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Iranian fuel breathes new life into Venezuelan refinery deactivated by US sanctions

Iranian fuel has been fed to one of Venezuela’s most important refineries, enabling the strategic El Palito facility to resume gasoline production after it was forced to largely reduce its activities under pressure from draconian American sanctions.

Venezuela’s Telesur television network reported on Monday that gasoline production and distribution restarted at El Palito — situated in Puerto Cabello in the northern state of Carabobo — after it received chemical additives and fuel from Iranian oil tanker Fortune, which docked at one of the facility’s berths on Saturday following a high seas journey.

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Fortune and Forest are part of a flotilla of five Iranian tankers carrying 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and alkylate to Venezuela to help the country deal with its severe fuel crisis.

The remaining ships in the fleet — Petunia, Faxon and Clavel — are scheduled to arrive in the gasoline-starved Latin American country in the next few days.

El Palito has a refining capacity of over 140,000 barrels per day (bpd), making it Venezuela’s fourth biggest fuel processing facility. The refinery provides fuel to the country’s central-western area through pipes, which run to Valencia, Carabobo’s provincial capital, before reaching other parts of Venezuela.

The Iranian shipments have infuriated Washington as the oil sectors of both Iran and Venezuela have been the target of harsh US sanctions. The US has threatened to take measures in response without elaborating on what they would be.

Iran has warned of retaliatory measures if the US — which has recently stepped up its military presence in the Caribbean waters — causes any problem for the tankers and stops them from reaching their destination.

Last year, the administration of US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions against Venezuela’s oil ministry and state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) as part of a campaign to oust elected President Nicolas Maduro from power.

The bans have made it difficult for Venezuela to import fuel, resulting in widespread gasoline shortages.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami thanked the Iranian government for sending the ships and stressed that their berthing shows the two nations’ self-determination.

“We are very fortunate to have Iran in these times,” he said. “Deeds like this should be a normal thing, not an expression of resistance to the hegemonic claims of the US.”

RT @VTVcanal8: #EnFotos | The “Fortune” became this Monday #25May a symbol of freedom and courage for two peoples: Venezuela and Iran

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View image on Twitter

On Monday, Maduro tweeted, “The end of [the Muslim fasting month of] Ramadan brings us the arrival of the FORTUNE ship, a sign of the solidarity of the Islamic people of Iran with Venezuela. In times where the supremacist empire seeks to impose its rule by force, only the brotherhood of free peoples will save us.”

‘US made a right choice not to target Iran’s tankers’

In tweets on Monday, Iran’s Ambassador to Venezuela Hojat Soltani said Washington’s decision not to carry out any act of aggression against Iranian tankers shows that “wisdom, foresight and prudence” still exist in “some layers” of the US government.

Those US politicians, he added, “should make the warmongers understand that commitment to international law and accords reached among governments, including the US, would create a more secure world for all countries and the US itself.”

“It is a good development that the US finally came to realize it should respect its obligations and responsibilities under international accords, including the freedom of international trade and navigation,” he added.

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