Spain has reportedly found a way to circumvent the European Union-imposed embargo on arms sales to Venezuela. It will sell tank parts to the government President Nicolás Maduro.

The cross-ministry board that controls Spanish military exports approved the sale of €20m of tank parts. Authorisation was granted after 14 November 2017, which was when the EU regulation banning the supply of such material to Caracas was put in place. Government sources claim that the contract was prior to the embargo, although its political approval came later.

As reported by Spain’s daily El País, the EU took the measure given the deterioration of the political and humanitarian situation in Venezuela, and it was applied to material that could be used for repression and to breach human rights. The assets of a list of high-ranking officials were also frozen.

The embargo on Venezuela only allows for two exceptions: the supply of material for humanitarian means, and for operations involving the United Nations and regional organization; and the “execution of contracts signed before 13 November 2017 and auxiliary contracts necessary for the execution of the same.”

Asked as to why this operation was authorized despite the arms embargo, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State for Trade indicated that “the safeguard clause included in the EU sanctions allows for the authorization of export licenses based on those contracts,” in reference to the agreements that were already in place when the embargo was approved.

According to El País, this means that no contract comes into force until the inter-ministerial board approves the corresponding license – i.e. no one can export military material without counting on the authorization of the government.

A spokesperson for SDLE explained that the company counts on a temporary license to maintain the Venezuelan AMX-30 tanks. “Until now, we have not received any notification to cut off this service,” they explained. “If we receive one, we will comply with it. In the meantime, we must meet with our commitments.”