The oil supply to the US from Venezuela has been cut once in recent years. The reason for this cut was the bosses’ lockout at Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) that took place at the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003. Ironically, the lockout was backed by US imperialism.
However, the recent trip of President Chavez to China has made top ranking members of the US administration uneasy. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a Congress investigative agency, is studying the issue at the request of Richard Lugar – Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest exporter of oil, supplies almost 15% of imported oil to the US.
The oil in Venezuela has been under the control of the oligarchy since the discovery of this raw material more than a century ago. In spite of the state owned character of PDVSA the management of this company has always given priority to their own personal interests and those of the Venezuelan ruling class and US imperialism. It used to be said that it was not the government who controlled PDVSA – it was PDVSA that controlled the government.
This has now changed. The trigger for the coup d’etat of April 11 2002 was precisely the removal of the director’s board of the company. After that, the overwhelming majority of the managerial elite of PDVSA were removed due to their role in the bosses’ lockout that followed at the end of that year. The financial aims of the company have also changed. A large share of the money coming in from oil revenues is being used for social programmes known as “misiones” which cover housing, healthcare and education. Some people at that time were talking about “a second nationalisation”. Since then President Chavez has warned more than once that he would “not send one drop of oil” to the US if the Bush administration carried out more attempts to oust him.
After his visit to China the concerns of the US have increased. On January 14 the Financial Times revealed, “Venezuela is currently studying how it can ship oil to China, either through the Panama Canal or via a pipeline across the Panamanian isthmus”. A US official said “the US will not look favourably on Panama aiding Venezuela to sell its oil to a competitor of the US” (Ibid.). In recent years China has emerged as one of the biggest consumers and importers of hydrocarbons. China is now also an industrial and commercial rival of the US. On top of that the price of oil is rising higher and higher. In 2004 US crude prices rose above $55 a barrel. On January 13 oil prices rose again – this time to a six-week high due to fears of lower stocks of crude. It is quite clear that this future commercial deal with China is a movement of self-defence on the part of the Venezuelan government against the continuous attempts of US imperialism to undermine the Bolivarian Revolution.
In order to safeguard the gains of the revolution the oil is an important factor that must be skilfully used by the revolutionary movement. However, this is not enough. At the moment the prices are favourable for PDVSA and massive revenues coming from the oil are reverting to the poor and the workers but there are no means at all to keep the high prices of oil forever. If the prices of oil fall in the meantime, the Venezuelan Revolution will be jeopardised. The oligarchy still holds control of most of the economy and is using its financial power to attack the revolution by whatever means necessary. Massive media corporations like Globovision are using all their resources to spread lies about the Bolivarian Revolution and openly call for coups and foreign intervention. Meanwhile the landowners are hiring thugs to terrorise peasant and community leaders. The Venezuelan Revolution must take the initiative and expropriate all those who do not respect the democratic will of the majority and put these means of production under the control of the workers and the community.