Citgo

Last week, Cleary Gottlieb – the US law firm representing Argentina in its debt negotiations – held a packed closed-door session on Venezuela. The question of the day was: what if Venezuela defaults? This week, the US Senate passed a bill that seeks to sanction Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights violations. Although these two events are not obviously related — and the sanctions bill still has to be approved by Congress, and signed into law by Barack Obama — they could become so. They both also illuminate the horrible mess that Venezuela could be heading into. Read more

Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister (pictured above on the right), and Rafael Ramírez, Venezuela’s foreign minister (on the left) met on the resort island of Isla Margarita late on Wednesday on the sidelines of a climate conference. As the continuing oil price drop keeps adding pressures to some Opec members, particularly Venezuela, there were expectations.

“We’re great friends!” Ramírez was quoted as saying as he arrived in Margarita. He later tweeted of an “excellent meeting” of “brother countries”. But the talks were mostly about climate change and there was no real word on prices, Opec’s oil policy, or the crude supply glut. Ramírez reportedly said only that the sliding oil price was a “concern for everyone.” Read more

Venezuelans do not really dance the tango. But in the mooted sale of Citgo, the country’s US refining operation, that is what the socialist government has been doing – taking one step forward, two steps back.

In an interview published on Sunday by leading daily El Universal, Rodolfo Marco Torres, Venezuela’s finance minister, said the socialist government had scrapped any plans for a sale. “The sale of Citgo is discarded,” he told the paper. “Venezuela continues with Citgo and will continue making the investments in the refineries.” Read more

Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s president, made his debut at the United Nations this week. While in New York he talked about Citgo, the US-based subsidiary of his country’s state oil company PDVSA, which is supposedly up for sale. Only last month, a government minister said Caracas was open to proposals.

Maduro seemed keen to scotch that idea. He said his government’s plans for Citgo were to keep on “strengthening our investments” – and to keep on warming the homes of some 150,000 families in the US through a subsidised heating oil programme launched by his mentor and predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez. Read more

A long-proposed sale of Citgo, the US subsidiary of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, is once again making some waves. Rafael Ramírez, the powerful boss of PDVSA who is also oil minister and deputy president for the economy, said this month that a sale could go ahead “as soon as we receive a proposal that serves our interests.”

But in the US on Wednesday, Joe García, an energy savvy Democratic Congressman from Miami, urged the Obama administration to block the sale. Read more

No sooner did Venezuela’s government spring a devaluation last week than critics seized on the move as an IMF-style “neoliberal” reform package, of the kind Hugo Chávez had warned the “fascist” opposition would have implemented had they won presidential elections last year.

Well, the socialist government devalued the currency anyway, as everyone knew they would, but it insists that Venezuela’s absurdly generous (some might say wasteful) petrol subsidies will not be cut – not even for citizens of the US “empire”. Read more