CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuelan leftist President Nicolas Maduro last evening held a ceremony to swear in a military officer as the new head of state oil company PDVSA in the presence of the military’s top brass and cheering red-shirted oil workers.
In a surprise move, the unpopular Maduro on Sunday tapped Major General Manuel Quevedo to lead both PDVSA and the Oil Ministry, giving the already powerful military control of the OPEC nation’s dominant industry.
“He’s a man of the people … and, most importantly, he’s honest!” said Maduro, as workers cheered and chanted that they wanted a “clean up in PDVSA!” after a series of corruption scandals.
Maduro also announced he was naming Ysmel Serrano, the head of the trade and supply division, as vice president of PDVSA, which oversees the world’s largest crude reserves. Maduro said he would seek to name the country’s former energy minister, Ali Rodriguez, as “honorary president” of PDVSA.
More military officers are set to be named to senior management posts as part of a shakeup the government says is aimed at fighting corruption, two company sources told Reuters on Monday.
Sources in the sector also said Quevedo’s appointment could quicken a white-collar exodus from PDVSA and worsen operational problems at a time when production has already tumbled to near 30-year lows of under 2 million barrels per day.