Chairman Jeff Duncan (SC-03) and Ranking Member Albio Sires (NJ-08) of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Treasury urging immediate attention to a potential threat to critical U.S. energy infrastructure as a result of a recent asset transfer between Venezuela’s PDVSA and Russia’s Rosneft. This development impacts PDVSA’s U.S.-based subsidiary, Citgo, and vital U.S. national security interests.
Here’s Russ Dalen’s testimony to Congress on Venezuela’s Tragic Meltdown.
As you may recall, Venezuela’s Supreme Court granted Nicolás Maduro the power to bypass the National Assembly and approve new joint ventures with foreign oil companies. Late last December, Venezuela’s PDVSA Mortgages US Refinery Citgo to Russia’s Rosneft.
Stratfor (subscription only) analysis: The government is scrambling to find money to help the national oil company meet its debt payments and avoid a disastrous default
Standing in the way of the government strategy to ride out a default is the United States. Any moves Caracas makes to further delay elections or crack down on the opposition — necessary actions to rule a one-party state — could invite further U.S. sanctions. Venezuela’s rulers, alert to this threat, have tentatively reached out to Washington. In March, a Stratfor source said the Venezuelan government was planning to open a back channel of communication with the United States. As part of its outreach to Washington, Maduro instructed Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and Venezuelan Oil Minister Nelson Martinez, the chairman and CEO of PDVSA’s U.S. subsidiary Citgo, to explore the possibility of further opening Venezuela’s energy market to U.S. corporations.
This tracks closely with media reports that emerged Monday claiming that business executives close to Donald Trump Jr., son of the U.S. president, had discussed with National Security Council officials the possibility of loosening sanctions on Venezuelan officials in exchange for business opportunities in Venezuela. The intent by Venezuelan officials appears to have been to buy them some time to decide how to proceed with regional and presidential elections. Still, the offer, made in early February, did not prevent Washington from sanctioning El Aissami that month. There also have been indications that the Trump administration may be willing to enact additional sanctions against Venezuela.
Frank Muci writes about How Chavismo Mágico is Swallowing PDVSA
In Venezuela, a college student was shot dead during anti-government demonstrations:
Venezuela clashes leave one man dead, dozens arrested in Caracas
Over at the National Assembly,
Venezuelan lawmakers avoid military blockade to start recall of pro-government justices
Venezuela’s national legislature Wednesday began the process of removing pro-government justices on the constitutional branch of the Supreme Court, after opposition lawmakers gathered before dawn to avoid a National Guard blockade
The opposition majority in the National Assembly, some of whose deputies were injured Tuesday in attacks by government agents, also approved a declaration that Venezuela is suffering a coup d’etat and demanding the release of all political prisoners. It also urged the Venezuelan armed forces to listen to the people’s demands for democracy.
In other news,
Liliana Tintori met with Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico