Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Playing PDVSA hide and seek in Venezuela

Teodoro Petkof has another luminous editorial on PDVSA. In "Forbidden to talk about PDVSA", he wonders why is Chavez is so upset about the press reporting on the PDVSA mess when the ones that announced the problems, and keep announcing more, all come from within the files of chavismo. Where is the CIA plot to provoke misinformation? Or I should add myself, when has the CIA been so efficient to be able to manage so many factors within chavismo to attack Chavez. The paranoia cannot be hidden anymore. Translation of the choice parts:
The president again last Sunday, in reply to the heavy criticism on the PDVSA management, placed the scratched record of "media conspiracy", the "coup mongers", promoted by the "lackeys of imperialism. Wouldn't it be better if the government were to pull off the mask and establish censorship on any information or opinion on the oil question? What it is doing, by disqualifying this way the critical debate on PDVSA, is to blackmail the non compliant opinion, to try to inhibit it or thwart it, on a theme that the very same government and its defenders put in the forefront of the national debate, and to which cannot be indifferent any Venezuelan concerned for the well being of the country.

[snip: long list of the people within chavismo advancing the charges, including Chavez himself. Then follows a direct address to Chavez:]

Start by recognizing that the hecatomb of the oil strike has had catastrophic results for the company. Without doubt the strike damaged PDVSA seriously, but worse than the strike was the firing after the strike of half of its personnel. The government had all the right to take actions against the leaders of the strike. This is an obvious rule of the game, that anyone who gets close to the fire accepts. But, what was the point in firing 20 000 workers knowing that that would disband entire departments of its management? Today we are paying the consequences of such a bleeding.

The balance sheets are unbalanced because there is nobody that knows how to balance them. The production is falling in the Western area because the people who know how to manage old wells is nowhere around.

[snip]

Instead of looking for CIA agents under rocks, Chavez should do a self-critical check of his own management of the public administration. Nobody can use as an excuse his own mistakes, but neither can he make up scapegoats.

Indeed, this is the situation inside PDVSA: the actual management blundered badly and now it is trying to find a way out of the tight post.

Seek

In addition of all the chavista folks reporting PDVSA problems, we can read everywhere from informed blogs to reputable consulting firms numbers and tales that do not match the perceived reality. Someone somewhere is lying, or supremely incompetent, and probably both. Corruption is now reported more and more.

Simply put, there is now enough reports of trouble at PDVSA, too many of them in fact, not to deserve an independnet accounting. We just want to know the real numbers, just as any stockholder would like to know where his/her investments went. Is it an idle remark to stress once again that PDVSA is a state company, not a Chavez piggy bank, and thus we have a right to know what kind of money is PDVSA making and how it is spending it?

Hide

In front of this levy of criticism, what is the government doing? Well, we already know that Chavez took the easy way: it is the CIA, it is the media, etc... But his lackeys are not far behind in making up excuses or simply shooting the messenger. Yesterday we had a particularly revolting example when the president of the National Assembly, Nicola Maduro, behaved like a low life hack instead of the president of a parliament. Instead of managing debate, he spent his time shutting up the opposition in a most ignominious manner, saying outright that their line was dictated by the US embassy. Someone could have wondered if Maduro's line is not dictated by the Cuban embassy; some people's immaturity is just striking in spite of their name. Their desperation is clear, Maduro is protecting actively cabinet members from embarrassing interpellations.

This unseeming "debate" came up because once again the oil minister/PDVSA president Ramirez skipped his nth interpellation, and for the nth time was "excused" by the National Assembly chair, running short on excuses and thus resorting to insulting people who only want to know what is going on, which are the real numbers. So once again Ramirez is cited, for next week, and once again we are waiting to see if he will dare to show up. Meanwhile, trying to find a way out of this mess the National Assembly has decided to investigate the misdeeds of previous administrations, an interpellation that we are sure Ramirez would not miss. About time, after 6 years in office. And, oh, so convenient right now as the present problems make anything from the past pale, as today's Giusti OpEd muses on how PDVSA is going from the past "black box" to today's "black coffin" where the hopes of the country will be buried.

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