Restoring Chevron operations in Venezuela depends on U.S. -minister

(Reuters) – Progress to relaunch oil major Chevron Corp’s (CVX.N) operations in Venezuela under U.S. sanctions on the country depends on licenses from Washington, Venezuelan oil minister Tareck El Aissami said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Treasury Department in May renewed a license that allows Chevron to operate in Venezuela under very restrictive terms. The company had requested expanded privileges to relaunch joint ventures with state-run Petróleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA (PDVSA.UL), and recover billions of dollars of outstanding debt by trading Venezuelan oil.

Venezuela is ready to move ahead with business with the California-based firm, following months of discussions between Chevron and PDVSA, El Aissami told journalists.

In May, Chevron was also granted a U.S. permit to negotiate with Venezuelan top officials.

“We are prepared, ready. We have discussed and agreed with them everything related to the immediate restitution of operations. But it no longer depends on us. The ball is on the U.S. government’s court,” the minister said.

El Aissami referred to Chevron following a press conference to announce a new corruption probe of former oil minister Rafael Ramirez.

Following an investigation over financial deals with PDVSA, the oil ministry is now asking Venezuela’s General Attorney Office to formally request an international warrant for the arrest of Ramirez, who lives in Italy.

An extradition request by Venezuela over previous corruption allegations involving Ramirez was recently denied by an Italian court.

Ramirez told Reuters that El Aissami’s accusations are “completely fake,” and proof of all financial transactions during his term were audited and are shown in PDVSA’s annual reports. “The Venezuelan government has begun another round of attacks since I showed my willingness to participate in a presidential election.”

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