So the curiously now-dead Venezuelan PDVSA oil chief was the Citgo guy and a Washington fixer...

Another day, another dead dissident over in the socialist hellhole of Venezuela.

The death of Nelson Martinez in police custody made the news, because no one had ever seen such a high-level official killed off, possibly by bad medical care, which wouldn't be surprising in a Venezuelan dungeon, or maybe a rubout from the mafia state that's currently in power. Maybe it was both. It's likely someone wanted him dead.

Martinez had been Venezuela's oil chief, the man at the top of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., which brought in 95% of the country's export revenues based on Venezuela's oil shipments, and close to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. The news accounts say he had ostensibly been busted for corruption, but that's largely meaningless, given the widespread corruption of the Chavista nomenklatura. They're all corrupt, so why would this guy's corruption be important? The more specific issues seems to do with his stewardship of CITGO, the Venezuelan government's marketing and refining operation, a vital asset of Venezuela's in ensuring that a market always exists for Venezuelan oil, given that Venezuela produces a less-desirable heavy crude than other oil producers. With CITGO refineries in the U.S. specially configured to handle Venezuela's output and Venezuela's short shipping distance to the U.S. providing a competitive advantage, CITGO has been key to ensuring that Venezuela would always have a full-price buyer even when oil prices dropped. And that's what brings the money in in socialist Venezuela.

As former PDVSA board member Pedro Burelli noted on Twitter (his tweets are worth watching on this, the Venezuelan former oil official is going to know what is going on):

 

 

Microsoft translation:

There was a lot of evidence that Nelson Martinez was a scoundrel, he died without being charged. He was a man of trust @NicolasMaduro and TEA. He also knew a lot because he shared/dealt with many of the hierarchs of the mafia state. Silencing him was essential.

Burelli has other thoughts about it here and hitting the translate button at the bottom of the tweets are not difficult if you don't read Spanish.

Now let's look at the news accounts about why Martinez ended up in a Chavista jail back in late 2017. According to the BBC:

Two powerful Venezuelan former oil officials have been arrested as part of a sweeping anti-corruption operation.

The arrests came just days after the two, oil minister Eulogio del Pino and head of state oil company PDVSA, Nelson Martínez, were replaced in their posts with members of the military.

A number of senior officials at Citgo, Venezuela's US-based refining company were detained last week.

Critics of President Nicolás Maduro say this is part of a political purge.

They say Mr Maduro, who is expected to stand for re-election in presidential elections due to be held next year, is sidelining influential and capable figures within his party who he thinks could become rivals for the presidency.

and further down the story:

Chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab said in a news conference that Mr Del Pino was suspected of playing a part in a $500m (£370m) corruption scheme at Petrozamora, a joint venture between PDVSA and Gazprom.

He also said that Mr Martínez had been detained for allegedly allowing a Citgo refinancing deal to proceed without the approval of the Venezuelan government.

The chief prosecutor said the operation had been led by Venezuela's military counterintelligence unit.

I have not followed the Citgo machinations all that closely in recent months, there has been a back and forth going on about how to shield it from creditors, given that Big Oil and other companies have won many lawsuits over the late Hugo Chavez's expropriations of their assets in Venezuela in the name of socialism. Venezuela also is in sovereign default on its debt, which makes CITGO an attractive asset for creditors to claim. Somehow, it's held together as a Venezuelan asset, but it's always on the edge of being confiscated.

But the question of why Venezuela has fought so hard to hold the asset, and how it has used the asset seems to be where Martinez comes in. Martinez ran CITGO in recent years.

Turns out that CITGO hasn't just been an attractive means of holding Venezuela's market share in oil imports - it's also been an important lobbying operation, and in two ways. It forked over a lot of lobbying money to gamy regimes such as Syria and Libya to lobby U.S. lawmakers. (They like money) and it was the principal vehicle for Joe Kennedy's Dial-Joe-4-Oil cheap heating oil program, which gave Venezuela such propaganda chops with the lefty set in the U.S. 

Get a load of this interview, from veteran Venezuela expert and Harvard professor, Francisco Monaldi, whose observations are always worth reading. I will just post the Google Translate version with emphasis on key issues raised, but the link to the 2014 interview about what CITGO's game was during Martinez's presidency is well worth reading if you can read Spanish:

Francisco Monaldi is always attentive to news from Venezuela. He is part of his work as director of the IESA Energy Center and as a visiting professor at Harvard University. Despite living in Boston, he says that it is enough to turn on the television to see the propaganda of a foundation that reminds the poor of Massachusetts that the people of Venezuela and Nicolás Maduro generously give fuel and heating to the areas in need. "Before there was talk of Chavez, but with his death a year went by without propaganda. As the contract was renewed, they are announcing it again and now with Maduro. The son of Robert Kennedy, Joe, has a foundation with a great weight in the state and maintains a close relationship with Venezuela. These are things that have given the government a political floor, it has opened the doors to certain groups in the United States that benefit from the subsidies and it is a great political instrument for Venezuela. "

