Mexico City, Mexico, September 22, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – After years of mismanagement under opposition control and months of uncertainty, the Venezuelan government officially took over agrochemical company Monómeros on Monday.
Considered Venezuela’s second most important foreign-held asset, Monómeros was subject to months of uncertainty due to efforts by former General Manager Guillermo Rodríguez Laprea to resist returning the company to state-owned Pequiven.
Pedro Rafael Tellechea Ruiz, President of Pequiven, traveled to Barranquilla, Colombia on Tuesday to visit one of Monómeros’ installations.
“We are going to tell the world that we feel proud and blessed to have a company like Monómeros,” Tellechea told a crowd of assembled workers.
The Colombia-based agrochemical producer came under the control of Venezuela’s hardline opposition in May 2019—alongside a number of other foreign assets—following the recognition of Juan Guaidó as “interim president” by Washington and its allies as part of efforts to oust the Nicolás Maduro government.
Following his election victory in June, Colombian President Gustavo Petro pledged to return Monómeros to state-owned Pequiven, and thus place it under the management of the Venezuelan government, as one of several steps to restore diplomatic and economic relations with Venezuela. However, the handover was cast into doubt after the former general manager suggested that the company would become “paralyzed” should it return to the Venezuelan state.
Monómeros operates under a sanctions waiver from the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The current license was renewed in June 2022, while still run by the Venezuelan opposition, and is due to expire June 30, 2023.
The US Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment about the status of the OFAC license for Monómeros.
While run by successive Guaidó-appointed boards, Monómeros was plagued by scandals and corruption allegations, which severely impacted its productivity and generated serious problems for Colombia’s rural producers.
Before being driven into the ground, Monómeros, which has two main plants, played a major role in Colombia’s food chain, previously supplying nearly half of the fertilizers and 70 percent of the agrochemicals used by coffee, potato and palm oil production.
In his address to workers, Pequiven President Tellechea said the company was back in a healthy financial state and that it counted on the necessary raw materials to resume production, before pledging to restore its status as a key industrial agrochemical producer.
The social media accounts for Monómeros were also filled with messages celebrating the return of the firm to Venezuelan government control.
“As of today, Monómeros begins writing a new chapter in its history!” read one message on Twitter.
Venezuelan Vice-President for Economic Affairs Tareck El Aissami announced he had tapped Ninoska La Concha as the new general manager, a Venezuelan national who had previously served as the head of Fertilizantes Oriente, another subsidiary of Pequiven.
“As of this minute we have started the total recovery of Monómeros,” declared El Aissami.
The new board of directors held its inaugural meeting Wednesday.
The loss of control over Monómeros is seen as yet another setback for the hardline Venezuelan opposition led by Juan Guaidó. In addition to its mismanagement, the company was hurt by political infighting among various anti-government groups.
These groups traded accusations, assigning blame to each other for the company’s numerous problems, leading the Colombian Ambassador to Venezuela Armando Benedetti to poke fun at them on his Twitter account.
“The Venezuelan opposition is very funny. Now Guaidó’s group says it was the group tied to Leopoldo [López] that were responsible for the looting of Monómeros and they ask themselves why [former Colombian President] Iván Duque did not investigate it,” wrote Benedetti.
Guaidó maintains that they called for an investigation of irregularities at the company when they surfaced.
Vice-President Tareck El Aissami further announced Thursday that Venezuela was seeking the arrest of 23 individuals over their alleged involvement in corruption at Monómeros, claiming they left the company in ruins for personal profit.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Lisbon, Portugal.