subscribe to our newsletter
CARACAS (Dispatches) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has thanked ally Iran for helping the South American country overcome U.S. sanctions on its oil industry and floated the idea of purchasing missiles from the country.
Washington maintains sanctions against Iran’s oil industry as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign. Earlier this year, Tehran sent several gasoline cargoes to Venezuela to help it overcome fuel shortages, as well as equipment to help state oil company PDVSA repair its refineries.
“We are helping each other,” Maduro said in an interview broadcast on state television. “I think the Iranian experience will help us reinforce our management capacity.”
He did not provide further details of how Iran was helping, noting he should maintain “silence since we are in a war.”
Washington’s sanctions on PDVSA are meant to pressure Maduro to resign. Earlier this month, the United States said it had seized four cargoes of Iranian gasoline en route to Venezuela. Iran said neither the cargoes nor the vessels were Iranian because the shipments had been made under the free on board (FOB) arrangement.
The growing ties between Iran and Venezuela are concerning the U.S. and its allies. Colombian President Ivan Duque said this week Maduro was eyeing missile purchases from Iran, which Venezuelan officials denied.
But in the interview, Maduro said Duque’s statement was a “good idea” he had not yet considered. “If it is possible and convenient, we will buy those missiles,” he said.
Maduro said he had asked Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino to look into “every possibility” of acquiring short-, medium- and long-range missiles from the Islamic Republic.
“Venezuela is not prohibited from acquiring weapons,” Maduro said. “If Iran is able to sell us a bullet or a missile, and we are able to buy it, we will.”
Iran’s Embassy to Venezuela said on Sunday that the Latin American country had sent its first shipment of fruits to Iran.
“Within the framework of win-win trade relations between #Iran and #Venezuela, the first shipment of Venezuelan mango and pineapple was shipped to Iran. Iran, along with its neighbors, can offer Venezuelan products to over 400 million inhabitants,” the embassy said in a tweet.
Iran recently opened the first Iranian supermarket in Caracas, “Megasis”, in a move praised by Venezuelans.
Relations between Iran and Venezuela have expanded in recent years. Iran was once involved in a series of joint ventures worth several billion dollars in energy, agriculture, housing, and infrastructure sectors in Venezuela.
Iran’s main industrial projects in Venezuela included a car assembly plant, a tractor manufacturing complex and a cement factory.
The Islamic Republic has also built more than 3,000 residential housing units for less privileged citizens in Venezuela, with 7,000 more to be completed.
Both countries are hugely rich in resources. Venezuela possesses the world’s biggest oil deposit while Iran owns the fourth largest oil and first largest gas reserves of the world.