China-Russia-India oil deals can cut Venezuelan dependence on US market

By Earl Bousquet
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 13, 2017
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People in Venezuela [File photo]

Fighting for economic survival while battling real threats of external military intervention, Venezuela has announced it’s looking east to fend off crippling Western economic sanctions -- and hopefully forever eliminate its costly over-dependence on heavy oil exports to America.

China and Russia have both opposed the latest round of sanctions announced by the U.S. against Venezuela, which, however, do not affect Venezuela’s crucial supply of one-third of American oil imports.

Yet, it does include a ban on any new oil deals between American entities and Venezuela’s dominant State oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), while also preventing its subsidiary CITCO Petroleum, which operates in the U.S., from transferring its earnings to Caracas.

CITCO, whose dwindling finances were recently bolstered by a major Russian loan, operates three refineries in the U.S. employing nearly 4,000 people in Illinois, Louisiana and Texas.

It was the only oil company operating in the country to give millions of dollars’ worth of free heating oil to millions of American citizens after all the main domestic companies ignored a recent urgent appeal for assistance to overcome a lengthy cold snap – and is now again offering to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey, especially in Texas.

Washington insists the latest sanctions will force political concessions – especially to the U.S.-backed opposition – from the Nicolas Maduro administration. However, both Beijing and Moscow have said that the sanctions will only worsen the internal situation.

Ahead of an impending State visit to Russia by the Venezuelan president, Caracas says it will be entering into more deals with major Russian oil companies (like Gazprom and Rosneft) that will increase the Russian stake in Venezuelan oil production and ownership.

Russia is already a minority partner in several Venezuelan companies operating in the Orinoco oil belt (the world’s largest oil reserve), while the two countries are also planning to develop more wells elsewhere.

Gazprom Bank, Russia’s third largest, is also the largest investor in infrastructure projects in Venezuela.

The same applies to China National Oil Company (CNOC), already significantly involved in several major joint venture deals with PDVSA, and construction of a Venezuelan refinery in China to supply the Chinese and Asian markets.

China is also expanding its share and interests aimed at strengthening its drilling and production capacities and reviving operations in an increasing number of new drilling and production operations in Venezuela.

With China and Russia already fully on board, Venezuela’s next big dream will be to attract India, its next biggest oil market, to get on board as well.

The distant South American and Caribbean state has been the third largest supplier of crude oil to India, and 10 to 12 percent of its overall exports are going to that particular market.

But Venezuela’s money problems, brought about by recent falls in world oil market prices, have seriously diminished PDVSA’s ability to deliver up to level of its earlier volumes, severely reducing the value of overall Venezuelan oil supplies to India.

The latter was forced to decrease its dependence on Venezuelan crude and increase imports from African and Middle East suppliers.

However, of late, there have been signs of a possible revival in the Venezuela-India oil business, with a subsidiary of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) keenly eyeing investment in a major PDVSA subsidiary.

If Caracas is able to persuade New Delhi to substantially revive Indian public and private interest and investment in Venezuela, it will definitely be a very welcome boost in Caracas’ efforts to realign crucial oil exports and stabilize its trade with more reliable partners.

Earl Bousquet is a contributor to, editor-at-large of The Diplomatic Courier and author of an online regional newspaper column entitled Chronicles of a Chronic Caribbean Chronicler.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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