- A US spy has been caught in Venezuela.
- Venezuela has accused the US of targeting its oil trade.
- Venezuela and Iran face US sanctions.
News outlets aligned to the ruling Socialist Party in Venezuela have revealed more details about the US spy captured near the Amuay and Cardon oil refineries a few days ago. The initial statement indicated that the man was found with a substantial amount of money in dollars as well as specialized equipment.
No further details were provided in the statement by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the time. The latest additional info, as revealed by the country’s news outlets, indicates that the man’s name is Matthew John Heath. He was found in possession of a satellite phone, a grenade launcher, and explosives.
He was apparently in the company of three other people, who included a sergeant major in the Venezuelan National Guard. Current investigations reveal that he was planning to sabotage the electric grid system and oil refineries. This is to cause further unrest in the country.
The suspect is alleged to be a former marine who took part in the Iraq War. Both the US State Department and the White House have declined to comment on the matter.
Falcon state, the zone in which the men were captured, is home to the Amuay and Cardon refineries. The refineries have had a lot of issues in recent years due to dwindling investments in the country’s oil sector.
A Spy Problem?
Just last month, two former Green Berets were sentenced to 20 years in prison for plotting a coup against President Nicolas Maduro that was foiled in May. The men, Luke Denman and Airan Berry, were charged with conspiracy, weapons trafficking, and terrorism. They were among a group of 13 people who were incarcerated in May after they were found trying to enter Venezuela illegally by sea.
While they claimed authorization from the US government, the Trump administration distanced itself from the allegations. Investigations revealed that people close to Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaido, were involved in the planned coup.
Last Wednesday, Venezuelan President Maduro announced that the country’s security forces had foiled a sabotage plan by external forces. The people involved had planned to blow up the El Palito refinery. He called for vigilance against intrusion.
“The gringo empire wants revenge against Venezuela. It wants to prevent Venezuela from producing all petroleum products, gasoline,” he said.
Reeling from Fuel Shortage
The Trump administration has continued to slap sanctions on the Maduro regime. It recently announced that will be voiding export exemptions that enable the nation to exchange crude for refined fuel.
PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-run oil company, has already been embargoed by the Treasury Department, and its funds frozen. The money in its accounts is currently under the control of Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó. He is backed by the US administration as well as a majority of EU member states. He is considered the rightful leader of Venezuela.
While the US is ramping up sanctions, Venezuela is becoming more dependent on Iran’s oil imports. Although some of its refineries are working, the quantity of oil that they put out is nowhere near enough to support the country.
Iran, which is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has publicly denounced the targeting of its oil trade as an economic weapon. Both Iran and Venezuela are member states and face a flurry of sanctions that threaten to undermine their oil industries.