MANAGUA – The government and U.S. oil company Esso Standard Oil, owner of the only refinery in the country and most of the oil distribution and storage facilities, met this week to begin talks about the government’s plans to nationalize oil importation, according to President Daniel Ortega.
Ortega said that there were still details that needed to be worked out to ensure that next year the country can receive 10 million barrels of petroleum from Venezuela, or the total amount the country consumes.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has promised to supply Nicaragua with its entire oil supply, but the government lacks the facilities to receive and process the oil.
This year only 2 million barrels of Venezuelan oil were imported by smaller state oil company Petronic. Esso, however, has been uncooperative with the government’s plan to buy the Venezuelan oil on preferential payment terms, leading to a temporary embargo of the Esso facility earlier this year, during which the government used the U.S. oil company’s facilities to offload 120,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil before turning the facility back over to Esso.
Ortega has said that his government’s plans to nationalize the oil industry is not the same as “confiscation,” although the terms of the administration’s proposal to Esso are still not public. The president has said that by nationalizing the oil industry, Nicaragua would alleviate the energy crisis.