Adamant: Hardest metal

STATEMENT FROM MINREX- Lies about Cuba-Venezuela Oil Agreement

WITH a sick obsessiveness, certain media channels in Venezuela in open conspiracy with imperialism and its servile lackeys, frequently complement their everyday counterrevolutionary dealings with campaigns against the relations between Cuba and Venezuela.

Their gross lies and slander concerning virtually all issues have become a normal occurrence, however noble and selfless these might seem to impartial observers.

However, some of them are recurrent, as is the case with the existing oil contract between the Cuban Oil Union (CUPET) and the PDVSA Oil and Gas Corporation of Venezuela which, as part of the Integral Cooperation Agreement between our two nations and signed by their presidents on October 30, 2000, establishes contractual terms and conditions for the sale and purchase of oil and its derivatives to a total of 53,000 barrels per day over five years.

Two days ago, on June 5, El Nacional newspaper – one of the press organs to most frequently engage in such defamatory exercises in the service of who knows what shady interests – ostentatiously published an extensive and vile article on the Cuban-Venezuelan oil agreement.

This new – or reiterated – perfidious campaign is aimed at suspending oil sales to Cuba, discrediting our country and colluding with imperialism in its objective of undermining our homeland. That obliges us, once again, to publicly expound our position.

• The terms and conditions binding on Cuba in the above-mentioned sale and purchase contract are equal to or less advantageous than those relating to the rest of the countries in Central America and the Caribbean that are beneficiaries of the Caracas Agreement.

• Shipments began in December 2000 and continued without interruption until April 11, 2002 – the date of the frustrated fascist coup.

• Up until that date, in accordance with the agreement, some $439.7 million USD was paid in cash and at world market prices.

• Supplies were suspended last April, responsibility for which lies solely with the coup faction that was part of the PDVSA management. Of the four tankers destined to transport fuel to Cuba on April 11, 2002 – three of them ready to sail out of port on April 9 – only one was able to leave on the morning of the April 11. The other two, whose cargo was already the property of the Cuban CUPET company, were sold to a third party on the basis of a unilateral decision by the management – including some of the coup conspirators – who were acting owners of PDVSA; the fourth was never loaded.

• Given that situation, Cuba had no other alternative but to immediately go out to buy the oil and derivatives that the country required through intermediaries and at far higher prices. Those prices were aggravated by urgency and the high freight costs imposed by distance (some of the cargoes could only be contracted from Europe and Asia) and even then, there were consignments that could not be transported because of a lack of tankers, due to the well-known limitations that the U.S. blockade imposes on vessels arriving in Cuban ports.

• As a consequence of this interruption in the supply of Venezuelan crude oil, activities at the Santiago de Cuba refinery – the second most important in the country – had be to be halted from April through September 2002, causing additional imports of derivatives at a higher cost. The country had to resort to using national reserves held back for exceptional situations and imposing heavy restrictions on internal consumption.

• The additional outlay in dollars for this alone was close to $100 million USD, without taking into account the effect of that on the economy and the population.

• Last July, an agreement was renegotiated with PDVSA aimed at renewing shipments in August (in fact they materialized in September), which included the unjust payment of $13 million USD for arrears, imposed on Cuba by the coup conspiracy management and which our country accepted on the basis of a position of total comprehension of the problems facing the Bolivarian government of Venezuela, in spite of the fact that the responsibility for those arrears had nothing whatsoever to do with the Cuban party to the agreement.

• From September to November 2002, oil supplies were received as normal, with the due payment of $96.4 million USD, the exact sum that Cuba was committed to paying in that period of time and which was made without a single moment of delay.

One example to illustrate the situation that the country was forced into:

On April 28, 2002 it had to purchase the Four Six tanker with 415,225 barrels of crude from the Trasfigura company at a cost of $11,653, 981 USD. A similar cargo through the Venezuelan accord would have cost $8,809,414 USD; in other words we paid 24.4% more for the same volume of oil ($2,844,567 USD more on a single tanker). Less than one month later, on May 12, in a similar operation with the same company and with the same tanker, we acquired 449,449 barrels at a price of $13,071,475 USD; if the supplies agreed with PDVSA had not been interrupted, their value would have amounted to $9,925,182 USD, representing for us a further payment of $3,146,292 USD, equivalent to a 24% increase, again, just for one tanker. And bear in mind that this situation lasted for several months.

Little or none of these facts were referred to in El Nacional or any other Venezuelan counterrevolutionary libels, nor those of the anti-Cuban mafia in Miami which, as one would logically suppose, second these fabrications every time they lack “raw material” for their lies.

