"Driving The Gringos In The White House Crazy": Iran & Venezuela Deepen Sanctions-Busting Cooperation

Two so-called 'rogue states' recently targeted for US-imposed regime change are helping each other fight coronavirus as well as Washington-led sanctions. 

Late last week it was revealed Venezuela received a huge boost in the form of oil refinery materials and chemicals to fix the catalytic cracking unit at the 310,000 barrels-per-day Cardon refinery, essential to the nation's gas supply.

This as a fuel and food shortage crisis has driven protests and clashes with police, especially in hard-hit rural areas, over the past month.

Iran's Mahan Air jet previously seen at Simon Bolivar International Airport, Reuters/VOA.

“Thanks to the support of our allies in the Islamic Republic of Iran... We will overcome our difficulties,” Erling Rojas, vice minister for refining and petrochemicals in Venezuela’s Oil Ministry, stated when the much-needed refinery parts arrived last Thursday.

He further underscored in colorfully provocative rhetoric that Iran’s support is “driving the gringos in the White House crazy.”

It's expected such sanctions-busting cooperation will continue between the two countries, as there's also been an uptick in planes flying directly between capitals, as Reuters reported:

Planes flying from Tehran landed at the Las Piedras airport on the Paraguana peninsula in western Venezuela, where Cardon is located, on Wednesday and Thursday, according to data on flight-tracking service FlightRadar24 reviewed by Reuters. The planes were operated by private Iranian airline Mahan Air.

Washington imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

Venezuela is also busy attempting to restore operations at the 146,000-barrels-per-day El Palito refinery in central Venezuela as well.

The two sides are further said to be deepening cooperation in terms of response to the coronavirus pandemic. It's hit the Islamic Republic far worse over the past months, while Venezuela's numbers are deeply uncertain given what's attributed to lack of widespread testing and transparency. 

The Amuay-Cardon refinery in Paraguana, located about 350 miles West of Caracas, has in recent years suffered repeat power outages, major explosion accidents, and inability to update operational equipment due to US sanctions. Image via AFP/PRI.

Iranian state media described a major conference call between top Iranian and Venezuelean health officials where the two sides "exchanged experiences, clinical protocols and COVID-19 preventive measures in the context of the World Health Organization’s recommendations." It followed agreements for deepening ties amid the crisis made between Presidents Hassan Rouhani and Nicolás Maduro during an April 13 phone call.

Iran's COVID-19 count is a over 90,000 confirmed cases, including nearly 6,000 deaths, while Venezulea officially has 323 confirmed cases and ten deaths.