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Opinion and Analysis: Indigenous and Afro-Venezuelans | Politics

Venezuela: So This is What Self-Determination Looks Like

"Right now, Pdvsa is not a mercantile entity," said Antonio Szabó, a former executive at Pdvsa who left long before Mr. Chávez came to power and who is now chief executive of Stone Bond Technologies, a Houston software and energy consulting firm. "Right now, it's an instrument of the Venezuelan government."

Pdvsa is Petroleos de Venezuela, that country's state-run oil company. The article run by the NY Times linked below marks a sudden about-face in the media coverage of Venezuela.

It is easy to read between the lines and see why President Hugo Chavez represents the worst nightmare of the United States and the global corporate imperialists. A 'developing nation' taking control of its own resources? Ending sweetheart deals with multinational giants? Plowing profits back into infrastructure and 'social revolution,' in effect using American and European oil investment dollars to bring prosperity to Venezuelans? Soliciting cooperation from multinationals on its own terms? A majority partner in deals with Chevron and such? No more bowing and scraping before anybody who knocks at the door?

What is so funny about this article is the incredulous tone of corporate onlookers:

"Even at companies like Total that are moving toward a deal, executives describe tough negotiations that leave them wondering how committed Pdvsa really is to expanding the role of private companies.

"We are proposing to invest in a $4 billion project immediately, and we agree to work in terms of the new law," said Jean-Marie Guillermou of Total's Venezuela operations. "Normally, a country would want to jump on this. They don't do it. Why?"

No more winks and briefcases of cash exchanged among 'good friends'? No more license to wreck the environment in exchange for a few well-placed dollars? Say it ain't so.

"The company that has emerged from the ashes of the strike that ended in February 2003 is nothing like the button-down, corporate-style company that in the 1990's was often the No. 1 provider of foreign oil to the United States.

Gone is the by-the-book giant, which had $42 billion in sales, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission last October. Gone is the multinational whose managers once proudly compared Pdvsa to Exxon Mobil. Gone, too, are 18,000 experienced executives and managers who were fired for their role in the strike.

So is the autonomy the company once wielded, replaced by a highly centralized management controlled by the Ministry of Energy and Mines…"

So this is what nationalization looks like? Turns out it's not a communist plot. Nope, Pdvsa is playing ball with capitalist big boys, on their terms yes, but more importantly, on their own. Using corporate profits for what corporations for the most part falsely claim they are used for: to improve people's lives. Venezuela plans to use $36 billion worth of carefully-chosen foreign investment to double Venezuela's oil production by 2009.

"But while Pdvsa's talk of foreign investment and ramped-up production is welcome in the boardrooms of the world's biggest oil companies, in recent months much of the new earnings have been siphoned from exploration and production projects that some energy analysts say Pdvsa needs to recover fully from the strike. Instead, the windfall is financing a social revolution long promised by President Hugo Chávez's 5-year-old government to extricate the country from its malaise and ease life for the poor, an effort that had been hobbled by the strike and a 2002 coup that temporarily ousted the firebrand leader."

It is amusing that the corporate boardrooms are fretting about the fact that Pvdsa and Venezuela are more concerned with the health of their country than with ever-increasing bottom-lines. It is not seemly, apparently, for an oil giant not to grow and grow and grow as fast as possible. It is simply not done, you know. The tone of paternal concern is unmistakable. 'Consternation' and 'raised eyebrows.' To say the least I am sure.

"The government recently announced that $2 billion in Pdvsa revenue would bypass the central bank and form a special development fund to pay for public projects like a hydroelectric plant and a new state airline. Another $1.7 billion - taken from Pdvsa's $5 billion capitalization budget - is going to social programs, Rafael Ramírez, the minister of energy and mines, announced.

And with the Aug. 15 recall referendum that could end Mr. Chávez's presidency drawing ever nearer, the spending spree - on everything from housing to railroads, health clinics and literacy programs - is an increasingly important, and successful, tool for solidifying support for Mr. Chávez. Recent polls show he could squeak to victory."

Ah, now here is the reason for this sudden change in tone from the Times. Despite the best efforts and the limitless resources of the most powerful country in the world to cause maximum mischief, Chavez is the man who just will not die, literally or figuratively. The media has condemned Venezuela for its anti-democratic attempts to deal with the 'opposition,' a US-backed movement of disgruntled rich people who are furious that their gravy-train has derailed. This is a glaring example of how the US uses the terms 'human rights' and 'democracy' as a bludgeon. Chavez is expected to stand by and grant unlimited license to what amounts to a US invasion force. We really have to redefine what we mean by foreign incursions. Why shouldn't sovereign governments have the right to resist by any means necessary bald-faced attempts to overthrow their elected governments? The 2002 coup and the US-orchestrated 'general strike' were not enough? This 'kinder gentler' face of US interventionism isn't fooling anybody in South America.

Now that it looks like Chavez is going to survive this attempt too, and considering Venezuela is sitting on an oil field probably bigger than Saudi Arabia's, people have apparently resigned themselves to making nice until they figure out another way to get rid of him. It was so much easier back in the Allende days to just kill the trouble-maker. The fact that they haven't been able to do anything this simple up to now indicates the broad base of support for Hugo Chavez.

I trust the nations of West Africa, with the world's largest untapped oil reserve, are looking carefully at Venezuela as a reasonable model for breaking the back of Western corporate hegemony. With a smile and a shake. The key is leaders who will resist the call of corruption.

Source:

Oil, Venezuela's Lifeblood, Is Now Its Social Currency, Too
By Juan Forero
Published: July 24, 2004 nytimes.com

Check out the Venezuela section of Trinity Center at http://www.trinicenter.com/world/venez.shtml