14 fevereiro 2008

A Geopolítica de Chávez

Os analistas comentam que depois da derrota no referendo que limitou por enquanto a sua reeleição indefinida, Chávez estaria menos agressivo na sua política externa. Não foi isso que observamos na semana passada, quando ele reagiu ao congelamento dos bens da PDVSA no exterior pela Exxon em represália pelas expropriações sofridas na Venezuela, ameaçando suspender as exportações para os EUA, de cujas importações seu país representa 16% e onde a PDVSA tem a sua operação mais lucrativa. O fato é que o negócio do Chávez não é dinheiro e sim poder, portanto sua sensibilidade a prejuízos financeiros fica em segundo plano.

Oficial graduado em 1975, engenheiro, em 1992 ele comandou cerca de 300 homens contra o presidente Carlos Andrés Perez, em um golpe de Estado fracassado, inaugurando este expediente na Venezuela. A elite estava “podre” e manifestações populares espontâneas já estavam acontecendo; faltava apenas alguém que se pusesse à frente da multidão para surfá-la.

Passou dois anos na cadeia e foi indultado, assim como a Dilma e outros guerrilheiros que hoje se encontram no poder. Foi eleito em 1999, daí seguiu a receita da Revolução Francesa e convocou uma Constituinte para a qual seu partido obteve 120 das 131 cadeiras. Fez isso rapidamente, enquanto a sua popularidade estava elevada. Com a Constituinte, aumentou os poderes presidenciais e enfraqueceu o Congresso com a eliminação do Senado.

Chávez até obteve da Constituinte poderes para governar por decreto por um ano. Nesta ocasião, o coronel nacionalizou o petróleo e realizou uma reforma agrária. A sociedade reagiu e Chávez demitiu cerca de 16.000 empregados da PDVSA que fizeram greves contra o governo, substituindo-os por gente da sua confiança. Em seguida, sofreu um golpe articulado com participação dos EUA, do qual escapou.

Reeleito em 2006, unificou os partidos que o apoiavam e diante da ausência de oposição, consolidou o poder de um partido único, portanto totalitário. Ganhou também o direito de governar em 11 áreas por decreto por 18 meses. A questão diante desta estonteante trajetória é: o que ele pretende fazer?

Já sabemos que ele apoiou a Bolívia na nacionalização dos hidrocarbonetos, que prejudicou particularmente a Petrobras e o Brasil. Nesta ocasião, a Petrobras teve um prejuízo de uns US$ 5 bilhões de dólares enquanto as receitas de petróleo do estado boliviano saltaram de uns US$ 200 milhões para cerca de US$ 2 bi ao ano. Sabemos que ele apoiou financeiramente a campanha da Kirchner na Argentina. Sabemos que hoje ele tem a maior capacidade militar da América Latina (caças russos, uma fábrica de Kalichnikhov,...). Sabemos que ele apóia as FARC com armas e facilitação para o escoamento das drogas. Sabemos que ele gostaria de construir um gasoduto ligando-o à Argentina, através do Brasil, consolidando uma política de influência na América do Sul ao estilo da Rússia na Europa.

Diante da descoberta do super campo de Tupi, a influência de Chávez diminuiu um pouco, particularmente em relação ao Brasil. Entretanto, os analistas projetam que em 2010 a Argentina perderá a auto-suficiência e será véspera da reeleição da Kirchner, logo Chavez passará a ter uma influência decisiva sobre a Argentina por ser sua alternativa de fornecimento, pois provavelmente só ele terá petróleo ao preço que os argentinos estarão dispostos a pagar.

Os analistas acham que a PDVSA não tem recursos suficientes para bancar o famoso gasoduto Transpinel, investir na já declinante produção e distribuir o Bolsa Família Venezuelano. Entretanto, nosso amigo Chávez é criativo e tem buscado o apoio do Irã e da China. Os analistas acham que a China não estaria disposta a patrocinar os projetos geopolíticos de Chávez, por não ter interesse em aumentar o grau de confrontação com os EUA, ao menos neste momento. Quanto ao Irã, este poderia ter disposição, mas não tem o caixa chinês.

No Brasil, alguns grupos ligados à ministra Dilma continuam estudando o gasoduto Transpinel e buscando alternativas para viabilizá-lo. A Argentina gostaria muito da sua construção, mas não tem os recursos disponíveis para patrociná-lo. Eu diria então que os planos de Chávez dependem enormemente do Brasil e, considerando que ele gastou dinheiro na Argentina, imagine o quanto ele não se empenhará para que algum petista chegue ao poder em 2010.

