Attorneys representing Venezuela in a U.S. court case said last week they would only take orders from opposition leader, Juan Guaido. Ten days later, another law firm filed papers claiming President Nicolas Maduro remains in charge and should continue to call the shots.
Now, with two of Washington’s top law firms effectively battling over the same client, judges in a federal appeals court may have to decide who the rightful leader of Venezuela is, at least in the government’s dispute with a Canadian gold-mining company.
Lawyers with Venable LLP filed court papers Friday seeking to represent Venezuela and disputing the position taken by the country’s current law firm, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, which switched allegiance on Feb. 12. U.S. President Donald Trump officially recognized Guaido last month as Venezuela’s interim president. Dozens of other countries in Europe and South America have done the same, but Maduro remains in control of the military.
“President Maduro vigorously disputes that Mr. Guaido is the president of the Republic, and asserts that he remains the rightful leader,” the Venable lawyers said in their filing. “Arnold & Porter did not seek the Republic’s permission to represent Mr. Guaido.”
Kent Yalowitz, an Arnold & Porter lawyer representing Venezuela in the case, declined to comment.
The case concerns a demand by Rusoro Mining Ltd. to be compensated for Venezuela’s expropriation of its property. The legal confusion has extended to Venezuela’s state-controlled oil and gas company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and its U.S. subsidiary, Citgo Petroleum Corp., which are also involved in U.S. litigation.
“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 last week.
Venable, representing Maduro, expressed a different view.
“Executive policy is not immutable, nor is Mr. Guaido’s place as the legitimate leader of Venezuela by any means assured,” the Venable lawyers said. The nation “strenuously objects to Arnold & Porter’s position that the Republic has no right to participate in these proceedings by virtue of President Trump’s official statement.”
The case is Rusoro Mining Ltd. v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, 18-07044, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).