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US sanctions Venezuelan oil minister Quevedo, calls him 'illegitimate' PDVSA president

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US sanctions Venezuelan oil minister Quevedo, calls him 'illegitimate' PDVSA president

Washington — The US Department of the Treasury on Friday added Venezuelan oil minister Manuel Quevedo to its list of sanctioned individuals blocked from the US financial system, calling him the "illegitimate" president of PDVSA, which has been under US sanctions for three weeks.

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Quevedo holds the rotating OPEC presidency for 2019.

US sanctions against PDVSA announced January 28 have caused US Gulf Coast refiners to scramble for alternate sources of heavy crude and have cut off flows of US refined products and diluents to Venezuela. Despite the supply disruptions, the sanctions have not significantly impacted prices.

The sanctions are expected to remain in force as long as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is in office.

Quevedo is a former brigadier general in the Venezuelan National Guard who had no oil experience before being tapped by Maduro to be the country's oil minister in late 2017.

"PDVSA is Venezuela's primary source of income and foreign currency, and has long been used as a vehicle for significant government corruption," Treasury said in designating Quevedo. "Government officials and businessmen alike devised schemes to launder billions of dollars stolen and embezzled for their personal gain."

Venezuelan production dropped 10,000 b/d month on month to 1.16 million b/d in January, and down from 2.4 million b/d in December 2015, according to the latest S&P Global Platts OPEC production survey.

It is unclear if the US sanctions will prevent Quevedo from attending OPEC's April meeting in Vienna, which would have been his first meeting as president.

The last time an OPEC president could not attend, an alternate president led the meeting. The current alternate president is Algeria's Mustapha Guitouni.

In June 2015, Nigeria held the OPEC presidency but did not send a representative to the meeting because of a recent change in government. Qatar's Mohammed al-Sada acted as alternate president of the meeting.

-- Meghan Gordon, with Eklavya Gupte in London,

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,

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