> Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is struggling to keep his oil rich nation from spiraling into economic and political chaos, has found a strong ally in Russia's state-run oil firm Rosneft. A Reuters report finding Rosneft has secretly been negotiating with Venezuela's state-run oil firm PDVSA to be given new oil stakes.
Reuters correspondent Alexandra Ulmer is covering the story.>> Russia has turned into the lender of last resort for President Nicolas Maduro's struggling government here in Venezuela. Russia's state oil company, Rosneft, has extended at least $6 billion in loans. And Reuters' calculations show that Russia as a whole has lent $17 billion to the struggling South American nation.
In return for this unfailing support, Russia is set to win big in the midst of Venezuela's crisis. Negotiations are ongoing that could see Rosneft pocket a slew of new oil assets here in Venezuela.>> Rosneft has also positioned itself as a middleman in sales of Venezuelan oil to customers worldwide.
Much of it ends up at refineries in the United States, despite US sanctions against Russia, as much of it is sold through intermediaries, such as oil trading firms.>> Now opposition leaders here in Venezuela say Rosneft is behaving more like a shark than an ally and draining Venezuela of its resources.
A top official at PDVSA told us Rosneft has saved state oil company PDVSA from defaults at least twice, if not more.>> With few countries willing to do business with Venezuela, Maduro has become increasingly dependent on Russian cash. And that has played a key role in destabilizing the weakened democracy that is facing triple digit inflation and severe shortages on essentials like food and medicine.
The powers of Venezuela's National Assembly, which opposed new oil deals with Moscow, were largely taken over by the Supreme Court in March. Days later, after national protests, the court reinstated power to the assembly, but allowed Maduro to keep his legal authority to cut new oil deals with Russia without legislative approval.
That episode is seen as pivotal in escalating daily street protests and clashes with authorities that have led to more than 120 deaths since April.