U.S is pressing India to stop buying oil from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, Washington’s top envoy for Venezuela said, as the Trump administration this week threatened more U.S. sanctions to cut off Maduro’s financial lifelines.
“We say you should not be helping this regime. You should be on the side of the Venezuelan people,” Elliott Abrams told Reuters in an interview.
The Trump administration has given the same message to other governments, Abrams said, and has made a similar argument to foreign banks and companies doing business with Maduro.
Abrams described the U.S. approach as “arguing, cajoling, urging.”
The talks with India come as the United States and its regional allies, who back Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, threaten more sanctions to cut off revenue streams to Maduro’s government and force him to step down.
Washington views Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and has imposed sanctions on the country’s oil sector and announced asset freezes and visa bans targeting top government officials.
The Indian market is crucial for Venezuela’s economy because it has historically been the second-largest cash-paying customer for the OPEC country’s crude, behind the United States, which through sanctions against Maduro has handed control of much of that revenue to Guaido.
Washington wants India to do the same.
Oil shipments to China, another major importer of Venezuelan oil, do not generate cash because they go to pay off billions of dollars in loans made to Caracas by Beijing.
The talks over Venezuela come as trade tensions rise between Washington and New Delhi, and when the United States is also pushing India to cease buying Iranian oil.
The United States is planning to end preferential trade treatment for India that allows duty-free entry for up to $5.6 billion worth of its exports to the United States.