In Venezuela, the oil minister and foreign minister are on live TV on all broadcast and domestic cable channels talking about the US’s sanctions against PDVSA. They are “rejecting” the measures as “illegal” and calling for workers to “mobilize in defense of our oil industry.” But when pressed by reporters for information about the specifics of what they’ll do in response, they are holding back. They say they are going to study the effects of the sanctions. Ramirez declined to comment on whether Venezuela actually sent fuel to Iran. He said Venezuela is committed to maintaining oil shipments to Citgo. He said PDVSA would consider cutting sales to Hovensa (a big refinery in the Virgin Islands, jointly owned with Hess) and other US customers that weren’t part of PDVSA.
The short of it is this. I think most people in the Venezuelan government know that these sanctions are just theater, and that they are more about shutting up Connie Mack than about shutting down PDVSA. But they can’t look weak before their public in an issue of national sovereignty, so they are going to huff and puff until they can find an excuse to move on to the next thing and forget all about this. They are responding to hot-air sanctions with a hot-air press conference. If only life could always be so simple.
As Otto says in his post on the topic, the wild card is Hugo. If he freaks out enough, it could cause more fireworks. For now, it’s very good to see ministers Ramirez and Maduro talking a lot and not saying anything.
The one weird thing here is this: Superstar Corina Rodriguez asked the ministers whether or not Venezuela shipped the fuel that the US says was shipped. I have rarely seen these guys dodge a straight question like that. I mean, if they did it, shouldn’t they just proudly announce, yes, we did it? But from what I heard, they declined to answer. Very odd. Maybe I missed something.