Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chávez Allows West to Make Oil Bids as Prices Plunge

Social programs like food subsidies, which these women in Caracas picked up, are financed by Petróleos de Venezuela’s profits.

President Hugo Chávez is expected to put forth a referendum this year that would let him run for indefinite re-election.

Surprise! Well, he ain't stupid.

“If re-engaging with foreign oil companies is necessary to his political survival, then Chávez will do it,” said Roger Tissot, an authority on Venezuela’s oil industry at Gas Energy, a Brazilian consulting company focusing on Latin America. “He is a military man who understands losing a battle to win the war.”

Perhaps. Pragmatic, yes.

Venezuela also differs from top oil nations like Saudi Arabia and Mexico, where national oil companies have monopolies. Petróleos de Venezuela let private companies remain as minority partners after the nationalizations, despite Mr. Chávez’s often aggressive anticapitalist stance.

Watch what he does not what he says.

Moreover, foreign oil services companies like Halliburton, which has done business in Venezuela for 70 years, have even expanded their activities in the country as Petróleos de Venezuela grew more dependent on contractors to help extract oil from aging wells.

Even Halliburton is allowed into the socialist fatherland; how curious.

“In 10 years, not one major oil project has been built in Venezuela,” said the oilman, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. “Chávez has left his so-called strategic partners out to dry, like the Chinese, who have been given the same treatment as Exxon.”

Well, they are both capitalists, no?

“Chávez is celebrating the demise of capitalism as this international crisis unfolds,” said Pedro Mario Burelli, a former board member of Petróleos de Venezuela. “But the irony is that capitalism actually fed his system in times of plenty,” he said. “That is something Chávez will discover the hard way.”

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