CARACAS -- Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro has demoted Oil Minister Nelson Martinez and replaced him with PDVSA head Eulogio del Pino.
Former Oil Minister Nelson Martinez will now be head of PDVSA.
“Eulogio, you will battle in the world. That is your main mission," Maduro said. "Eulogio has brokered non-OPEC and OPEC accords.”
Maduro said that Del Pino will soon travel abroad to strengthen international alliances ahead of heads of state summit to reach a new oil price accord. "We have a firm proposal that we have consulted with the world. I will present it soon to several key presidents of non-OPEC and OPEC countries.”
Until January, Del Pino had held both roles as head of PDVSA and Oil Minister -- in which he had helped negotiate the OPEC-Russia supply cuts last year.
Maduro had taken the Oil Minister role away from Del Pino in January and given it to then-CITGO head Nelson Martinez. Martinez is close to Maduro and the move is seen as strengthening Maduro's control of PDVSA. Earlier in the day, the Venezuela government's Official Gazette had revealed that PDVSA Vice President for Finance Simon Zerpa -- who was named to the U.S. Treasury OFAC sanction list earlier this month -- had been named head of official Chinese-Venezuela fund FONDEN.
U.S. institutions are forbidden to do business with OFAC sanctioned individuals, so analysts believe that the move allows Maduro to keep tighter control over the institution that produces 95% of the country's revenue.
“I announce this move to strengthen our international and operational capacity,” Maduro said.
"We can face the economic war with [Del Pino and Martinez} and we can win against this Trump/Pence duo," claimed Maduro.
Venezuela -- which has the world's largest oil reserves -- has seen it's oil production fall to 1.93 million barrels per day from 3.5 million barrels per day during the administration of Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, according to OPEC production counts.