In the battle over ruling Venezuela, there is a keen focus on Citgo,
and not without good reason. The US-based refinery company is the
Venezuelan government’s primary asset, and money-maker, and crucial to
whomever ends up in control.
Right now, the focus is heavily on practical control of the company’s board of directors. Who is suited to being on Citgo’s board, and who decides, are both matters of legal debate.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido has been gearing up to announce changes to the Citgo board, restructuring it to be more favorable to his opposition faction. In the meantime, the Venezuelan government is also moving to oust some US executives they see as too favorable to Guaido.
Legally, the owners of the corporation should have authority to appoint the board, and Citgo is majority-owned by PDVSA, the Venezuelan government’s state oil company. That’s where it gets complicated.
Though PDVSA is de facto part of the Maduro government, the US recognizes Guiado as the Venezuelan government. That allows Guaido to argue that he is legally in control of PDVSA, and therefore Citgo, as far as the US government is concerned.
This could create the uncomfortable situation of two different Citgo boards based on different legal arguments. As a practical matter, however, Citgo’s assets are overwhelmingly within the United States, and therefore the US government’s pro-Guaido-stance is undoubtedly going to be supported.
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