Adamant: Hardest metal

Venezuela Says Oil Exports at 2.34 Mln Barrels/Day (Update1)

June 25 (Bloomberg) -- Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the nation's state-owned oil company, said crude exports total 2.34 million barrels a day, about 14 percent less than the level before a two-month national strike began in December.

The company is exporting less even though production has returned to pre-strike levels, the company's sales director, Nelson Reyes, told the state news agency. Before the strike, Venezuela, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, exported about 2.7 million barrels a day.

To make up for the shortfall ``we are having direct negotiations with companies with refineries for export and oil sales,'' Reyes said.

Petroleos de Venezuela is trying to make up for market share lost during the strike, which was aimed at forcing President Hugo Chavez from office. Petroleos de Venezuela fired 18,000 employees out of its pre-strike workforce of 33,000 to break the work stoppage, which ended Feb. 1.

Petroleos de Venezuela is now producing 3.34 million barrels a day, including liquid natural gas, Reyes said.

The company's domestic refineries are processing 1.17 million barrels a day. Inventories stand at 16.2 million barrels, or about 40 percent of the company's capacity, he said.

Who is lying about ILO and Venezuela? Urbieta or Iglesias?

Venezuela's Electronic News
Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2003
By: Patrick J. O'Donoghue

International Labor Organization (ILO) Administrative Council member and "spokesman" for the Venezuelan Confederation of Trade Unions (CTV), Jesus Urbieta has called Venezuela's Labor Minister, Maria Cristina Iglesias a liar.

"The Venezuelan delegation has tried to mount a circus at the last ILO meeting and convince the rest of the world that there is democracy and union freedom in Venezuela ... the government flew in a Venpres agency team and TV cameras but nobody took any notice of them."

Urbieta, who was never an elected CTV official but hand-picked as an Accion Democratica (AD) commissar during his tenure as CTV legal adviser, states that the ILO did indeed condemn the Venezuelan government for violating ILO Agreement 87 and has appointed a committee to monitor compliance with ratified agreements.

The Labor Minster, also an Accion Democratica (AD) former militant, replies that the ILO is not a tribunal or punitive body that slaps on penalties as the CTV and Federation of Chambers of Industry & Commerce (Fedecamaras) wants people to believe.

As for the verification committee, Iglesias says it is a technical committee of cooperation and consultancy ... "if the government requests its presence, it will help to set up statutes for cooperatives and reform the labor law."

Iglesias accuses the opposition of dragging Venezuela's political problems to the ILO, which "interests nobody except Venezuelans themselves."

Venezuelan print & broadcast media behind sabotage in parliament

Venezuela's Electronic News
Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2003
By: David Coleman

National Assembly (AN) deputy Saul Ortega has told US federal and local government that the Venezuelan print & broadcast media is behind sabotage in the nation's parliament aimed at delaying the designation of a new board of directors to the National Elections College (CNE).

The Carabobo representative, who is a member of the AN Candidatures Committee, has been on an exchange program tour to meet important business and political leaders across the United States and to inform them of the process of President Hugo Chavez Frias' essential political and economic reforms and what is actually happening in Venezuela.

Now in Washington, Ortega says that the delay in nominating individuals to the CNE is a direct result of "inappropriate actions by members of the opposition in the National Assembly" ... and that other opposition forces, outside parliament, have sabotaged a pre-agreement that had already been hammered out.

"Today those same forces are not permitting an agreement to be reached ... we achieved a political agreement between the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) and the principal powers in the parliament: Accion Democratica (AD), Christian Socialist (COPEI) and Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), and that political agreement was even shared by the majority of the minority parties in the opposition. Then, surprisingly, on the day the plenary session of parliament was convened for the CNE board election, opposition factions proposed postponing it. The opposition has an interest in delaying the decision ... it is important to point this out, because, when it comes time to evaluate the situation politically, this fact will show the opposition’s responsibility.”

Ortega explains that in the initial agreement to reappoint the CNE, 5 of 10 replacements would be from the opposition and 5 from parties supporting the government ... of the 5 principal members, 2 would be from the opposition, 2 from the government and a 5th would be proposed by the parliamentary majority in favor of change, and the opposition would have the right to evaluate the person or make known their considerations.

“But this agreement has been sidelined by lack of unity in the criteria set out by the opposition ... there are undemocratic forces that are definitely not interested in arriving at an agreement. Causa R can be identified as connected to the coup d'etat, as well as Primera Justicia (PJ) and Project Venezuela ... these groups are looking for solutions outside the constitution.”

Nevertheless, Ortega trusts the National Assembly's decision to choose members of the CNE over any appointment by the Supreme Court ... “the fundamental parliamentary political forces are convinced that it is the direct responsibility of Congress ... they have renewed their conversations, but interruptions continue and they have nothing to do with the CNE ... rather, they are tied to factors outside of the Assembly that carry an important weight in the decision of some organizations that have been perpetuating this crisis ... such as the boycott, the taking over of direction and other actions of this type that have happened in parliament."

