This is part of a series of re-published articles I wrote in 2005 for the Daily Journal in Caracas.
By Jens Erik Gould
May 17, 2005
Tuesday was to be the day that Rafael Ramirez appeared before the National Assembly (NA). But he was a no-show.
Instead, Rodrigo Cabezas, president of the special AN commission on Operating Agreements, proposed on Tuesday that Ramirez, president of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and Minister of Energy and Oil, be questioned in a special parliamentary session next Wednesday, May 25. He asked deputies to meet on May 24 to set the agenda of the special session with Ramirez, Union Radio reported.
Alberto Quiros Corradi, a former president of Shell-Venezuela and oil industry consultant, told The Daily Journal in a telephone interview that it was up to Ramirez to report PDVSA's current production "because he has the information."
"He hasn't given any explanation about any of the things that are being reported everywhere," said Quiros Corradi. "It appears to me that he didn't want to inform about what is going on."
Opposition deputies have repeatedly called on Ramirez to appear before the AN to address the current situation at PDVSA, which has been accused of irregularities and corruption.
According to AN President Nichol·s Maduro, Ramirez did not appear at the AN Tuesday because Cabezas called him to a Special Commission to investigate accusations of fraud in the signing of the 32 oil operating agreements in the 1990s.
The head of the comptroller committee at the Assembly, Deputy Cesar Rincones of Accion Democr·tica objected to what he called giving "preference" to the investigation of transnational companies while postponing the investigation of present irregularities at PDVSA, Union Radio reported.
Rincones demanded Tuesday that Ramirez appear at the AN to clarify the orders he has given as president of PDVSA, and also reveal the company's daily expenses. Rincones added that it was a "Venezuelan right" to know the status of the state oil company.
Rincones also said that some deputies might not endorse the interpellation of the PDVSA president because they could be implicated in the oil companies' irregularities.
"The interests go beyond the [Energy and Oil] ministry. The interests go beyond the functionaries at PDVSA," said Rincones. "Here there are other public powers that participate in measures of corruption. We are continuing the investigations in that direction."
Rincones did not reveal any deputies' names, saying he was still in the "investigation phase," reported Union Radio.
Oil expert Humberto CalderÛn Berti assured on Tuesday that oil production had fallen by a greater amount than Ramirez has claimed, reported Union Radio.
QuirÛs Corradi said that the International Energy Agency and external observers have estimated production at between 2.5 and 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd). President Ch·vez has said production is at 3.1 bpd.
The most recent allegation against PDVSA came on Monday when Julio Montoya, Vice President of the AN's Energy and Mines Commission, presented documents at the District Attorney's office in Zulia State which supposedly detailed irregularities at PDVSA.
JENS ERIK GOULD
Jens Erik Gould is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News.