Double Deal

Russia Gave to Citgo, Then Citgo Gave to Trump

Many big oil companies funded Trump’s inauguration. Only one is deeply in debt to the Kremlin.

Dr. Vanessa Neumann

Dr. Vanessa Neumann


The oil company’s half-million donation to Donald Trump’s Inaugural Committee wasn’t illegal. But it certainly wasn’t moral. And the cash may have come from the Kremlin, at least indirectly.

Recently released Federal Election Commission filings show that Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (known as PDVSA) gave Trump more money than Shell or Walmart. The donation is unusual for PDVSA: Citgo had not donated to previous presidential inaugural committees.

Citgo’s donation to the Trump Inaugural Committee and the horrifying images emerging from Venezuela’s weeks of brutally repressed protests (26 killed, 437 injured, and 1,289 arrested—according to Venezuela’s attorney general; Venezuelan prisoner rights NGO Foro Penal says 1,536 have been “detained” as of April 25) are connected: Russian money and influence is behind both of them. Some of those detained are tortured in Venezuela’s equivalent of CIA headquarters, known as “The Tomb,” for its subterranean torture chambers. The Inaugural Committee donation came days after Citgo (a Delaware-incorporated company with operational headquarters in Houston) mortgaged 49.9 percent of its holdings to Rosneft, an oil company controlled by the Kremlin. That enabled Citgo’s parent company PDVSA to make its bond payments. Rosneft is sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department. So is its CEO, Igor Sechin, “Russia’s Darth Vader.” One of the most feared men in Russia, Sechin is close to Vladimir Putin and is one of Putin’s key instruments of geopolitical power. Net net: If Venezuela defaults on its bond payments, Rosneft (i.e., Putin & Co.) could own several refineries, nine pipelines, and distribution terminals all across the Eastern U.S., from Texas to Maine, without any government oversight. If the Russians end up owning Citgo, they will be using American consumers to fund their autocracy and Assad’s brutality in Syria.

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