December 6, 2017 / 9:54 PM / a year ago

INTERVIEW-Ramirez waiting for 'right time' to return to Venezuela

HOUSTON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s former oil czar Rafael Ramirez, recently pushed out of his position as ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters in an interview he is waiting for the right time to go back to his country, where politicians are battling ahead of the 2018 presidential election and an anti-corruption probe is expanding.

The probe so far has focused on state-run oil company PDVSA, which Ramirez led for a decade under the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez. Authorities have accused over 65 people, including two former PDVSA presidents, who also served as oil ministers under President Nicolas Maduro’s administration.

If investigators target him, “it would be one of the worst political moves to destroy a relevant figure of Chavez’s government,” Ramirez said in a telephone interview with Reuters from an undisclosed location.

He said he has not been approached by Venezuelan or U.S. prosecutors investigating corruption cases linked to PDVSA and its subsidiaries. Some of the cases focus on problems that occurred under his watch as one of Chavez’ longest serving officials.

“I have not been involved in any act of corruption. I have been very careful to follow internal control mechanisms,” he said. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Ernest Scheyder and David Gregorio)

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