Politics Entangling Exile PdV Board

(Argus, 1.Jul.2020) — An “ad hoc” board of state-owned PdV that is a key part of US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido’s parallel administration is running into political resistance in the run-up to National Assembly elections in early December.

Ten deputies in the opposition-controlled assembly withheld support for three board appointments yesterday, alleging they were not given enough time to consider their credentials. In a letter yesterday to Guaido, who heads the assembly, the July 16 block of lawmakers — an offshoot of Venezuela’s traditional Accion Democratica party — also complained about a “lack of required transparency” in Citgo, PdV’s opposition-controlled US refining arm. The maverick lawmakers pointed to “opacity” in a recent Citgo bond issuance, contracting and donations.

Although the assembly’s communications arm informally tweeted out the new appointments yesterday, these were not officially confirmed by the ad hoc board itself. And the board did not issue a public reply to the dissident lawmakers, although one critic dismissed their opposition as political infighting.

The politics is complicating the opposition’s effort to recruit technocrats. Several of Guaido’s associates and advisers have recently left his team, in part because the posts are unpaid positions and they had not expected that Maduro would remain long in power in the face of US sanctions.

The preliminary board appointments are industry veterans, led by Horacio Medina, head of PdV’s joint and new ventures division in 1988-2002. He is supposed to replace Maria Lizardo, who resigned along with economist Alejandro Grisanti in May.

Javier Linares, who since October 2019 has been a member of the ad hoc board of PdV’s joint ventures subsidiary CVP, was tapped to replace Grisanti.

And project engineer Luis Vilchez is supposed to take the seat of Gustavo Velasquez, who had served on PdV’s ad hoc board since February 2019.

The nine-member ad hoc board, chaired by exiled PdV veteran Luis Pacheco, has no control over PdV’s decaying operations inside Venezuela, which are still in government hands.

The parallel board’s main priority since its February 2019 appointment — shortly after Guaido declared an interim presidency — has been the legal defense of Citgo from multiple creditors, arbitration claimants and bondholders. The matter takes center stage this month as a pivotal legal case advances in Delaware, the corporate headquarters of Citgo’s parent PdV Holding.

A leaked audio of Guaido’s recently resigned attorney general Jose Ignacio Hernandez pointed to the opposition’s strategy of favoring ConocoPhillips in the proceedings.

Looming elections

Venezuela will hold National Assembly elections on 6 December, a rubber-stamp electoral board (CNE) announced today. Earlier the CNE announced that it would expand the assembly from a current 167 seats to 277.

Indira Alfonzo, president of the five-member CNE board, said yesterday that the expansion will allow “a clear and unequivocal normative development” during the five-year legislative period that starts in January 2021.

The move would further undermine the sway of the four main political parties in Guaido’s political coalition in favor of splinter groups and the ruling socialist party.

The assembly presidency gave Guaido the constitutional basis for his declaration of an interim presidency in January 2019, with the goal of forcing out Maduro. Despite extensive US sanctions, Maduro has held onto power, with support from Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and Cuba, among others. Scores of Western countries back Guaido and have said the electoral system is not credible.

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By Patricia Garip

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