By Fabiola Zerpa
The shakeup at PDVSA comes as the U.S. tightens sanctions in an effort to cut off the Maduro regime’s income from oil, its key export and main source of cash. The U.S. earlier this month sanctioned a unit of Russian oil giant Rosneft — the biggest exporter of Venezuelan crude — in a move that threatens Venezuela’s ability to sell its oil abroad.
Boosting crude sales is essential to maintaining Maduro’s grip on power in the economically ravaged country. His regime has previously proposed giving majority shares and control of its oil industry to big international corporations, which would forsake more than a decade of state monopoly. Last week, Maduro installed Vice President Tareck El Aissami at the head of a commission focused on revamping PDVSA and boosting crude production.
The appointments din’t include a new president of PDVSA, and El Aissami remains the top executive in charge of restructuring the company.
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While Maduro vowed to increase production to 2 million barrels a day two years ago, the goal remains far from reach as the country enters its seventh year of economic decline. Production fell to 733,000 barrels a day in January, a 36% drop from a year earlier, according to OPEC secondary sources.
January output from PDVSA’s joint ventures with international oil firms accounted for 56% of total oil and gas production, while the company alone produced 44%, according to PDVSA data seen by Bloomberg.
In addition to Marquez, new vice presidents were named:
- Antonio Perez as commerce and supply VP, replacing Marcos Rojas
- Oswaldo Perez as finance VP, replacing Fernando De Quintal
- Edwin Hernandez as exploration and production VP, replacing Miguel Quintana
- Gabriel Oliveros as refining VP, replacing Rodolfo Jimenez
The managers being replaced were either close to or recently appointed by Venezuela energy minister and PDVSA chairman Manuel Quevedo, who was granted overarching powers in April 2018 to restructure PDVSA. De Quintal worked at the Housing ministry under Quevedo. Rojas was appointed in mid-2019, to address the supply division after tighter U.S. sanctions cut off most buyers of Venezuelan crude.