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Chavez Nationalizes Last Venezuelan Oil Fields

From his stalwart fans at Reuters:

(From L to R) Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, Cuba’s Vice President Carlos Lage, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rene Preval of Haiti, April 29, 2007.

Chavez takes control of oil giants

May 1, 2007

PUERTO PIRITU, Venezuela (Reuters) — Venezuela stripped the world’s biggest oil companies of operational control over massive Orinoco Belt crude projects Tuesday, a vital move in President Hugo Chavez’s nationalization drive.

The May Day takeover came exactly a year after Bolivian President Evo Morales, a leftist ally of Chavez, startled investors by ordering troops to seize his country’s gas fields, accelerating Latin America’s struggle to reclaim resources…

The four projects are valued at more than $30 billion and can convert about 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) of heavy, tarry crude into valuable synthetic oil.

U.S. companies ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Britain’s BP, Norway’s Statoil and France’s Total agreed to obey a decree to transfer operational control Tuesday, although the OPEC nation complained ConocoPhillips was somewhat resistant.

In Puerto Piritu, near the facilities that refine Orinoco crude, workers prepared early Tuesday to celebrate the takeovers, displaying Venezuelan red, blue and yellow flags and daubing a wall with Chavez’s slogan: “Homeland, Socialism or Death.”

The anti-American leader was also in a festive mood before a rally marking what he called the end of an era of U.S.-prescribed policies that opened up the largest oil reserves in the hemisphere to foreign investment.

Open investment will never return,” he said late Monday to thousands of cheering workers dressed in the signature red of his self-styled leftist revolution at a rally for workers rights.

“We are sealing up that open investment era and burying it deep down in the Orinoco oil reserve,” he added…

The man who calls Cuban leader Fidel Castro his mentor has vowed to take at least 60 percent of the projects, radicalizing his policies as he rules by decree and politicizes the army, state oil company and judiciary.

He is also quickly nationalizing power utilities and the country’s biggest telephone company…

And we also have these glad tidings from his fans at the Associated Press:

Chavez: Venezuela to pull out of IMF, World Bank

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez announced Monday he would formally pull Venezuela out of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, a largely symbolic move because the nation has already paid off its debts to the lending institutions.

“We will no longer have to go to Washington nor to the IMF nor to the World Bank, not to anyone,” said the leftist leader, who has long railed against the Washington-based lending institutions.

Chavez said he wanted to formalize Venezuela’s exit from the two bodies “tonight and ask them to return what they owe us.”

Venezuela recently repaid its debts to the World Bank five years ahead of schedule, saving $8 million. It paid off all its debts to the IMF shortly after Chavez first took office in 1999. The IMF closed its offices in Venezuela late last year.

Chavez made the announcement a day after telling a meeting of allied leaders that Latin America overall would be better off without the U.S.-backed World Bank or IMF. He has often blamed their lending policies for perpetuating poverty…

But we also have this from the Miami Herald, whose readers have seen it all before:

Exasperated by Chávez, more Venezuelans leave

BY STEVEN DUDLEY

Tue, May. 01, 2007

There wasn’t one particular event that made Arturo Araque decide to leave Venezuela with his wife and two children. It was an accumulation of President Hugo Chávez’s politics, increasing crime and growing economic insecurity.

“My sense is that we’re trapped with this man in power,” Araque told The Miami Herald. “I doubt that Venezuela will have another government anytime soon.”

Araque, 38, an industrial designer has joined a growing wave of Venezuelans trying to move out of this Andean nation of 26 million people, with the largest oil deposits outside the Middle East.

U.S. embassy officials say inquiries for U.S. visas rose by one-third from March 2006 to March of this year, and requests to obtain U.S. passports — mostly by people claiming to be sons and daughters of U.S. citizens — have doubled over the past two years. Inquiries for Canadian visas are up 69 percent since last year, officials at that embassy say.

Venezuelans overwhelmed recent job fairs held here by Canada and Australia, and early morning lines of visa seekers routinely wrap around the Portuguese, Italian and Spanish embassies.

While their desired destinations vary, they share a common theme: They will leave behind relatives and broken dreams, and they do not know when they will return.

“It’s an adventure. No one guarantees that you’ll get work,” Araque said. “[But] there’s no economic stability here.”

While upper-class Venezuelans have been trickling out for years, the exodus appears to have stepped up after Chávez’s resounding electoral victory in December secured him another six-year term. The president has since ramped up his divisive rhetoric and began purging the government, his political party and even the military of anyone who is not aboard his project for “21st Century socialism.”

‘At all levels, it is required . . . to raise the flag that says ‘fatherland, socialism or death,”’ the president told a military audience last month, adapting a phrase from one of his mentors, Fidel Castro. “If anyone doesn’t feel comfortable with this, it’s better they retire from the [military] service.”

Ruth Capriles is among those Chávez opponents who went from the ballot box to the ticket counter after the president’s landslide reelection in December.

‘“After that, I realized we’re not going to be able to get rid of him,” said Capriles, who moved to Florida a month ago and now lives in Miramar. “I finally reached a point when I decided there was nothing else left to do but leave.” …

Happy May Day, everyone!

Especially, Hillary.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, May 1st, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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