Trump administration officials are still considering secondary sanctions to push the Maduro regime out of power in Venezuela, though analysts said Monday that there may be little reason to impose them. “I think for the most part we are already seeing the impact that secondary sanctions would have,” said Lisa Viscidi, director of energy, climate change and extractive industries at Inter-American Dialogue. “I think official secondary sanctions would close some loopholes Venezuela is still able to exploit, but Venezuela is already very dependent on exporting to countries that refuse to get in line with US sanctions policy.”
The Trump administration has blocked imports of Venezuelan crude and condensate into the US, prohibited US dollar transactions with state-run PDVSA and threatened sanctions on essentially all diluent trade with the company. But the US has yet to impose secondary sanctions on Venezuelan oil flows, similar to those fully re-imposed on Iranian crude last month, subjecting essentially all petroleum trade with a targeted country to US sanctions.
India, for example, has agreed to stop exporting gasoline to Venezuela and has reduced its Venezuelan crude imports in response to pressure from the US, Viscidi said. But Russia, Venezuela’s most significant remaining crude and refined product trading partner, may not halt purchases even if secondary sanctions are imposed, she said. “Russia is not going to stop trading oil with Venezuela as a result of official secondary sanctions, especially since Russia itself is being sanctioned by the US,” she said.
State-run Russian companies may be unlikely to comply with US sanctions, keeping at least some Venezuelan petroleum flows viable even if secondary sanctions are imposed, according to Paul Sheldon, chief geopolitical advisor with S&P Global Platts Analytics.