(Caracas) Both the Venezuelan government and the opposition which controls the Citgo company criticized on Tuesday the decision of the American justice system to authorize the sale of the refiner, an American subsidiary of the Venezuelan public oil giant PDVSA, with the government even speaking of a ” vulgar plunder.”
The United States Supreme Court on Monday refused to review a court decision that authorized the sale of Citgo shares to repay creditors of PDVSA, but also expropriations carried out by the Venezuelan government.
“This decision constitutes an additional step in the multifaceted aggression carried out by American institutions against Venezuela […] a vulgar plunder,” said the Venezuelan government in a press release.
Claims in U.S. courts against Citgo exceed $20 billion, according to London-based firm EMFI Securities.
The Citgo situation has been a headache for years. Washington, which did not recognize the re-election in 2018 of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, gave control of Citgo to the opposition in 2019 while imposing economic sanctions on the country.
Citgo’s ad hoc council – appointed by the opposition and which effectively runs the subsidiary – had asked the Supreme Court to review a judge’s decision allowing the sale of the refiner’s shares. “The sale procedure is not the most appropriate method,” he stressed on Tuesday, saying he was “open to a constructive dialogue with creditors to reach negotiated agreements.”
Normally, states and state-owned companies are considered separate entities, but creditors argued that PDVSA was an “alter ego” of Venezuela and therefore its subsidiary Citgo was an asset available to pay the liabilities of PDVSA and the ‘State.
Many creditors have tried to go after Citgo for debts that financially troubled Caracas cannot or will not pay. In 2011, the Venezuelan government seized a mine attributed to Crystallex (a Canadian gold producer), but without repaying $1.2 billion to the company.
The Venezuelan government accuses the opposition of having “prevented the legitimate authorities from carrying out the actions necessary for the effective protection of Citgo” and assures that it “will continue to take all political, diplomatic and legal measures to prevent the definitive dispossession from Citgo.”
This bone of contention comes as Washington and Caracas have been negotiating in secret for weeks, as the President of the National Assembly Jorge Rodriguez recently confided.
Caracas calls for the lifting of all economic sanctions imposed by the United States on the country. The opposition and Washington are demanding a clear electoral calendar and a “free and fair” presidential election in 2024.
In mid-December, Washington released businessman Alex Saab, an intermediary and key figure in the Venezuelan government accused of money laundering, against ten Americans detained in Venezuela. Twenty-four Venezuelan political prisoners also found freedom.