PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-run oil company. The Latin American country’s oil production averaged 1.58 million bpd in the first five months of 2018, its lowest annual level since 1985.

“Oil is the world’s most wanted resource. And Venezuela has the world’s largest certified oil reserves. It also has huge coltan reserves. That’s why they are after Venezuela,” he said, referring to the U.S. sanctions.

India’s backing

Mr. Montiel said India had assured Venezuela that it would not support unilateral sanctions. “Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told us last year that India would not back unilateral sanctions. These are unilateral sanctions imposed by the U.S., not by the UN.”

“With all our international associates, including India’s ONGC, we are planning to increase oil production,” said the envoy.

Regarding the recent alleged assassination attempt on President Nicolas Maduro, the Ambassador said the attempt shows signs of frustration of the oligarchs in Colombia and Venezuela.

The Venezuelan government said drones armed with explosives detonated while Mr. Maduro was delivering a speech to soldiers in Caracas.

Mr. Maduro has blamed his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos for the attempt.

Regarding the economic crisis and hyper inflation, Mr. Montiel said Venezuela’s new cryptocurrency, Petro, will start circulating from August 20. Petro is pegged to the international price of oil. Asked if India would change to the cryptocurrency for trade, he said India is yet to accept the digital currency system, but “we don’t have any problem with India’s choice for the payment currency.”

“The aggression against countries like Venezuela and Iran by the U.S. is hurting India as well… Multilateralism is in threat because of these sanctions,” said the Ambassador.

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