PDVSA Caught Between Silence and Corruption

Venezuelan workers’ control leader Osvaldo Leon calls for solidarity in the fight to free oil workers Alfredo Chirinos and Aryelis Torrealba.

By Osvaldo Leon - Aporrea
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Mid-level PDVSA managers Alfredo Chirinos and Aryelis Torrealba were arrested last month and accused of treason. (Archive)
Mid-level PDVSA managers Alfredo Chirinos and Aryelis Torrealba were arrested last month and accused of treason. (Archive)

On February 28, two managers from the state oil company PDVSA were arrested in Barquisimeto, Lara State, on the orders of a newly created presidential commission which is charged with restructuring the industry.

The directors of special operations, Alfredo Chirinos, and crude operations, Aryelis Torrealba have both been accused by public prosecutors of treason, specifically of selling confidential information to the US government about oil production and commercialisation. Both deny the accusation.

Their arrest has generated an ample grassroots campaign demanding their release, including statements from the Communist Party of Venezuela, Homeland for All Party, Marea Socialista Party, numerous groups of organised workers, the national alliance of campesinos, community media outlets, and other grassroots organisations including Voces Urgentes. Some local leaders from the ruling United Socialist Party have also come out in their defence, despite the party refraining from fixing a position nationally. Relatives and colleagues vouch for the pair’s revolutionary credentials and point to their work to stem corruption in the oil industry as the reason behind their persecution


Revolutionary processes are characterised by heightened class struggle as the fundamental tool for securing the triumph of socialism.

Therefore, it is during the construction of socialism that the fight against capital, and its culture as a society and a totality, is most fierce, difficult and dangerous. In this confrontation the most difficult thing for the revolutionary militancy is to shake off bourgeois culture, affection to property, or the dream of capital and its privileges, all manifestations of the arrogance of the capitalist system.

Hence, as revolutionary militants, we have to raise the flag of class autonomy and independence, because our struggle is based around the fight against the exploitation of labour.

As such, we reaffirm the character of workers’ democracy, built as it is from the bowels of the workplace, where the only freedom imposed by capital is production. We reaffirm the need for autonomous, assembly-based and revolutionary organisation, workplace control under councils of workers and a completely different society from the capitalist one, with all of these demands made within the current framework of a completely alienated relationship between the worker and the machine.

Therefore, [the struggle for socialism] is also a fight against the old "revolutionary" culture of forming fractions of power, which ends in a nomenklatura controlling the police, the justice system, etc. This is very dangerous, it is the detour for a revolution and we already know how and where it will end up.

The so-called Alí Rodríguez Araque Commission -- which uses the name of a noble revolutionary for policing purposes -- has used its power against two comrades to portray them as guilty, with all the gravity of being accused of being CIA agents.

The first thing the commission members should have done was to offer an evaluation of their various management periods of the country's main industry, as in recent years [many of its members] have held high-level positions.

They should also have publicly justified their bank accounts, property and other assets, which would have granted them enough moral authority to be part of the fight against corruption. Unfortunately, they have not made public nor justified the roots of their assets, which they will crassly contrast with the current wages of the workforce (1). We, the workers, are the ones that really make the oil industry and the entire public and private productive and service structure of the country function.

This commission immediately ordered the capture [of Chirinos and Torrealba] using the old police style [of the pre-Chavez era], but also looked to sow terror and fear so that no one expresses their solidarity in public. The members of the commission converted themselves into judges and prosecutors at the same time It is essentially a super commission.

We are pained by the silence of many revolutionaries in positions of power, the silence of the deputies, the silence of organisations that support the revolutionary process and which know very well how due process has been violated. We are pained by the silence of the commanders, of those who continue to live from the past, but who look the other way when the present demands their firmness.

We know that there are chants of victory from many public officers who are responsible for:

· - The closure of oil refineries.

· - The dismantling of the industries.

· - Implementing despotic administrations, those who believe they are commanding military battalions from the [pre-Chavez] Fourth Republic.

These are officials who currently own property and assets which they cannot justify.

Let it be known that we will continue the fight for socialism, our socialism, which involves a fight to the death against imperialism and capital, but also a similarly fierce fight against corruption and reconciliation with the enemy.

Today the struggle for the liberation of Alfredo and Aryelis is a task of immense necessity, it is an ethical combat, a moral fight against a nomenklatura with very dangerous powers.

(1) A minimum wage in Venezuela is estimated around US $6.17 per month as per the date of publication.

Osvaldo Leon is a workers’ control leader in the basic industries in Venezuela’s eastern Guyana region, specifically in the Caroni Aluminium (ALCASA) industry. He is a regular columnist at progressive news sites Aporrea and Rebellion.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.

Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.