According to a report by Reuters, new sanctions against Venezuela may affect a military-run oil services company, and restrict insurance coverage for Venezuelan crude shipments.  Xinhua / SIPA USA / TNS photo.

Sen. Marco Rubio pushing President Trump for more assertive sanctions against Venezuela

Reuters reports the Trump administration is looking to impose more sanctions against Venezuela, and one official close to internal deliberations would not rule out a full-scale ban on Venezuelan crude shipments to the US.

The report says that at this time, the US is considering sanctioning a Venezuelan military-run oil services company and restricting insurance coverage for Venezuelan crude shipments.

“There’s a host of additional sanctions that could be imposed. The president has all those before him,” US Senator Marco Rubio told Reuters on Wednesday.

Rubio has been a key player in pushing for a more assertive approach to Venezuela than that of former president, Barack Obama.

A possible new target for US sanctions is Venezuela’s military-run oil services company, Camimpeg, started in 2016 to provide PDVSA with drilling, logistics and security assistance, according to the Reuters’ source.

Venezuela’s opposition says the country’s military is a hive of corruption and accuse Maduro of buying the military chiefs’ support by giving them more control of the country’s crude reserves, the largest in the world.

The Trump administration is also looking at putting restrictions on insurance coverage for crude oil tankers and PDVSA crude cargoes, according to the official.  Without insurance, a tanker cannot navigate in international waters.  Should such a sanction be put in place, Venezuela’s oil exports would be severely curtailed.

As well, President Trump’s administration is considering blocking the sale of lighter US crude and refined products to Venezuela, which are mixed with heavy crude and then exported.

The US official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said the Trump administration would not rule out an eventual full-scale ban on oil shipments from the beleaguered South American nation to the US.  In 2017, Venezuela was the fourth-largest supplier of crude to the US.

“I think (it would cause) a fairly strong shock to the oil market in the short term,” the official told Reuters

Sanctions against Venezuela are meant to increase pressure on the government of President Nicolas Maduro, the US official told Reuters.  Maduro is running for another term in an election in April, however, Maduro’s opponents, the US and its allies call the vote a sham.

Some of the proposed sanctions could come before the election, some could be imposed following the vote.

The Reuters’ source added there have been no decisions made yet and that any action taken by the United States would consider how the sanctions would impact citizens of Venezuela who are suffering through food and medicine shortages as well as hyperinflation.

The US would also take into account the impact of sanctions on Venezuela’s neighbouring countries and on the US oil industry and consumers.

“Oil sanctions are not taken lightly,” the official told Reuters. “This would be a fairly strong escalation for US policy, whether it’s a complete oil sanction or salami slices of different graduated steps.”

In a commentary in the Miami Herald on Thursday, Marco Rubio called for “a united front of disaffected government insiders and military personnel, with popular support from the Venezuelan people, to remove Maduro and his inner circle from power.”

However, the US official who spoke with Reuters says the Trump administration is not looking for a regime change and is only looking to push Maduro back to a democratic path.