February 25, 2019 / 5:29 PM / 21 days ago

UPDATE 1-Aruba asks U.S. to lift sanctions affecting refinery financing

(Adds details, remarks by Aruba’s Prime Minister)

Feb 25 (Reuters) - Aruba is asking the United States to lift financial sanctions blocking a Citgo Petroleum Corp oil refinery from financing an overhaul project, which has led to job cuts on the Caribbean island, the nation’s prime minister said on Monday.

Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes said at a media briefing that the United States initially ruled out a relaxation of sanctions, which this month led to a halt on a $685 million renovation project that was started in 2016.

The island government is expecting a final answer this week on its request to allow between $15 million and $20 million be invested in the project, Wever-Croes said, adding that the money would allow for the recall of the workers.

Citgo, as a unit Venezuela’s state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, is subject to financial sanctions imposed by the United States on the country’s government and PDVSA, designed to oust Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.

Citgo Aruba Refining signed a 15-year lease with the government of Aruba, agreeing to refurbish and reopen an idled 209,000-barrel-per-day refinery. That work was halted earlier in February and employees laid off because of the U.S. sanctions.

A Citgo Petroleum spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A first round of sanctions on Venezuela and PDVSA in 2017 had caused delays to the project.

Reporting by Sailu Urribarri in Jacksonville, Florida

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