March 17, 2019 / 3:16 PM / 4 months ago

Aruba to resume refinery refurbishment after U.S. sanctions exemption

(Reuters) - Aruba will resume a refurbishment project at a 209,000 barrel-per-day refinery operated by a unit of Citgo Petroleum Corp, the island’s prime minister said on Sunday, after a change to U.S. sanctions on Citgo parent PDVSA last week.

The United States levied sanctions in January on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela aimed at the removal of socialist President Nicolas Maduro, whom the United States and about 50 other countries no longer recognize as the country’s legitimate leader.

The sanctions prompted Citgo Aruba to put on hold a $685 million agreement with the government of Aruba, reached in 2016, to refurbish and reopen the idled refinery previously run by U.S. refiner Valero Energy. The company laid off workers as a result, and Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes asked the United States to allow the project to continue.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury gave Citgo - a U.S. refining company owned by PDVSA - a further 18 months to buy crude and make debt payments while under sanctions against his parent. Wever-Croes said the move would allow the refurbishment projects to continue, and the workers to return to their jobs.

“American authorities allowed the unblocking of the necessary funds to continue,” Wever-Croes said in a statement. “We will keep fighting so that all the refinery workers can get their jobs back.”

The statement did not say when the project would continue.

Reporting by Sailu Urribari in Jacksonville; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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