And the Opec member’s exports are seen to be dropping sharply as troubles mount for PDVSA, with Russ Dallen of investment bank Caracas Capital saying that the company faces “an avalanche” of lawsuits over unpaid bonds.

Mr Dallen of Caracas Capital said that SNC and the other noteholders could even get ahead of ConocoPhillips in the queue to seize PDVSA assets. “SNC doesn’t have to register its claim in court, it can just go ahead and enforce,” he said.


The danger is that PDVSA may no longer be acting in a rational manner. Last month, two executives at US major Chevron, which has continued to operate in Venezuela, were arrested and charged with treason after reportedly refusing to sign over-priced supply contracts.

Until last year, says Mr Dallen, PDVSA had sought to keep its creditors engaged in helping to get its oil to market. But this changed in November with the appointment of Major General Manuel Quevedo as oil minister and head of PDVSA, who had no previous experience in the industry.

“Quevedo has declared war on everybody,” said Mr Dallen. “That’s just stupid. They’re your partners — you don’t lock people up for doing their job.”