WASHINGTON (AFP) – Citgo, the US affiliate of Venezuela’s state-run oil company, donated half a million dollars to Donald Trump’s inauguration fund, documents released here show.
The Houston, Texas-based Citgo is among 20 companies and individuals who made the largest donations to the committee organizing the president’s events, according to documents released by the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday.
The donation is surprising because relations between Caracas and Washington — which have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 — is at an especially low point.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro routinely bashes Washington and blames US officials, without offering proof, for being behind his country’s opposition movement and unspecified plots to oust him.
The White House has called on Maduro to release its political prisoners, and Trump even welcomed the wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to the White House in February.
The FEC documents were released on the same day that three people died in massive Venezuelan protests against Maduro. Pressure on the leftist president has been mounting since 2014, as falling prices for Venezuela’s crucial oil exports have aggravated a deep economic crisis.
Also Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that US officials are “concerned” that the Maduro government “is violating its own constitution and not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard.”
Trump took office on January 20, and his inauguration committee raised $107 million for the festivities.
Citgo’s donation is on par with those of Microsoft, bankers JP Morgan, and oil giants Exxon and Chevron, which all donated $500,000.
But other large US corporations, including Google and Verizon, donated less money, according to the FEC document.
Despite the heated rhetoric between the two countries, the United States remains Venezuela’s main trading partner and one of its few customers that pays in full and on time for its oil exports.