Nor were the new effects on Venezuelan crude supplies that occurred afterwards, and which were announced in a January 9 note from our Foreign Ministry. On December 2, barely three months after supplies were reestablished and in the midst of a new coup attempt, the cargoes specified in the Caracas Agreement were once again interrupted with similar consequences to those of the April-August period. The Santiago de Cuba refinery came to a standstill and the country was forced to turn to intermediaries, thus incurring high costs etc at a time when there was a drop in PDVSA production and the imminent danger of an unjust and unnecessary war that the United States subsequently unleashed on Iraq. This caused an exorbitant rise in the already high oil prices on the international market and a lack of production in the Caribbean area.

As the old saying says “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” And the speculators gained such a hold that they even auctioned the fuel tankers in order to sell them to the highest bidder and thus increase their profits.

One further fact is enough to illustrate those consequences for Cuba.

The non-existence of oil in nearby areas forced us to acquire 100,000 tons of diesel from the Far East, which took close to six weeks to arrive.

To resume cargo shipments after the paralyzation and sabotaging of the Venezuelan oil industry, we had to wait until mid-January 2002. This meant that for over one month Cuba did not receive one single barrel of oil out of the 1.5 million that it should have received during that lapse in the current agreement. PDVSA did not fulfill its agreement, causing us hundreds of millions of dollars worth of economic damage from April 2002 to that date.

Only the oil importing countries, certainly the immense majority, are capable of understanding the economic dangers attached to the paralyzation of agreed shipments and, having scant resources, being forced into hasty pacts at the mercy of intermediaries. However, perhaps no other country is forced to do so in a manner so disadvantageous as in the case of Cuba. It has the same financial difficulties arising from the world economic crisis that other nations are experiencing, while facing a ferocious and criminal U.S. blockade in place for more than 40 years, and, we should point out, those factors have been compounded by the numerous problems arising from the three hurricanes that caused losses of more than $2.5 billion USD.

Of course, none of that has been published in any newspaper, nor has one minute of television space been dedicated to it by the Venezuelan media in the service of the coup plotters and their masters. What could be expected when the empire orders and commands? For that media, the priority news lies in denigrating Cuba on all sides, in the hope of confusing the Venezuelan people and above all, sullying the leadership of President Chávez with lying arguments such as: “He is giving away or endangering the public heritage,” by selling oil to Cuba. Or like those published yesterday in El Nacional, out of the mouth of that insubstantial individual whose name does not even merit a mention.

But what can we expect from an “independent press that is the defender of democracy” and that incited the toppling of a constitutionally elected president in April 2002 from its columns and networks? The independent media that seconded strike calls by neo-coup plotters in the business and trade union sectors as a way of economically sinking the country through paralyzing its main source of income?

What can we expect from a press that in no way calls to task PDVSA managers and other officials who were not the least concerned at causing losses of over $10 billion USD to their own country by sabotaging oil, without even evaluating other effects such as losing established markets, a key aspect of any company’s efficiency.

And this, yes, in large capitals, IS about damaging national interests. Or a media that even makes superficial references to the multimillion losses that such actions, certainly directed at the heart of Venezuela’s national heritage, have brought to the nations of Central America and the Caribbean by failing to meet fuel supply commitments to them as well?

Can they be expected to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars paid to PDVSA by Cuba? Or the incommensurate effort and sacrifice that the cent-by-cent commitments represent for the country? Or that it should acknowledge that accords like the Caracas Agreement constitute an international trading practice?

Or that it should even mention that the Integral Cooperation Agreement with Cuba does not only cover the buying and selling of oil, and nor is it one-way?

The perverse charges fabricated against Cuba by a servile press and a few puppets aligned to a base and repugnant fascism that has nothing to do with the Venezuelan people’s interests, are an irritant but, above all, hurt, because those attacks are directed at President Chávez, of whom our country has only received evidence of nobleness, friendship and solidarity.

PDVSA has not stopped claiming pending payments from CUPET, as is its duty but, having analyzed the damage caused to our country in the wake of the fascist coup of April 2002 and the equally fascist stoppage of last December, has renegotiated the debts, reaching a new agreement that has facilitated a renewal of the promised payments.

Once again Cuba reiterates that it will honor its obligations to PDVSA that it will pay up to the last cent.

Given its high concept of honor, Cuba’s attitude to Venezuela has been totally different. For our country this commitment has absolute priority. Our cooperative relations are not measured by money.

For Cuba its links of cooperation with Venezuela have one sole objective: to make a modest contribution to the well being of our sister Venezuelan people. We will never, under any circumstances, interrupt our programs to which we also give high priority.

