CARACAS – Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, or Parliament, appointed on Wednesday an administrative board to control the country’s petroleum industry, including state-run oil company PDVSA and its affiliate in the United States, Citgo.
The legislative body’s decision was approved by the chamber’s opposition majority after being presented in a report by the Energy and Petroleum Committee, which is headed by lawmaker Elias Matta.
With the measure, Simon Antunez, Gustavo J. Velasquez, David Smolansky, Carlos Jose Balza and Ricardo Alfredo Prada will make up the PDVSA board of directors amid a serious productivity crisis and corruption investigations involving the firm.
In addition, expert Luisa Palacios will head the board of PDV Holding Inc., the company that owns Citgo.
Edgar Rincon, Oswaldo Nuñez, Fernando Vera, Elio Tortolera and Andres Padilla will serve with Palacios on the PDV Holding Inc. board.
Citgo is considered to be the seventh-largest refinery in the US, with the capacity to process 750,000 barrels of heavy and extra heavy crude per day produced by PDVSA.
It is estimated that Citgo holds a 4 percent US market share.
The Parliament also appointed Palacios and Rincon to head Citgo Holding Inc., along with Angel Olmeta, Oswaldo Nuñez, Javier Troconis and Rick Esser.
No indication was provided as to how the selection process was conducted and no details were offered regarding the experience of the appointees.
According to opposition lawmakers, the decision will allow “the protection of Citgo’s assets” in the face of arbitration proceedings Venezuela is facing for failing to fulfill certain high-value obligations.
A series of sanctions imposed by the US administration of Donald Trump are hanging over the Venezuelan petroleum industry, although they are due to be lifted once elected President Nicolas Maduro leaves office.
Parliament has tasked the Citgo board with scouring the market to find “alternative heavy petroleum at the lowest cost possible” in view of PDVSA’s inability to provide it.
Maduro said last week that the sanctions are a US attempt to strip Citgo away from Venezuela, and he warned that “any person accepting illegal appointments that usurp authority in PDVSA or Citgo” will be brought to justice.
The moves are part of an opposition offensive to weaken Maduro and force him to abandon power, which he has exercised since 2013 but which anti-Chavista forces contend he has usurped since January when he was inaugurated to a second term after winning a “fraudulent” election, a vote that is not recognized by a large part of the international community.
Maduro handily won re-election last May although most of the opposition did not participate since their leaders had been barred from running against him.