Sunday, November 05, 2006

Lest we forget who used PDVSA as a political weapon 

Over the past couple of days a small uproar has ensued from some inappropriate remarks by Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, president Rafael Ramirez. In his statements (video here) Ramirez said that PDVSA was “with the revolution” and that people who opposed Chavez should consider resigning from PDVSA.

Mr. Ramirez’s remarks clearly seem to have gone too far. PDVSA is a national company and most of its employees should be judged solely on their work performance, not their political leanings.

But while deploring Ramirez’s remarks we should keep in mind who it was that first turned PDVSA into a political weapon – yes, none other than the Venezuelan opposition which is now so loudly decrying what Ramirez said. Over the course of two years they used repeated strikes as a weapon to force Chavez from power – succeeding briefly in April 2002.

Their biggest and most costly use of PDVSA as a weapon came in December 2002 when they launched a two month long “oil strike” in an attempt to overthrow the government. The striking PDVSA managers formed a group called “Oil People”. They brought oil and gas production to a standstill, caused the country to lose about $14 billion dollars in revenues, sabotaged oil installations, threw the Venezuelan economy into a depression and caused hundreds of thousands of other Venezuelans to lose their jobs.

Of course, when one hears the word “strike” one thinks of workers struggling for better wages and working conditions. Yet those things weren’t in the list of demands in this strike of highly paid executives, managers and office workers. Lets hear in their own words what they were trying to accomplish with their strike. Here are excerpts from their list of demands:

December 12th, 2002

La actitud del Presidente de la República, quien no ha respetado la voluntad y el derecho de más de dos millones de venezolanos que legítimamente solicitamos un Referendum Consultivo para solicitar su renuncia y elecciones inmediatas.

Acordamos: • Mantenernos en Paro Cívico Activo hasta tanto se produzca:

La renuncia de: Gustavo Pérez Issa, Alfredo Riera, Alí Rodríguez Araque y Rafael Ramírez por propiciar la violencia contra los trabajadores y poner en peligro las instalaciones, el personal y las comunidades cercanas a las instalaciones

La renuncia del Presidente de la República por ser el principal responsable del clima de violencia y el odio que hoy consume a los venezolanos y convertirse en el factor que impide la salida democrática que estamos exigiendo los venezolanos.

Noting: The attitude of the President of the Republic, who has not respected the will and rights of more than two million Venezuelans what legitimately solicit a consultative referéndum to solicit his resignation and immediate elections

Resolve: To stay with the National Civic Strike until we achieve:

The resignation of Gustavo Perez Issa, Alfredo Riera, Ali Rodriguez Araque, and Rafael Ramirez for promoting violence against the workers and putting in danger the installations, personnel and the communities near the installations.

The resignation of the President of the Republic for being the principle person responsible for the climate of violence and hatred that today consumes Venezuelans and had become the factor that impedes the democratic solutions that we Venezuelans are demanding.

December 20, 2002

Mantener el Paro Cívico Activo hasta tanto se produzca:
- La salida presidencial de Ciudadano Hugo Chávez Frías..
- La salida de Rafael Ramírez, Alí Rodríguez Araque, Gustavo Pérez Issa y Alfredo Riera.

We will stay on strike until we produce:

The presidential exit of citizen Hugo Chavez Frias.
The exit of Rafael Ramirez, Ali Rodriguez Araque, Gustavo Perez Issa and Alfredo Riera.

December 26th, 2002

• Ratificar que nuestra reincorporación al trabajo se producirá cuando hayan sido alcanzados los objetivos acordados en las asambleas anteriores, principalmente: la salida del Presidente Hugo Chávez y el llamado a elecciones.

Ratify that our resumption of work will come about when the objectives of our previous assemblies have come about, principally: the exit of President Hugo Chavez and the calling of elections.

This is just a portion of all the things they were demanding. I highly recommend that people visit their site and read their editorials in full. Their news bulletins in “Ultima Hora” are also quite interesting and reflect the grave damage they did to the country. That damage is also shown in these videos:

What we have here are a group of people who thought they could use their employment in a highly strategic company that accounts for half of the governments revenues and 80% of the countries export earnings to overthrow a government they didn’t like and demand that others, such as Rafael Ramirez himself, be ousted. Also remember, this all happened 8 short months after these same PDVSA execs and managers helped oust Chavez through a coup. Chavez later called for national reconciliation and this is what he got from the opposition in return.

While none of that justifies Ramirez’s speech it sure does help put it in context. And it also explains why some of us are quite skeptical over the opposition’s newfound concern about PDVSA being used for political ends.


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