Venezuelan Oil Workers Quit En Masse amid Military Takeover

Venezuela is pumping less oil, giving other producers breathing space
AFP Federico PARRA

Thousands of Venezuelan workers quit the country’s state-run oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA) following the installation of Major General Manuel Quevedo as its head, a report published this week revealed.

According to a detailed report from Reuters, Quevedo has already alienated much of the company, whose workers’ woes mirror that of Venezuela as a whole.

During a recent visit to an oil rig in Orinoco Belt, Quevedo ignored workers who wanted to discuss the company’s ongoing collapse and the constant depression of their wages.

“He didn’t get out to ask workers about what is going on,” union leader Jesus Tabata, told the agency. “That way it’s easier to keep saying everything is fine—and at the same time keeping us on like slaves on miserable wages.”

Dictator Nicolás Maduro appointed Quevedo as the company’s head last October with the aim of militarizing all aspects of the company’s operation, although the move immediately raised questions about his lack of experience.

He also arrested dozens of senior PDSVA executives on alleged corruption charges in a bid to tighten his control on the industry.

Following his appointment, Quevedo promised to launch a “crusade” against corruption and pledged to “consolidate the deepening of socialism” through the “total, absolute transformation of PDVSA,” although that transformation now appears to be running the organization into the ground.

Around 25,000 workers left the company in January alone, with many PDSVA offices now inundated with people waiting to hand in their resignation. In one office in Zulia state, human resources staff reportedly hung a sign that read “we do not accept resignations.”

Many of those leaving the company are vital to the company’s day to day operations, including high-level professionals such as engineers, managers, and lawyers that are almost impossible to replace.

Authorities are now keeping the company’s employment statistics as a closely guarded secret as part of a regime-led effort to conceal information from the public. Amid the employee exodus and a sharp drop in productivity, the company’s oil production has fallen to a 30-year low of 1.6 million barrels a day, compared to the 3.8 million barrels a day in 1999 that was used to finance Hugo Chávez failed socialist revolution.

This, combined with a worldwide collapse in oil prices, has massively affected government revenues amid an economic crisis that has left millions in poverty and without the necessary resources to survive. Oil revenue represents 90 percent of the country’s total export revenue.

As well as its internal challenges, the company is also struggling under increasing sanctions imposed by the United States banning Americans from dealing with it in any capacity.

Before his removal as Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, floated the possibility of blocking all Venezuelan oil imports into the U.S. in an attempt to further squeeze the regime, although some regional leaders fear that such a move would only worsen the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis.

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