Venezuela Prepares to Take OPEC Presidency in 2019

Venezuela's Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo attends the 7th Meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Muscat on January 21, 2018. Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh called for extending cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers beyond 2018 after a deal to shore up crude prices. / AFP PHOTO …

Venezuela will assume the presidency of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) next year, leading the world’s oil industries as its own collapses.

The intergovernmental organization, which comprises 15 major oil exporting economies, will be lead by the head of Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA) Manuel Quevedo, a former military general installed as the leader of the state-run company last year as part of socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro’s efforts to militarize and ultimately exert greater influence over the company’s operations.

Announcing the move this month, Quevedo said, “they will maintain the joint efforts of the OPEC and Non-OPEC countries to achieve the stabilization of the world oil market.”

When journalists asked about Venezuela’s own dramatic collapse of oil production, Quevedo claimed that “a recovery in the country’s production is already being observed and it is expected to continue improving in the coming months.”

“The United States is not here to give instructions to OPEC,” he continued. “We are an independent Organization that responds to the fundamentals of the international market.”

The stated mission of the OPEC is to “coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its member countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets, in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers, and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry.”

The group is currently afflicted by a range of internal conflicts, peaking with Qatar recently quitting the body over what they argued was excessive Saudi influence.

Many have expressed serious concerns about Quevedo’s capability to lead the organization. The Wall Street Journal noted this month that his previous human rights violations against political dissidents, hostile relationship with the United States, and his overall lack of knowledge of the global oil industry all present challenges.

Under Quevedo’s rule, Venezuela’s oil production is in freefall. International oil experts warned last month that production could soon fall as low as under one million barrels per day. Production is already at a 30-year-low. According to reports, Quevedo’s approach alienated many of the company’s employees, many of whom have already left due to low morale and a constant depression of their wages.

When former dictator Hugo Chávez came to power in 1998, oil production was around 3.2 million barrels a day, which, combined with high oil prices, allowed him to fund a lavish socialist spending spree that eventually led to the dire economic and humanitarian crisis faced by the country today.

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