Monday, February 16, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on the Venezuelan people to defend the nation's oil sovereignty on his Sunday talk show Aló Presidente yesterday. Broadcasting from the former oil fields of ExxonMobil in the Orinoco River Basin, Chavez dedicated the show to the recent clash with the transnational oil company and the new projects of the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA.
"We have the reigns in our hands, and we won't ever let go of them again," said Chavez from the oil fields of the Orinoco Oil Belt that have recently been taken over by the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
The President opened his Sunday TV and radio program conversing with a group of PDVSA employees at the newly nationalized oil fields. Chavez discussed with them the recent battle with the transnational oil company ExxonMobil, which has taken legal action against Venezuela in a fight to win a larger compensation for its nationalized stake in the Orinoco oil fields.
Chavez criticized the terms under which Exxon extracted oil in the region and accused the Venezuelan opposition parties of "giving away" the nation's resources when they were in power.
"The oligarchy and the Venezuelan opposition had no shame because they didn't have any problem with giving away the most sacred things. In this case, our oil," he said.
Chavez explained that under the previous situation, Exxon had total control over 300 square kilometers of the Orinoco oil fields, which he said was like a miniature "colony" inside Venezuela.
"It was like having a nation of gringos inside of Venezuela. The workers even had to speak English," he said.
The Venezuelan president also criticized Exxon for exploiting grand quantities of oil without paying taxes, or the correct prices. According to Chavez, US oil companies claimed that the Orinoco fields did not have oil, but rather bitumen, and so they paid a lesser price for it.
"It was a robbing of our nation, but the [Bolivarian] Revolution put a stop to that," he said. "We are escaping from neocolonialism, because Venezuela was just a colony a very short time ago."
Chavez called on all Venezuelans to defend the nation's sovereignty in the battle with Exxon, and accused the Venezuelan opposition parties of taking the side of the transnational in the current conflict.
"The opposition thinks that by applauding the actions of ExxonMobil that they are hurting the national government. But that's not true. They are really only hurting themselves because the people realize that they have no shame," Chavez said.
The rest of the broadcast, which lasted about 5 hours, was dedicated to presenting new projects to expand and upgrade the capacity of the national oil company. The president spoke with workers from the new offshore drilling facilities in the Gulf of Paria off the eastern coast of Venezuela.
The new project, which earlier belonged to Conoco-Phillips, is now run by the joint company Petrosucre, owned by PDVSA (74 percent) and an Italian energy company (26 percent), and has the capacity to produce 110 thousands barrels daily. Chavez emphasized that this is the first time in history that Venezuela has had the capacity to do offshore drilling,
The president later spoke with workers from another joint project, this one with China, in which the Venezuelan oil company is acquiring Chinese oil drills, and the technology to produce them in Venezuela. Chavez discussed plans to build a joint fleet of oil tankers with China, and assured that the goal is to increase exports of crude to China by 44 percent by the end of 2008.
"We are making history, and growing in strength, because PDVSA is now stronger than ever," he said.
The Belorussian secretary of state was also present during the program and several joint projects between Belarus and PDVSA were discussed, including a project to transfer seismic oil exploration technology to Venezuela.
The Venezuelan president also commented on the continued efforts to increase national milk production as a solution to ongoing shortages of milk in the country. The Venezuelan government is making efforts to increase national productive capacity with the help of technology from Belarus.
Chavez spoke by satellite to workers who were unloading a shipment of 100 tons of milk imported from Belarus and assured that national milk production would be increased to meet national consumption.
"Before, the government didn't have the capacity to produce even one liter of milk. It had been turned into a luxury item. But now the state is going to have the capacity to offer the Venezuelan people as much as 7 thousand tons a month," he said.
The Belorussian secretary of state also mentioned other joint projects in progress, including the production of tractors and trucks in Venezuela, as well as the construction of gas networks, urban spaces, and agricultural cities.