Disputed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has publicly criticized the “theft” of its state-owned and US-based refining operations, Citgo, in a radio broadcast on Tuesday, adding that those responsible of this “crime” will be tried in court, after which the refining arm would be returned to its rightful owner, PDVSA.
While the United States—complicit in this theft, according to Maduro—is unlikely to see retribution in any way over handling of Citgo, opposition leader Juan Guaido and his followers could possibly run afoul of Venezuelan courts.
The United States officially recognized Guaido as the rightful president of Venezuela, much to the chagrin of his adversary, Nicolas Maduro.
This week’s allegations that PDVSA has been robbed of its Citgo refinery are nothing new; Maduro has long held that the United States wanted nothing more than to steal Citgo from its rightful owners, saying in January of this year that PDVSA “would take legal, political, operational and commercial measures to defend Venezuela’s interests in the United States.”
While the rhetoric remains nearly the same, Venezuela’s situation is growing increasingly dire as Maduro tries to hold onto power and keep his country financially afloat in the wake of the sanctions and repeated blackouts that have restricted its oil production and exports that fell below 1 million barrels per day last month.
The tug of war between Maduro and Guaido is now manifesting itself in PDVSA finances, with Guaido now desperately trying to make good on PDVSA’s bond payment of $71 million without having official authority to do so. The opposition-led board of PDVSA will vote next Tuesday on the matter—a critical development as this bond is backed by Citgo assets.