Edgar Paredes, former director of Petróleos de Venezuela's Chemical division
Edgar Paredes is the former director
of Petróleos de Venezuela's Chemical division. He is
now out of a job. Paredes is considered a top leader among the
dissident executives. In April 2003, FRONTLINE/World
reporter Juan Forero interviewed Paredes in Caracas.
What is President Hugo Chavez doing to your country?
Chavez is destroying the country. He is subjecting the will
of the citizens of this country, trying to impose a totalitarian
regime. Really, he is spoiling Venezuela ... similar to what has
happened at that time in Cuba, what happened in other countries
in this world, which is a totalitarian regime. ... He has fired
more than half of the employees of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) only for the reason
that we were not in the line of his political ideas. We are
democrats. We believe in the market economy. And Chavez has
other ideas about the economy, about the future of petroleum
in Venezuela, and we are opposing him right now.
What is the role of the dissident oil executive in a country
where the government is in complete control, at the moment,
of the state oil company?
The role that we have is exactly the same role that all the
Venezuelan citizens have, which is to oppose the regime of President
Chavez and try to, as soon as possible, have free elections,
in order that Venezuelans can decide what is the future that
we want for the country.
Chavez appears to be consolidating his revolution. Is he
not much stronger now than he was on December 2, 2002? And isn't
the opposition splintered at the moment?
I wouldn't say that. I feel that we can say that Chavez used
the opportunity of the nationalist strike to take control of
the oil industry. That is a fact. But this strike, on the other
hand, was to serve the purpose that the eyes of the world could
see more clearly what is really happening in Venezuela. Now
it's clear to the United States and all the other countries
that Venezuela is no longer a good supplier of crude petroleum
and gasoline and the other products.
You, the opposition movement, held a strike that lasted
62 days, and now the economy is in shambles. How much is the
opposition movement to blame for the state of the economy?
I would say the strike makes clear what the government had
done with (Chavez's) very bad economic policies. The misery
of the economy in Venezuela is not a result of the strike, if
we see that before the strike more than 20,000 companies had
closed their doors, thousands of Venezuelans had lost their
jobs. That was all before the strike. For that reason we went
to the strike, to protest against a government that was destroying
the economy. And that is not, the opposition is not to blame
for the state of the economy. It is the result of the bad economic
policy of the government.
You say the government is trying to install a totalitarian
regime here. What is the evidence of that? People here do not
get arrested. Military officials speak out against the government.
People call for coups against the government. There aren't any
arrests. There aren't any political prisoners, according to
various groups outside the country, including human rights groups.
There aren't any political killings in this country. Why do
you say that this is a totalitarian regime?
I will answer that question recommending you and other people
read the history of other countries. If you go to Hitler's Germany,
at that time, at the beginning of the Nazi regime in Germany,
Hitler was not killing the Jews at the beginning of the regime.
... If you come to Venezuela right now, you see how Chavez, using
a very lying campaign of propaganda, is blaming many sectors
in Venezuela society for all the bad things that are happening
in Venezuela. After that, he's trying to take control of all
the institutions. ... These are the first steps to have really
totalitarian powers. We cannot wait until he is killing people.
FRONTLINE/World reporter Juan Forero interviews Edgar Paredes.
You say the government is not delivering much oil. But
even the dissident oil workers say Venezuela is producing 2.6
million barrels. That still makes Venezuela a major producer
of oil. It seems as though even some opposition figures have
acknowledged that the government has reactivated the oil company
to a certain extent more quickly than had been predicted. But
what is happening with the oil company?
If we focus in the figure of production, you would say it's
2.6 million barrels every day that you're producing. But that
is just part of the situation. Because if you have a business,
the problem is not how much do you produce, the question is
how much money you are producing for the business. I can say
we are producing 2.6 million barrels of oil. We are refining
about half of what we normally refine. But we are not obtaining
the money corresponding to that level of production. And there
are many reasons. The deactivation of the corporation is not
only producing oil, is not only refining oil; it's commercializing
that oil; it's producing the oil that the market needs -- and
that is not what's happening. They are producing what they can
produce, not what the market needs.
Let me ask you a question about the government's claim
that the state oil company had a black box, that the government
didn't know what was happening to the money, but not enough
money was coming into Venezuela. I understand the argument that
this is a very modern, efficient company. But one still sees
a Venezuela, even before Chavez came in, that had very serious
poverty problems. This was not a utopia before. Your thoughts?
You know Petróleos de Venezuela is a company, and we have an
owner, and the owner is the Venezuelan nation. And we give all
that we obtain for the revenues for oil, we give that to the
government. The government is responsible for what is happening
with that money. What is important here are two things: First,
Petróleos de Venezuela is a company very solidly controlled by
the state. All the plants, the investment plans, all the books
are heavily controlled by different government offices, and
that has always been the case, and we can demonstrate that.
But more important, Chavez -- and this is a very big thing,
it's a very important thing -- Chavez has obtained, the government
of Chavez has obtained from the oil industry double -- double
-- the quantity of money that the three previous governments
in Venezuela obtained at their times. What happened with that
Interview With Ivan Hernandez
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Translation by Angel Gonzales.