Venezuelan opposition groups are trying to stop Juan Guaido’s interim government extending its mandate for another year. They also want control over the boards that supervise Citgo Petroleum. This is the country’s largest foreign asset, according to spokespeople of the main opposition parties.
Guaido, who was elected interim president and congress chief following Nicolas Maduro’s controversial re-election, appointed in 2019 the Houston-based refiner Citgo as a subsidiary state oil company PDVSA.
Washington recognizes Guaido still as Maduro’s interim leader, but Guaido’s inability to negotiate with Maduro’s Socialist government on new elections, and his dependence on U.S. sanctions for Maduro pressure have caused him to lose favor with other countries and opposition groups.
Guaido called for Thursday’s special session to Venezuela’s Congress to be held in order to extend his interim government’s mandate by one year. This is primarily to keep control of Citgo and other assets that are located abroad.
Opposition parties, however, propose to establish a commission made up of members of the parliament to oversee Venezuela’s foreign assets. This will also block Guaido from being extended for an additional year.
Alfonso Marquina, opposition politician, stated that the proposal is to dissolve the interim government. This would include the dissolution of PDVSA Holding, which manages Citgo, as well as its ad-hoc board. A commission for asset monitoring and oversight would be also created.
Guaido’s replacement parties have suggested delegating functions to the new Commission.
The candidates may seek to elect a candidate against Maduro, or to represent the government at the next election in 2024.
Marquina stated that “the United States recognizes Venezuela’s sovereign decisions, so there is no doubt that our relationship with Washington will continue,” during a Caracas news conference.
Marquina stated that three of Venezuela’s most powerful opposition parties supported the motion. Guaido, the fourth, supports the interim government.
At least 160 deputies of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly must attend the meeting and the motion will pass if a majority supports it, Marquina said, adding that at least 69 legislators have pledged their support so far.
According to October surveys, Guaido’s approval ratings have fallen to 17%. This is far less than the 60% that he received after he declared himself to be president.
The former-wealthy South American OPEC member owes creditors more than $60 Billion for the nationalizations and default bonds of South American companies a decade ago.
One of them is the PDVSA 2020 Bond, in which Citgo’s majority stake was used as collateral. The U.S. license that expired in January protects the assets of Citgo, but opposition groups believe it will be renewed.
Although many assets are insured by the U.S., creditors can sue to have Venezuelan assets sold abroad.
Guaido’s inability to continue his leadership might spell trouble for those who control these assets. Their legitimacy is dependent on Guaido being recognized as Venezuela’s interim leader.
Since 2015, President Nicolas Maduro’s government has presided over an economic disaster and the exodus of more than 7 million Venezuelans.
However, the opposition is still fractured and has not been able to free Maduro. He retains support from the armed forces as well as allies like Russia and China.