On Nov. 26, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro handed over leadership of the national oil company, PDVSA, to Manuel Quevedo, a general with no experience in the energy sector. The move comes after a series of arrests of officials within PDVSA on corruption charges, including six earlier in November. In an email interview, David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America and curator of the blog Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, discusses Maduro’s underlying political motivations for the moves and the military’s increasing control of Venezuela’s economy.
WPR: Maduro has arrested around 50 PDVSA officials since August, as well as six officials from Citgo earlier this month on corruption charges. Is this part of a serious attempt to clean up corruption, or are there other, ulterior motives?
David Smilde: Given the lack of transparency and accountability that characterizes the Maduro government, there is undoubtedly extensive corruption in PDVSA. Thus purging the company is not an unreasonable thing to do. But the question is why now, just when PDVSA is facing a default and there is a significant need for gaining more investment and expanding production?