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Just a few days have passed since Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro tightened his grip on the oil industry, naming a National Guard major general as the new head of PDVSA and the country’s oil ministry, and Venezuela has already arrested the two recent former heads of the oil ministry and the state oil company for alleged corruption in the widening anti-graft crackdown.
Venezuela’s state prosecutor Tarek Saab confirmed on Thursday that Eulogio Del Pino and Nelson Martinez—who held both posts at different times recently and were removed on Sunday and replaced by general Manuel Quevedo—were detained in the early hours today as part of the corruption crackdown.
According to the state prosecutor, quoted by Reuters, Del Pino has been arrested for his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal at the joint venture Petrozamora. Martinez has been detained for allegedly giving the green light to a refinancing deal for PDVSA’s U.S.-based refiner Citgo without seeking government approval, according to Saab.
Last week, Venezuela arrested Citgo’s President Jose Pereira and five senior executives at an event in Caracas. The six Citgo executives—US citizens—will be tried as traitors, Maduro has said.
According to industry sources who spoke to Reuters, Maduro is using the anti-corruption crusade to sideline his political rivals and further tighten his grip over the oil sector that brings in 90 percent of Venezuela’s export income.
“The corruption drive looks more political than anything else. Still it might reduce the anarchy and theft that are now the norm,” Francisco J. Monaldi, a fellow in Latin American energy policy at the Baker Institute in Houston, told BNamericas earlier this week.
The sweeping corruption crackdown will not free Venezuela’s oil sector from grafts, Monaldi said, noting that the “military have been in charge of other areas in which corruption is rampant.”
“It looks like a political move. On the one hand giving more power to the military that sustain him and putting a loyalist at the helm, on the other eroding a rival’s power. But it would be very costly for the industry,” Monaldi told BNamericas, referring to Maduro’s latest moves.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.