Ortega adds: "This rarefied environment conspires against political normalcy and political powers can not reach agreement ... the same powers that instituted the coup d’etat (April 2002) are behind this boycott ... it is no secret that the traditional parties now have a less valid position and are practically at the mercy of factors within the mass media, which have been imposing an agenda that is dutifully followed."

"I know the opinions of important leaders in the opposition who are clear that they must adopt a more independent position ... they could easily become prisoner to a media campaign that could even make some of these organizations disappear ... it is difficult to confront these factors in the Venezuelan mass media, and I believe that the President and groups seeking necessary change have exceptionally resisted and revealed the influence that the mass media has in society, especially the television and radio..”

Ortega says he's convinced the opposition is not interested in an electoral outcome: “any election would be a disaster for the opposition ... they would delay their opportunities for a long time. I believe the opposition is not interested in electoral mediation and the recall referendum seems only to be a propaganda element rather than a true solution that could be successful for them. There are polls managed by AD that clearly show the President is up 47%, and that the leading political party is MVR ... the second is AD lagging quite far behind.”

Ortega is skeptical that the referendum will get off the ground this year. He says the opposition’s strategy is to heat up the situation on the streets, and to exacerbate the political climate in the hope of another coup d'etat ... if this year goes by without a referendum, the political struggle next year will be concentrated on the elections of Governors and Mayors ... “then, they will not worry about recalling anyone's term in office.”

US Energy Department certifies Venezuelan reformulated gasoline

Venezuela's Electronic News
Posted: Monday, June 23, 2003
By: Reporters

State news agency VENPRES reports that a US Energy Department Commission has certified the dispatch to New York of 316,000 barrels of reformulated gasoline, giving parallel authorization and product quality approval to the Venezuelan product alongside production from US-based refineries. The news was announced by Ivan Hernandez, director general of the Paraguana Refinery complex in western Falcon State.

"In effect the US certification conforms to international ecological norms on the reduction of contaminating particle emissions ... the quality of our Venezuelan energy products has been put to test without any shred of proof ... there has been much made of the opposition stoppage to claim that our products lack rudimentary quality standards, but in the presence of representatives of prestigious international organizations we have been able to demonstrate the exact opposite."

"Versions of how US operators have been worried about the quality of our products are pure rumors which lack any form of substantiation ... the US Department of Energy has been able to certify the quality and operability of the Venezuelan petroleum industry to the extent that they have authorized the export of not just reformulated gasoline but a whole range of other products," Hernandez told reporters.

The 316,000 barrels cargo left the Amuay-Cardon refinery in Falcon State today, Monday, on the Espirit Express bound for New York ... the first of five similar cargoes scheduled for July delivery. "This is an historical achievement," Hernandez says. "After the sabotage of our petroleum industry which caused so much damage and losses to the country, we have been able to reestablish the production of green gasoline (CPR) for the eastern seaboard of the United States in full accordance with the US Clean Air Act aimed at progressively reducing poisonous particle emissions such as carbon monoxide which is seen as one of the precursors to smog."

Hernandez rejects opposition Venezuelan media claims that it has been impossible for PDVSA to produce CRP ... "all production and refinery units in the largest petroleum complex in Latin America are in perfect working order and at required levels of operation ... we are now processing 730,000 barrels of crude oil per day ... the only thing we had been previously been unable to get operative was a TAME oxygenation unit, but that is now up and running and we are now able to maintain operational supplies to our commercial clients in the United States."

The Amuay-Cardon refinery's CPR maximum capacity is reckoned to be 940 barrels per day ... "but we haven't needed to push production so high since 730,000 bpd has been our normal production over the last couple of years with 100,000 bpd of leaded for domestic consumption in Venezuela and 45,000 bpd unleaded."

Venezuela expects economy to shrink 10.7 percent-- Oil strikes, conflicts over Chavez government fuel losses

Saturday, June 21, 2003 Posted: 2340 GMT (7:40 AM HKT)

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN-Reuters) -- Venezuela's government said Saturday that it expects the economy to contract by 10.7 percent this year, a bleaker outlook than previously forecast and one of the worst in the history of the world's No. 5 oil exporter.

Finance Minister Tobias Nobrega told Reuters in a telephone interview that the government estimates a 10.7 percent slide for 2003, with a contraction in the second quarter and signs of recovery during the rest of the year.

"This is a preliminary figure, and much depends on the second quarter and ... on the execution of spending and investment and public spending," Nobrega said.

He had previously forecast an 8.9 percent contraction.

Venezuela's economy shrank by 8.9 percent last year and nearly 30 percent in the first quarter of this year after a two-month opposition strike against President Hugo Chavez severely disrupted vital oil output and shipments.

Most analysts paint a more pessimistic picture as conflict over the government of populist Chavez is expected to continue to undermine the economy. The International Monetary Fund forecast Venezuela will post a 17 percent economic contraction this year.

The government has said currency curbs and price controls on basic goods will not be lifted soon. Private business leaders say the controls are sinking the economy deeper into recession by limiting access to dollars needed for imports and external debt payments.

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