4 comentários:

André disse...

http://execoutcomes.wordpress.com/2007/12/02/the-problem-of-venezuela/

http://execoutcomes.wordpress.com/2007/11/05/venezuelas-paper-army-2004/

http://execoutcomes.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/venezuela-empty-threats/

http://execoutcomes.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/exxonmobil-and-venezuela-2/

http://execoutcomes.wordpress.com/2008/02/11/exxonmobil-and-venezuela/

http://execoutcomes.wordpress.com/2008/02/03/brasil-another-energy-reserve-along-with-bureaucracy-inefficiency-and-corruption/

http://execoutcomes.wordpress.com/2008/02/02/brazil-nuclear-subs-and-aircraft-carriers/

André disse...

Venezuela's Oil Dreams


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has made two interesting proposals concerning the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC): He says he plans to push the cartel to establish long-term contracts with a fixed price -- $50 per barrel for Venezuela's oil -- and to ask that his country be recognized as having the world's largest oil reserves. Venezuela's proven oil reserves currently are estimated at about 77.2 billion barrels, but if undeveloped deposits of extra-heavy crude are factored in, the number would jump to 270 billion barrels. That alone would vault Venezuela past Saudi Arabia, which has 262 billion barrels in reserves, but Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told The Guardian that the government wants OPEC to recognize the country's total reserves as close to 312 billion barrels.

In bringing up long-term contracts, Chavez said the era of "cheap" oil has ended and that $50 per barrel -- about $15 below current market prices -- is reasonable.

While the proposals themselves are interesting, the more intriguing question is what exactly Chavez hopes to accomplish in putting them forward.

Numbers tell some part of the story: While Venezuela is home to the largest proven oil reserves in the Western hemisphere, most of its oil consists of extra-heavy crude that is too expensive to pump out and refine -- unless market prices are at least $40 per barrel. In asking OPEC to set a reference price of $50 and attempting to lock in all its sales at that price, Venezuela is seeking a way to have its extra-heavy deposits counted as reserves by the market, since that oil could then be accessed and exploited. And if the country's "total" reserves are officially increased, its oil production quota as determined by OPEC would increase significantly as well.

But, what sense does any of this make? Apart from attaining the bragging rights of having "the world's largest oil deposits," there is not much intrinsic value in having Venezuela's extra-heavy deposits counted by the market. After all, if Chavez really wants to increase Venezuela's outputs, there is little to stop him from exceeding the current production caps set by OPEC quotas -- many other countries have flouted quotas before (though Venezuela, under Chavez, has not been one of them). Moreover, it is believed that Venezuela has not returned to full capacity since a strike at state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela -- which began in December 2002 and continued for weeks -- seriously affected production.

In attempting to fix a long-term price for Venezuelan oil, it would appear that Chavez hopes to secure a stable flow of revenues. That's fine so far as it goes, but considering that market prices are currently above $50 per barrel, the cost of doing this, for Venezuela, would be considerable. Additionally, at that price point, Chavez would in essence be subsidizing the countries that signed on for such a contract. And that does not add up, especially when the Venezuelan government needs more funds to pay for decaying infrastructure and to finance the dozens of projects and promises of aid that Chavez has offered in other parts of Latin America. Without more details, it is difficult to do more than speculate on what the Venezuelan president has in mind.

That said, there is a possibility that he wants to entice some countries -- perhaps a major purchaser like China, for example -- to agree to buy Venezuelan oil for several decades at $50 per barrel. But in order to work to Venezuela's advantage, such a contract likely would require purchasers to pay a considerable sum up front and invest in the development of the extra-heavy oil fields. It is very unlikely that anyone would agree to such a deal -- particularly considering that Chavez has a history of breaching contracts -- unless the purchasers never intended to abide by the terms themselves either.

International trust in Chavez has declined over time -- in no small part as a result of the government's campaign of appropriations, targeting foreign-owned companies and assets. In the latest example, Caracas ordered the takeover last weekend of two oil fields belonging to French company Total and Italy's ENI, which together produce about 100,000 barrels per day. The Chavez government has been renegotiating the terms under which foreign companies can operate in Venezuela, but Total and ENI -- like ExxonMobil before them -- did not accede to demands that would force them into joint ventures with the government (and in which Caracas would have the majority share).

