Citgo Petroleum to dismiss workers in Aruba over U.S. sanctions: prime minister

February 15, 2019

By Sailu Urribarri

(Reuters) – A Citgo Petroleum Corp refining unit in Aruba plans to dismiss workers following sanctions imposed by the United States on Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA, the parent company of the U.S. refining firm, the island’s prime minister said on Friday.

President Donald Trump’s administration last month disclosed tough sanctions on Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), barring U.S. customers from paying the company for exports until a team led by Venezuelan congress head, Juan Guaido, arranges its own bank accounts to support his interim government.

Citgo in 2016 signed a 15-year lease with the government of Aruba, agreeing to refurbish and reopen an idled 209,000-barrel-per-day refinery previously run by U.S. refiner Valero Energy.

Citgo had hired about 300 workers and four contracting firms for the project, which has faced delays due to lack of financing and sanctions imposed since 2017 on PDVSA.

It was unclear on Friday how many employees could be laid off. Citgo did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

“Our government contacted refinery executives to avoid it (the layoff plan). Unfortunately, it is not entirely in our hands due to the tense and confusing situation in Venezuela,” Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes said in a statement.

The layoff notice was passed by Citgo to the government in a meeting last Thursday, she said.

Wever-Croes also said that the Caribbean nation is not involved in military action related to Venezuela amid U.S. efforts to move humanitarian aid from the nation’s borders.

(Reporting by Sailu Urribarri in Jacksonville, Fla.; Writing by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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