Caracas, April 18, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Two Chevron employees were arrested in the Venezuelan city of Puerto La Cruz on Monday, as part of the Bolivarian government’s ongoing anti-corruption drive.
Begun last September, Venezuela’s hardline campaign against corruption and influence peddling has led to legal action against dozens of employees and executives in the state oil sector, but these are the first arrests targeting personnel from a private foreign company.
According to sources interviewed by Reuters, agents of the Bolivarian Intelligence Services (SEBIN) raided PetroPiar’s Puerto la Cruz offices, located in the northeastern Venezuelan state of Anzoategui, to make the arrests.
PetroPiar is a 70/30 joint venture between state oil company PDVSA and Chevron, the largest US oil company operating in Venezuela today. One of the detained men, Carlos Agarra, is a chemical engineer recently relocated to Venezuela from Chevron’s Argentina operations, while the second detainee, Rene Vasquez, is a procurement advisor.
Monday’s arrests were not the first time personnel associated with the Petropiar have been accused of corruption. In January, seven PetroPiar managers were detained on grounds of embezzlement and conspiracy involving manipulation of production figures.
Focused on the oil and foreign currency exchange sectors, the anti-corruption drive has led to the arrests of some 80 PDVSA employees, 20 of whom are high-level executives. Among the top figures facing prosecution are former oil ministers Eulogio del Pino and Nelson Martinez.
The most important figure charged with corruption still remains at large. Rafael Ramirez, who was Chavez’s longest-serving oil minister, is sought by Venezuelan authorities and has a capture order issued by Interpol in January.
Although many have welcomed President Nicolas Maduro and Attorney General Tarek William Saab’s crackdown on corruption, some analysts claim that the campaign reflects factional disputes within Chavismo and has hampered the state oil company’s already flagging production.
Production reached record lows of 1.6 million barrels per day in January and has continued to fall throughout the year, as newly named military personnel were tapped to replace civilian staff members in the state oil company. Among the military officials is the new president of PDVSA, Manuel Quevedo.
On Tuesday, Chevron responded to the arrests stating that “Our legal team is evaluating the situation and working towards the timely release of these employees,” adding,“We have contacted the local authorities to understand the basis of the detention and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of these employees.”