The U.S. Navy announced on Tuesday that it had conducted a “freedom of navigation” operation in the Caribbean Sea, “contesting an excessive maritime claim by Venezuela.”
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Nitze navigated the area—beyond Caracas’s 12-nautical-mile jurisdiction—over which the regime of Nicolás Maduro “falsely claims” to have control, according to the navy.
The announcement comes a day after an Iranian cargo ship docked in the Venezuelan port of La Guaira, according to Reuters, and as tensions mount between Washington and Caracas.
“The illegitimate Maduro regime has enlisted the help of maritime companies and their vessels to continue the exploitation of Venezuela’s natural resources for the regime’s profit,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a press release from his office on June 2. “The United States will continue to target those who support this corrupt regime and contribute to the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”
This statement preceded a Wall Street Journal report in mid-June that the United States is planning to expand sanctions in an effort to stymie oil and fuel trade between Iran and Venezuela, and could sanction as many as 50 tankers.
Also in mid-June, reports emerged from Iran that the previous month it had been preparing for an attack on U.S. commercial vessels in the Gulf, to be carried out if U.S. forces had intercepted Iranian oil tankers heading to Venezuela.
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