Corina Pons, Marianna Parraga
(Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido ordered congress on Monday to appoint new boards of directors to state oil company PDVSA and U.S. subsidiary Citgo, shortly before the United States imposed sanctions on the firm.
The moves were aimed at intensifying pressure on President Nicolas Maduro, who was re-elected last year in a contest widely seen as fraudulent.
Guaido proclaimed himself president last week, but without a source of revenue or control of the military, he faces difficult odds in assuming the post, despite support across most of the Western Hemisphere.
Guaido, who has not yet appointed a Cabinet, faces the intricate legal challenge of nominating new leadership for PDVSA and its subsidiaries, including Citgo Petroleum, who would manage the companies during a transition.
The White House’s measures to freeze PDVSA’s U.S. assets, including proceeds from oil exports, and limit the company’s transactions are an attempt to largely cut off Maduro’s access to oil revenue that accounts for most of the country’s income in hard currency.
U.S. refineries in the United States can receive Venezuelan oil already paid for and currently at sea, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
“If the people in Venezuela want to continue to sell us oil, as long as the money goes into blocked accounts we will continue to take it. Otherwise, will we not be buying it,” Mnuchin told reporters in Washington on Monday.