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.
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.
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”.