In a recent article by Prodavinci, journalist Andrés Rojas Jiménez explores the case of Citizens Energy Corporation, the Bostonian foundation of Joe Kennedy that maintains the Venezuelan subsidy, along with the remarkable influence of CITGO in the lobbying of American lobbyists. For experts like Francisco Monaldi, this phenomenon is very clear: "Subsidies like those in Boston and the Bronx give rise to favorable feelings towards Venezuela in certain sectors of the population. They buy a favorable reception with characters, like Sean Penn, who see Venezuela as an actor with a progressive agenda. And not only within the country, but also outside. "

Monaldi points out that one of the great utilities that Hugo Chávez found at CITGO was the great weight that his economic income has on the strategies of Venezuelan foreign policy and the US voice favorable to the revolutionary cause: "It is also a very important company that , despite its problems, it is still the seventh refiner in the United States. CITGO processes 750,000 barrels per day of oil and around 60% of those barrels are heavy. That makes it a great asset for a heavyweight producer, as is the case in Venezuela. "


How important do you think the role of this company has been in Venezuelan international politics?

When he could not sell CITGO, Hugo Chávez discovered that he had a series of attractions such as, for example, the influence he has on American politics. Lately several very interesting works have been published on how Venezuela used CITGO to pay lobbyists in favor of Syria, North Korea and Libya. CITGO does a very strong lobbying for the interests of Venezuela in the United States and that is very useful. Despite the fact that people like Bernard Mommer, who is one of the great critics of internationalization, are still one of the architects of oil policy, there are people within PDVSA such as Nelson Martínez, current president of CITGO, who has a good relationship with Nicolás Mature and is a person who sees a greater value from the strategic point of view to the existence of this company.

So in other words, Martinez ran the influence-lobbying operations for Venezuela, forked over cash to rogue states such as North Korea, and was the guy who brought Sean Penn, Joe Kennedy, and other lefties onboard to cheer Chavez.

Now he's dead, and Venezuela is under bigtime sanctions, possibly based on these lobbying activities, which clearly worked for awhile but not when President Trump got in the saddle.

What does Joe Kennedy know about this guy and why he died? Why did Joe Kennedy meet with Nicolas Maduro in 2016, something Maduro put up on Twitter?

What does this say about Venezuela's overseas operations and the crashout of them with the election of Trump and the squeeze that's followed?

This story is probably bigger than it looks.

Another day, another dead dissident over in the socialist hellhole of Venezuela.

The death of Nelson Martinez in police custody made the news, because no one had ever seen such a high-level official killed off, possibly by bad medical care, which wouldn't be surprising in a Venezuelan dungeon, or maybe a rubout from the mafia state that's currently in power. Maybe it was both. It's likely someone wanted him dead.

Martinez had been Venezuela's oil chief, the man at the top of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., which brought in 95% of the country's export revenues based on Venezuela's oil shipments, and close to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. The news accounts say he had ostensibly been busted for corruption, but that's largely meaningless, given the widespread corruption of the Chavista nomenklatura. They're all corrupt, so why would this guy's corruption be important? The more specific issues seems to do with his stewardship of CITGO, the Venezuelan government's marketing and refining operation, a vital asset of Venezuela's in ensuring that a market always exists for Venezuelan oil, given that Venezuela produces a less-desirable heavy crude than other oil producers. With CITGO refineries in the U.S. specially configured to handle Venezuela's output and Venezuela's short shipping distance to the U.S. providing a competitive advantage, CITGO has been key to ensuring that Venezuela would always have a full-price buyer even when oil prices dropped. And that's what brings the money in in socialist Venezuela.

As former PDVSA board member Pedro Burelli noted on Twitter (his tweets are worth watching on this, the Venezuelan former oil official is going to know what is going on):

 

 

Microsoft translation:

There was a lot of evidence that Nelson Martinez was a scoundrel, he died without being charged. He was a man of trust @NicolasMaduro and TEA. He also knew a lot because he shared/dealt with many of the hierarchs of the mafia state. Silencing him was essential.

Burelli has other thoughts about it here and hitting the translate button at the bottom of the tweets are not difficult if you don't read Spanish.

Now let's look at the news accounts about why Martinez ended up in a Chavista jail back in late 2017. According to the BBC:

Two powerful Venezuelan former oil officials have been arrested as part of a sweeping anti-corruption operation.

The arrests came just days after the two, oil minister Eulogio del Pino and head of state oil company PDVSA, Nelson Martínez, were replaced in their posts with members of the military.

A number of senior officials at Citgo, Venezuela's US-based refining company were detained last week.

Critics of President Nicolás Maduro say this is part of a political purge.

