Europe mulling its options with Venezuela

Oil has been spared so far in the response to President Nicolas Maduro's effort to consolidate power.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Aug. 2, 2017 at 8:45 AM
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Aug. 2 (UPI) -- With oil so far spared from the target of sanctions, the European Commission said Wednesday it was discussing a range of potential options for Venezuela.

The U.S. Treasury Department hit Carlos Erik Malpica Flores, the former vice president for finance at state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, known also as PDVSA, with sanctions last week in response to a crackdown on the opposition in the country. After a national vote seen as consolidating his grip on power, sanctions were extended this week to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The White House was said to be considering sanctions on Venezuela's oil, a cornerstone of its economy. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the object was "not to do anything that hurts the people of Venezuela," though officials said last week such sanctions would hurt the U.S. refining sector given the amount of oil the United States imports from Venezuela.

A spokesperson for the European Commission said Wednesday consultations were under way with members of the European Union to consider the appropriate response, adding a "full-range" of options were under review. Like Mnuchin, however, the spokesperson said the priority was to assist the people of Venezuela and ease the political tensions.

The United States is the largest importer of Venezuelan oil. Russia is the principal supplier of crude oil to European member states, accounting for about a quarter of all oil imports. Other primary EU suppliers are Norway and Nigeria.

"The security of the EU's primary energy supplies may be threatened if a high proportion of imports are concentrated among relatively few partners," its statistics office reported.

Crude oil prices spiked last week under threat of U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan oil, though it may have been a more psychological reaction as Maduro could likely find alternate customers should Washington tighten the sanctions noose.

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