PdV’s Board Of Exiles Loses Two Technocrats

(Argus, 21.May.2020) — Two members of the parallel board of Venezuela’s national oil company PdV have resigned, a development that exposes brewing frustration in the exiled technical ranks of US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido.

In a letter dated and made public today, the “ad hoc” board of the state-owned company thanked economist Alejandro Grisanti Capriles and engineer Maria Lizardo Gramcko for their “spirit of public service” and “personal sacrifice” for the past 12 months. The new resignations took effect on 11 May.

The departures are a blow to Guaido’s economic team, which is promoting reconstruction plans anchored on a revival of Venezuela’s oil industry after the removal of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, who has so far overcome pressure from US sanctions.

The board was first appointed in mid-February 2019, after Guaido declared his interim presidency the month before. The group was reshuffled in April 2019, bringing in Grisanti, then a Caracas-based Ecoanalitica consultant, and Lizardo of US-based consultancy Pathfinder. Boards of PdV subsidiaries, including US refining arm Citgo, were also named.

The nine-member administrative board, which controls Citgo but not PdV in Caracas, is chaired by Luis Pacheco, who served as PdV corporate planning director and chief of staff in 2001-02, before a watershed labor strike that cost the company thousands of experienced managers.

An opposition official close to the board told Argus that Grisanti stepped down because he could no longer sustain the ad honorem post in the US where he had moved his family.

On social media, Grisanti thanked the board for its work ethic and vast oil, financial, corporate and legal experience. Neither Grisanti nor Lizardo could be reached for comment.

Ambitious oil plan

Among the economic team’s key initiatives is a proposed reform of the country’s hydrocarbons law to encourage private investment, in a model similar to the one implemented in Mexico in 2014. But the release of a final draft of the reform bill in April was eclipsed by the release of broadly similar recommendations by the Maduro government’s PdV restructuring commission two days earlier, and another foiled coup attempt a few days later.

The current focus of attention is the imminent arrival of Iranian gasoline, which Guaido played down this week in the face of unlikely action by the US to stop it.

Under the opposition’s ambitious oil plan, Venezuela’s crude production would be restored to 3mn b/d from 500,000-600,000 b/d in eight years, based on $99bn in capital investment and $64bn in operating spending. The plan foresees the drilling of 11,400 wells with 106 drilling rigs.

But the board’s main priority since early 2019 has been the legal defense of Citgo, which is the target of multiple creditors, including PdV 2020 bondholders.

— By Patricia Garip

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