U.S. Revokes Visa of Citgo CEO in Another Blow to Venezuela

(Bloomberg) -- Being a blood relative of Hugo Chavez used to open doors. Now Asdrubal Chavez, cousin of the late Venezuelan socialist leader, is finding out it can close some as well.

In the most recent blow against Venezuela, the U.S. revoked the visa of Chavez, chief executive officer of Petroleos de Venezuela SA’s U.S. refining unit Citgo Petroleum Corp. and a former oil minister. He will be burdened with the task of commanding from outside the U.S. three refineries with a combined capacity to process 749,000 barrels of oil daily and an army of 3,500 employees.

Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, has seen its production slide by more than one-third since late 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Its output may sink from 1.34 million barrels a day in June to just over 1 million, Torino Capital chief economist Francisco Rodriguez wrote in a note. U.S. sanctions have accelerated the decline, as have lawsuits by ConocoPhillips to claim assets as payment for an arbitration award.

The U.S. has sanctioned at least 48 Venezuelan nationals associated with economic mismanagement and corruption, including President Nicolas Maduro, and has provisionally revoked tens of thousands of visas in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Still, kicking out a C-suite executive of the country is rare.

The revocation "does not change anything at Citgo in terms of its management and operations," the company said in an emailed statement.

The State Department declined to comment on individual visa cases.

It’s unclear to where Chavez, who used to work from Citgo’s headquarters in Houston, will move. One of the possibilities would be for him to be based out of Aruba, where Citgo is seeking to refurbish a refinery and convert it into an oil upgrader that will transform extra-heavy Venezuelan oil into refinery-ready synthetic grades.

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