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The Citgo conspiracy: Opposition figures accuse Guaidó officials of ‘scam’ to liquidate Venezuela’s most prized international asset

Venezuela’s opposition has long accused the Bolivarian government of corruption and mismanagement. But with Citgo on the verge of liquidation, Guaidó’s officials are too incompetent — or too devious — to save it.

by Anya Parampil

Part 1

On August 13, Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s legally defunct National Assembly, held a press conference in the streets of Caracas to discuss his nominee for the post of Citgo Petroleum Corporation’s CEO.

We have interviewed Carlos Jorda,” Guaidó announced in a carefully rehearsed intonation, explaining that the candidate to oversee the former Venezuela state-owned oil company would be tasked with “supporting and helping Citgo [safeguard its] assets.

But there was an irony behind Guaidó’s focus on the protection of assets belonging to Citgo, one that even close observers of the country’s political crisis have missed. 

Guaidó’s appointment of Jorda was a violation of corporate procedure, one of several he has made since the United States government recognized him as Venezuela’s president this January.

Guaidó himself may not even have been aware of the transgression. Yet his actions placed Citgo in extreme peril.

Ever since the late President Hugo Chávez began the process of socializing Venezuela’s oil industry nearly two decades ago, opposition leaders have accused the Bolivarian government of corruption and mismanagement. 

Since January, when the Donald Trump Administration froze US accounts belonging to the country’s state oil company, Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA), Guaidó officials insisted the move was necessary to protect the company from the government in Caracas and its supposed malfeasance.

But in a series of exclusive interviews with The Grayzone, members of Venezuela’s opposition have accused Guaidó’s US-based officials of working behind the backs of their compatriots, including of Guaidó himself, in order to set the stage for Citgo’s dissolution.

The road we’re at right now says ‘Losing Citgo: 5 kilometers,’” engineer and financial expert Jorge Alejandro Rodríguez cautioned in an interview with The Grayzone. “So if you don’t make a U-turn towards recovering Citgo, then we’re just five kilometers away. Five kilometers is close – walking distance.

In recent years, Citgo has been the target of multiple US lawsuits, filed by debt collectors seeking to appropriate shares from the refinery, a PDVSA subsidiary, as payment for money owed by Venezuela’s government.

This July 29, a US court ruled in favor of one such company, the Canadian mining firm Crystallex, sparking fears Citgo could soon be liquidated to pay back interested parties.

In the months leading up to this decision, according to some members of Venezuela’s opposition, Guaidó’s most senior advisors allowed him to take several actions which, perhaps unbeknownst to the novice politician at the time, ultimately helped strengthen Crystallex’s legal case against Citgo.

This is a scam being made against Guaidó and against the National Assembly,” alleged Rodríguez (of no relation to Venezuelan government ministers Jorge Rodríguez or Delcy Rodríguez).

Rodríguez has emerged as the most vocal member of Venezuela’s opposition crying foul over decisions made by certain Guaidó officials. He accuses them of “criminal negligence” for their handling of the Crystallex case.

Most severely implicated is José Ignacio Hernández, the lawyer Guaidó has appointed as his attorney general. Following the US court’s decision, news reports surfaced revealing that Hernández had failed to disclose his prior testimony in the case, on Crystallex’s behalf, during his confirmation process earlier this year. 

A potentially massive conflict of interest brewing within the Guaidó shadow regime was thus exposed.

He was appointed in a fraudulent way,” Rodríguez said of Hernández. “Why did he commit a fraud against Guaidó, and why did he commit a fraud against the National Assembly?

Rodríguez and others now seek to publicize exactly how Hernández aided Crystallex’s case against Venezuela’s government.

It’s a game,” he charged. 

Other players include Guaidó’s US envoy Carlos Vecchio and Ricardo Hausmann, the neoliberal Harvard economist serving as Venezuela’s “ambassador” to the Inter-American Development Bank. Both rushed to defend Hernández as soon as his relationship with Crystallex was exposed.

Insulated from scrutiny by a US media that has focused exclusively on uncovering flaws in President Nicolás Maduro’s government, these men could be weeks away from successfully overseeing the liquidation of Citgo, carrying out a daylight heist of Venezuela’s most valuable international asset.

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