Venezuela opposition will name new Citgo board this week: WSJ

FILE PHOTO - People wait for service in a Citgo gas station in Kearny, New Jersey September 24, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Venezuela’s self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido, will name a new board for Citgo Petroleum Corp this week, Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Citgo, the eighth-largest U.S. refiner and owned by Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), is Venezuela’s top foreign asset.

But the United States has imposed sanctions on PDVSA as part of Washington’s bid to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down after he was re-elected last year in a vote critics have called a sham. The U.S. actions have, in turn, squeezed Citgo.

Venezuela’s opposition said on Wednesday it would use income accrued by Citgo since last month to finance its efforts to dislodge Maduro.

“The interim president is going to name a new governance board very soon here, probably as early as today or tomorrow and that’ll be recognized under U.S. law,” Rubio said in an interview with the Journal.

Rubio added that the United States would then recognize that board as the legal entity controlling Citgo.

It was not immediately clear how Rubio received that information. Representatives for Rubio, Citgo, the White House and Carlos Vecchio, the U.S. representative for Guaido, did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

PDVSA has said it would use legal maneuvers to block a takeover of Citgo.

Washington has recognized Guaido, an opposition leader and head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the interim president of Venezuela. Other countries have followed suit. But Maduro, who denounces Guaido as a U.S. puppet seeking to foment a coup against him, has retained control of the state and still counts on support from Russia and China.

Reporting by Makini Brice and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Peter Cooney