MANAGUA – The government and Esso Standard Oil signed an agreement Sept. 13 settling a nearly month-long dispute over Customs duties that led a judge to embargo some of the U.S. oil company’s assets in Nicaragua.
The accord was drawn up in the Pacific port city of Corinto by Esso executive Gabriel Cedeño and the head of Nicaraguan state oil company Petronic, Rodolfo Zapata.
Part of the pact calls for Esso, a subsidiary of U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil Corp., to lease fuel tanks in Corinto to Petronic when the state-owned firm requires extra capacity to handle shipments of oil from Venezuela, whose leftist government supplies crude to Nicaragua and other nations in the region on generous terms.
At the same time, the agreement returns to Esso’s control seven storage tanks that were seized Aug. 17 at the request of Nicaragua’s Customs service, which alleged that the U.S. firm owed some $2.9 million in unpaid Customs duties.
The Corinto industrial complex, where the storage tanks are located, is to be managed jointly by Esso and Petronic.
Esso’s spokesman in Managua, Gerardo Gonzalez, told reporters that his firm and Petronic will share responsibility for safety and security around the Corinto storage tanks until at least the end of this year.
The accord makes no mention of the original dispute over Customs duties, providing fodder to those who argued the original dispute never had anything to do with taxes in the first place (NT, Aug. 31).
The signing coincided with the arrival in Corinto from Venezuela of the tanker Caribbean Unity, carrying 100,000 barrels of diesel and 20,000 gallons of gasoline.
Despite the apparent settlement, the national press reported over the weekend that many of the Esso, Shell and Texaco gas stations in downtown Managua and in the surrounding departments are still without regular and super gasoline. Some people, including Vice-President Jaime Morales Carazo, are blaming the gas shortage on Esso as a tit for tat payback for the embargo last month.