They say Mr Maduro, who is expected to stand for re-election in presidential elections due to be held next year, is sidelining influential and capable figures within his party who he thinks could become rivals for the presidency.

and further down the story:

Chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab said in a news conference that Mr Del Pino was suspected of playing a part in a $500m (£370m) corruption scheme at Petrozamora, a joint venture between PDVSA and Gazprom.

He also said that Mr Martínez had been detained for allegedly allowing a Citgo refinancing deal to proceed without the approval of the Venezuelan government.

The chief prosecutor said the operation had been led by Venezuela's military counterintelligence unit.

I have not followed the Citgo machinations all that closely in recent months, there has been a back and forth going on about how to shield it from creditors, given that Big Oil and other companies have won many lawsuits over the late Hugo Chavez's expropriations of their assets in Venezuela in the name of socialism. Venezuela also is in sovereign default on its debt, which makes CITGO an attractive asset for creditors to claim. Somehow, it's held together as a Venezuelan asset, but it's always on the edge of being confiscated.

But the question of why Venezuela has fought so hard to hold the asset, and how it has used the asset seems to be where Martinez comes in. Martinez ran CITGO in recent years.

Turns out that CITGO hasn't just been an attractive means of holding Venezuela's market share in oil imports - it's also been an important lobbying operation, and in two ways. It forked over a lot of lobbying money to gamy regimes such as Syria and Libya to lobby U.S. lawmakers. (They like money) and it was the principal vehicle for Joe Kennedy's Dial-Joe-4-Oil cheap heating oil program, which gave Venezuela such propaganda chops with the lefty set in the U.S. 

Get a load of this interview, from veteran Venezuela expert and Harvard professor, Francisco Monaldi, whose observations are always worth reading. I will just post the Google Translate version with emphasis on key issues raised, but the link to the 2014 interview about what CITGO's game was during Martinez's presidency is well worth reading if you can read Spanish:

Francisco Monaldi is always attentive to news from Venezuela. He is part of his work as director of the IESA Energy Center and as a visiting professor at Harvard University. Despite living in Boston, he says that it is enough to turn on the television to see the propaganda of a foundation that reminds the poor of Massachusetts that the people of Venezuela and Nicolás Maduro generously give fuel and heating to the areas in need. "Before there was talk of Chavez, but with his death a year went by without propaganda. As the contract was renewed, they are announcing it again and now with Maduro. The son of Robert Kennedy, Joe, has a foundation with a great weight in the state and maintains a close relationship with Venezuela. These are things that have given the government a political floor, it has opened the doors to certain groups in the United States that benefit from the subsidies and it is a great political instrument for Venezuela. "

In a recent article by Prodavinci, journalist Andrés Rojas Jiménez explores the case of Citizens Energy Corporation, the Bostonian foundation of Joe Kennedy that maintains the Venezuelan subsidy, along with the remarkable influence of CITGO in the lobbying of American lobbyists. For experts like Francisco Monaldi, this phenomenon is very clear: "Subsidies like those in Boston and the Bronx give rise to favorable feelings towards Venezuela in certain sectors of the population. They buy a favorable reception with characters, like Sean Penn, who see Venezuela as an actor with a progressive agenda. And not only within the country, but also outside. "

Monaldi points out that one of the great utilities that Hugo Chávez found at CITGO was the great weight that his economic income has on the strategies of Venezuelan foreign policy and the US voice favorable to the revolutionary cause: "It is also a very important company that , despite its problems, it is still the seventh refiner in the United States. CITGO processes 750,000 barrels per day of oil and around 60% of those barrels are heavy. That makes it a great asset for a heavyweight producer, as is the case in Venezuela. "


How important do you think the role of this company has been in Venezuelan international politics?

When he could not sell CITGO, Hugo Chávez discovered that he had a series of attractions such as, for example, the influence he has on American politics. Lately several very interesting works have been published on how Venezuela used CITGO to pay lobbyists in favor of Syria, North Korea and Libya. CITGO does a very strong lobbying for the interests of Venezuela in the United States and that is very useful. Despite the fact that people like Bernard Mommer, who is one of the great critics of internationalization, are still one of the architects of oil policy, there are people within PDVSA such as Nelson Martínez, current president of CITGO, who has a good relationship with Nicolás Mature and is a person who sees a greater value from the strategic point of view to the existence of this company.

So in other words, Martinez ran the influence-lobbying operations for Venezuela, forked over cash to rogue states such as North Korea, and was the guy who brought Sean Penn, Joe Kennedy, and other lefties onboard to cheer Chavez.

Now he's dead, and Venezuela is under bigtime sanctions, possibly based on these lobbying activities, which clearly worked for awhile but not when President Trump got in the saddle.

What does Joe Kennedy know about this guy and why he died? Why did Joe Kennedy meet with Nicolas Maduro in 2016, something Maduro put up on Twitter?

What does this say about Venezuela's overseas operations and the crashout of them with the election of Trump and the squeeze that's followed?

This story is probably bigger than it looks.