Cuba is not in the habit of talking about what it has done, is doing and will do for the benefit of other peoples. It is enough that the peoples and governments know it.

In the case of the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, our services are the genuine fruit of the Integral Cooperation Agreement signed two years and seven months ago by Fidel and Chávez, the major part of which is being offered free of charge and the rest at a cost well below the international price value.

But we do not evaluate those services by the hundreds of millions of dollars of their monetary total. Their value cannot be measured because they are based on the solidarity and generosity of the Cuban people, demonstrated so many times and in so many places throughout their history, and because it is engraved in our heritage with the Martí maxim: “Give me Venezuela that I may serve her, she has in me a son.” For that we have more than enough reason to reiterate why we are for Venezuela and will always be ready to give our lives to that nation if necessary.

Counterrevolutionaries, fascists and coup plotters can never say that and their lies will be shattered against the wall of our truths expressed and defended by millions of Venezuelans.

IVSS kingpin, Rafael Vargas number two in revolutionary new rich list

Venezuela's Electronic News
Posted: Sunday, June 08, 2003
By: Patrick J. O'Donoghue

Former Presidential Secretariat Minister Rafael Vargas has been warding off attacks about his influence in the Social Security Institute (IVSS) highlighted by in a report on a Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV) decision to take "Actores Economicos" program off the air.

Program presenter, Rafael Febles says the decision was taken after he criticized Vargas (currently IVSS acting director) for his performance at the Institute. According to the journalist, Vargas was rude to him over the phone but in a letter to Vargas denies the phone conversation and says the campaign against him was inspired by the opposition.

Quinto Dia columnist, Miguel Salazar has been highlighting Vargas, calling him the "mentor of the gang that has taken the IVSS by assault" and lists him as second in the order of the new rich under the Chavez Frias Administration. Salazar accuses Vargas of precipitating the exit of respected IVSS director, Roberto Rodriguez.

Vargas calls himself a revolutionary and denies intervening to get rid of Rodriguez or other IVSS personnel ... "this information is typical of opposition-managed news and the only person arrested in connection with corruption was a middleman and not any director." In a veiled warning to, Vargas, using what old timers call "60s revolutionary surplus," demands the respect that his revolutionary work merits for his efforts in helping alternative media.

Salazar's list of Fifth Republic "nouveaux riches" is the following: Rafael Sarria, Rafael Vargas, Luis Alfonzo Davila, Ismael Garcia, Eliecer Hurtado, Jorge Kamkoff, Jorge Castillo, Antonio Rojas Suarez, Enrique Medina Rubio, Arturo Garcia, and Guaicaipuro Lameda. The journalist promises more revelations. Salazar reports that Vargas has placed another henchman as new general director of the passports & identification Office (Oni-Dex) ... the new man comes from IVSS where he headed the Control & Losses Department!

Venezuelan opposition puts American in War Room to help oust President

Venezuela's Electronic news
Posted: Friday, May 23, 2003
By: Reporters

Wall Street Journal (WSJ) staff reporter Marc Lifsher files from Caracas today that "It's the economia, stupid ... Venezuela's embattled private sector is banking on the colorful US political consultant James Carville to help oust leftist President Hugo Chavez ... the hire may herald an effort by the anti-Chavistas to focus more on the issues than on personality."

Lifsher continues: According to several individuals with knowledge of the matter, a group of business executives contracted with Mr. Carville this year to craft a strategy that will unify a fractious and frustrated Chavez opposition and resonate with voters in a possible recall referendum. The executives are hoping that Mr. Carville -- the folksy, 59-year-old Democratic Party consultant from Louisiana known as the Ragin' Cajun -- will push a variation of his "It's the economy, stupid" theme that helped propel Bill Clinton to victory in 1992.

But analysts say Mr. Carville and his clients face a formidable challenge. Mr. Chavez has strengthened his hand since surviving a military coup in April 2002 and defeating a recent two-month national strike led by oil executives, labor leaders and business organizations.

Despite a deepening economic recession, the business elite here and its middle-class allies are finding it hard to persuade core Chavez supporters in urban slums and the countryside that the President isn't delivering on his populist promises. They have another hurdle to jump in blaming all the country's economic problems on Mr. Chavez after their own ill-starred strike accelerated the economy's slide.

"These business owners are arrogant ... they can bring Carville or anyone else, but they don't stop to understand what everyday life is like for the people," says Patricia Marquez, an anthropologist and academic director of the Institute for Higher Administrative Studies, a graduate school of management here in the capital.

