PDVSA Chief to Pull Double Duty as Oil Minister

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has designated Pedro Tellechea, the head of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), as the country's new oil minister following the resignation of predecessor Tareck El Aissami amid a corruption probe.

Maduro said on social media that the appointment comes “within the framework of the transformation process that the industry is undergoing,” and wished him “maximum efficiency” in the new role.

Tellechea has been overseeing an audit of the company’s oil exports, which have been going to Asia through a process of opaque intermediaries. The mechanical engineer is a veteran of Venezuelan petrochemical company Pequiven and has also worked in the methanol and aluminum industries.

The More Things Change

Tellechea's appointment as oil minister is the latest development in a tumultuous week for Venezuela's energy industry.

On Monday, anti-corruption police sent a letter to the attorney general requesting an investigation of officials in PDVSA and national cryptocurrency agency Sunacrip, alleging embezzlement related to crude sales, according to Venezuelan sources.

Among those named in the letter were Antonio Perez Suarez, vice president of commerce and supply at PDVSA, and Joselit Ramirez, the superintendent of Sunacrip, as well as several regional officials and judges. Losses from the embezzlement are estimated to be on the order of $3 billion.

The US sanctioned now former oil minister El Aissami in 2017 on allegations of drug trafficking, the same year he served as executive vice president of Venezuela.

Trading Places

Venezuelan oil is being sold through open markets again after the US granted a special license to Chevron to lift cargos for debt repayment purposes. Eni and Repsol earlier received similar approvals to resume business in the country.

Over the last several years the Venezuelan government had used opaque trades to work around the maximum-pressure US campaign stemming from the election of Maduro, which critics claimed was not free and fair. But the dark market sales process proved quite costly for the country.

Reuters reported Wednesday that PDVSA’s accounts receivable had ballooned to over $21 billion — some 84% of invoiced oil exports.

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