The ruling constitutes a support of the Delaware Court to Guaidó as the legitimate leader of the country with authority to appoint directors of Citgo and its parent company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)
Detail of a sculpture near the building of the headquarters of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), in Caracas (Venezuela). EFE / MIGUEL GUTIÉRREZ / Archive
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A US court ruled in favor of the board of directors of Citgo Petroleum, appointed by the head of the National Assembly of Venezuela, taking a serious blow to the efforts of the government of President Nicolás Maduro to regain control of the refinery based in Texas.
The recognition of the president of the Congress, Juan Guaidó, by the government of Donald Trump as the legitimate leader of the South American country makes the appointments in Citgo valid, the vice-chancellor of the Chancellery of Delaware, Kathaleen McCormick, ruled on Friday.
The ruling constitutes a backing of the Delaware Court to Guaidó as the legitimate leader of the country with authority to appoint directors of Citgo and its parent company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). However, the court delayed the decision for 10 days to allow Maduro's lawyers time to challenge the process used to confirm the appointments.
"The Delaware Court has rejected the abuse of Nicolás Maduro's regime of using the American judicial system to advance his anti-democratic agenda," Citgo said in a statement.
Quinn Smith, a lawyer who represented the board of directors appointed by Maduro in the court case, said they are reviewing the judge's decision and considering the next steps. Neither PDVSA nor the Venezuelan Ministry of Petroleum responded immediately to inquiries about the matter.
Citgo, Venezuela's most important asset abroad, has been targeted by the measures applied by Washington to pressure Maduro to leave power. The sanctions prohibit the subsidiary of PDVSA in Houston from buying Venezuelan crude or paying dividends.
Judge McCormick said the court "accepts as binding the recognition of the president of the United States to the government of Guaidó and assumes the validity of the appointments of the government of Guaidó for the PDVSA board."
The ruling represents a major obstacle for Maduro's lawyers in an attempt to revoke the Guaidó directive.
McCormick wrote that the court accepts the charges of the board and that Maduro's lawyers "did not appear to challenge the authority" of the officials who authorized the appointments.
In February, the opposition-controlled Congress appointed an ad hoc PDVSA board of directors with powers to nominate directors of the US PDV Holding, Citgo Holding, and Citgo Petroleum units. But Maduro retains the support of the military and still controls PDVSA and the government functions of the South American country.
Washington imposed sanctions on Venezuela and PDVSA in January, in an attempt to curb oil exports and increase pressure on Maduro to abandon power. Since the validity of the sanctions, Venezuelan shipments have fallen by nearly 40%.