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Venezuela's PDVSA. . . . Here she goes again.

By Gustavo Coronel

January 22, 2004 - As if it was not enough that the good 50% of the management and technical staff of Petroleos de Venezuela, PDVSA, has been fired. As if it was not enough that PDVSA's production capacity has lost about one million barrels per day. As . . . that the production costs of PDVSA are now $4 per barrel higher than two years ago. As . . . that the financial debt of PDVSA is now approaching $12 billion. In summary, as if it was not enough that PDVSA's organization and finances had collapsed during the last 15 months, we now hear that President Chávez will order yet another general shake up in the organization and a change in the "business philosophy" of the Corporation, in order to turn it into a welfare company. This is what the colorless Alí Rodríguez has just announced to us. He says (Globovision, 01-21-2004) that PDVSA will soon undertake a restructuring process that will include the Board. He claimed that the current organization (is there one?) does not adapt itself to the new national strategies. He said that President Chávez would announce the new plan (probably in a "Aló Presidente") concerning the future of the company. Rodríguez added that PDVSA "was now committed to cooperate with the Misión Robinson (literacy), with the Misión Ribas (instant high school graduates) and that we are going to help the passionate and the imminent Misión Vuelvan Caras, designed to lower the unemployment rate to 10% by years end." This is, he said, a promise of the President and we are obliged to help his objective to come true. According to Rodríguez, the new mission of PDVSA will involve helping the government financially to "solve" the social problems of the country.

This announcement of the colorless leader of PDVSA comes at a time in which their own people are intensifying the efforts to oust him. The former Legal Counselor of PDVSA, Fabian Chacón, recently fired by Rodríguez for trying to stop corrupt practices within the company, has accused Alí Rodríguez and PDVSA's Vice-president Aires Barreto of trying to promote corrupt transactions for their personal benefit. The Web site, the Web site for the violent chavistas has been consistently accusing Rodríguez and his clique of corruption. In particular, Chacón, the former Legal Counselor, claims that a company called Indramelca is involved in illegal marketing practices, smuggling gasoline to Colombia, in collusion with PDVSA's top management ("La Verdad", Maracaibo newspaper, 01-21-2004). Chacón adds: "Rodríguez has made a pact with the opposition to oust Chávez." Chacón, of course, is not the most credible witness, as he was the lawyer who defended the killers of Puente Llaguno, the Chávez henchmen who murdered many Venezuelan civilians in April 11th. However, his explosive public announcements have thrown top management of PDVSA into utter confusion.

But, putting these fights among brigands aside, what is really intolerable is the role this government is forcing PDVSA to play. PDVSA was originally designed as a business entity, not as a welfare institution. PDVSA was designed to run an efficient petroleum and energy industry, to generate optimum income for the nation, to preserve the environment, to serve as the flagship of a free and open economy for Venezuela. PDVSA was not designed to be a mediocre outfit hanging on the words of a mentally disturbed, authoritarian president. PDVSA was meant to be a business, not a political toy. No State controlled petroleum company has ever been successful having to play the role that Chávez and his gang now wants PDVSA to play. Pertamina, Pemex, Petrobras, YPF in Argentina, YPFB in Bolivia, PetroPeru in Peru, were all failures because they were forced to play, by ignorant political leaders, the role that PDVSA is now being asked to play. Many of them have been slowly recovering from being whores to the government. After decades of failures, Pemex and Petrobras are finally doing much better. The Argentinean company was privatized. The other companies mentioned are still muddling through. The great company that was PDVSA is in the border of extinction, due to the hate the little men who rule Venezuela feel for professional management and free enterprise.

These tragic plans announced for PDVSA should be stopped. PDVSA is not a company where political fanatics can go to get money for their crazy projects. PDVSA is the Energy Corporation of Venezuela, not a company to be pilfered by the inept and the corrupt.

I say: Chávez, get your ignorant and corrupt hands off PDVSA!

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