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Venezuela: Using Posada Carriles as a Bloody Flag

By Charito Rojas | Notitarde

Valencia (Venezuela), 25 May 2005 | What business has Chávez severing relations with the United States if it does not surrender Posada Carriles to him? A 77-year-old man, who had already been incarcerated, not remembered by Chávez or anyone else, and who has no relation to today's Venezuela, thirty years after the alleged terrorist act. If Fidel had not ordered a huge demonstration three weeks ago asking the United States for Posada Carriles' head, we are willing to bet, the Venezuelan government would never have concerned itself with the case.

But the order from the would-be father was given and one has to please the old man. The promises made by the Vice President that they will not surrender him to Fidel, do not merit our credibility, especially if we recall the treaty providing for the widest judicial cooperation signed by Venezuela with Cuba, by virtue of which Posada could well be tried or incarcerated either here or in Havana. The United States knows this and for that reason is giving priority to a previous extradition request issued to Venezuela by the Italian government, since there was an Italian passenger traveling onboard the airplane that exploded in 1976.

The matter of Posada’s extradition is as extravagant today as it was back at the time when Venezuela President Carlos Andrés Pérez (CAP) persisted in judging the alleged authors of the explosion aboard that airplane, which happened to be Cuban, and which occurred over international waters between Trinidad and Barbados, almost all of whose passengers were Cuban citizens. Only the presence of alleged terrorists of Venezuelan nationality among those implicated made CAP insist upon transferring that trial to Venezuelan territory, in order to ingratiate himself with Castro, with whom he had been flirting at that time in pursuit of gaining leadership of the international socialist movement. The incidents at that trial were almost comical, every Tom, Dick and Harry testified, judges were recused, and even journalists connected with the source filed before the bench as witnesses. I know of what I speak, because at that time I was a young journalist and had my turn at covering the case, and I was even a witness during one of the recusation proceedings against the judge in charge of the case. I know the photographers Lugo and Ricardo, identified in the case, because they worked for the Cadena Capriles newspapers and I had the opportunity to interview Posada and Orlando Bosch, who used to send me long letters from jail, correspondence that I of course still keep. This trial was a huge spectacle, which lasted for years, which absolved Bosch, and almost nine years later, in 1985, Posada, still without a definite sentence, managed to flee from jail and from the country.

Without entering into any consideration as to whether Posada is guilty or not of the acts of terrorism of which he is accused, there are certain points to this story. It has to do with a former CIA agent who has been fighting against the Fidel Castro dictatorship for forty years and with the fact that the United States will not do anything that goes against its ironclad position vis-à-vis Cuba. The Venezuelan extradition request, besides being an ostentatious act of obedience and submission to the Castro regime, needs to be seen as a new bloody flag that this government unfurls any time a shanty shack catches on fire in the country. This time that shanty shack, and believe me I am doing honor to all shanty shacks, is called PDVSA.

It is now impossible to hide the catastrophe in the petroleum industry. The figures do not lie and for quite some time we journalists have been publishing them, but as usual, the government labels these reports as being a “coup-driven fascist media campaign.” Former PDVSA workers, who have contacts within and outside of the industry, who know in great detail how the state-owned oil company operates, how it conducts business, how crude is extracted and refined, have been systematically disproved and discredited whenever they issue warnings about the criminal destruction of the corporation.

Only the most hardheaded from among these two-bit revolutionaries dares disprove a truth ratified by all levels within the sector. As if this shameful reality were not enough, the President of the Republic, his Energy Minister and simultaneous President of PDVSA (greater responsibility in this disaster is impossible), and a whole string of inept people who have ruined the country's principal industry, still dare to deny a truth that stands before the eyes of Venezuelans who have witnessed the depletion of oil wells for lack of investment, the shutdown of oil rigs, the inoperativeness of the barges, the spills and damage to drill sites, the near-shutdown of the refineries, the continuous industrial accidents with injuries and even deaths, the bloodletting by traders and middlemen who sell Venezuelan oil to third parties. The math does not lie and no matter how pissed off Chávez may be, all figures point in the same direction: Venezuela is producing 2.6 million BPD, of which 1.1 million are produced by PDVSA and 1.5 million by foreign companies.

Chávez committed the atrocity of dismissing the oil company's professional equity, because they were keeping him from getting his hands on what was meant to feed the Nation's consolidated budget, and because they were opposed to the politicization of the industry. The President said that PDVSA was a “black box” and proceeded to use the oil company as a funding mechanism for the revolution. PDVSA's social expenditures, that is to say, what it spends in aid programs, jumped from $38 million in 1999 to $2.7 billion in 2004. Why? Because the PDVSA Board of Directors answers not to the Hydrocarbons Law, nor to the Central Bank (BCV), nor to the national budgetary laws, but to direct orders from Hugo Chávez, who determined that PDVSA should directly finance his populist plans. Three reforms, whereby they pay and keep the change, have been carried out by the revolutionaries at the company's Stockholders' Meeting, in order to succeed in utilizing funds without rendering accounts to the BCV, or to anyone else. Thus, PDVSA in 2004 funded the Ribas Mission, the Inner Barrio Mission, the Sucre Mission and the About-Face Mission with $600 million, the Fund for Agricultural Development with $600 million, and the Fund for Infrastructure Development with $500 million. The true black box is called FONDESPA (Fund of the Social Development of the Country), into which PDVSA last year injected $2 billion, without there being any knowledge up until now as to how such an enormous budget was spent.

If we add it up, PDVSA spent $7 billion presumably on social programs for the revolution, which has no comptroller's oversight, which belong to no part of any consolidated budget for the Nation, which yield no visible results indicating progress and development for the country. Who authorized these administrators to squander the oil money on his personal political project? Who controls this PDVSA that has not rendered accounts to the nation in 3 years? Does Hugo Chávez, together with his accomplices in the destruction of PDVSA, understand that he must answer for the ruination of Venezuela’s main source of income?

PDVSA needed almost 40 years to succeed in becoming the second largest oil company in the world. It took the revolution only 3 years to bury it from international ranking. From being the fifth largest producer of oil in the world, it now occupies 11th place. Sooner than later, we Venezuelans will make the predators pay for their crime.

Just Amongst Ourselves

In the Official Gazette dated Wednesday, 18 May, one can read the modification of 16 articles and the elimination of another 6 from the Land Law. Most striking is the change in the concept of what constitutes a large estate: “a large estate is understood to be any idle and uncultivated land, with surfaces greater than the average tenancy in the region in which they may be located, in the context of a manner contrary to social solidarity.” Formerly, a large estate was understood to be “any land equal to or greater than 5,000 hectares, not producing or idle.” Thus it is that now any spread of land greater than 100 hectares is subject to Bolivarian expropriation…Attention Keepers of the Fernando Peñalver Park, now renamed Negra Hipólita Park: tomorrow, Thursday, at 7:30 a.m., we will meet in the parking lot of Plaza de la Bandera to exchange information on our Park’s maintenance and use. It is our right as citizens to offer solutions and demand the preservation of this space…Until next Wednesday.

Translation by W.K.

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