Home U.S. Government U.S. Signals End to Citgo Protection by Mid-2022: Argus

U.S. Signals End to Citgo Protection by Mid-2022: Argus

U.S. Signals End to Citgo Protection by Mid-2022: Argus

In a 10 September letter to the Washington attorneys representing leading arbitration claimant Crystallex, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) acknowledges that the Venezuelan opposition-controlled National Assembly’s mandate ends in January 2022. The lapse of this already tenuous mandate effectively ends the authority of opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.

CITGO Petroleum Corporation, the U.S. downstream arm of Venezuela’s national oil company PdV, is the target of myriad creditors and arbitration claimants. After the former US administration withdrew recognition of Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro in favor of Guaidó in January 2019 and imposed oil sanctions to drive Maduro out, Citgo came under the administrative control of the interim administration.

Crystallex as well as ConocoPhillips, among others with outstanding arbitration awards stemming from nationalization of their Venezuelan assets, have been battling in US courts for years to lay claim to PdV Holding, the Delaware-based indirect parents of Houston-based Citgo. In the letter made public yesterday, OFAC denies Crystallex’s request for a specific license for a judicial sale of PdV Holding shares at this “particularly sensitive” time based on State Department recommendations, but the US “will reassess whether the sale of the PDVH shares is consistent with United States foreign policy, as the situation in Venezuela evolves. The United States anticipates doing so during the first half of 2022 as warranted by changed circumstances.”

The timing refers to Venezuelan political negotiations underway in Mexico, where the Maduro government and an opposition coalition have begun to hammer out initial social welfare cooperation ahead of November regional elections in which the opposition agreed to participate following years of electoral boycotts. Control over Venezuela’s overseas assets and a roadmap for the post-sanctions recovery of the oil industry are key topics of near-term discussion. US president Joe Biden’s administration has already signalled a willingness to gradually lift the byzantine financial and oil sanctions and executive orders on Venezuela if the negotiations progress.

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