CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — U.S. sanctions against Venezuela's state oil company will primarily affect American businesses, the country's foreign minister said Thursday.
The U.S. State Department has targeted Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, for doing business with Iran, saying it delivered at least two cargoes of refined petroleum products worth about $50 million to the Middle Eastern nation.
"These illegal, abusive measures taken by this weak government of the United States ... those most affected are businesspeople of the United States," Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said in an interview on state television.
The Venezuelan oil company will be barred from any U.S. government contracts, U.S. import-export financing and export licenses for sensitive technology. But it won't be prevented from selling crude to the United States or through its U.S. subsidiary, Citgo.
Maduro said preventing PDVSA from buying technology affects U.S. companies contracted by the Venezuelan oil company.
Referring to oil-industry technology previously obtained from U.S. companies, Maduro said: "We can substitute them in a process of adjustment and produce them in Venezuela or begin to acquire them from our strategic allies in the rest of the world."
He did not elaborate on the contractors affected or the sorts of oil industry equipment that Venezuela might no longer obtain from U.S. companies.
Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said previously that while shipments of heavy crude to PDVSA's U.S.-based subsidiaries will continue, the company cannot guarantee shipments to nonaffiliated private oil companies.
"Our industry has the capability to face and overcome this attempt at sanctions," Maduro said. "What they're trying to do with the sanctions is hit us from an economic point of view."
Asked whether Venezuela might consider suspending oil shipments to the United States, Maduro said such actions could only be considered in "extreme moments," though he didn't give details.
Venezuela sells more than half of its oil exports to the United States, an amount that has varied recently between 900,000 and 1.2 barrels a day.
Thousands of PDVSA employees and supporters of President Hugo Chavez denounced the U.S. measures during a second day of rallies Thursday in Caracas and other parts of the country.