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How Far Away Is The Declaration Of A State Of Emergency?
Posted: Friday, December 6, 2002

Editorial commentary © by
Business News Editor Robert Rudnicki

Friday, December 6, 2002 -- With the opposition strike moving into its fifth day, the government has ordered the military to take control of several key oil facilities ... the battle for Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) has begun in earnest.

The eventual winner of the battle over the company that generates over 50% of the government's revenue will no doubt win the war, but at what cost?

Let's face it, the situation within PDVSA was hardly peace and harmony before this strike action, but it's getting more and more polarized each day.

On Thursday, President Hugo Chavez Frias announced that he had been in contact with military commanders in states with significant petroleum facilities to step up security and, where necessary, to take control of operations ... but the question is: can the military achieve this, and, if so, do they have the knowledge and skills to be able to keep PDVSA running normally?

My guess is no.

Before the start of the strike, the government announced that it had a contingency plan in place that would act as a back up to operations if it was seen as necessary.

So OK, during the first few days of the strike the government probably failed to take it too seriously, and many labeled it a failure.

However, since Wednesday, it's become clear that the opposition's change in tactics ... to concentrate on bringing the petroleum sector to a standstill ... when the numbers of strikers were beginning to dwindle, has largely paid off.

Assuming the government was caught off guard by this change in direction, I think we can now safely say it has sat up and is definitely beginning to take notice.

That being the case, within the next 24-48 hours we should see how solid the contingency plan really is, but with government representatives calling on Organization of American States (OAS) secretary general, Cesar Gaviria to reinitiate talks (despite previously insisting that negotiations could only resume when the strike had been called off), it seems unlikely that the government is confident it can regain control of production ... unless of course it is just trying to buy some time to reorganize sectors of PDVSA to prevent such strike action in the future.

Assuming that this is not a delaying tactic, one wonders how far the government will go for a compromise ... and how far the opposition's demands will have been raised following their perceived success of forcing the government to a standstill.

The most likely outcomes will be either a declaration of a state of exception ... despite insistences by the President that "we are a long way away from taking such action" ... or the less likely taking-up of the proposal from National Assembly vice president Rafael Simon Jimenez, and several other deputies, suggesting constitutional reform towards the possibility of early elections.

Only time will tell.

More News at Vheadline
There are rumors in certain press saying that (Brazilian) Mr. Lula da Silva will "support" the application of the "Carta Democratica" in Venezuela. I can confirm that this information does not have any basis whatsoever.


National general strike extended by another 24 hours.
Ortega would not be drawn on the possible length of the strike, but opposition leaders have previously stated that the strike would be called off as and when the government returned to the negotiating table ready to discuss early elections.

Pro-government supporters hold mass protest outside PDVSA offices in Caracas.
Protestors slammed striking PDVSA workers, insisting the company belongs to the nation and should not be used as a political tool.

Venezuelan Navy takes control of oil tanker.
Although reports remain mixed, it appears that five other tankers may be joining the Pilin Leon's work stoppage.

President announces increased militarization of PDVSA to guarantee supplies.
It is still uncertain if the military will be able to have a significant enough impact to restore the situation to normality.

Opposition leaders accuse government of stepping up violence.
Fedecamaras president Carlos Fernandez accuses the government of placing snipers in PDVSA buildings in Caracas, with the instructions to fire on opposition protestors.

All workers are entitled to pay, insists Fedecamaras president Carlos Fernandez.
According to Fernandez, since the strike began it has been clearly stated that employees would have their salaries paid.

Opposition march in support of PDVSA suspended due to security issues.
Pro-government supporters had been demonstrating outside the La Campina offices for most of Thursday, and it was decided not to risk confrontation between the two increasingly polarized sides.


National Assembly denounces sabotage at PDVSA.
"We call upon the President of the Republic to use a strong hand to deal with the subversive plan being led by Carlos Fernandez president of Fedecamaras, Carlos Ortega of the CTV and Coordinadora de Opposicion."

National Assembly vice president proposes compromise on electoral issue.
"Due to the escalation and rigidity of positions, the opposition with its consultative referendum and the government with its revocatory referendum, the most feasible thing is to look for a mechanism that allows for more flexibility."

Government calls for a return to negotiations.
The government's decision comes "as the country is clamoring for peace."


Venezuelan leader to have breakfast with Venezuelan President elect.
Ricardo Kotscho, says the meeting will take place at the Presidential property in Granja do Torto, on the outskirts of Brasilia.


Oil price continues to spiral as strike continues.
Many analysts now forecast oil processing rates will drop substantially in Venezuela, and the effect of a severe loading delays at many export terminals will have an impact on exports.

Government guarantees petroleum production.
"Because of the pressure we are facing, we will have to take certain decisions and remove those that are not willing to continue working in these facilities."
Venezuela´s strike: Oil industry in shutdown procedure on strike's fifth day.
Government to change pilots on oil tankers.
Venezuela oil basket up 44 cents to $23.94/bbl.
PDVSA Amuay refinery begins shutdown.
Venezuela strike, force majeure endanger debt outlook.
Venezuela govt backs down, asks for talks with opposition.
WSJ: Strike in Venezuela paralyzes oil exports.
Venezuela's strike leaders plan more protests.
Curacao refinery feeling impact of strike.
LATIN BEAT: Path out of crisis becomes clearer
Venezuela declares force majeure for petroleum products.


Transmerida starts work on Merida trolley bus network.
According to Infrastructure Ministry forecasts, once the system is completed it should transport around 7,000 passengers every hour.

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