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Venezuela: A Chavez lobbyist called John McDonnell speaks in the UK's House of Commons

By Gustavo Coronel, reprinted from Petroleum World

In Committee Room 8 of the UK's House of Commons yet another farce financed by the Chavez authoritarian regime has taken place, as reported in these pages. (March 24th, 2004). An MP called John McDonnell took the floor to table Motion 854, which deals with Venezuela. This motion, apparently, was written by one of Chavez's propaganda fronts, the so called Global Women's Strike, an organization that recently sponsored a speaking tour of Nora Castañeda, the President of the Women's Bank, throughout the US.

Before making some comments on the words of McDonnell I will mention that the tour of Mrs. Castañeda, at least in the northeast of the US, was a total failure, an incestuous affair mostly attended by a few Chavez government employees and their relatives. A report by journalist Vito Echevarría from New York mentions that her speech was violently racist. She posed as an Afro-Venezuelan when, in fact, she is one more mestizo, like millions of Venezuelans. She collected money from the audience. She concentrated on a furious attack of the Venezuelan political dissidence. The few uncommitted members of the audience were disgusted at this woman.

The millions of dollars spent by Chavez to disseminate his propaganda have now reached the UK's House of Commons. The text of the motion, presented by Mr. McDonnell and written by some member of the Global Women's Strike, describes a government, which has successfully tackled poverty, upgraded the situation of women and increased education and housing for the poor. Nothing could be farther from reality. During the five years of Chavez's authoritarian regime poverty has increased significantly, as recently documented by the United Nations. Poverty now includes 85% of the Venezuelan population. Unemployment has reached record percentages of 22% by the end of 2003. 65% of the employed population is really under-employed as street vendors (buhoneros). McDonnell quotes the President of Petroleos de Venezuela, Ali Rodriguez, saying that this company is embarking on a social program to build homes, running literacy programs and developing agriculture. This man, Ali Rodriguez, is a former urban guerrilla and terrorist who now runs the Venezuelan oil company without having the most basic knowledge of the business.

The application of some $1.6 billion of the company's money to ill conceived and improvised social programs is robbing the company of the money required to maintain its installations properly and to keep oil production at normal levels. Due to this disastrous mismanagement the Venezuelan company has already lost close to one million barrels per day in production capacity. In the meantime the money going to social programs is being mostly pilfered or stolen by the corrupt administrators of the regime.

The dishonest document presented to the House of Commons claims that the majority of the Venezuelan people support Chavez. This is a lie. All polls show that Chavez only maintains a 25% of support and that he would be ousted from the presidency if he allowed the presidential referendum to proceed.

The statistics presented in this document are shameless fiction. All international agencies have established that Venezuela has deteriorated significantly during the last five years. It has gone from place 45 in 1998 to place 69 in 2003, in the Human Development Index generated by the United Nations. The banks created, the Women's Bank and the People's Bank, are practically broke since the rate of delinquent loans is extremely high. The food distribution programs coordinated by the Armed Force are a nest of corruption. There are close to 20000 Cubans in Venezuela, serving as political operators and paramilitary officers, mostly disguised as sport trainers and medical staff. Venezuela, contrary to the assertion made by the document, is the only Latin American country where the objectives against poverty have NOT been accomplished. During 2003 the economy sank by 11%, the highest drop in Latin America.

The document is racist. It claims that the "white elite, "which wants the oil privatized" is threatening the "achievements" of the Chavez regime. These ignorant far away observers do not know that Venezuela is a mestizo country and that the few whites are not a unified elite. Toro Hardy and Alvarez, the two Chavez Ambassadors to the UK and the US are very white. The opposition leaders include many mestizos. They also ignore the fact that the oil industry is returning, under Chavez, to the control of the multinational companies. Already more than one million barrels per day of Venezuelan oil production is generated by foreign companies due to the collapse of the production at the hands of the "patriotic" Chavez management.

I hope that these comments find their way to the members of the House of Commons, so that they will not be deceived by the outrageous lies contained in the motion presented by Mr. McDonnell.

Gustavo Coronel is a 28 years oil industry veteran, a member of the first board of directors (1975-1979) of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), author of several books. At the present Coronel is the opinion-editorial editor of Petroleumworld en Español

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