Sen. Mary Landrieu Working to Help Citgo Amid Venezuelan Sanctions

Image: Sen. Mary Landrieu Working to Help Citgo Amid Venezuelan Sanctions Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. (Jan Somma-Hammel/Staten Island Advance/Landov)

Friday, 08 Aug 2014 08:43 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Sen. Mary Landrieu has intervened on behalf of oil giant Citgo to try to protect its U.S. operations from the effects of a bipartisan Venezuelan sanctions package intended to target officials who cracked down on peaceful pro-democracy protesters.

The Louisiana Democrat made a last-minute intervention before the August recess to put a hold on the legislation after the company raised concerns about the impact of the sanctions on its imports of crude oil to her state's refinery, Politico reported.

"We have a refinery in Louisiana that takes Venezuelan crude. The fear is that this bill will prohibit future shipments of that crude, thereby essentially shutting in the refinery and as a result, there will be a large loss of jobs at the refinery. If this is indeed the case, or can potentially happen, my boss is unwilling to support this bill," Elizabeth Craddock, an aide to Landrieu and Energy Committee staff director, wrote in an email to the Foreign Relations Committee.

Landrieu, who is Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman, is locked in a tough battle to retain her seat in November. Throughout her campaign she has been vocal in opposing the administration's views on energy issues, mindful of striking a populist chord about the importance of the industry for jobs and the economic prosperity of the state.

Landrieu's office confirmed her role in trying to intervene on Citgo's behalf, and give the company "a second layer of protection."

The Foreign Relations Committee, however, refused the request and attempted to reassure Landrieu that the sanctions would not impact Citgo's U.S. operations.

"No need for Sen. Landrieu to be concerned about any implications for refineries in Louisiana," wrote one staffer, according to Politico. "The scope of [the bill] is very narrow. It focuses on individuals that have committed human rights abuses against protesters in the past six months, has unlawfully jailed protesters, or supported either of those first two provisions."

Citgo did not respond to questions from Politico about whether it was acting on behalf of the Venezuelan government or its corporate interests. The company has at times been the subject of controversy and threats of boycotts in the United States because of its relationship with Venezuela and hired Washington lobbyists in May to represent it, Politico reported.

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