Venezuela brings Zerpa, sanctioned by U.S., back to PDVSA

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CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s government has named Simon Zerpa, who was sanctioned by the United States last year, as an external director of state oil company PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] while confirming General Manuel Quevedo as the firm’s president, the company said in a statement.

FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan Economy and Finance Minister Simon Zerpa looks on in Moscow, Russia November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

Zerpa had been PDVSA finance vice president until February, but was removed from the executive after Washington barred American citizens from meeting with him on grounds that he was involved in corruption.

He returns at a time when PDVSA’s production has dropped to its lowest in 33 years and the company has been delaying payments on billions of dollars in foreign bonds.

The confirmation of Quevedo as president follows weeks of rumors that he would be replaced.

Executive Vice President Ysmel Serrano will also remain in his post, PDVSA said. A lawsuit filed by a U.S.-based group called PDVSA Litigation Trust describes Serrano as the leader of a multibillion-dollar corruption scheme.

The crisis-stricken country is struggling under hyperinflation and shortages of essential goods such as food and medicine due to the collapse of its socialist economic system.

President Nicolas Maduro, who is up for re-election on May 20, says his government is the victim of an “economic war” led by political adversaries.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago, writing by Brian Ellsworth; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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