Oil is Venezuela’s only real economic asset, accounting for more than 95 percent of its export revenues. But its oil industry has been wrecked by neglect and corruption. The government is now purging that industry’s leadership. But it’s probably too late.
They say oil is as much a curse to Venezuela as it is a blessing. The South American country has the world’s largest oil reserves. But its oil wealth has long been looted by corrupt ruling elites. Or, in this century, by a corrupt socialist revolution.
So much oil wealth has been squandered or plundered by that regime that the state-run oil company – PDVSA – is now in tatters. So Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has begun removing or arresting scores of PDVSA officials.
This week came the biggest purge yet: PDVSA chief Nelson Martínez and Oil Minister Eugenio del Pino were fired, then arrested, as part of what Maduro calls an anti-corruption campaign.
More important: Maduro then handed control of PDVSA and the oil ministry to National Guard Major General Manuel Quevedo.
Quevedo has no oil experience. But the military’s loyalty is the only thing that keeps the unpopular Maduro and the socialists in power. The one thing Maduro’s purge won’t do, say experts, is save Venezuela’s crucial oil industry.