The Venezuelan military is set to take control of the company’s troubled state oil company after socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro appointed a leading military general to take charge.
On Sunday, Maduro appointed Major General Manuel Quevedo to lead Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA), with sources telling Reuters that he planned to appoint further military leaders to senior executive positions.
“The order given is to militarize PDVSA in key areas,” an anonymous PDVSA employee told Reuters.
Other sources confirmed that Maduro was using allegations of corruption to fire dozens of the company’s senior executives to increase his control of the industry, which accounts for over 90 percent of Venezuela’s total export revenue.
In a tweet on Sunday evening, Quevedo pledged to carry on the work of the late dictator Hugo Chávez and turn the company into a “sacred temple of the people, be it the youth, families or workers.”
Con el Presidente @NicolasMaduro ,Vamos al reencuentro con el camino de Chávez; Vamos a poner a PDVSA como el Templo Sagrado del Pueblo, de nuestra Juventud, de las Familias y Trabajador@s de Bien. Vamos a Construir la Venezuela Socialista y Bolivariana. Viviremos y Triunfaremos! pic.twitter.com/f18u1C828q
— Manuel Quevedo (@MQuevedoF) November 26, 2017
Another internal company memo urged employees to “consolidate the deepening of socialism” by transforming the company for the better.
“Let’s all go to Caracas to consolidate the deepening of socialism and the total, absolute transformation of PDVSA,” the message read.
As well as launching a “crusade” against corruption, Quevedo will also have to increase the country’s increasing oil production and pressure of economic sanctions from the United States, which bans American citizens from dealing with the company in any capacity.
However, opposition leaders have raised concerns that Quevedo has no prior experience in oil operations and is instead being used to consolidate Maduro’s control.
“They’re getting rid of the old executives, who although socialist and working under catastrophic management, at least knew about oil,” he said. “Now we’re going to have totally inexperienced hands.”
In September, it was revealed that the country, which has the largest oil reserves in the world, was on the brink of running out of gasoline due to a chronic lack of production and a failure to pay shipping costs for imports.
Venezuela’s military remains the principal apparatus keeping the repudiated Maduro in power, although their loyalty continues to be under pressure as the country’s humanitarian crisis deepens.
Last week, the recently exiled mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, claimed that the Venezuelan military was beginning to turn against the regime, given that multiple members aided him in his escape.