An envoy to the US for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has said the country’s oil reserves would be opened to foreign investors, bolstering suspicions that Washington’s support of Guaidó is oil-dependent.
Guaidó’s representative in Washington, Carlos Vecchio, told Bloomberg that the opposition leader wanted to increase oil production and scrap current requirements that state-owned oil giant PDVSA must keep a controlling stake in joint ventures. Currently, PDVSA must maintain a 51 percent stake in joint projects.
US President Donald Trump threw his support behind Guaidó in January and called on “illegitimate” Maduro to step down after the opposition leader declared himself interim president.
“We want to go to an open economy, we want to increase oil production,” Vecchio said during an interview at Bloomberg’s DC office. “The majority of the oil production that we want to increase will be with the private sector.”
Vecchio’s comments will come as no surprise to analysts who predicted Trump is supporting capitalist Guaidó against socialist Maduro in order to gain access to Venezuela’s vast natural resources for eager American companies.
Vecchio, who attended Trump’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday as a guest of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, also said that Citgo, the US refiner controlled by PDVSA would not file for bankruptcy despite earlier reports, saying it was “not necessary.”
According to Bloomberg, Vecchio also suggested that the White House might consider issuing an executive order to protect Venezuela from creditors, which the US did for Iraq. He also said it was possible that Venezuela under Guaidó might not honor debt agreements made by the Maduro government.
In the interview, Vecchio urged Russia, who backs Maduro, to stay neutral in order to “facilitate our relationship in the future.” Russia has condemned Trump’s regime-change efforts in Venezuela and called for mediation to resolve the political crisis.
US officials have not been shy about admitting that oil is a major interest and motivating factor in the decision to support Guaidó. Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton told Fox News that it would “make a big difference to the United States economically” if US companies could “invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”
WikiLeaks cables also revealed that the first “fundamental interest” the US has in Venezuela is continued supply of petroleum imports.