Halliburton in Venezuela: Smells like Sulfur

Venezuelan writer and analyst Clodovaldo Hernandez discusses the rumored deal struck up between Venezuela’s national petroleum industry, PDVSA, and U.S. based multinational corporation Halliburton.


Andres Eloy Blanco, for whom we recently marked 59 years since his tragic death, once wrote some jocular verses dedicated to “those things that aren’t by the book, and always end up a fiasco.” Among them he cited “a woman who pees in a bottle, and a black man who becomes of a member of [right wing party] Copei.” To paraphrase this great poet, today we add to his list of incomprehensible, but not amusing, things- the pact signed between Venezuela’s National Petroleum industry and the corporation known as Halliburton.

In what parallel universe is Halliburton compatible with the Bolivarian Revolution? Even the thought of the question sets one’s teeth on edge (but we’re obligated to ask ourselves, for goodness sake!).

Isn’t Halliburton the company that carried out the extremely dirty work of the extremely dirty invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by the United States? Isn’t it the same corporation that was directed by deplorable beings such as Gringo ex-vice president Dick Cheney and ex-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, emblems of the worst of all capitalisms, those that made their wealth shamelessly over the cadavers of children and countries in shambles?

If we reach back in our memories a bit, we’ll recall the huge discrepancies that arose between our commander Hugo Chavez and the United States by that precise invasion of Afghanistan- the supposed comeuppance for September 11th. From then on, the Venezuelan president maintained a strong stance against the criminal military interventions during which time the United States inaugurated the war “contractors,” a euphemism for mercenaries representing big businesses with zero scruples. Among those juicy business deals extracted from the so-called wars are the control of oil and gas in devastated areas and the reconstruction of those nations without clemency. Halliburton is neck-deep in both activities. And that jewel of a company is now a partner of PDVSA in an operation that is worth more than two billion dollars. It smells like sulfur, and it’s not because the crude oil of the fields is that extra heavy kind.

The Venezuelan firm let the information be divulged discretely in a small press release in which Halliburton appears as the beneficiary of a contract, along with two other oil companies based in Texas, Schlumberger and Weatherford. I’m sure if we scrounged around a bit, we’d find these two aren’t exactly sisters for charity either, but Halliburton’s interplanetary fame opaques the deeds of many.

It is the duty of anyone who considers themselves a revolutionary to ask why such an incoherent decision was taken, especially when we are in a moment of extreme tension with the United States, in what appears to be the preamble of a series of sanctions and other arbitrary measures designed to twist the arm of the nation’s majority and overthrow the worker president Nicolas Maduro. To give those who made the deal the benefit of the doubt, perhaps we could imagine that refusal would have aggravated conflict among conservative sectors of the Empire. It’s not a very convincing excuse, and all in all, it’s not what we’d call chavista, but maybe you’d  have to be in the shoes of the person who made the decision to recognize all the variables that had influence over their response. From outside the ring of decision-makers, (but from inside the country and the revolutionary process) it is incomprehensible not only morally- that would be bad enough- but also from the perspective of state security. To include Halliburton in the national oil industry would be like housing the worst of your enemies, which means assuming a frankly suicidal position, by offering opportunities to those who have specialized in destroying countries to later make profit off of their reconstruction.

It’s impossible to understand, it’s not by the book, it looks like a fiasco, and it smells too much like sulfur.

Translated for venezuelanalysis.com by Z.C. Dutka.