(Bloomberg/AlJazeera) – Iran is sending its biggest fleet yet of tankers to Venezuela in defiance of U.S. sanctions to help the isolated nation weather a crippling fuel shortage, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
This news came ahead of polls in the South American country which incumbent president, Nicolas Maduro, is expected to win.
Some of the flotillas of about 10 Iranian vessels will also help export Venezuelan crude after discharging fuel, the people said, asking not to be named because the transaction is not public.
The Maduro regime is widening its reliance on Iran as an ally of last resort after even Russia and China have avoided challenging the U.S. ban on trade with Venezuela.
The country’s fuel crunch follows decades of mismanagement, corruption and under-investment at state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela since the time of Maduro’s late mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
The country that was once a top supplier of crude to the U.S. and boasted one of the lowest domestic gasoline prices in the world, now can barely produce any fuel.
Meanwhile, at press time Sunday, Maduro was poised to win back control of the National Assembly in elections, adding to the litany of woes facing his chief rival, Juan Guaidó.
U.S.-backed Guaidó and the mainstream opposition parties boycotted the poll, calling it a “fraud” and argued that conditions for holding “free and fair” elections did not exist in Venezuela.