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Maduro demand for control crimped finances of Colombia's Monomeros, ex-chair says

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro addresses the media from the Miraflores Palace, in Caracas, Venezuela August 16, 2021. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria reuters_tickers
This content was published on September 14, 2021 - 17:52

By Luc Cohen and Brian Ellsworth

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's demand for control of Colombian fertilizer producer Monomeros has further upset the company's finances and contributed to a Colombian regulator's intervention last week, said Carmen Elisa Hernandez, who resigned on Sunday https://twitter.com/cehr6559/status/1437500455555375106 as chair of the company's board.

She told Reuters that Maduro's demand alarmed suppliers of raw materials to the firm and led them to stop selling to Monomeros on generous credit terms, complicating the Venezuelan state-owned company's finances, which were already compromised by difficulty accessing credit from Colombian banks.

The resulting cash crunch contributed to the decision last week by the Superintendencia de Sociedades to oversee operations at the company, an important supplier to farmers in Colombia, a leading global coffee exporter, Hernandez said.

Venezuela's information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The board in control of the Colombian company was appointed by Juan Guaido, Venezuelan opposition leader since 2019, when Colombia, the United States and dozens of others recognized him as Venezuela's rightful leader, labeling Maduro a dictator who rigged his 2018 re-election.

Maduro, asserting the election was fair, remains in office despite U.S. sanctions and diplomatic pressure while international mediators facilitate negotiations to end the political crisis.

Maduro has said he will use the negotiations to demand https://www.reuters.com/article/veneuzuela-politics-citgo/venezuelas-maduro-says-citgo-is-key-point-in-opposition-dialogue-idUSL1N2N12XZ that Monomeros and U.S. refiner Citgo Petroleum Corp, also controlled by the opposition, be put under his government's control.

Hernandez said that while such a scenario was unlikely, the prospect of dealing with a company controlled by the cash-strapped Maduro government led suppliers to request upfront payments for raw materials like urea and phosphates.

"It generated a problem in the market in terms of mistrust and a reduction of risk appetite," she said in an interview late on Monday.

The Superintendencia de Sociedades declined comment, referring to its Sept. 6 statement which said its intervention was the most it could do to address a critical situation concerning legal, accounting, economic or administrative issues.

Monomeros did not immediately reply to a request for comment. In a Sept. 7 statement, Monomeros asked the regulator to revoke the intervention measure, arguing the decision was based on "out-of-date information."

Hernandez said she resigned in part because she disagreed with that position, arguing instead that the regulator's intervention served as a useful signal to suppliers that Colombia's government - a staunch opponent of Maduro - would not allow Monomeros to fall back into Maduro's hands.

"The control resolution meant protection by the Colombian government, which has been in absolute solidarity with President Guaido's interim government," Hernandez said.

Asked about the suppliers' concerns and the Colombian regulator's intervention, Guaido dismissed the Maduro government's demands for control of Monomeros as "propaganda," and said the company's board should be restructured in the wake of Hernandez' departure. Her replacement has yet to be named.

"Monomeros is and will be Venezuelan in ownership, but it should be in administration as well," Guaido told reporters.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York and Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Additional reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota; Editing by Howard Goller)

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