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Washington Thwarts Maduro’s Devious Oil Debt Scheme

The U.S. Treasury is blocking for 90 days creditors from seizing shares in Venezuela’s U.S. subsidiary Citgo, temporarily shielding the prized Venezuelan asset in a win for Venezuela’s opposition and its leader Juan Guaidó.  

Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA must make a payment of US$913 million on a 2020 bond on Monday, October 28, but the bond is widely expected to go into default because the Venezuelan oil firm doesn’t have the money to make the payment.

PDVSA, however, has used shares in its most prized foreign asset, Citgo, as collateral for the bond. The bonds are backed by 50.1 percent in the U.S.-based refiner, so should the bond default, bondholders may rush to claim shares of Citgo.

Earlier this month, reports emerged that Venezuela’s opposition was getting ready to file a lawsuit in the United States seeking to prevent bond holders of PDVSA from going after shares in Citgo over the expected PDVSA bond default on Monday.

Several U.S. lawmakers—mostly Republicans and mostly representing Texas and Louisiana where Citgo has refineries—have asked U.S. President Donald Trump to take executive action to stop PDVSA’s bondholders from potentially seizing Citgo.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued new guidelines on some sanctions related to transactions involving Venezuela, saying that between October 24, 2019 and January 22, 2020, “transactions related to the sale or transfer of CITGO shares in connection with the PDVSA 2020 8.5 percent bond are prohibited, unless specifically authorized by OFAC.” 

Related: Oil Rebounds On Rare Market Optimism

With this new guideline, the U.S. Treasury is basically shielding Citgo for 90 days from creditors who could have gone after the company when the PDVSA bond defaults next week.

Katherine Bosley, a spokeswoman for Citgo, told Reuters the company was “gratified by the U.S. Treasury Department’s decision.”

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Commenting on the Treasury’s decision, Guaidó tweeted that thanks to the support of the U.S. government and its confidence the management, “we are managing to keep hold of the assets that the regime looted.”

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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