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Cabinet changes eluding Maduro so far


By Argus

Petroleumworld 03 21 2019

A dearth of willing candidates is thwarting an effort by embattled Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro to restructure his cabinet, Venezuelan officials tell Argus .

Maduro is seeking fresh faces in the wake of a catastrophic national blackout that started on 7 March. While power is partially restored, supply is intermittent and many areas of the country remain dark and lack municipal water supplies.

The plan to make cabinet changes was announced on 17 March by executive vice president Delcy Rodriguez, who forms part of Maduro's inner circle.

Electricity minister Luis Motta tops the list of ministers whom Maduro wants to replace "with someone more qualified, but no one with the professional qualifications needed to manage the (state-owned) electricity sector wants the job," a presidential palace official said.

Oil minister and state-owned PdV's chief executive Manuel Quevedo, who was in Baku in recent days for an Opec/non-Opec Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee meeting , is also considered vulnerable.

But "his position may be secure because of the total absence of any qualified oil executives willing to join Maduro's government," the palace official said.

A senior PdV official echoed that view, calling the dual oil post a form of political "suicide" because of the many problems that need to be tackled. "Confidence that even a qualified person can get anything done is very low," the official said.

The blackout crippled PdV's wellhead-to-terminal operations that started to recover last week.

At the main oil terminal of Jose, PdV´s PetroPiar heavy crude upgrader with Chevron and its PetroCedeno upgrader with Total and Equinor are operating, as is the Sinovensa blending facility that PdV runs with China´s CNPC. As of yesterday, the PetroMonagas upgrader with Russia´s Rosneft was in the start-up process.

Maduro, who is facing a political challenge by opposition leader Juan Guaido, wants to weed out ministers perceived as disloyal by his hardcore senior backers, including Rodriguez and her brother, communications minister Jorge Rodriguez, defense minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, and interior and justice minister Nelson Reverol, the palace official said.

Guaido is recognized as Venezuela´s interim president by most Western countries. Maduro has refused to step aside, and blames Washington for causing the blackout as part of a wider campaign to topple him.

Maduro's frequent cabinet changes since he first came to power in 2013 have been "a game of musical chairs in which many of the same people are rotated between posts, partly to create the false illusion of change when in fact nothing changes," the presidential palace official added.



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