Bell Pottinger has been working for Venezuela's national oil giant, which is parent company of US-based Citgo Petroleum Corp.

Tim Bell's firm is trying to improve the overseas image of Petroleos de Venezuela, according to a report in Bloomberg.

PDVSA, which is mulling the sale of Citgo, is on the US sanctions list for its commercial relations with Iran.

UK-based BP is the first firm international PR firm hired by PDVSA since the death of Venezuela strong man Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro has carried out the leftist policies of his predecessor. He also has cracked down on the South American country's press.

The Wall Street Journal reported today on the surge in online media growth in Venezuela due to the hunt for news sources free of state control.