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BREAKING NEWS

U.S. imposes Venezuela-related sanctions on two companies, two tankers

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday blacklisted two new shipping companies and two oil tanker ships for shipping oil from Venezuela to Cuba, the Treasury Department said.

The sanctions are part of a series of economic measures the Trump administration has taken to cut oil revenues to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in an effort to help push him from power.

The U.S. Treasury identified the firms as Monsoon Navigation Corporation, based in the Marshall Islands, and Liberia-based Serenity Navigation Ltd.

Monsoon's tanker Ocean Elegance and Serenity Maritime's Leon Dias delivered crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba from late 2018 through March 2019, the Treasury Department said. Both tankers have Panama flags.

The sanctions block the firms and ships from dealings with U.S. persons and companies, and freeze any assets the firms may own or control in the United States.

The United States and most western nations back Juan Guaido, an opposition leader who invoked Venezuela's constitution in January to declare himself president, arguing Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

Despite severe oil sanctions on the oil-rich OPEC member nation, Maduro has held on to power, backed by Cuba, Russia and China, and has thus far retained the support of the country's military and other institutions. Maduro has called Guaido a puppet of the United States.

(Reporting by Makini Brice, Mohammad Zargham and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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