Dutch, Venezuelan officials to meet: Correction
Corrects name of Aruba prime minister
Bogota, 12 January (Argus) — The Dutch government has scheduled a high-level meeting with Venezuelan officials in Aruba today to discuss ongoing tensions between Caracas and the Dutch-controlled Caribbean islands that have significant refining and logistical ties to Venezuela.
"We hope for a constructive meeting that hopefully will result in a normalization of relations as soon as possible," a spokesman for the Dutch foreign ministry told Argus yesterday.
Months of friction between Caracas and the nearby islands of Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire boiled over on 5 January when Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro imposed a 72-hour closure of air and sea links, accusing the islands of smuggling Venezuelan goods, including minerals such as gold and coltan. Days later Caracas said the borders would remain closed indefinitely until the islands' authorities take measures to tamp down on the contraband activity.
The meeting will take place today at 2pm local time. The Dutch delegation will include the prime minister of Aruba Evelyn Wever-Croes and the Netherlands ambassador to Venezuela Norbert Braakhuis.
A lower-level meeting had already been scheduled to take place in Aruba, but this was reorganized at a higher level after the border was closed, the spokesman said.
The Venezuelan foreign ministry has not mentioned the meeting, and the ministry could not be reached to determine who would attend on the Opec country's behalf.
Tensions this morning focused on Curacao, where a Venezuelan crude cargo was seized by unknown private parties in the apparent enforcement of a judgment related to unpaid debt by Venezuelan state-owned PdV.
The Proteo crude tanker with 600,000-700,000 bl of capacity is currently at the Bullen Bay terminal.
PdV leases the 350,000 b/d Isla refinery in Curacao under a long-term lease that expires at the end of 2018. The company uses the facility for crude processing and blending of its diluted extra-heavy crude from the Orinoco oil belt.
In Bonaire, PdV owns a 10mn bl storage facility that Dutch authorities have threatened to close next month unless the Venezuelan company makes urgent repairs.
And in Aruba, PdV's US downstream subsidiary Citgo signed a lease last year to restart and revamp a 280,000 b/d refinery that US firm Valero mothballed in 2012.
Despite their tiny size, the islands form part of a significant nearshore network of installations that traditionally help Venezuela bring its crude to market.
On St Eustatius, another Dutch-controlled island, PdV leases storage owned by US company NuStar.
The worsening relations between Caracas and the small islands, which derive much of their revenue from the oil business, is the latest sign of a spillover of Venezuela's economic and political crisis.
PdV's financial straits have deteriorated over the past year, partly because of US financial sanctions that prevent the company from issuing new debt or restructuring its existing credits.
Both PdV and the Republic of Venezuela have fallen behind on bond interest payments since last year, putting them into effective default.