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Venezuelan lider Juan Guaido acknowledges assets challenge



By Argus


Petroleumworld 01 28 2019

Juan Guaidó, leader of Venezuela's emerging transitional government, is vowing to "protect the assets of all Venezuelans" but plans concerning what to do with national oil company PdV's oil assets remain at an early stage.

"We will not permit the continued use of public funds by a gang of thieves so they can continue stealing," Guaidó said today at a public rally in Caracas.

The young opposition leader and speaker of the elected legislature known as the National Assembly was recognized by the US, Canada and most of Latin America as interim president of Venezuela on 23 January. Russia, China, Turkey and a handful of other countries continue to support sitting president Nicolas Maduro, who maintains the backing of Venezuela's senior military ranks.

At today's rally, Guaido acknowledged that gaining control of the Venezuelan state's offshore assets will take time because his government does not control the state bureaucracy and has yet to develop an administrative infrastructure to manage the assets.

The US administration is looking at ways to direct PdV's US oil sales revenue to Guaidó's pseudo government.

"On overseas assets, we will have announcements later today on how it is that we anticipate that interim president Juan Guaidó will have the resources that he needs to lead the government of Venezuela forward," US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said today.

Exuding a conspicuously confident tone, Guaidó deflected questions about the composition of his cabinet and planned management changes at state-owned PdV's refining subsidiary Citgo.

"We have a plan and a long list of brilliant, experienced executives ready to rebuild Venezuela," he said, in response to a reporter's question.

Attention is now focusing on the US embassy in Caracas. After the White House recognized Guaidó, Maduro on 23 January ordered US diplomats to leave the country in 72 hours, a deadline that would expire tomorrow afternoon. But Maduro said today that "all US diplomatic personnel must leave Venezuela by Sunday (27 January)," not tomorrow.

Guaido today announced that he was overturning Maduro's expulsion order, but it was not immediately clear how he could block the armed forces or paramilitaries loyal to Maduro should they seek to force the US diplomats out. US officials say that all options are on the table if that were to happen.

"We have made clear to everyone that US officials in Caracas are invited to be there by Guaidó," Pompeo said, vowing to protect the US embassy and diplomatic personnel.

In another sign of hardening US position, Pompeo announced that Elliott Abrams was appointed special US envoy to deal with the Venezuela crisis. Abrams previously served in senior national security roles under former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush and was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a fine for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, which involved arms sales to Iran to fund a right-wing rebel group in Nicaragua.

"The crisis in Venezuela is deep and dangerous, and I would like to get to work on it," Abrams said.

The UN Security Council is meeting tomorrow at the US request to discuss developments in Caracas.

Guaido did not respond directly to the military high command's rejection of his interim presidency and reaffirmation of its support for Maduro in a national address yesterday.

But he reiterated assembly plans to issue a law guaranteeing blanket amnesty for all civilian and military personnel that join the campaign to force Maduro to step down, establish a transition government and hold new national elections.

Guaidó said the proposed law would be published online on 27 January, and he urged his supporters to persuade military neighbors and associates to abandon Maduro.

Guaido demanded the immediate withdrawal from Venezuela of all Cuban personnel embedded in the armed forces and other government entities. "It is time for the Cubans to get out of the armed forces and government decision centers," he said.

But in a further sign of conciliation, he said they would be welcome to stay in Venezuela.

Havana is seen as the political architect of Venezuela's Bolivarian socialist model ushered in by late president Hugo Chavez two decades ago.

An estimated 30,000 Cubans are deployed in Venezuela under several bilateral agreements covering health, education, defense and national security.

Guaidó called for more massive street demonstrations next week to force Maduro out.

Notably, the Maduro government has not attempted yet to strip Guaidó of his parliamentary immunity, a step it has taken against other opposition leaders in the past ahead of their arrest.

In a simultaneous press conference today, Maduro denounced Guaido's proclamation as interim president is part of a US-orchestrated coup that seeks to turn Venezuela into "an America reiterated his refusal to step down, asserting his legitimacy as confirmed by the supreme court and the national electoral authority. Both institutions are controlled by the government.

Maduro ordered his security forces and courts "to jail for 20 years or longer anyone that destroys property in violent protests." Public violence "will not be tolerated," he added, suggesting the government may escalate repression if massive street protests resume next week.



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