By Alexandra Ulmer
CARACAS Venezuela's opposition-led National Assembly on Wednesday declared former PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] President Rafael Ramirez "politically responsible" for what it says was flagrant corruption at the state oil company during his decade-long tenure.Last month, a report by Venezuela's congressional comptroller's commission said some $11 billion in funds went missing when Ramirez was at the helm from 2004 to 2014. Ramirez denied the charges, and last month the Supreme Court approved an injunction against the probe at his request.The National Assembly's opposition deputies voted unanimously to approve the report and push for a judicial investigation of Ramirez. Ruling Socialist Party deputies boycotted the session.Speaking next to a pile of 10 boxes filled with documents, Freddy Guevara, the president of the comptroller's commission, accused PDVSA's former boss of being responsible for Venezuela's deep economic crisis.
"When today we see a Venezuelan eating from the trash, it's because delinquents like Rafael Ramirez stole money and did not do anything to stop the pillage of Venezuela's main industry," said Guevara, an opposition lawmaker from the hardline Popular Will party. "Rafael Ramirez was involved, and directly responsible, for the biggest corruption case in Venezuela's history."Ramirez defended himself on Twitter on Wednesday. "The dirtiest people in politics, the coup-mongering fascists, hate us for returning our oil to the people," he tweeted in posts that included photos of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
"I'll always be proud of having fulfilled the most important of duties at the head of PDVSA. Long live Chavez!" The Caracas-based company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Critics have long accused PDVSA of corruption, but the company has maintained it is the target of a right-wing smear campaign, led by the United States and compliant international media, to sabotage socialism.With the National Assembly essentially toothless amid a political dispute with the government, Wednesday's vote and push for an investigation has no obvious repercussions, although it piles pressure on Ramirez and PDVSA. The company, which manages the world's largest oil reserves, brings in about 95 percent of Venezuela's export revenue and has been the country's financial engine during 17 years of leftist rule in the OPEC member. (Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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