Chavez Fights Against Privatization of Oil Industry

After last weekend’s shooting in the center of Caracas, the center of the disputes in Venezuela from now on will be the control of the powerful oil giant PDVSA.

Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. is a company wholly owned by the Republic of Venezuela, controlled by an organic law that reserves for the state the hydrocarbons industry and its commerce. After its nationalization in 1975, this law reserves for the state all activities relating to the exploration, exploitation, manufacturing, refining, and domestic and international marketing of crude oil and refined products.

According to President Hugo Chavez, the opposition is pressing for his resignation as the first step towards the privatization of PDVSA. On his radio program "Alo Presidente,” Chavez said this plan has "foreign connections" and made a call to the population to "defend the heart of the Venezuelan economy and prevent the halt of the oil industry.” After the declarations about a possible conspiracy with international links, the attention of analysts focused on Washington. PDVSA is one of the main crude oil suppliers to the US, whose sales exceed those of the Middle East providers combined. It is also important to take into account that the US State Department was aware of the preparations of the failed coup of April and was the only government in the world that recognized the new “government.”

The generalization of the strike in the oil industry, including mutinies on tankers, as PRAVDA.Ru reported during the weekend, is been taken very seriously by the National Government. Chavez, who had promised not to ressume negotiations with the opposition until the strike is over, had to return to talks, as he fears a total shutdown of the industry.

The Amuay-Cardon refinery, the largest oil complex in Venezuela and the world, partially stopped operating due to "lack of gas," and the complex El Palito, country's third largest oil complex, is now not operating. Chavez said this was "sabotage" and ordered the Army to take control of the plants and to punish the strikers.

On Sunday, two demonstrations took place in Caracas; one in support and the other against President Chavez. The opposition marched in mourning of Friday's deaths, while the pro-Chavez demonstrators celebrated the president's four years in office.

The future of Venezuela depends on whether Chavez will be able to control the oil industry or not. If he succeeds, he will be in a strong position to negotiate; if not, the opposition could force anticipated elections.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

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