WASHINGTON—Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó needs more support from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump in order to retain control of state oil company PDVSA’s U.S.-based refiner Citgo, Citgo Chairwoman Luisa Palacios said Wednesday at a conference at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.
Guaidó, whom dozens of countries recognize as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president, earlier this year named a board of directors of Citgo, effectively wresting control of the company from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government. Since then, Guaidó and his allies have been fighting to avoid the refiner’s seizure.
Most of Citgo’s shares are pledged to holders of PDVSA’s 2020 bond, for which the company had put up half of Citgo shares as collateral. The remaining shares are pledged to Russian state oil company Rosneft as collateral. In May, the Venezuelan opposition made a $71 million interest payment on the 2020 PDVSA bond to prevent creditors from seizing Citgo, one of the Andean nation’s most important assets abroad. However, another $913 million payment on the 2020 bond is due Oct. 27. If the opposition fails to make the payment, creditors could attempt to seize the U.S.- based company.
Palacios said Wednesday that the Trump administration’s backing had been key for the opposition to retain control of Citgo. However, she called on continued support from the U.S. government, saying it would be “contradictory” to not try to “save Citgo from shareholders” after all that was done to save it from Maduro’s control.
Her remarks echoed a statement Guaidó made earlier this week. “We’re going to need help, and the first thing is to seek a [U.S. executive] order to protect Venezuela’s assets abroad,” he said, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, in a ruling on Monday, a U.S. appeals court lifted an impediment that had frozen efforts by defunct Canadian gold miner Crystallex to take control of Citgo, The Wall Street Journal reported. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s decision allows Crystallex to resume attempts to seize Venezuela’s 100 percent ownership stake in Citgo as compensation for a $1.4 billion government debt. [Editor’s note: See related Q&A in the Aug. 30 issue of the Energy Advisor.]
Each week, the Dialogue’s Energy Advisor features Q&A with Latin America’s top experts in oil and gas, renewables, unconventionals and more. Subscribers include BP, Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, leading universities such as Harvard, Dartmouth and Notre Dame, and government ministries on four continents. The publication is available to members of the Dialogue’s Corporate Program and others by subscription.