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Venezuela’s U.S. Lawyers Just Switched from Maduro to Guaido (1)

Feb. 13, 2019, 5:31 PM

U.S. lawyers representing Venezuela just switched sides.

In a strange twist, the American attorneys have asked a federal judge to delay a case involving a Canadian gold producer after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido claimed the country’s interim presidency, though Nicolas Maduro remains in control.

The Washington law firm Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP previously took direction from Maduro’s government, but that changed after U.S. President Donald Trump officially recognized Guaido on Jan. 23.

“President Guaido’s government has instructed us to file this motion,” Arnold & Porter said Feb. 12 in the filing with the federal court of appeals in Washington. Delays are necessary to allow the interim government “sufficient time to evaluate its position” for cases in U.S. courts, the firm said.

The filing was made in a case related to a demand by Rusoro Mining Ltd. for compensation tied to Venezuela’s expropriation of its property. Venezuela is involved in at least 18 cases in U.S. courts, records show. Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state-owned oil company, and its American unit, Citgo Petroleum Corp., are also involved in U.S. litigation.

In the Feb. 12 filing, the first in the U.S. to address Venezuela’s disputed leadership crisis, the firm requested a delay of 120 days in the Rusoro case.

The demand for more time follows by a day the law firm’s registration, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, as a representative of Venezuela under Guaido, replacing an earlier registration that didn’t specify the name of the country’s leader, according to U.S. Department of Justice records.

“Because the president has recognized President Guaido as the rightful representative of the Republic, only President Guaido or his representatives may assert the interests of the Republic in U.S. courts,” Arnold & Porter said in court papers.

The firm declined to make any further comment.

The case is Rusoro Mining Ltd. v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, D.C. Ct. App., No. 18-07044, motion 2/12/19.

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To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at Steve Stroth