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A member of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) holds a gun while standing guard outside a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday, April 6, 2020.

Venezuela says first of Iranian fuel tankers to arrive Saturday

A member of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) holds a gun while standing guard outside a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday, April 6, 2020.

The first of five Iranian vessels bringing millions of barrels of gasoline to fuel-starved Venezuela is set to arrive today, according to Venezuelan state media.

Military ships and planes will escort the tankers to one of the South American nation’s refineries, state TV reported on Saturday. They’ll remain in the country for about four days to unload.

The shipments mark Iran’s latest round of help for Nicolas Maduro’s regime. Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, is nearly out of gasoline following years of mismanagement and US sanctions on its oil. Over the past two months, authorities have imposed rationing at gas stations nationwide, handing control over to military personnel.

A motorist wearing a protective mask drives past a closed Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) gas station in the Santa Fe neighbourhood of Caracas, Venezuela, on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

The Trump administration is reviewing a host of options to deter Iran’s support for the Maduro regime, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Advisers to the president are urging a measured approach that doesn’t flare up US-Iran tensions over a small supply of fuel, the person said.

Iran’s foreign ministry has said any attempt by the US to stop them will be met with “a swift and decisive response.”

A crew of Iranian technicians is already at work at State-run Petroleos de Venezuela’s Cardon and Amuay refineries, as part of a broader assistance plan that’s brought over workers, supplies and parts in exchange for about nine tonnes of gold, or $500 million worth.