MIAMI Aug 27 A U.S. congressman urged the Obama
administration on Wednesday to block the proposed sale by
Venezuela's state oil company of its North American refining
unit Citgo, saying it would be against "vital national
Venezuela Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said earlier this
month that the country aims to exit Citgo "as soon as we receive
a proposal that serves our interests."
Citgo has three U.S. refineries in Illinois,
Louisiana and Texas with combined capacity of some 750,000
barrels per day, and it also has 48 terminals.
Flanked by Venezuelan opposition figures, U.S.
Representative Joe Garcia said the proposed sale by Venezuela's
socialist-led government was "a huge concern."
The value of Citgo, he said, was derived from the refiner's
links to Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA and the
OPEC nation's crude oil reserves, which are the biggest in the
"It is one of the last assets that the Venezuelans have had
and have not been able to damage its value," the Democratic
congressman told a news conference in Miami.
"We believe that allowing this government to monetize this
part of the Venezuelan patrimony would be a grave mistake."
China displaced the United States as the top destination for
Venezuelan oil in 2013, and PDVSA's cash flow has been crimped
as much of the oil is used to service loans from Beijing.
PDVSA is working with investment bank Lazard Ltd to
sell Citgo, according to people familiar with the situation.
Garcia, whose district includes most of western Miami-Dade
County and the Florida Keys, said U.S. companies were owed large
amounts of money by Venezuela's government, which nationalized
most of its oil industry under the late President Hugo Chavez.
"We don't want a grab bag with a regime that has thus far
destroyed everything it's touched," Garcia said.
"I am not about to let them dissipate national assets for
one more piñata among thugs. It's just not acceptable. ... The
last thing we want them to do is to delink themselves from the
U.S. and to not pay its debtors."
Garcia's constituents include many Venezuelan exiles who
left home during Chavez's controversial time in office.
Accusing Venezuelan officials of committing abuses in a
crackdown on protests against President Nicolas Maduro that
began this spring, Washington has barred some government
ministers and presidential advisers from entering the United
Members of the U.S. Congress, particularly Republicans and
Florida lawmakers, have also called for the freezing of U.S.
financial assets of Venezuelans considered to be rights abusers.
(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Writing by Daniel Wallis;
Editing by Ken Wills)