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06/08/2021

The selective blockade against Venezuela

The selective blockade against Venezuela

On June 3, 2021, the United States Department of the Treasury announced that it was renewing the operating license for the oil company Chevron (formerly Standard Oil)  in Venezuela. This is the seventh license that the US government has given the multinational oil company since January 2019, when then-President Donald Trump reaffirmed sanctions against the Venezuelan oil company Petróleos de Venezuela Sociedad Anónima (PDVSA), the government of Nicolás Maduro, and, ultimately, against the Venezuelan people. It is important to emphasize that the repercussions that the sanctions have had on the Venezuelan population have been classified by the United Nations as unilateral coercive measures in violation of International Law and Human Rights.

Regarding the renewal of Chevron’s operating license in Venezuela, some Venezuelan analysts think, perhaps with some naivety, that Maduro’s government should use this to its own benefit, something that the Venezuelan people need, however, they say that the Venezuelan leader still must remain alert, “since Chevron’s profits can be used again by the United States to continue with the escalation of attacks against the Venezuelan homeland.”

On the other hand, there are a series of questions that underlie the renewal of the operating license of Chevron, the second most important oil company in the United States empire, surpassed only by Exxon Mobil– Isn’t it supposed that Venezuela does not produce or export oil and, furthermore, that its flagship industry (PDVSA) does not generate any profit? Well, this is the hegemonic opinion matrix worldwide that has been installed on the formerly famous and respected Venezuelan oil industry, which, according to that same matrix, would be in decline, if not finished. It is worth remembering that it was Hugo Chávez who put the PDVSA to work: in 1998, when the commander was elected president of Venezuela, the price of a barrel of oil was around 10 USD, and during his government, the same barrel reached 100 USD.

Returning to the present, in effect, the sanctions against Venezuela have left consequences that are very difficult to repair. Since 2019, crude production in the Caribbean country has plummeted by almost two-thirds of its usual productive activity, to less than 500,000 barrels per day (bpd). As a consequence of unilateral coercive measures, North American and European oil companies have reduced their presence in Venezuela to a minimum to avoid seeing their bank accounts frozen or their oil operations canceled. However, this new renewal of the government’s actions in relation to Chevron makes it clear that, despite the attacks, the Venezuelan oil industry continues to belong to a company of great imperial interest.

In fact, Chevron is not the only US company or company that maintains operations with and in Venezuela, it is only one of the most important of them: there are also Chinese and Russian companies. However, this new renovation could mean that an agreement between the Biden government and the constitutionally elected government of Nicolás Maduro is on the way, and not only with the aim of reviving an oil industry, whose potential is enormous as well as strategic for the economy, social and economic development of Venezuela. He is talking about another sign of the White House approaching Miraflores, the government office of Caracas.

According to the Samuel Robinson Institute, through this Washington decision, Chevron and other US companies “may carry out transactions and activities that guarantee the safety of personnel or the integrity of operations and assets in Venezuela; participation in meetings of shareholders and board of directors; make payments on third party invoices for authorized transactions and activities; payment of local taxes and purchase of public services in Venezuela; and payment of salaries to employees and contractors in the national territory.”

In the same vein, last January, Bloomberg reported that Chevron and Reliance Industries, another American company, were meeting with officials of the United States Department of State to request a revocation of some of the restrictions of the Trump administration against the Venezuelan oil industry. The oil lobbyists specifically requested the reestablishment of transactions known as oil swaps that would allow companies to receive Venezuelan crude in exchange for supplying diesel.

Chevron has been operating in Venezuela for decades and has approximately 8,000 employees. In April 2020, the White House ordered him to gradually reduce his activities to a simple “maintenance” of his assets. However, that situation seems to be beginning to change with the arrival of Democrat Joe Biden. Without getting too much hope, just as we reaffirm “empire is empire” we say “something is more than nothing”, in a long-term negotiation process that can lift sanctions without surrendering national sovereignty.

Final thoughts

It is clear that, on the one hand, that this type of decision by the White House shows little coherence about its interventionist policy on Venezuela, at the same time, which, on the other hand, shows – once again – the interests to get hold of Venezuela’s abundant natural resources, especially oil, by any means, such as installing a “puppet” president like Juan Guaidó, although it could be any other name, as long as it is functional to Washington.

In this regard, although the current US president continues to recognize Guaidó as “interim president,” several US parliamentarians and political leaders have taken away that undeserved title. Even the Democratic tenant of the White House has put an ultimatum to Guaidó and has forced him to ask Maduro for a chair and a table to negotiate. It is unlikely that at the moment of greatest weakness and political support for him, Guaidó will be able to achieve the goal that the United States has set for him: presidential elections before regular time (2023).

Finally, it is true that foreign direct investment is necessary for the exploration, exploitation and export of Venezuelan crude, even for the maintenance of a complex oil industrial apparatus in decline, but the help of the United States will not come without asking for anything from change. In short, as we have seen, the United States uses the illegal and inhumane commercial and financial blockade against Venezuela, only in what affects the South American nation, because for its important businesses there was always, even with Trump, exceptions… a “very selective blockade”.

Micaela Ovelar
Political scientist and international adviser, Argentine-Venezuelan scholar, feminist and social activist. Micaela has a B.A. in Political Science, a Masters in International Relations; with studies in issues of gender, government, democracy, and the state. She was the international relations adviser of president Hugo Chavez and has worked with the Venezuelan government for the last 15 years.She is also an independent journalist, producer, and in Film & TV Direction from EMPA (Venezuela). She was a producer and commentator at Radio Alba Ciudad (Caracas). Micaela worked as translator and transcriptionist on “South of the Border” by Oliver Stone, archival research on "Silvio Rodríguez. My first calling" by Catherine Murphy, and as a journalist for “Correo del Alba.” (Bolivia-Venezuela).

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