The United States has imposed sanctions on four shipping companies and nine ships transporting oil from Venezuela.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control made the announcement in a web posting on Friday, adding some of the ships carried oil to Cuba.
The firms were identified as Liberia-based Jennifer Navigation Ltd, Lima Shipping Corp and Large Range Ltd, and Italy-based PB Tankers S.P.A.
The Treasury blacklisted one tanker that belonged to each of the Liberian firms and six more which are owned by the Italian firm.
The Treasury said in a statement that Venezuela’s oil sector continued “to provide a lifeline to” what the department called “the illegitimate regime” of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“We continue to target companies that transport Venezuelan oil to Cuba, as they are profiting while the Maduro regime pillages natural resources,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
On April 4, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the White House had extended by two weeks a ban on US lawsuits against foreign firms conducting business in Cuba, without giving a reason for the move. It was seen, however, as an attempt to punish Havana over its support for Caracas.
Venezuela has been in political turmoil since US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido declared himself “interim president” late in January.
The administration of President Donald Trump, which immediately recognized Guaido’s self-proclamation, has repeatedly threatened to use military force to topple Maduro’s government.
Washington has also been using economic pressure to topple Maduro. It has confiscated Venezuela’s US-based oil assets in an attempt to channel revenue from them to Guaido.
Additionally, Washington has been encouraging other countries to impose sanctions on Maduro’s administration and ease penalties on the Venezuelan officials who recognize Guaido.