The government of Venezuela has received its first shipment of oil imported from the United States – 500,000 barrels from West Texas Intermediate (WTI), purchased through Venezuela’s U.S.-based affiliate, Citgo Oil.
Venezuela importing oil is remarkable given that the nation boasts the world’s largest oil reserves, eight times larger than America’s. A purchase from the United States is particularly notable given the socialist-ruling government’s 17-year record of animosity towards America.
CNN notes that Venezuela has increasingly needed to import oil due to the quality of its crude reserves. While boasting 298 billion barrels of known reserves, “the oil extracted in Venezuela is very heavy and hard to refine and then sell to other countries. Venezuela needs to first mix its heavy oil with lighter types of crude to balance out the quality.”
Spanish newspaper El Pais reports that the oil will likely be refined in Curaçao, where the Venezuelan state-owned oil corporation PDVSA has a facility. It notes that such a purchase is “unprecedented in its 100 years of petroleum-related activity.”
The Venezuelan government has had a history of tension with the United States since the rise of late dictator Hugo Chávez, who routinely mocked President George W. Bush on his regular television show, Aló Presidente. His successor, former bus driver Nicolás Maduro, has not wavered from a pattern of belligerence towards the United States.
In 2015, Maduro has accused the United States of staging supermarket riots in understocked Venezuelan groceries, participating in the murder of a regional opposition leader, and single-handedly collapsing the Venezuelan economy (“where there is a conspiracy, there is a gringo”). He has personally accused Vice President Joe Biden of plotting to assassinate him and former Vice President Dick Cheney of running “concentration camps” in the United States.
It appears that the Venezuelan economy’s freefall has forced Maduro to overlook these slights upon his person, ironically at a time in which former Chavista ministers are accusing Maduro officials of major embezzlement out of the state-run oil company’s coffers. Héctor Navarro and Jorge Giordani, who served under Chávez, have formally accused the Maduro government of being unable to account for upwards of $300 billion in oil assets in the past ten years. Navarro and Giordani allege that much of this money was pocketed by officials working under Maduro.