Chavez's Citgo plan would impact Venezuela

The Miami HeraldDecember 6, 2010 

President Hugo Chávez's plan to sell Citgo would deal a devastating blow to the oil industry of Venezuela, a country that runs the risk of losing control of an enviable point of access to U.S. markets.

Analysts expressed concern over the operation proposed by Chávez, saying it not only lacks strategic sense but would also impair the ability of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) to compete in the world's largest oil market.

They agreed, however, that the operation could be driven by the fear that Citgo's assets might be seized. The company holds 69 percent of Venezuela's refining capacity in the United States.

``The Venezuelans seem not to have realized the impact a sale like this would have on the Venezuelan economy,'' said Juan Fernández, a former planning manager for PDVSA who lives in Miami. ``Chávez is destroying what has been one of Venezuela's best businesses.''

From Caracas, the Venezuelan oil expert José Toro Hardy agreed.

``Citgo is the main marketing arm of the Venezuelan oil industry. It would be a severe blow to the country's economy,'' he said.

Experts were responding to recent comments by Chavez that he wants to get rid of the U.S. subsidiary of PDVSA, a company that processes much of the 900,000 barrels that Venezuela sends to the United States daily.

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