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Venezuela opposition names committee to manage foreign assets

Citgo Corpus Christi Refinery is seen in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S., January 25, 2019. Picture taken on January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Erwin Seba/File Photo

By Deisy Buitrago

CARACAS, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition national assembly on Thursday named the commission members who will manage most of the country’s assets abroad, moving ahead with a promise by the body’s new leadership as it seeks to unify ahead of expected presidential elections.

Venezuela traditionally has only one legislature, but currently has two parallel bodies – one of government-allied lawmakers and another for the opposition.

Because of its backing abroad, the opposition controls some assets in other countries, including U.S.-based oil refiner Citgo Petroleum and more than $1 billion in gold stored at the Bank of England.

The formation of the committee is a part of recent moves by the legislature, which appointed Dinorah Figuera as its new leader this month and is trying to pull together a united front ahead of a presidential election tentatively scheduled for next year.

Opposition party members Carlos Millan, Rene Uzcategui, Yon Goicoechea and Fernando Blasi will serve on the committee headed by Gustavo Marcano.

Many assets controlled by the opposition have enjoyed the United States’ protection against creditors, which this week extended its protection of Citgo for three months.

Venezuela owes more than $60 billion to creditors and is facing legal judgments over nationalizations conducted 15 years ago and bond payments delayed since 2017.

Figuera urged the committee to act efficiently and effectively in their roles during a legislative session.

Marcano, Goicoechea and Blasi served on the spending control committee previously operated under the interim government of former opposition leader Juan Guaido. A revamp of that committee was part of arguments for disbanding the interim government.

Blasi will also represent the assembly in the United States, while lawmaker Miguel Pizarro will work on the assembly’s behalf at the United Nations.

The legislature also named or kept in place members of the ad hoc central bank board, with Manuel Rodriguez continuing in his post as its head.

It did not announce whether it would make changes to the ad hoc board of state oil company PDVSA.

Opposition lawmakers have declined to participate in elections since the 2018 re-election of President Nicolas Maduro, which they say is fraudulent, and have continued to operate an assembly despite the 2021 installation of a second legislature by government allies.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Vin Shahrestani

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