Venezuela angered by ConocoPhillips move on Caribbean oil

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela on Thursday strongly rejected the takeover of its Caribbean oil stocks by ConocoPhillips, after the US company enforced a $2 billion international arbitration award last month.

Caracas' oil ministry said it "strongly rejects the actions taken by the US firm ConocoPhillips to take the assets of the Venezuelan state oil company in the Caribbean."

A ConocoPhillips source said the company was enforcing the award at four locations in the Caribbean, without specifying the facilities affected.

Press reports said the affected assets are in Curacao, Bonaire and Saint Eustace.

ConocoPhillips was awarded $2 billion in an April 25 decision of the International Chamber of Commerce against Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA over the 2007 government takeover of two of the company's units.

"As we said at the time of the award, we will pursue all available legal avenues to obtain full and fair compensation for our expropriated investments in Venezuela," the US company said in a statement.

Oil expert Orlando Ochoa said the US oil firm's actions were targeting goods, not facilities.

"It has proceeded to freeze the Venezuelan crude that is in the terminals of Saint Eustace, Bonaire and some products that are in the Curacao refinery," Ochoa told AFP, estimating that the measure involves some 15 million barrels of oil, worth around $750 million.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday he was unconcerned about US sanctions against his government and a deluge of international lawsuits for delays in debt repayments.

"The sanctions of the gringos, the threats, we don't care about them. Do they cause damage? Yes. But they will not stop us."

"Venezuela does not surrender to sanctions, threats, aggressions and lies," the socialist president said in a comments broadcast on radio and TV.

Maduro is seeking re-election for a second six-year term in a May 20 vote boycotted by the opposition and branded illegitimate by much of the international community.

Washington this week imposed sanctions on 20 companies -- 16 of them in Venezuela, and four in Panama -- as well as three Venezuelan nationals including a former top intelligence official indicted in the US for narcotics trafficking.