As it stands, the only clear incentive a country might have to participate in Chavez's $50-per-barrel plan would seem to be arbitrage: Taking shipment from Venezuela and then reselling that oil at market prices, for a profit. Of course, if anyone did that, Chavez would be justified in reneging on his part of the deal. And if both parties have incentive to breach, the deal would be a nonstarter under any circumstances. Or, viewed from another angle, even if Chavez finds many countries willing to sign such a contract, Venezuela likely would not be able to increase its oil output fast enough to meet demands. Then again, if he wants to lock in long-term contracts for Venezuela's oil in order to cut off supplies to the United States, the other buyers still would have plenty of incentive to turn around and sell supplies to Washington themselves (arbitrage again).

So, Chavez's proposal appears to amount to very little. It is not the first exotic proposal he has pitched in recent memory, and like others -- such as the proposal for a South American pipeline -- it makes little sense economically. And while leaders of some countries might be drawn to Chavez's offer of cheap oil -- and even sympathize or identify with anti-American rhetoric -- they will look closely at his record when it comes time to do business.


Chavez Takes on the Church


Finally, there is Latin America's most bombastic autocrat, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. We have not heard much from Chavez for several months, not because he has stopped his rhetorical entertainment but because his political grip on Venezuela has become so tight that there really is not much to talk about. The opposition is weak and divided; the populace is either scared by Chavez's AK-47-armed thugs or has been bought off by his subsidies; and the bulk of the economic elite is busy relocating to Miami.

As such, our net assessment of Venezuela has been that Chavez will continue to rule unopposed until his economic policies run the country into the ground and his support base -- which includes the aforementioned AK-47-armed thugs -- turns on him. When Chavez took office in 1999, Venezuelan oil output stood at a record 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd). Between support for stricter quotas for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, a political purge of the state oil company and subsequent malign neglect of the energy sector, the country now produces slightly less than 2.4 million bpd. Toss in oil's standard volatility and sooner or later Venezuela's finances -- along with Chavez's presidential fortunes -- are going to crash.

But something else happened Tuesday that could hasten Chavez's end: The Venezuelan president now is openly picking fights with the Catholic Church. Chavez lashed out at Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, after Maradiaga said in an interview with the Venezuelan press that Chavez "seems to think that he is a god and can trample over others."

In response, Chavez pulled out the old rhetoric he normally reserves for the Bush administration, calling the cardinal an "imperialist clown." Tensions between Chavez and the Church have been building for weeks, but this exchange made it deeply personal.

Without getting into the details of the cardinal's logic, the nature of the interview or an analysis of Chavez's personality, let us say this was not a particularly bright move. The Catholic Church is many things, but it is not geopolitically insignificant. The Church's moral authority -- to say nothing of the ability of an organization with 1 billion members to gather, disseminate and act upon intelligence -- is massive, particularly in Latin America.

Historically, when the Church has felt it necessary, it has wielded remarkable political power and contributed to regime changes the world over, including the demise of the now-fallen Soviet superpower. It is a foe that Chavez does not need. And, if push comes to shove, it is a foe he probably cannot beat.


Venezuela: Submarines, Air Defense and U.S. Concerns


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is leaving June 26 for a state visit to Russia and Belarus, where he reportedly will discuss buying submarines from Russia and an air defense system from Belarus. It is unclear whether either deal will actually materialize. The potential submarine purchase has received a lot of attention, but the important issue is the prospect of Chavez acquiring sophisticated air defenses.

Submarines are not unusual in Latin America. Peru and Colombia -- among other countries in the region -- operate submarines, and Venezuela already has two German-made Type 209-class diesel-electric boats, acquired in the mid-1970s. The submarines Chavez reportedly is considering buying from the Russians -- five Project 636 Kilo-class boats and four Project 677 Amur-class boats -- would significantly upgrade Venezuela's fleet. Though the Russian boats have limited offensive capabilities against land targets, both classes of Russian submarines can launch SS-N-27 Klub anti-ship missiles and potentially anti-aircraft missiles. Venezuela's current submarines only fire torpedoes.

Chavez says the potential submarine purchase is part of a plan to defend Venezuela against the United States, which he says could invade Venezuela to take its oil. While this is an unlikely scenario (Venezuela needs oil money from the United States more than the United States needs Venezuelan oil), it is reasonable for Chavez to take steps to make a potential invasion more costly. And if all nine boats were delivered, Venezuela would have the largest submarine force in the Western Hemisphere outside of the U.S. Navy.

