Venezuela: ROUNDUP -4- Guaido seeks to sell out Venezuela’s oil industry, and U.S. is willing to buy

13 March 2019 — 

Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed “interim president” of Venezuela, has offered to sell out Venezuela’s oil industry to foreign private companies, and the U.S. has expressed its willingness to buy.

Guaido has proposed a “draft legislation” that will sell Venezuela’s oil reserves to private companies, a Reuters report said. The move would shrink the participation of state-run oil company PdVSA.

Ricardo Hausmann, Guaido’s delegate to the Inter-American Development Bank, said, “We need to change the current framework. We need to open up the oil industry to private investment.”

Under the proposed “legislation”, private firms could choose to run the day-to-day operations of Venezuelan oilfields, a major difference from rules left by Venezuela’s former leader Hugo Chavez, which only allowed foreign companies hold minority stakes without granting operational control.

PdVSA’s assets would be transferred and auctioned off by an “independent regulator”, the National Hydrocarbon Agency.

“All hydrocarbon reservoirs can be part of an auction to be decided by Venezuela’s Hydrocarbon Agency,” said the draft “legislation”.

The United States, the leading force in intervention in Venezuela for overthrowing Bolivarian initiative, are all too eager to invest into Venezuelan oil. John Bolton, the U.S. National Security Adviser, said it “will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

Bolton has repeatedly hinted at the military option as a way to oust Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan President.

The “law” proposed by Guaido, considered as a proxy in the imperial interventionist war, would impose a flexible royalty rate with a minimum of 16.67 percent and maximum of 30 percent, depending on oil prices, removing shadow taxes that increase payments, according to Reuters.

However, Guaido’s legislation remains symbolic, as President Maduro is in full control of Venezuela’s military and the oilfields.

Luis Rojas, head of an oil workers union in the east of the country, expressed his concerns about Guaido’s privatization idea. “It would be a step backwards, it would not live up to what Chavez left the workers, which is a company that’s free, a nationalized company,” he told Reuters.

The oil industry has been nationalized by Hugo Chavez in 2001, which forced foreign companies to either enter joint ventures controlled by PdVSA, or — as was the case with ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp — to leave the country entirely.

EU warns against military action in Venezuela

Federica Mogherini, European Union foreign policy chief, warned Tuesday that military action in Venezuela would be unacceptable and that a solution to the crisis should not be “imposed from outside,” putting the United States on notice.

Addressing the Security Council, Mogherini said the standoff between President Maduro and opposition leader Guaido must be resolved though political, peaceful and democratic means.

“We believe that no military development, from inside or outside of the country, would be acceptable,” Mogherini told a council meeting on cooperation between the EU and the UN.

Mogherini said, “And a solution cannot be, and should never be, imposed from the outside.”

Mogherini recalled that the EU has set up a contact group with Latin American countries to push for a political process that would lead to presidential elections.

“The crisis that affects the country has political and institutional causes. It’s not a natural disaster. Its solution needs to be peaceful, political and democratic,” said Mogherini.

Electric service almost fully restored

Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuela’s Vice-president of Communication and Tourism, informed that the electric service in the country has been restored almost in its entirety Tuesday and water supply would return to the capital city, Caracas.

“Almost all of the electric power has been restored, the people of Venezuela are safe, but the electric war continues,” Rodriguez said at a news conference.

The sabotage of electric supply left the Venezuelan population without electricity for almost six days.

Rodriguez, again, congratulated the people for the civic behavior and said that it is a triumph for the nation. Rodriguez suggested that people must be alert in the next couple of hours as “attacks by Venezuelan right-wing sectors will continue”.

Evelyn Vasquez, the Venezuelan Minister of Water Attention, told teleSUR that the government is working to progressively to restore the water supply in various parts of the country, adding that priorities have been established. Hospitals throughout the country are given most priority.

Vasquez stated that by the end of Tuesday the lower areas of Caracas, Mirandian valleys and heights, and the State of Vargas would have a normal water supply.

