Venezuela and Iran Will 'Never Kneel Down' to the U.S., Says Maduro as Second Oil Tanker Arrives From Tehran

A second Iranian oil tanker hit Venezuelan waters today after leader Nicolás Maduro said his country will "never kneel" before the U.S.

In a state address on Sunday, Maduro praised Iran for sending a convoy of five tankers, carrying about 1.5 million barrels of gasoline, the first of which entered Venezuela's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Saturday while under military escort.

Maduro said Venezuela and Iran are "two revolutionary peoples who will never kneel down before North American imperialism" and they should have the right to trade—despite U.S. sanctions on both countries' maritime and energy sectors.

Venezuela is currently suffering a shortage of refined fuel and has been forced to rely on imports, which are limited by U.S. sanctions, the BBC reported.

According to Reuters, the first of five tankers sent by Tehran—named Fortune—arrived in Venezuelan waters at roughly 7:40 p.m. local time on Saturday.

Today, Iran's embassy in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, confirmed a second Iranian tanker—named Forest—had also reached Venezuelan territorial waters.

It tweeted: "Upon arrival in the exclusive economic zone of Venezuela, escorted by a military patrol, [the tanker] heads towards one of the ports," Three remaining vessels en route to the South American nation are titled Petunia, Faxon and Clavel.

"The end of Ramadan brings us the arrival of the Fortune ship, a sign of the solidarity of the Islamic people of Iran with Venezuela," Maduro tweeted Sunday, alongside multiple images of a vast oil tanker that were taken from an escorting airship.

Again thanking Iran, Maduro added: "In times where the supremacist empire seeks to impose its rule by force only the brotherhood of free peoples will save us."

U.S. officials previously said they were monitoring the convoy, and were considering measures in response—without elaborating on any exact plans.

The weekend statement prompted Iran's President, Hassan Rouhani, to warn about retaliation should the tankers be interfered with by the U.S., which recently bulked up its presence in the Caribbean for an "anti drug" operation, Reuters reported.

"If our tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world face trouble caused by the Americans, [the U.S.] will also be in trouble," Rouhani said Saturday.

The sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the Trump administration targeted PdVSA, the state's oil company. The moves accelerated a decline in oil production in the country, which has recently suffered infrastructure collapse and economic downturn.

Reports indicate that despite having the world's largest oil reserves it is operating at 10 percent capacity, leaving the county suffering a major fuel shortage.

Petrol is strictly rationed for citizens, who are also combating outbreaks of COVID-19, according to the BBC. Venezuela has recorded about 1,100 cases.

"This is a sad reminder of Maduro's hopeless mismanagement," U.S. state department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Sunday, Reuters reported.

"Venezuelans need free and fair presidential elections leading to democracy and economic recovery, not Maduro's expensive deals with another pariah state."

Reuters reported the oil tankers' fuel cargo will last about a month based on current consumption rates. It remains unclear if Iran plans to send more convoys.

The Congressional Research Service think tank says that the sanctions on Venezuela are down to the "authoritarian leadership" of Maduro, who the administration does not recognize as the country's legitimate leader but remains in power.

"The Trump Administration has promised continued support to National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, whom the United States and 57 governments recognize as interim president of Venezuela," the research institute explains in a fact sheet.

Nicolas Maduro
President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro speaks during a press conference at Miraflores Government Palace on March 12, 2020 in Caracas, Venezuela. Carolina Cabral/Getty