Venezuela’s crude oil and refined product exports plummeted in 2020 to their lowest level in 77 years, as the U.S. continued to step up sanctions against Nicolas Maduro’s regime and anyone found dealing with it, Reuters reported on Monday, citing data from Refinitiv Eikon and internal documents from state oil firm PDVSA.
Last year, Venezuela’s oil exports plunged by 37.5 percent, reaching just 626,534 barrels per day (bpd), the lowest level since the early 1940s, according to the data.
In 2019, exports of crude oil and refined oil products had slumped by 32 percent year over year to 1 million bpd, after the U.S. slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s exports, cutting Venezuelan oil from its biggest export market until then, the United States. The U.S. ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Maduro’s sources of income—oil being the primary such source—began to cripple Venezuelan oil exports in early 2019, while the lack of investment in the oil industry, years of mismanagement and corruption, and the hyperinflation in Venezuela compounded the problems for the oil sector in the country sitting atop the world’s largest crude oil reserves.
The U.S. stepped up the sanctions in 2020, further crippling exports, which also suffered from the plunge in oil demand and prices with the pandemic.
Venezuela’s foreign currency revenues—almost all of which come from crude oil sales—have plunged by 99 percent since 2014, Maduro said in September last year, blaming most of the losses on the “persecution and criminal blockade” of Venezuela’s oil exports.
In recent months, various reports have emerged that Venezuela has become increasingly inventive in getting its crude to market. Bloomberg reported last month that Venezuela had boosted its crude oil exports nearly threefold in November to more than 500,000 bpd, including by hiding the true identity of tankers to avoid detection.
Little-known shipping companies registered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been shipping Venezuelan shipping crude oil in breach of the U.S. sanctions on Maduro’s regime, Reuters reported last week.