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Chevron tells executives to leave Venezuela after arrests

Following the arrests of two of its workers over a contractual dispute, Reuters reports sources saying that Chevron has evacuated its executives from Venezuela. Other workers have also been instructed to stay away from its facilities, which it operates as a joint venture with PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.

Since Venezuela’s government launched an anti-corruption purge last autumn, more than 80 PDVSA executives and other business partners have been accused of corruption. The arrests at Chevron were the first to involve a foreign oil company, however. The arrested workers reportedly

declined to sign a supply contract, which had been written up by PDVSA executives, for furnace parts after being shocked by the absence of a competitive bidding process and the resulting high price. They may face charges of treason as a result.

Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s foreign minister, has since defended the arrests by saying:

“The decisions of the prosecutor’s office are based on serious investigations to fight corruption … These two people involved have the right to defence and due process.”

Chevron responded to Arreaza’s comments by issuing a statement affirming that the company followed a code of business ethics and all relevant U.S. and Venezuelan laws.

The arrests indicate the difficulties that foreign oil firms are experiencing in continuing to operate amid the economic and political situation in Venezuela. ExxonMobil, maker of slideway oils like Mobil Vactra 4, has already had a long-running compensation dispute with the country following the re-nationalisation of some of its assets in 2007.

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