Liverpool, August 2nd 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In his first public statement on his prospective oil policy were he to be elected, opposition candidate Capriles Radonski said that he would put an end to Venezuela’s current preferential oil deals with governments abroad, in favour of spending the revenue from the country’s petroleum industry on domestic “social programs”.
During a televised speech as part of his election campaign yesterday, Capriles strongly criticised the current Venezuelan government’s oil policy, which sends oil to post-disaster Haiti and other nations including Argentina and Cuba at a preferential rate.
Whilst countries such as Cuba pay indirectly for the oil through the provision of medical services and personnel, a loan agreement with Haiti means that the Caribbean country only pays a fraction of the oil’s value upfront. Many of the government’s international oil deals are channelled through regional organisations such as PetroCaribe and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), initiatives set up by the Chavez administration in the last few years.
Addressing a crowd of a few hundred supporters gathered outside an oil-processing refinery in the north-eastern city of Puerto La Cruz, Anzoategui state, Capriles accused the Chavez government of “buying loyalties abroad” through oil and outlined his campaign’s vision for the future of the Venezuelan oil industry.
“One of this government’s proposals is to save the planet, this doesn’t have anything to do with our people, and each year they give away 7 billion dollars… From January 10th 2013, not one drop of free oil will be leaving Venezuela bound for another country,” stated Capriles.
The 40 year-old presidential hopeful, who is the candidate for the conservative Roundtable of Democratic Unity coalition (MUD), also told Venezuelan voters that he would double oil production if he were elected.
The present Venezuelan government has sometimes agreed to reduce the amount of oil it produces as a strategy to stabilise global prices through OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries).
Despite this, Capriles maintains that the government could have built “1 million 900 thousand houses, 9000 schools and 2300 hospitals,” had it not decreased its output.
“Whilst there are people who need it, we are not going to continue giving away our oil, we want to have the best relationship possible with countries, but we want friends without needing to buy them,” he explained.
The current Venezuelan government’s oil policy is centred on using the proceeds from the national petroleum industry to finance a range of social programs, including a universal health and education system. It has also tried to increase regional trade and make oil more readily available to poorer countries in a bid to diminish their economic dependency on the US.
“Some people talk about independence and nationalism, but that’s just lip service,” said Capriles.
Despite his populist rhetoric, the MUD candidate is having difficulty distancing himself from his conservative colleagues’ political track record and is currently trailing behind incumbent president Hugo Chavez in the nation’s polls.
“Nobody can trust this spokesperson for imperialism,” said Raul Parica, a union member in the Anzoategui state oil sector. “The labour force identifies Capriles with the 2002-2003 oil lockout, the whole of Venezuela knows what they would be capable of if they returned to the Miraflores presidential palace,” he added.
Parica also criticised Capriles for making his speech in the Puerto La Cruz oil refinery, a labour organization stronghold which kept oil production going during the 2002-2003 managerial strike.
“The bourgeoisie’s candidate ought to choose another part of the country to go around peddling his lies. The only thing he and his team are proposing is handing over our homeland to Yankee imperialism,” concluded Parica.
Capriles is expected to adopt a much more favourable position towards business relations with the US if elected.