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US recognizes Guaidó as Venezuelan president



By Argus


Petroleumworld 01 24 2019

The US became the first country to recognize Venezuelan National Assembly speaker Juan Guaidó as the country's acting president amid protests in Caracas aimed at forcing President Nicolas Maduro to cede power.

Guaidó, addressing a large crowd of protesters in Caracas, today declared himself the country's acting president. US president Donald Trump immediately recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's leader.

"In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country's constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant," Trump said.

Demonstrations in Caracas and other cities this morning followed a night of sporadic protests and clashes with armed forces. There are early signs of splintering in the military, but it is too early to predict the day's outcome.

Guaidó acknowledged that his declaration "will have consequences," an allusion to the Maduro government's threat of violence in response to such a declaration.

Trump warned the Maduro government against deploying force and called on other countries to recognize Guaidó. "I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy," Trump said.

A formal recognition of a new government carries legal ramifications, among other things, for ownership of Venezuelan assets in the US and control over revenue derived from oil exports.

A crackdown on the opposition and protesters will force Washington's hand to tighten the sanctions pressure on Maduro, through an embargo on oil exports or designating his government as a "state sponsor of terror." The latter designation, by itself, would not preclude oil trade with the US. But it would affect such trade indirectly by making it difficult to process payments, since US and international banks are wary of engaging in transactions with countries carrying that designation.

Administration officials have held discussions recently with US refiners to assess the effects of potential sanctions disrupting the flow of oil from Venezuela to US Gulf and west coast facilities. But tighter global heavy crude oil supplies will complicate the possible US response.

An embargo on US imports of Venezuelan crude would inconvenience US refiners but "crude price differentials would solve the problem within a few weeks," investment bank Societe General head of oil research Michael Wittner said today at the Argus Americas Crude Summit in Houston. Venezuelan crude flows could head to Asia, while US refiners rely more heavily on sour crude from Canada and the Middle East.

"It is a matter of pricing it," Wittner said. "It is a little bit of a dislocation. But we think it would resolve quickly."

The premise behind the Trump administration's policy to Venezuela has been to encourage formation of a credible alternative to Maduro, sparing the US from applying sanctions that could hurt US refiners and the Venezuelan population.

The US and seven other members of the Organization of American States already have called for a special meeting on 24 January to consider developments in Venezuela. Guaidó already has named a new representative to the organization, to replace the Maduro-appointed envoy.



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