Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro has appointed the exploration and production director at state oil company PDVSA to take over its top spot, a cabinet shuffle that ends the ten-year stint of Rafael Ramirez as joint oil minister and state oil company director.
Eulogio Antonio del Pino Diaz will take over as PDVSA president while the new oil minister will be Asdrubal Chavez, a cousin of late leader Chavez who most recently was a downstream vice president at the national oil company.
Del Pino told attendees of the World Petroleum Congress in Moscow in June that still-untapped reserves of heavy oil being developed by companies including Venezuelan state company PDVSA will help contribute to fulfill global energy demand.
“President Chavez was one of the persons who most championed and showed the world that the heavy oil in the (Orinoco belt) … can be can be upgraded and blended with other oils in order to be on the market in a very competitive manner,” del Pino told his audience.
Venezuela has the world's largest reserves at 297 billion barrels of oil in place.
Ramirez will take over as the country's foreign minister in the cabinet shakeup that observers see as intended to boost the popularity of Maduro who has struggled to maintain the socialist legacy of late President Hugo Chavez amid economic stagnation.
Maduro in a statement praised the service of Ramirez, saying he "spent 12 years in charge of oil policy of the Revolution, rescuing our industry from the clutches of the oligarchic and imperialist meritocracy."
Reuters reported that markets panned the move, with Venezuelan bonds falling on Wednesday with the benchmark 2027 off 1.55% to bid at 75.44 in afternoon trade.
An opposition group said in a statement that changing up personnel without an overall policy change will do little good to revive the country's economy, the news wire said.
But some observers suggested to the news wire that respected energy industry veteran Del Pino, known as a technically savvy manager, could provide a boost to the ailing company, which has struggled with declining production despite boasting the world's largest reserves.
Though possibly more able than Ramirez to focus on technicalities than politics, Reuters said, the Stanford-educated geophysicist was unable to boost output in his previous job and will still have to tread carefully if he tries to overhaul PDVSA, the backbone of the Venezuelan economy.