U.S. congressman Joe Garcia. Image courtesy of Congressman Joe Garcia/Youtube.

U.S. congressman Joe Garcia of Florida urged President Obama Wednesday to block the sale of Venezuela’s Citgo North American refining unit because it would be against “vital national interests” and be used for “nefarious objectives.”

Venezuela’s Oil Minister and CEO of state owned PDVSA Rafael Ramirez said earlier this month that the country wants to divest from Citgo “as soon as we receive a proposal that serves our interests.”

Citgo is the American refining, transporting and marketing arm of PDVSA.

Garcia, a Democrat, said the sale would sever ties between Venezuela and the United States, allowing Venezuela to skip out on paying debts to U.S. companies.

“The last thing we want them to do is to delink themselves from the U.S. and to not pay its debtors,” Garcia said at a press conference.

Garcia, whose district covers most of western Miami-Dade County and includes many Venezuelan ex-pats, said the sale would damage one of Venezuela’s few remaining sources of steady revenue.

“It is one of the last assets that the Venezuelans have had and have not been able to damage its value,” Garcia said.

Most of Venezuela’s oil is used for heavily subsidized domestic consumption and to pay down debt from China, sales made by Citgo in the U.S. are one of PDVSA’s few sources of true revenue.

“It is a cheap move that ignores the fundamental problems caused by the government’s gross mismanagement. It is bad for Venezuelans, and it is bad for us,” Garcia said.

PDVSA is asking for $10 billion to $15 billion for Citgo.

Investment bank Lazard has been tapped to handle the sale.

Citgo has three refineries in the United States with a combined capacity of about 750,000 barrels per day. It also owns 48 oil terminals and operates 6,000 gas stations.

The company has not publicized a purchase offer yet.


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