Venezuela remains the third largest supplier of oil to the U.S. In 2016, it exported approximately 736,000 barrels per day, what resulted in – if measured at an average basket price of US$30 per barrel – more than US$700 million a month in oil revenues for Venezuela, just from the U.S. market. Due to the financial blockade on purchases of Venezuelan oil imposed by the treasury department on U.S. refineries, that figure has dropped to 255,000 barrels a day, reducing foreign currency income by more than 50 percent.
A few weeks ago the fifth largest buyer of Venezuelan oil, PBF Energy, suspended purchases from PDVSA due to these pressures, while other refiners are struggling to make payments to the Venezuelan State Oil Company.
With these underhand actions by the Trump administration being institutionalized as financial sanctions, the U.S. is forcing Venezuela and PDVSA to have fewer dollars to meet their debt commitments in 2018 (protected at US$8 billion approximately) and in this way is pressing the country to fall into default. Add this to the sanctions preventing the issuance of new debt by PDVSA and Venezuela in the U.S. for refinancing purposes, then this has obliged Maduro to call the holders of debt to start a process of restructuring.