CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s socialist-held National Assembly will ratify a law passed last year by a separate legislative body that let the government confidentially sign deals with private firms because of U.S. sanctions, congressional chief Jorge Rodriguez said on Monday.
The “anti-blockade” bill was passed last October by the National Constituent Assembly, a parallel legislature that was dissolved last year after allies of President Nicolas Maduro won control of the National Assembly, previously held by the opposition.
Sources told Reuters at the time that the main purpose of the law was to attract greater private investment in the OPEC nation’s crucial oil sector, using confidentiality to shield partners from potential U.S. sanctions. Washington blacklisted state oil company PDVSA in 2019 to try to oust Maduro.
“The anti-blockade law grants much more security to investors that feel worried in some way due to the conditions derived from the sanctions and the blockade,” Rodriguez told Reuters in an interview from the legislative palace.
“Without a doubt, that will generate more dynamism in private capital in oil investment,” Rodriguez said.
Venezuela’s crude output has collapsed in recent years due to underinvestment and mismanagement at PDVSA, whose full name is Petroleos de Venezuela, and, more recently, U.S. sanctions. The opposition has long argued that the country’s hydrocarbons law should be reformed to boost private investment.
Since allies of Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela took over the legislature, the National Assembly has published an agenda to reform some 35 laws, including the country’s hydrocarbons law, as well as laws regulating the natural gas and mining sectors.
When asked about the plans to reform the hydrocarbons law, Rodriguez said the congress may reform laws that have “some degree of obsolescence.”
“But for the major issues addressed by the anti-blockade law, it is more expeditious that the National Assembly by way of an agreement ratify the anti-blockade law by way of decree,” he said.
Venezuela’s opposition widely boycotted last December’s legislative elections, arguing the vote was not free or fair. The United States, the European Union and several Latin American countries did not recognize the results.
Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Peter Cooney