Perhaps we should call a referendum to revoke the opposition instead

Venezuela's Electronic News
Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2003
By: Elio Cequea

Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 18:02:49 -0500
From: Elio Cequea
Subject: Reality

Dear Editor: Democracy in Venezuela needs a strong and serious opposition, different to the one we have now...

I have been a harsh critic of the forces that since 1998 play the opposition in Venezuela. They have not lived up to their important and critical role.

A healthy democracy needs of the renewing transfusion of blood that only a strong opposition can provide ... an opposition that is strong not only in ideas, but also with a serious social and political agenda gives a democracy the stability to move a country in the right direction.

The political opposition in Venezuela not only lacks ideas but it has never presented any social and/or political agenda to the nation. They seem to have lost touch with the political reality of our country and have taken their fight to levels of complete irrationality.

The only purpose of the leaders of the opposition is to get the political power back ... they totally lost it in 1998 and want it back. Period!

That is in summary their proposal and agenda.

Before 1998, Presidential candidates won elections only by criticizing the government ... that obviously does not work anymore. Now Venezuelans expect proposals, plans and new ideas to combat our problems and improve our lives.

"Chavez must go" is practically the one and only opposition slogan ... as a motto, agenda, plan, proposal, program or offer, it is far from being a serious one to combat or improve anything.

But, then again, it fully comprises the political platform of the opposition ... if Chavez is out, they will get back the power because they are our sole political alternative.

That is all they care for, and that is all they are fighting for ... even among themselves.

Perhaps we should call a referendum to revoke the opposition instead.

Elio Cequea

Four Seasons wins hotel dispute

The Miami Herald
Posted on Wed, May. 21, 2003

Developers of the Four Seasons in Caracas must pay $4.87 million in damages for hacking their way into Four Seasons' computer system, accessing proprietary information and using the hotel company's logo without permission, a U.S. District Court in Miami has ruled.

Judge K. Michael Moore's decision, made last week, ended a tense months-long court battle between the Toronto-based Four Seasons and Consorcio Barr, a company headed by two Venezuelan brothers, Carlos and Lautaro Barrera.

At the heart of the dispute is control of the lush 21-story Four Seasons Caracas, built in the tony Altamira section of Venezuela's capital. Designed by Arquitectonica, and costing the Barreras $120 million, the hotel opened in January 2001 to accolades from the travel press, its status bolstered by being Four Seasons' first hotel in South America.

Almost immediately, though, the developers and Four Seasons began to spar.

The Barreras charged Four Seasons with overspending and mismanagement. Four Seasons countered that the Barreras were not paying their suppliers and, worse, were snooping through their computer files.

The Four Seasons in Caracas is the Barreras' first hotel. They are not connected with the Four Seasons condo/hotel in Miami, which is scheduled to open by the end of this year.

Four Seasons filed suit against Consorcio Barr in Miami in November 2001 and obtained an injunction one month later barring Consorcio Barr from accessing their computers. In December 2001, Four Seasons seized control of the financial management of the hotel. A Venezuela court ruled that financial control be restored to Consorcio Barr. The Four Seasons appealed, and last June stopped taking reservations at the hotel. Some 300 employees walked out in fury, demanding pay and attracting the Venezuelan media. By July, the hotel was empty, and has remained so ever since.

The trial in Miami, which ran from Dec. 16 to Jan. 30, was pitted with tension.

''Everything was contested,'' said Albert Xiques, who represented Four Seasons in the trial along with lawyers Juan Rodriguez and John Carey. ``The parties couldn't agree on the color of the sky.''

The Barreras' Miami lawyer, Eddie Palmer, presented evidence that the Four Season's supposed computer expert witness had fabricated his credentials. Consorcio Barr also accused the hotel management giant with attempting to strong-arm it into acquiescence.

But in his ruling, first reported in the Daily Business Review, Judge Moore said Consorcio Barr had stolen Four Seasons' trade secrets, violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Electronic Communications Act, thus obtaining proprietary information, and unlawfully used Four Seasons' logo to rent hotel rooms and sell condo units, which are part of the hotel.

Along with the $4.87 million awarded in damages, Moore ruled that a magistrate judge review the accounting of Consorcio Barr's sales of condo units under Four Seasons' name. Moore also ordered Consorcio Barr to hand over all desktop and laptop computers, compact, floppy and zip disks.

The decision was devastating to the Barreras, who had hoped to line up new management for the hotel. Palmer said his clients would appeal. A spokeswoman for Four Seasons says the hotel company remains committed to managing the luxury resort.

''Our goal,'' Elizabeth Pizzinato, a spokeswoman for Four Seasons, wrote in an e-mail, ``is still that the hotel will be able to resume operation under Four Seasons management on a sound financial basis.''

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