VenEconomy: Three hats, one aberration
Concentrating government functions is normal practice in the Chávez administration. One of the many public officials sporting different hats is Rafael Ramírez.
This prosperous “revolutionary” performs simultaneously as Minister of Energy and Oil, President of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state-owned oil company attached to that same ministry, and Vice-president for the Western Region of the Single Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) commanded by Hugo Chávez.
While Ramírez has shown publicly on numerous occasions how aberrant his servitude to Chávez´s process can be, this Tuesday he reached intolerable limits with the statements he made from the tribune of the First National Encounter of Oil Industry Workers’ Socialist Committees held in Cabimas, Zulia state.
As Ramírez himself emphasized, this was an eminently political event that was not intended “to solve anyone’s problems.” However, the “three-hatted one” did not hesitate to refer to the path on which his management is setting the state-owned company when he ratified that “PDVSA is not only redder-than-red, but that PDVSA is with Chávez.” The logical thing would be for it to be multi-colored, as Venezuelans are, and for it to be at the service of the State.
Clearly confusing his managerial and political roles, he admitted that segregation and political persecution was a maxim of his conduct of the business, declaiming that “the oligarchy should be terrified of us because we hate the oligarchy,” followed by a stream of nonsense such as “PDVSA is and will be at the vanguard of the revolution,” and “the battle is against capitalism.”
Then, after a desperate proclamation, he admitted, “President Chávez needs the working class,” so revealing one of the government’s weak points: the workers and the trade unions.
Today the trade union movement -including PDVSA’s workers- is on a war footing throughout the country in defense of the rights that have been ignored and boycotted for an entire decade.
With an inefficient PDVSA and a heavy cash deficit, Ramírez’s management is more reluctant than ever to negotiate the collective employment contracts that have already expired. This Tuesday, the irrationalities pronounced by Ramírez included the statement that no collective employment contract would be discussed with oil trade unions that were not Chavista, while ordering the Bolivarian workers to join socialist committees and the militia or run the risk of being considered traitors to the “process.”
What came as a surprise was that Ramírez actually recognized how badly PDVSA was being managed when he admitted that, since 2002, the payroll has increased from 40,000 to 80,000, despite the firing of 20,000 excellent workers, when it is evident that this increase has not been translated into efficiency, production and revenues, but quite the opposite.
Among other abnormalities, today the roles have been reversed. Before it was PDVSA that made funds available to the government, and now it turns out that not only has PDVSA received $5 billion from the Treasury, but it is also trying to reschedule its debt because it does not have the wherewithal to repay it.
In times gone by, when government officials were not allowed to wear two and three hats at the same time, the Minister of Energy and Oil would have already removed the president of PDVSA for his inefficiency. Today, for obvious reasons, this will not happen.
The cherry on the cake of this “nice revolution” is that it not only accepts that the government indulges in aberrant practices of this type but that no one is surprised that even the President’s brother, Adán Chávez, is now dreaming of donning at least one of Ramírez’s hats.
VenEconomy has been a Venezuela's leading specialized publisher on financial, political and economic data since 1982. VenEconomy's Points of View on the issues of the day, as seen by VenEconomy during the last week. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published by VeneEconomy on 07/15/2009. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers .
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Petroleumworld News 07/16/09
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