Venezuela President Names PDVSA Head as New Oil Minister
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday named the head of state oil company PDVSA, Pedro Rafael Tellechea, as the new oil minister, a day after his predecessor resigned amid an extensive corruption investigation focused on the company.
Former minister Tareck El Aissami resigned on Monday after the arrest of several government officials and judges in connection with graft investigations. Sources with knowledge of the issue said more than 20 lower-level PDVSA officials have also been detained over recent days.
The government has not given details of any suspected wrongdoing at PDVSA. It was not clear if Tellechea would remain head of the company.
Tellechea has been head of PDVSA since January and ordered an audit into heavy losses suffered last year as tankers left the county without proper payments being made for cargo.
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The PDVSA arrests are linked to an investigation into the cargoes, which has also led to other executives being suspended from their posts, a source said on Monday.
PDVSA has accumulated $21.2 billion in accounts receivable, according to documents reported by Reuters earlier on Tuesday, after turning to dozens of little-known intermediaries to export its oil under US sanctions.
The enormous amount of unpaid sales – about 84% of PDVSA’s total value of invoiced shipments – reveals for the first time the depths of revenue losses due to the withdrawal of established oil company buyers since 2020.
The scale of the receivables explains Tellechea’s freeze on supply contracts when he took up his post as head of the PDVSA.
A series of attempts to tighten contract terms came after some vessels absconded without payment in recent years.
Maduro, who has led previous corruption sweeps, has said his government is “going to the root” of corruption.
Tellechea’s appointment is part of a “process of transformation,” Maduro said on Twitter, accompanied by a photo of himself and the new minister.
“Maximum efficiency comrade!” he said in the post.
(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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