Controlling Venezuela means controlling its all-important state
oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). So when the
country's opposition movement launched a national strike to oust
President Hugo Chavez in December 2002, its key weapon was the
participation of thousands of disaffected oil workers led by a
group of oil company executives. They shut down the industry,
a crucial supplier of oil to the United States. But Chavez countered
by firing 18,000 of the striking oil workers and calling on loyalists
like Ivan Hernandez to restart operations. Hernandez came out
of retirement to reactivate the Paraguana oil refining complex
in northwestern Venezuela, one of the world's largest refineries.
Meanwhile, Edgar Paredes, a top leader of the striking oil workers,
remains out of a job but is just as determined as ever to see
Chavez removed from power.