The repo man comes for Venezuela, eyeing Citgo

When you steal from others by nursing a bad habit of running out on your tab, you eventually find yourself facing a visit from the repo man.  This is exactly what has happened to socialist Venezuela.

Here's the Reuters report:

CARACAS, Aug 15 (Reuters) – Canadian miner Crystallex is seeking to seize shares in a subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA that owns U.S. refiner Citgo as part of a dispute over Venezuela's 2008 takeover of the Las Cristinas gold mine, according to court filings.

Crystallex is seeking to collect on a $1.4 billion award it won via a World Bank arbitration panel in 2016.

Oh, what a humiliating – and well deserved – fall this is going to be.  After gaining a $1.5-trillion oil bonanza through 2013, according to former Venezuelan state oil company board of directors and founding member Gustavo Coronel, the country is bankrupt.  As of 2017, Venezuela can't even shell out a lousy $1.4-billion court award to save its most productive asset, Citgo, its U.S.-based refiner.  The creditors are about to snap it away, and the repo man is on his way.

It may be the death knell of the Chavista empire due to the money cutoff.  It appears to be a move more powerful than sanctions, more ferocious than international condemnation, more concrete than any U.S. warning of a military invasion thus far being leveled at the socialist hellhole, because it cuts the country off from its cash cow.

Citgo is Venzuela's most valuable asset due to its refinery network for its heavy-grade crude oil, a difficult oil to process that requires specialized refineries.  The state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., has made efforts to get new refineries outside Citgo online, in the Caribbean, China, and India, but these are not the cash cows that Citgo amount to.  Citgo accounts for about 200,000 barrels of Venezuela's 900,000 barrels a day in free, un-dibbed exports, amounting to about 7% of U.S. refining capacity.  Just the ownership of Citgo assures that Venezuela's heavy-grade crude will not be the last in line for buyers as oil prices tumble and instead ensures that Venezuela will always have ready buyers who pay retail prices for the crude.  Without Citgo, Venezuela won't be getting that cash stream.

The news comes at a bad time, because PDVSA, Citgo's parent company, is already the world's worst run oil company, having squandered that $1.5-trillion oil bonanza that Coronel described, as its costs and employees have exploded.  Its corruption has skyrocketed, its production has plummeted, and now it's a net oil importer, not exporter.  Pile on the fact that it accounts for 95% of Venezuela's exports, and the fact that Venezuela now has less than $10 billion in reserves with inflation that tops 1,000 percent, and you can see the scope of the problem.

According to Latinvex:

Currency expert Steve Hanke – a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University – estimates Venezuela’s annualized inflation reached 1,032 percent as of August 1, beating the previous high of 809 percent in July 2015.

Money supply surged 10 percent in just one week last month, its largest single-week rise in a quarter of a century and jumped 384 percent in the last year compared with 5.5 percent in the United States, according to Reuters.

At the same time, the country’s international reserves are falling. They stood $9.983 billion on July 14 – a 77 per cent decrease since January 2009 when they hit a peak of $43 billion, according to the Financial Times.

A year ago, Venezuela larded up Citgo with $2.8 billion in debt and gave Russia at least a 49% stake in the company to keep it an unattractive target for creditors, but this didn't stop Crystallex, the Canadian miner, from making its move.  Other companies, such as Exxon, also have claims.

In apparent anticipation of this move, Venezuela took desperate measures to cut oil exports to Citgo in order to ship more to Russia's operations to pay debts and then began importing oil from Canada for its refineries.

Now the repo man is coming for its U.S. operations.  If it happens, it will be a humiliating end to the rabid socialist experiment that has left the country in ruins.  Venezuela has always, to a fault, insisted on paying its debt to foreign creditors even as the country starves.  Now the repo man is at the door, those in charge are going to lose what little they have, and there's not a thing they're going to be able to do about it.

If you experience technical problems, please write to