CARACAS (Reuters) – The ad-hoc board of Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA, appointed by opposition leader Juan Guaido, said on Saturday it had asked Jamaica’s government not to seize the company’s shares in an oil refinery on the island.
Jamaica’s Senate in February passed legislation clearing the way for the government to acquire the 49 percent stake in the Petrojam refinery that PDVSA acquired in 2006, part of late leftist President Hugo Chavez’s energy diplomacy efforts in the Caribbean.
The board, appointed by Guaido earlier this year in part to defend PDVSA’s interests abroad, said it had also warned Jamaica’s government that “it cannot maintain any arrangements” with the government of President Nicolas Maduro, a Chavez protege whose legitimacy as Venezuela’s leader is disputed.
“We formally request the suspension of this expropriation process,” the board said in a statement, adding that Guaido had made a similar request personally to Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Neither Holness’ office nor Jamaica’s foreign ministry immediately responded to requests for comment. The Caribbean nation’s government owns the other 51 percent of shares in the refinery.
Guaido, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, in January invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognised as rightful leader by dozens of countries, including Jamaica and the United States.
His representatives abroad have fought efforts by creditors of Venezuela’s highly-indebted government to seize foreign assets belonging to PDVSA.
But Maduro retains control of the military and most state functions, including PDVSA’s day-to-day operations within Venezuela. He calls Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet seeking to oust him in a coup.
The United States in January slapped sanctions on PDVSA as part of its bid to oust Maduro, which has contributed to a further drop in the OPEC nation’s crude output following years of steady decline due to underinvestment and mismanagement.
Those sanctions paved the way for Guaido’s allies to take control of U.S. refiner Citgo, PDVSA’s most important overseas asset.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Daniel Wallis)