Source: Houston Chronicle

A mayor in Venezuela temporarily seized an office belonging to Houston oilfield service company Baker Hughes, claiming that the company “chronically failed to pay municipal taxes.”

Venezuelan mayor seizes Baker Hughes office for 'not paying local taxes'-oil and gas 360

Source: Houston Chronicle

Baker Hughes said the office has since been reopened after both sides agreed to resolve the matter in court. But the temporary shutdown is another example of the tensions and uncertainties that U.S. energy companies face as they try to do business in Venezuela and maintain access to what are the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves.

Orlando Urdaneta, the mayor of the western Venezuela town of La Cañada, said on Twitter that city officials temporarily closed the company’s office early Thursday morning. Urdaneta, who did not say how much Baker Hughes allegedly owed, issued a statement to Venezuelan media that another Houston oilfield service company, Halliburton, paid its local taxes while Baker Hughes did not.

“We’ve called the owners of the company Baker Hughes to join us at a table of dialogue to discuss the situation and we can advance negotiations,” Urdaneta said.

Baker Hughes said the office was closed for less than a day. Meanwhile, tensions between the United States and Venezuela are still running high. Earlier this year, the Trump administration tightened economic sanctions on Venezuela and its oil industry as a means to unseat the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The Venezuelan strongman has led the country, once one of the richest in Latin American, into an economic collapse and held onto power through an election marked by fraud and support of the military. Urdaneta is a supporter of Maduro.

The Trump administration, which along with scores of other countries, backs Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. It recently extended waivers  for Baker Hughes, Halliburton, the oil field services companies Schlumberger and Weatherford, and U.S. oil major Chevron to remain in the troubled South American nation — at their own risk.

The five energy companies, which are either headquartered in on have major presences in Houston,  worked  with Venezuela’s state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, long before the sanctions were enacted.

Fearing that Russian and Chinese companies would dominate Venezuela’s oil fields should U.S. companies pull out, the Trump administration has granted permission to Baker Hughes and the other companies to remain in Venezuela, revisiting the waivers every few months.

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