CARACAS/HOUSTON (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has appointed two new officials to lead the oil industry in the country with the world’s largest crude reserves.
He pushed the powerful Rafael Ramirez from his twin posts as boss of state oil company PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] and oil minister. Veteran technocrat Eulogio Del Pino will take over PDVSA while Asdrubal Chavez, cousin of late president Hugo Chavez, will lead the oil ministry.
Here are key facts about both men:
- Del Pino graduated with a degree in geophysics from the Universidad Central de Venezuela and has a masters in exploration from the United States’ Stanford University.
- He has worked in oil exploration and production at PDVSA since 1979, and is seen as a technical hand, although he has been preparing himself to take on a more political role.
- Del Pino is, though, a staunch leftist. He abstained from a disastrous 2002-03 oil strike against Chavez, helping to restore oil production levels.
- Among his chief challenges will be finding the capital needed to increase the company’s oil output, which has been slowly declining for more than a decade, and see through major investment projects, which face significant delays and problems.
- He is not a public figure, but PDVSA’s partners, banks and investors are familiar with him and generally consider him a prepared manager. However, he was Ramirez’s right hand for the last decade, raising questions about the likelihood of changes in oil policy.
- A member of PDVSA’s board since 2005, his most recent post was as the company’s exploration and production vice president and president of CVP, a subsidiary refloated by Ramirez to centralize production management. While mainly concerned with crude operations, he was also involved in top decision-making.
- He participated in tough negotiations with foreign partners during the 2005-2007 oil nationalizations and was also heavily involved in the 2010 auctions that allowed two consortia of foreign companies to develop extra-heavy crude projects in the Orinoco belt with PDVSA.
- Chavez graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from the Universidad de los Andes.
- He joined PDVSA’s EL Palito refinery in 1979. He has since held a number of positions at the firm, including manager of that refinery, director of trade and supply and most recently vice president for refinery, commerce and supply.
- Chavez will have to reaffirm the role of the ministry, which was dwarfed by behemoth PDVSA under Ramirez.
- Critics say Chavez’s family pedigree helped him ascend quickly. Analysts say he could try to use his family leverage to push for changes.
- In 2005, he was tapped as a director of PDVSA’s North American unit Citgo Petroleum Corp, which in August Ramirez announced PDVSA was seeking to exit. It now falls to Chavez to see through a potential Citgo sale.
- Chavez has been involved with Petrocaribe and other regional alliances that allow member states to buy Venezuelan oil under favorable terms. Though the deals have been a boon for many poor Latin American countries, the waning alliances have hurt Venezuela’s coffers.
Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in Caracas and Marianna Parraga in Houston; Editing by Jonathan Oatis