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LISA NAPOLI: In Venezuela today, the government takes control of several key oil projects currently held by foreign companies. You can imagine that doesn’t make those foreign companies very happy since they spent billions of dollars to develop the oil fields. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Dan Grech says some Venezuelans aren’t too happy, either.
DAN GRECH: Attorney Carlos Vecchio works for one of the foreign oil firms that will cede control to the Venezuelan government. Once that happens, Vecchio is convinced his days at the company are numbered.
CARLOS VECCHIO: I will be fired, because the government will discriminate against me.
Vecchio, along with more than three million others, signed a petition against President Hugo Chavez in 2003.
Their names now appear in a computer database called the Maisanta List. International observers say that the Maisanta List has been used to purge the opposition from state companies.
VECCHIO: There are a thousand of cases about discrimination. This is a state policy that the government is using as a political tool to impose its revolution.
This would be a cruel twist of fate for Vecchio. For years he’s helped mount a fruitless legal challenge to the government’s alleged blacklisting campaign.
Several Venezuelan government officials declined Marketplace requests for an interview.
Since the New Year, President Chavez has expanded his control of the economy, nationalizing telecom and electricity and oil.
Riordan Roett is with Johns Hopkins University.
RIORDAN ROETT: Clearly the Bolivarian revolution, from Chavez’s point of view, is a cleansing revolution. And therefore all of the institutions need to be cleansed and brought into line.
Roett says a blacklist is particularly damaging in a country where 40 percent of people officially employed work for the government.
ROETT: So at almost every turning point, there is the possibility that if your name is on that list, it will be used against you.
After a strike in 2002 at the state oil company PDVSA, the government fired 18,000 employees.Many of those who walked out were replaced with Chavez loyalists.
This past November, energy minister Rafael Ramirez said that PDVSA is “rojo rojito”— meaning “red, really red.” Red being the color of the Chavez revolution.
I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.
Venezuela takes control
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SCOTT JAGOW: Today’s a landmark day in Venezuela’s drive to nationalize its industries. The world’s biggest oil companies will relinquish control of huge crude oil projects in the Orinoco river belt. Some believe that’s the planet’s biggest oil reserve. This is all part of President Hugo Chavez’s promised socialist revolution. Reuters correspondent Brian Ellsworth has more.
BRIAN ELLSWORTH: Oil giants including Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips have been running the projects for as long as six years.
Today Chavez will hold a ceremony with oil workers to mark the handover of operations. The companies can stay on as minority partners, but the state will take at least 60 percent ownership.
Oil worker Marco Ojeda says the move will boost Venezuela’s control over its vast oil reserves.
MARCO OJEDA [translated]: The ceremony marks the recovery of the Orinoco belt.
Analysts say foreign investors may be scared away by the takeover of the projects. They’re worth an estimated $30 billion.
Venezuela is the fourth largest exporter of oil to the United States.
In Puerto La Cruz, I’m Brian Ellsworth for Marketplace.