Venezuela's Maduro calls new Citgo financing deal 'illegal'

PDVSA's U.S. unit Citgo Petroleum refinery is pictured in Sulphur, Louisiana, U.S., June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman/Files

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday called a recent financing deal for state oil company PDVSA's U.S. refining unit Citgo by the opposition "illegal" and said the U.S. government was "complicit."

"Everyone involved, Venezuelan and foreign, in this $1.3 billion robbery and embezzlement of Citgo that is underway will be exposed," Maduro said in a state television address.

Last month, Citgo said it had raised $1.2 billion through a five-year term loan to cover operating expenses and refinance existing debt.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido in January invoked the country's constitution to assume an interim presidency on the grounds Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognized as Venezuela's rightful leader by most Western countries, including the United States.

The March refinancing took place after a new board of directors named by Guaido, who presides over the OPEC nation's congress, took control of Citgo, PDVSA's crown jewel overseas asset.

Opposition politicians are considering making an interest payment on PDVSA bonds backed by shares in Citgo. Failure to pay could allow creditors to seize Citgo as compensation, but efforts by Maduro-linked entities to make the payment, due April 27, could run afoul of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela.

Maduro calls Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup.


(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Luc Cohen, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)