One day after Venezuela allegedly squashed a "military rebellion", in anticipation of further political and social turmoil in the socialist nation, energy giant Repsol SA pulled all foreign workers from its fields in Venezuela, Bloomberg reports adding that Norway’s Statoil ASA also removed all expat staff.
According to Bloomberg, Repsol field workers left the country in the past few weeks, with a skeleton expatriate staff remaining at the company’s offices in Caracas. Separately, Statoil withdrew its last three foreign workers before the July 30 election to ensure their safety, Erik Haaland, a company spokesman, told Bloomberg by phone.
The immediate result of the departures will be an even bigger decline in Venezuela's oil output - the only remaining asset which Maduro can readily exchange for dollars - further exacerbating the country's financial crisis as the inflow of hard currency slows further.
The departure of workers will be a concern to the government because oil output, which has tumbled over the past two years, accounts for 95 percent of Venezuela’s foreign-currency earnings. Repsol gets about 10% of its production from the country, where it owns a stake in the Carabobo heavy-oil field. The Spanish company also is a partner in the Perla project, Latin America’s largest offshore gas deposit, together with Eni SpA.
A spokesman for Rome-based Eni said the company is keeping only essential expatriate personnel in the country. It isn’t currently considering an evacuation but continues to monitor the situation, he said.
In what some may consider employee discrimination, Repsol said it still has Venezuelan citizens working at its operations without specifying how many foreign staff had been in the country. Statoil also still has Venezuelans - but not foreigners - at its sites, Haaland said.
As a reminder, the violence in Venezuela escalated sharply ahead of the July vote to elect members of the constituent assembly, with the opposition denouncing the move as a power-grab by President Nicolas Maduro. While the election faced accusations of fraud, including from the company that provided voting machines for the ballot, the new assembly convened last week. One of its first actions was to remove chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz, the highest-ranking member of Maduro's administration who broke rans with the authoritarian and was critical of the government.