Venezuelan opposition reshuffles boards overseeing U.S. refiner Citgo

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Venezuela’s political opposition on Tuesday approved the replacement of members of the boards overseeing Citgo Petroleum Corp as factions in the movement led by Juan Guaido try to gain greater influence over Houston-based oil refiner.

Citgo split from Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA in 2019 after the U.S. imposed sanctions intended to oust Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. Then congress chief Juan Guaido appointed new boards and won U.S. court recognition of their authority over the refining subsidiary.

Tuesday’s shakeup introduced five new appointees tied to different opposition parties, some of them the sons of former PDVSA executives. The changes were first made by an ad-hoc board of directors for PDVSA, and later authorized by the National Assembly.

Chief Executive Carlos Jorda was replaced at the boards of Citgo Petroleum and parent company Citgo Holding. Citgo operating chief Edgar Rincon also stepped down from the board of Citgo Holding, according to a statement by the Guaido-led assembly.

Jorda and Rincon remain in their executive roles, a Citgo spokeswoman said.

The National Assembly statement did not provide a reason for the moves, which come after several previous management changes at the company. Citgo has lost hundreds of million dollars over six of the last eight quarters amid pandemic-related demand declines and storm shutdowns.

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Factions within the National Assembly have been fighting for influence at Citgo since last year. Some lawmakers have sought to require Citgo pay dividends to holding companies Citgo Holding and PDV Holding, according to people familiar with the matter.

Citgo’s current administration has never been opposed to paying dividends to its shareholder, the company said in a statement.

“Citgo continues working to improve profitability, control expenses and reduce costs in order to make the company an even better financial partner to our stakeholders and enable us to pay dividends to our shareholder as soon as we are financially and legally able to do so,” the statement added.

Venezuelan businessman Luis Giusti Lugo, the son of a former PDVSA president, will replace CEO Jorda on the Citgo Petroleum board, while Ernesto Hernández Bolívar will replace Pablo Pérez on the same board, the statement said.

Samuel Wilhelm Belloso, the son of a former PDVSA executive, and Elio Tortolero Arévalo are joining the Citgo Holding board, replacing Jorda and COO Rincon. Hernandez Bolívar will fill the seat vacated on that board by Luisa Palacios in October.

Wilhelm Belloso and Andrés Arvelo Guerrero also joined the PDV Holding ad-hoc board that oversees Citgo. (Reporting by Luc Cohen in Caracas, Marianna Parraga in Mexico City, and Gary McWilliams in Houston Editing by Marguerita Choy and Lincoln Feast and David Gregorio)

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