Venezuela opposition to leave Citgo funds, management untouched -envoy
* PDVSA would remain public if Venezuela gov't changes
* Guaido would not accept OPEC limits on Venezuela output
* Opposition gov't would prioritize private investment in
By Luc Cohen, Matt Spetalnick and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition has no
plans to use funds belonging to U.S. refiner Citgo, which is
owned by state oil company PDVSA, despite having named a new
board for the company this week, the self-declared interim
government's U.S. envoy said on Friday.
The opposition will not make changes to the refining
company's management or operations until Juan Guaido, the leader
of Venezuela's opposition-controlled Congress who swore himself
in as president last month, has control of state functions, said
Carlos Vecchio, Guaido's representative in Washington.
"We are not touching that money. It belongs to Citgo as a
corporation," Vecchio said in an interview. "We want Citgo in
financial health and for operations to continue, and for that
money to stay there for when we are able to take effective
control of power and the state's institutions, including PDVSA."
Citgo, which owns about 4 percent of U.S. oil
refining capacity, has become central to the power struggle
between Guaido and embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro
since the United States slapped sanctions on state-owned
Petroleos de Venezuela, known as PDVSA, last month.
The sanctions require U.S. companies importing Venezuelan
crude to make payments into an account held in escrow for
Guaido's government, in a bid to oust Maduro, who has overseen a
collapse in oil production in the OPEC nation, which is
undergoing a severe economic and humanitarian crisis.
Vecchio said the opposition had not yet opened an account
with any U.S. financial institution.
The sanctions also complicate Venezuela's ability to make an
April payment on PDVSA's 2020 bond, for which
part of Citgo has been put up as collateral. That could prompt
creditors to attempt to seize the refining company's assets, a
situation Vecchio said Guaido's team wanted to avoid.
PDVSA has also been struggling to refinance a revolving line
of credit by a July deadline, people close to the matter said.
Guaido has invoked Venezuela's constitution to claim the
presidency, arguing that the May 2018 vote resulting in Maduro's
re-election was a sham. Maduro has called Guaido a U.S.-backed
puppet, and vowed that he will not allow Citgo to be "stolen."
Vecchio said the opposition upon taking power would
prioritize attracting private investment to boost oil
production, which has fallen to near 70-year lows, but had no
plans to privatize PDVSA.
"There is a very clear consensus that PDVSA should be
maintained as property of the state," Vecchio said. "But if we
want to increase production as much as we hope, most of the
investment is going to have to come from the private sector
because the state will not have anything to invest."
He added that Venezuela would not leave OPEC, the oil
producers' cartel of which it is a founding member, but also
would not accept any OPEC deals that would limit the South
American country's efforts to boost oil production.
"As I see it, OPEC today has a diminished role on the world
stage because it does not have the market it once had," Vecchio
said, citing growing U.S. crude output.
(Additional reporting by Kieran Murray
Editing by Tom Brown)
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