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Dr Emma Brossard on Hugo Chavez: ‘He does not know one thing about the oil industry’

By Ian Gooding | The Trinidad Guardian

27.08.05 | Meet Dr Emma Brossard, a petite, vibrant 76-year-old lady who knows more about the oil and gas industry (especially in Venezuela) than almost anybody alive.

But if there is one person who would be declared persona non grata by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez in the morning, that person would also be Dr Brossard.

Dr Brossard is on a short visit to Trinidad to see her first son Todd Perterson, who is the vice president and country manager of Suez LNG (Trinidad and Tobago) Ltd.

She was interviewed on Monday at the Suez LNG office at the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce Building in Westmoorings.

“Although I still keep in touch with many of my friends, especially several in the oil and gas industry, in Venezuela which I love very much, I am never going back there,” she said.

“President Chavez does not know one thing about the oil industry, but he has taken it over as his very own and is giving away the patrimony of the country as if it is his own.”

Dr Brossard said she knew the writing was on the wall for the Venezuelan oil industry when President Chavez chaired a meeting of the board of directors of the state-owned Pdvsa at Mira Flores, the president’s palace.

“Not even the Minister of Petroleum would attend a board meeting,” she recalled. “From then on, the industry could be called Petroleos de Chavez.”


Apart for a passion writing, which she learnt at the feet of her grandfather whose major admonition was “get to the point,” her other passion was teaching, which she did for 18 years.

“I teach by analogy, and that’s one of the reasons why I gave up teaching, because it is very difficult to teach by analogy now if students don’t have a background in history, literature, and geography,” she said.

Dr Brossard noted the importance of an introductory course in every subject to be taught where, with a good teacher, the student’s mind is captured.

“My introductory course was Plato’s Republic,” she said, “where the pattern of reasoning you learn from the ancients is so basic to everything and it help you continue to learn and the search for the truth never ends.”

Dr Brossard was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, of a Venezuelan mother and American father who was a lawyer and former Attorney General of the State of Wisconsin. Her father was a pilot who mapped a lot of Venezuela from the air.

She said that her family visited Trinidad almost every year until 1940 while she was growing up in Venezuela, and one of her brothers was born here.

After leaving primary school the family returned to Wisconsin where her grandfather lived, to continue her high school education.

While her three boys have all been born in Venezuela, Brossard was never a citizen, but remained an American.

“My heart and soul are in Venezuela, but I remain an American,” she said. “And I love it that way.”

However, it has been ten years since she left Venezuela and she has no plans to go back. Why?

“It is so sad what Chavez has done to that beautiful country and the destruction of that incredible country, and the industry that I grew up in and worked for... that incredible industry... no, I can’t go back.”

She said her first book on the oil industry took her seven years to write with all the information on the industry.

Petro Caribe

“I really think that T&T has good reasons to be concerned about Chavez and what he is proposing. There really are no barrels (of gas) that they can spare for the Caribbean,” she said, adding that the supply of natural gas to North America was also of significance.

She said that the production of crude oil was dropping in Venezuela and there was a lot of associated gas that goes with the production of crude. All of that natural gas has been piped from the fields to get more production out of the oilfields, the aluminium industry and into the major cities.

She said it was a big joke with Chavez going around the world giving away oil and signing contracts.

“He may send them a truckload of it and that would be it,”she said. “Don’t these people know what is going on in Venezuela?”

She said that Venezuelan oil fields had a depletion rate of 25 per cent annually there had to be an investment of US$3.4 billion a year to keep up its production.

“But since Chavez has become president there has been no investment,” she said.

“But not only that, he has fired the people who could have helped him out. They’re all gone. I only see the oil production going down and they have ill-equipped people handling the industry.”

She said that Citco, the US$7 billion Venezuelan corporation in Houston that owns refineries in the US, required 1.5 million barrels of oil a day but the country produces only two million barrels a day.

Although Venezuela claims to produce three million barrels of crude a day, she said that was not true, as Venezuela has had to buy crude to supply to Citco and 100,000 barrels a day is going to Cuba for “the doctors.”

“The TT/Venezuela natural gas deal was as much a pipedream as Petro Caribe,” she said.”The purpose of Petro Caribe is to buy votes in the UN and the OAS because Chavez is more interested in the OAS than the UN.”

She said that Venezuela, which has some of the best double-hulled oil tankers in the world, was now suffering shipping problems as the fleet was dwindling without being replaced, and it has had to lease tankers.

“I had not been writing anything about Venezuela for a long time, but when I see what is going on I have to start writing again,” she said.

“After Chavez, it’s going to take about 40 or 50 years—the whole infrastructure will take a lot of money—to clean Venezuela up.”

Dr Brossard said that corruption was “phenomenal” in Venezuela, as Chavez and his government spent millions on themselves and thousands of businesses have been closed down.

“The middle class, which is needed for a country to survive, has been wiped out,” she said, adding that it would take a very strong person who was willing to risk his neck to confront and overthrow Chavez, but doing that through the voting process would be impossible since Chavez controlled that too.

“The poorer classes are fully behind Chavez,” she said. “As someone once said: Chavez really loves the poor since he is making so many of them.”

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