13

May

1:02am
Saheli Chowdhury India
US Government Robs Venezuela of CITGO Refineries

US Government Robs Venezuela of CITGO Refineries

Saheli Chowdhury India//1:02am, May 13th '23

The United States government is on the verge of robbing Venezuela of its most valuable asset abroad, the CITGO Petroleum Corporation, in its ongoing attempt to overthrow the constitutional government of Venezuela, headed by President Nicolás Maduro, and install a client regime in its place. The official theft of the refineries complex, based in Illinois and Texas, is another chapter in the United States’ Guaidó project to bring “freedom” and “democracy” to Venezuela. Both Democrat and Republican administrations go on stealing Venezuelan assets abroad: it began in 2015 with Obama’s presidential decree that declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States;” it continued under Trump as an organised crime, and now Biden is following the same path. The stealing of CITGO comes just days after Washington’s man in Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, landed in Miami after his own party dropped him as its presidential candidate for the 2024 elections.

After four years of the ongoing coup attempt, in which the pillage of Venezuelan State resources abroad by the United States and the European Union has been a standout factor, on May 1, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US government publicly announced the “expropriation” of CITGO Petroleum Corporation, US subsidiary of the Venezuelan State-owned petroleum company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), and its handover to a “Venezuelan-led management group,” through the OFAC General License 42. The “Venezuelan-led” group refers to coup-mongering former Venezuelan parliamentarians of the 2015-2020 term of the National Assembly who, after the end of their term, created a parallel, unelected, self-appointed “National Assembly” to continue the US-led “regime change” plot. The announcement is nothing but a smokescreen to rob Venezuela of its highest-valued State asset abroad.

The CITGO Petroleum Corporation, worth 8 billion USD, with annual profits of 1 billion USD before the Trump administration had gifted it to impostor Guaidó in 2019, has been an object of desire of at least 11 multinational corporations, including the US weapons manufacturer Northrop Grumman, the US petroleum company ConocoPhillips, and the Canadian gold mining company Crystallex, since years before the latest coup attempt against Venezuela started. These corporations, whose Venezuelan assets or subsidiaries had been nationalised during the time when Hugo Chávez was president, are trying to extract billion-dollar “reparations” from the Venezuelan State, through cases in courts all over the United States, Canada, and Europe, disregarding the sovereignty of independent states as mandated in the United Nations Charter. Since the Venezuelan government refuses to be extorted by these transnational thieves, they have resorted to illegal means under US government auspices.

In the present global financial system that is heavily skewed in favour of the collective West, in fact, it is controlled by the US empire, private corporations headquartered anywhere in the world can file cases against any independent country before any court, be it regional or even local, despite the fact that local, regional, and national courts of one country are not recognised by another, and no country is under any obligation to respect the rulings of a foreign court. Yet, in the very unbalanced global financial and legal system that exists at present, this happens routinely, and Venezuela has been a victim of this corporate greed particularly since the Bolivarian Revolution took place.

Starting from February 2019, after the Trump administration recognised the fake government of self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó as the legitimate government of Venezuela, and some 60 countries – all US allies – followed suit, all these governments seized or froze Venezuelan assets abroad, including industries, bank accounts, and the 2 billion dollars’ worth of gold in the Bank of England. This assets-seizure spree provided the foreign multinational companies with compensation demands against Venezuela the opportunity to collect their “reparations” by staking legal claims against the seized assets. Guaidó, whom the US and its allies considered the head of state of Venezuela, never sent any legal representation to the courts to defend Venezuelan assets, thus forfeiting those assets to the claimants. He and his ilk surely cut underhanded deals to give up the multi-billion dollar asset CITGO Corp, enriching themselves while betraying their own nation and even the people who once supported them.

The government of Venezuela denounced the illegal expropriation of its state asset, calling the US government and the coup-plotting opposition “thugs.” The Vice President of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez, highlighted the illegality of the move at a press conference on May 3, “There is nothing left on the planet that they have not violated with that license [OFAC General License 42].” She added that the Venezuelan government “will not recognise any type of payment agreement with any creditor that is not negotiated and agreed by the Venezuelan State.”

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“We do not recognise any law that is not within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Venezuela and, therefore, we will continue to act correctly for the country,” she said.

The Venezuelan delegation at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations Organisation on Sustainable Development Goals 16 (focused on improving governance and combating corruption) also raised its voice to condemn the unilateral sanctions and the theft of CITGO.

“Unilateral coercive measures, euphemistically called sanctions, and the US attempts to confiscate national assets, such as the CITGO corporation, constitute the highest possible expression of corruption and represent criminal actions and double standards in the fight against this scourge,” the Venezuelan delegation said.

According to latest reports, a US federal judge ordered partial suspension of the attempted seizure of CITGO on May 7, after the ad hoc board of directors of the parallel, illegitimate “PDVSA” appointed by Juan Guaidó and recognized by Joe Biden filed an appeal. As a result, cases 23-1647, 23-1648, 23-1649, 23-1650, 23-1651, 23-1652, and 23-1781—all filed by transnational corporations against Venezuela, remain suspended, for the moment.

According to the ruling, the creditors who wish to claim payment from any liquidation of CITGO have to present their claims before May 19. Then, a response to the appeal must be provided before June 2 and, finally, the reply briefs must be delivered before June 9.

In this scenario, opposition-linked Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodríguez explained that the suspension order does not stop any eventual liquidation of the company or the sale of CITGO shares to pay “compensations” to the multinational claimants. “The order temporarily suspends some embargo processes but does not reverse them, unless PDVSA wins the appeal,” he said.

Given Guaidó’s track record, that possibility will only remain a dream, which means the US regime has effectively stolen a State asset of a sovereign nation, trampling international law.

Editor's Note:

The views and informations expressed in the article are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect the views of The International. We believe in providing a platform for a range of viewpoints from the left.

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