Venezuelan opposition takes over Citgo US refinery operations
Citgo Petroleum confirmed Friday that a board of directors named by the Venezuelan opposition has taken control of the Houston refiner, the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company and key prize in the power struggle with government of President Nicolas Maduro.As a result of US sanctions, the company had already stopped using Venezuelan oil. Maduro will have to be toppled to secure the release of Citgo people he arrested. Citgo has been a key asset of Venezuela. Some of its facilities are subject to a lien by Russia which made an ill-advised loan to the Madero regime.
Citgo said the new board met in Houston this week to review the company's operations and plan for the shift in power. Earlier this week, four executives tied to CEO Asdrubal Chavez, a Maduro loyalist and cousin to Maduro's mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, were dismissed and escorted from the Citgo headquarters, employees said.
The new board will be led by the board's first chairwoman, Luisa Palacios. It includes Rick Esser, an executive vice president, Edgar Rincón, Angel Olmeta, Luis Urdaneta and Andres Eloy Padilla. Citgo said in a statement that Esser will run day-to-day operation while the company seeks a new chief executive.
The company said in a statement Friday the board is conducting "an intensive review of the company's business units" as well as "an in-depth discussion of the company's finances, operations and immediate challenges so the board can quickly develop and implement its vision going forward."
The new board was named earlier this month by Juan Guaidó, the leader of the National Assembly who declared himself acting president. Guaido is recognized by the United States and its allies as the legitimate leader.
The takeover by the new board means the company is breaking away from the Maduro regime. Chávez was named the president and CEO of Citgo in 2017 following the arrest in Venezuela of six Citgo executives, who are still being held in a Venezuelan detention center. The Trump administration revoked Chávez's visa last year and he is no longer running day-to-day operations.