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Venezuela's U.N. envoy says he was pushed out by Maduro

Venezuela's U.N. envoy says he was pushed out by Maduro
From Reuters - December 5, 2017

CARACAS/HOUSTON (Reuters) - Venezuelas powerful former oil czar Rafael Ramirez said on Tuesday he resigned from his job as U.N. envoy on orders of the president, a sign of growing rifts in the Socialist Party once firmly united under late leader Hugo Chavez.

Sources told Reuters last week that leftist President Nicolas Maduro fired Ramirez, a political rival who was thought to have presidential ambitions, and summoned him back to Caracas from New York.

Several close allies of Ramirez, as well as a relative, have been arrested in Venezuela in recent weeks as part of a purge in the oil sector over graft allegations, sparking questions about whether Ramirez would dare return to Caracas.

Insiders say Maduro is feeling empowered after surviving major political protests this year. He is now moving to strengthen his control of the OPEC members crucial energy industry and sideline political rivals ahead of presidential elections in 2018.

I have been removed for my opinions, said Ramirez via Twitter, where he posted a four-page resignation letter.

He has for weeks been writing editorials on a left-wing news site that are harshly critical of Maduro and the state of the oil industry.

By attacking me personally, you are affecting the unity of the revolutionary forces and the legacy of Comandante Chavez, he added in the letter addressed to Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, referring to Chavez, who governed Venezuela for 14 years before dying of cancer in 2013.

Ramirez, a 54-year-old engineer, did not discuss his next moves in the resignation letter, but a source close to him told Reuters on Tuesday that had left the United States.

His press representative did not immediately respond to request for comment.

RAMIREZ FALL FROM GRACE

OIL PURGE

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