Maduro used military to distribute food, water and other assistance in several districts on Tuesday.

Maduro has promoted a special plan – Blue Tank – to deliver a tank of water to all households in the country.

US sanction against Russian company violates international law

Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, is criminalizing Russian companies for doing business with Venezuela, saying they are violating U.S. imposed sanctions by making transactions with PdVSA.

Pompeo also accused the major Russian oil company, Rosneft, of defying U.S. sanctions by buying oil from PdVSA.

However, Sergey Lavrov,  Russian Foreign Minister, said Pompeo’s “accusations that Russian oil company Rosneft bought Venezuelan oil in violation of Washington sanctions contradicts international law.”

Talking to reporters the U.S. secretary of state included not only accused Russia, but also Cuba of “trying to undermine democracy” in Venezuela.

Bolton’s claim

John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, announced over Twitter that Venezuela’s National Assembly, still in operation despite being in contempt of the country’s Supreme Court, “decreed the suspension of oil exports to Cuba.”

A liar, says Cuba

The Cuban government quickly responded to Bolton’s proclamation saying he has “long-time credentials (as) a liar.”

Cuba’s foreign ministry office said in a statement: “The honest and informed people know the bilateral relationship between Cuba and Venezuela is based on mutual respect, true solidarity, Fidelism and Chavism — independent and sovereign.”

U.S. plans “very significant” additional sanctions

The U.S. is preparing to impose “very significant” Venezuela-related sanctions against financial institutions in the coming days, U.S. special envoy Elliott Abrams said on Tuesday.

Abrams did not elaborate on the fresh measures, but his warning came a day after the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on Russian bank Evrofinance Mosnarbank for helping Venezuelan state oil firm PdVSA evade U.S. financial restrictions.

Abrams said Washington was also preparing to withdraw more U.S. visas from Venezuelans with close ties to President Maduro.

Abrams’ comments came as Venezuela ordered American diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours.

Washington said it had decided to withdraw the remaining diplomats.

Abrams emphasized that the withdrawal of diplomats was not a change in U.S. policy.

“You will see very soon a significant number of additional visa revocations. You will see in the coming days some very significant additional sanctions,” Abrams added.

Electricity system sabotage to be investigated

Maduro announced the creation of a special commission to investigate the cyber attack against the electricity system and the incorporation of international specialists.

He reported that he would ask for the support of the UN and countries with experience in cyber attacks such as China, Russia, Iran and Cuba.

“I am prepared for that justice, what the Public Prosecutor orders, because the people have been harmed by those who think it’s all right to sabotage the electrical system and to generate a civil confrontation and then call to assault Political power. This has only one name: terrorism, they are not political,” said the President.

He revealed that the attack was carried out from two U.S. cities, Houston and Chicago, and said that they already have proof of how it was perpetrated.

Guaido under probe over electricity sabotage

Tareck William Saab, Venezuela’s Attorney General, said that Public Ministry has started an investigation against Guaido over his alleged participation in the recent sabotage to the electric grid system.

The measure, which was reported to the Supreme Court of Justice, is meant to investigate whether the opposition lawmaker has acted as the mastermind behind the electric outage.

William Saab said that these accusations add to those related to Guaido’s calls for criminal acts related to the “promotion of violence and even instigation of looting, there are messages inciting looting, robbery, with the excuse of economic needs of the population.”

“Electrical sabotage is not a casual occurrence, it is part of an increasingly desperate escalation to overthrow a legitimately constituted government,” the Venezuelan state official added during his speech.

Guaido’s vow

Guaido vowed Tuesday to take Maduro’s place in the presidential palace “very soon.”

“We need an office to work in, so very soon, and when we have the armed forces totally on our side, we’ll go to find my office there in Miraflores. Very soon,” Guaido told supporters.

At Guaido’s urging, the opposition-dominated National Assembly declared a “state of alarm” on Monday to pave the way for the delivery of “aid”.

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