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To survive months of street protests and an economy in tailspin, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is trying to turn state oil company PDVSA into a bastion of support, further degrading an already vulnerable enterprise. Political appointees are gaining clout at the expense of veteran oil executives, while employees are under mounting pressure to attend government rallies and vote for the ruling Socialists. A senior management team named in January that draws heavily on political and military appointees has left PDVSA's president, the Stanford-educated engineer Eulogio Del Pino, largely powerless, according to two high-level sources in PDVSA and the government who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.However, Oil Minister Nelson Martinez, the former head of Venezuela's U.S.-based refiner Citgo and a close ally of Maduro, increasingly negotiates high-level pacts and flies to oil congresses representing Venezuela. Prominent new executives include trading division boss Ysmel Serrano, who used to work for current Vice President Tareck El Aissami, and finance Vice President Simon Zerpa, a young ally of Maduro's. The influx of inexperienced executives and middle managers is keenly felt by foreign oil executives, who say they sometimes spend hours waiting for PDVSA representatives and complain that simple decisions are inexplicably delayed.
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