Caracas, December 1, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro welcomed the Chevron license to restart oil operations as “a step in the right direction” but urged Washington to move forward with complete sanctions relief.
“The licenses, the public ones and the non-public ones, granted by the US government to Chevron are a step in the right direction, although they are not enough for what Venezuela demands, which is the complete lifting of all criminal sanctions on the oil industry,” said Maduro during a press conference at Miraflores Palace on Wednesday.
The president recalled that Venezuela’s entire economy, including the oil sector and the banking system, continues to be “illegally” subjected to sanctions that violate the country’s right to free trade and production. “This is 21st-century colonialism,” he stated.
“The lifting of all sanctions would bring the accelerated and complete recovery of the economy with a direct social impact on salaries,” stressed the Venezuelan head-of-state.
Nonetheless, Maduro celebrated that Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA will be signing new contracts with US corporation Chevron in the next few days. “This will be very positive and a win-win situation for Venezuela, Chevron, and even the world,” recalling that the Caribbean country has the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
On November 26, the US Treasury Department issued a six-month license authorizing Chevron to resume limited extraction operations in Venezuela as well as exports to US refineries. Although the license prohibits Chevron from paying taxes or royalties to the Venezuelan government, some analysts have claimed that only joint ventures, where Chevron has minority stakes, are in charge of such obligations.
Following the announcement, Venezuelan Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami held a meeting with Chevron's top representative in Venezuela Javier La Rosa on Tuesday to discuss the legal framework to restart drilling, transporting, and exporting oil.
"In the coming hours we will sign the contracts to push the development of the joint ventures and oil production, under the terms established in the Constitution and other Venezuelan laws," El Aissami posted on Twitter.
For his part, Chevron’s Chief Executive Michael Wirth told Reuters that resuming operations would take time. “We’re not likely to be coming in with investment in a drilling campaign that grows production in the next six months. There’s a lot of work that has to be done to allow us to move in that direction.”
According to Argus Media, Chevron had previously said it expected to pump 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) in a 12-month period. Currently, its four joint ventures with PDVSA produce around 20,000 bpd with some projects, such as PetroBoscán in western Zulia state, completely paralyzed. In 2020, the California-based company winded down operations following the 2019 oil embargo imposed by Washington against Venezuela.
The Chevron license followed the resumption of talks between the Venezuelan government and the US-backed hardline opposition in Mexico. On Saturday, the delegations reached an agreement to release some US $3 billion in Venezuelan funds seized by Washington and its European allies in recent years as part of a regime change campaign.
According to National Assembly (AN) President Jorge Rodríguez, the resources will be destined to repair 2,300 schools, purchase vaccines for children, medication for 60,000 cancer patients, HIV/AIDS treatments, recover the country’s radiotherapy system, 11 blood banks, maternal hospitals, as well as add over 450 megawatts to the electricity grid.
Rodríguez —who led the government delegation in Mexico— likewise clarified that although the resources will be handled by the United Nations (UN), “the management of the funds will be based on Venezuelan laws and the administrative bodies will be the Ministries of Health, Electricity, and Interior and Justice.”
In Wednesday’s presser, President Maduro said that the “rescued resources” are expected to start flowing as soon as December to immediately invest in social programs and mitigate the damage caused by torrential rains across the country in recent months.
“They [the US and its allies] have stolen between 24 and 30 billion dollars from us, between [money in] bank accounts and assets,” explained Maduro. He recalled that the opposition sector involved in the current dialogue process in Mexico was the main instigator of US sanctions and the seizure of Venezuelan resources abroad.
The Venezuelan president added that a commission was created to identify the location of the blocked funds and suggested using accumulated unpaid dividends from Venezuela’s US-based oil subsidiary CITGO, which has been under opposition control since 2019 following Washington’s recognition of Juan Guaidó’s self-proclamation as “Interim President.”
Maduro urged that CITGO be placed back under the Venezuelan government’s control and blasted the “illegitimate creditors” who pretend to collect on international arbitrational awards through a court-ordered CITGO auction process.
“CITGO has generated dividends between 2019 and 2022 and it could have accumulated at least 4 billion dollars. All this should be for the Venezuelan people, not to be distributed among that group of leeches,” the president condemned.
Asked about the future of the Mexico talks, Maduro said that any progress was contingent on the opposition holding its end of the bargain for the release of the $3 billion in frozen funds and progress in the lifting of all US sanctions.
“In the coming days, we will activate dialogue with all the opposition groups, with whom we have permanent communication, and also with the Unitary Platform [the rightwing sector in the Mexico talks], to advance in the expansion of electoral guarantees. We want elections free of sanctions,” stated Maduro.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.