Six Citgo executives—US citizens—that Venezuela arrested as part of a corruption sweep will be tried as traitors, President Nicolas Maduro said. Citgo’s President Jose Pereira and five senior executives were arrested earlier this week at an event in Caracas.
Five of these have are US citizens holding dual US/Venezuelan citizenship. The sixth, Pereira, has a permanent residency permit for the United States.
The U.S. authorities have requested that its nationals be released, but Maduro refused, saying “These are people born in Venezuela, they’re Venezuelan and they’re going to be judged for being corrupt, thieving traitors.”
According to opposition sources, however, the arrests are not about corruption, but about infighting in the Communist Party as well as an attempt by the government to get its hands on profitable companies to patch up its budget, currently in tatters and with no great improvement prospects.
Citgo is a profitable company—so much so that it was recently offered as a guarantee in a secret deal between PDVSA and several foreign companies that the Attorney General’s office uncovered. The deal, AG Tarek Saab said, would not have been beneficial to Venezuela.
This latest development is bound to further deepen the animosity between Caracas and Washington, after Washington imposed sanctions on a number of Venezuelan government officials this summer. While there were threats that the U.S. may cut Venezuelan oil imports, these have not yet been realized. However, US imports of Venezuelan oil have been falling because of Venezuela’s overall production decline.
The latest weekly report by the Energy Information Administration revealed that Venezuelan crude oil exports to the U.S. had fallen to 462,000 bpd last week, from 732,000 bpd in the previous week. The four-week average for the period ending on November 17 was 530,000 bpd, significantly lower than the average a year earlier, which stood at 753,000 bpd.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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