As the conditions in the socialist Venezuela only get worse for its citizens, Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro is desperately trying to revive the oil industry with a strategy that is likely to fail.
In a dramatic move, Maduro has fired and arrested 65 former oil executives as part of a month-long purge on the oil industry.
“The arrests and firings began after Maduro expanded his powers this summer by successfully pushing for the election of a special new law-making body packed with loyalists that replaced the existing opposition-controlled legislative branch of the government,” writes Vox.
These once powerful executives are also charged with corruption.
Maduro has put former housing minister Major General Manuel Quevedo “in charge” of the state oil company PDVSA, but Maduro will now oversee all oil contracts and review all executive positions moving forward.
“There aren’t going to be any more contracts backed by the board to keep pillaging, as has happened in some instances,” said Quevedo, who met with the president for six hours over the weekend.
However, Quevedo has no experience in the oil industry.
Maduro appeared on a television program on Sunday to address one of the recent arrests.
“The most recent high-profile sweep saw Diego Salazar, a relative of former oil czar Rafael Ramirez, detained on Friday on charges of helping launder some around 1.35 billion euros to Andorra,” writes Reuters. “During his Sunday television program, Maduro flashed a painting by Venezuelan painter Armando Reveron and pictures of luxury goods, including bottles from an alleged 300,000-euro wine cellar and a gold chess set, he said belonged to Salazar.”
Last Thursday, Nelson Martínez, the official who led PDVSA until being fired this week, was also arrested, along with Eulogio del Pino, a former oil minister.
“I‘m not going to shield anyone,” said Maduro on Nov 28. “If you’re corrupt, you have to pay with jail and return what you’ve stolen.”
“The government is trying to show that they are battling corruption and they are going to work to increase oil production,” said Claudio Rodríguez, an analyst for Caracas Chronicles to Vox.
All of the recent arrests are individuals with ties to Rafael Ramírez, who used to be the head of PDVSA until he was demoted by Maduro in 2014. Ramirez has quickly turned into an enemy of Maduro, after recently writing some online opinion articles criticizing Maduro’s economic policy.
Venezuela, as we almost forget due to its dire situation, is the home to the world’s biggest crude reserves.
Critics believe the purge to rid the industry of corrupt individuals is merely part of an effort to eliminate Maduro’s powerful competition.
“Maduro wants control of PDVSA and control of its cash flow,” said Angel Alvarado, an opposition legislator and economist to Reuters.
Author’s note: This is just Maduro consolidating his power. He is using the corruption excuse to get rid of his rivals. But, the people he is replacing the oil executives with are even less qualified. Not to mention, his government officials are the most corrupt of all and many of which are under U.S. sanctions for drug-dealing and other illegal activities.