WASHINGTON - The United States has placed sanctions on two shipping companies for transporting Venezuelan oil to Cuba.
The Treasury Department said Friday it targeted the Marshall Islands-based Monsoon Navigation Corp. and Serenity Maritime Ltd., headquartered in Liberia.
The agency said the companies owned ships that were involved in oil transfers to Cuba, which the U.S. has accused of providing military support to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
"The U.S. will take further action if Cuba continues to receive Venezuelan oil in exchange for military support," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.
The sanctions block the companies from dealings with U.S. firms and individuals and freeze assets they may have in the U.S.
The Treasury Department said the vessels delivered oil to Cuba from late 2018 through March.
The U.S. and some 50 other countries support Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January on the claim Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
Maduro has called Guaido a puppet of the U.S. Maduro has held onto power with the support of Cuba, Russia and China.
Separately, a Venezuelan court Friday ordered Edgar Zambrano, vice president of Guaido's opposition-controlled National Assembly, held at a military facility after being arrested earlier in the week. He and nine other opposition leaders are under investigation in connection with the failed military insurrection.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Zambrano's immediate release, saying his arrest "is an attack on the independence of the nation's democratically elected legislative branch."