Can Venezuela Help the West Wean Itself off Russian Oil?

If you try to get oil from Venezuela, you have made a decision to deal with Maduro's regime the way it is, said AS/COA's Brian Winter to The Economist.

On April 22nd a ban on Russian oil imports will come into effect in the United States. One of the countries which could benefit is Venezuela. According to Credit Suisse, a bank, its economy is expected to grow in real terms by 20% this year, albeit from a very low base. This will be driven wholly by the oil industry. The bank expects petroleum output to increase by more than a fifth.

Even before Russia’s war in Ukraine, Venezuela had been producing more oil. Last year it managed to double its output, to around 800,000 barrels a day. Although that is a fraction of the 3m it produced in the 1990s, it is more than enough to replace the 199,000 barrels a day of crude the United States imported from Russia in 2021. Several American refineries were built to process viscous Venezuelan crude specifically. They struggle with runnier Saudi stuff or domestically produced shale oil. […]

But many observers are skeptical that the United States can both buy oil and make Mr Maduro change his dictatorial ways. “If you’re going to go for oil and try to pry Maduro away from Russia, then you have made a decision to deal with his regime the way it is,” says Brian Winter of the Americas Society, a regional forum. Several analysts also doubt that, even if sanctions were lifted immediately, Venezuela would be able to ramp up production after years of mismanagement and corruption. “To me, this looks like Obama’s Cuba policy,” says Mr Abrams. “That is, you give and you give and you get nothing.”…

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