OPEC Has a President Under Sanctions, But It's Been There Before

(Bloomberg) -- Being hit by U.S. sanctions isn’t ideal when you’re representing a global oil institution, but history shows it’s manageable.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo, who this year holds the rotating presidency of OPEC, has just been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for his ties to President Nicolas Maduro. That means any American assets he owns will be blocked and dealings with U.S. persons forbidden.

While it might be personally problematic for Quevedo, who also heads state-owned oil giant PDVSA, his role as OPEC president probably won’t be affected.

The organization is more directly represented by its secretary-general, currently the Nigerian Mohammad Barkindo. The president’s duties are more ceremonial, including such items as shaping the agenda of OPEC meetings in concert with the secretary-general. Quevedo will chair his first ministerial meeting in April.

And there’s historical proof that the office can still be discharged while being subject to American sanctions.

Iran’s Rostam Qasemi, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, was on the sanctions list when he became oil minister -- and OPEC president -- in summer 2011. Qasemi held the role of president until the end of the year, when it alphabetically rotated to the next country, and remained as Iran’s oil minister for another two years.

However, his presidency of the organization wasn’t without incident. OPEC failed to reach any agreement on production at its meeting in December 2011, prompting Saudi Arabia’s oil minister to angrily condemn it as the worst ever.

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