However, the U.S. Navy has more than 50 years' experience tracking Russian-built submarines and would have little problem locating, identifying and destroying them. Since the submarines pose little threat to land targets and would be vulnerable to interdiction by the U.S. Navy, they are of little concern to the United States.

Any potential U.S. military operations against Venezuela in the foreseeable future likely would be small, precision special operations with very specific objectives, such as hostage rescue or the evacuation of U.S. citizens from a dangerous environment. Chavez' submarines would be a minor consideration in these activities -- especially since the boats would have little hope of getting close enough to U.S. forces to do any harm.

Of the potential weapons deals Chavez could make on his current trip, the one that would cause U.S. military planners concern is the purchase of an air defense system from Belarus. Chavez has said he will put the final touches on an agreement with Minsk for an air defense system capable of engaging targets as far as 120 miles away from Venezuela and shooting them down when they get within 60 miles of the country. It is unclear whether Chavez is referring to the SA-10 system (also known as the S-300) Belarus uses, which has a maximum range of 124 miles and a formidable capability to engage aircraft.

Because air support very likely would be significant in any U.S. military activity against Venezuela, U.S. military plans would have to take the S-300 into account. Unlike the submarines, Venezuelan S-300 batteries would be difficult to deal with (as would the Su-30 multi-role fighter planes Russia began delivering to the Venezuelan air force in December 2006).

For now, it seems Moscow is using the possibility of sophisticated weapons sales to Caracas to influence its relationship with Washington. Russia has often used arms sales as a means of exerting geopolitical pressure on the United States. Russia once hinted at supplying Tu-22M Backfire bombers to China and three Strelets surface-to-air missile systems to Syria, despite objections from the United States and Israel. In response to recent U.S. inroads along Russia's periphery, Moscow might be deciding to muddy the waters elsewhere for the United States -- and Venezuela, already a sore spot for Washington, is a good launching pad.

Of course, the Venezuelan submarine and air defense deals could be called off or scaled back if doing so would be advantageous to Moscow. In the meantime, the political implications of the sale of advanced weapons to a regime that is openly hostile toward Washington can keep the United States off balance -- without a single missile actually being sold.


The Obstacles to Latin America's UNASUR


Andean Community of Nations (CAN) Secretary-General Freddy Ehlers said on Monday that trade blocs CAN and Mercosur should merge to form the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

Dreams of South American integration have inspired many such proposals since Simon Bolivar helped lead independence movements in six of the continent's current nations in the early 1800s. Despite a recent resurgence of enthusiasm for the idea, it is unlikely to make significant formal progress over the next decade.

The heads of state of all 12 South American countries lent their support April 17 to the formation of UNASUR while attending the first South American Energy Summit on Margarita Island, Venezuela. But they failed to meaningfully address the three things that doom such an effort -- conflicting economic models, contradictory regional ambitions and geography.

UNASUR is a new name for an old idea, most recently called the South American Community of Nations when proposed at the third South American Summit in December 2004 in Cusco, Peru. The Cusco Declaration called for a common parliament, market and currency and aimed to create in stages a political and economic union similar to the European Union, to be complete by 2019. The capital was to be in Lima, Peru, while a South American Bank was to be based in Brasilia, Brazil. Complete integration between CAN and Mercosur into the South American Community of Nations was expected by 2007.

This obviously did not happen, but apparently it is time to try again. This time the capital is to be in Quito, Ecuador. A small, permanent secretariat is to be quickly put in place instead of a parliament. Though this is a better chance to create a decision-making body, it remains unlikely that participating countries will submit themselves to such a body, and they do not have enough in common to reach agreements by total consensus.

Ehlers' proposal is likely untenable. Although CAN is a barely functioning body whose members would love to integrate into something more meaningful, Mercosur is a semi-functional body dominated by Brazil, which is not likely to be as eager to merge an entity relatively under its control into a larger entity over which it might have less sway. But UNASUR faces far more serious obstacles en route to its creation.

This is where EU successes and failures could be instructive.

The European Union demonstrated that it is much easier to form an economic union than a political one. The union emerged from an organization designed to enable joint economic policies among a small group of Western European nations that had relatively similar market dispositions.

However, South American countries have different economic priorities and models. Their divergent attitudes toward market economies -- as observed in pro-market Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Brazil on the one hand and market-antagonistic Venezuela, and to some extent Bolivia and Ecuador, on the other -- make it unlikely that UNASUR would make meaningful progress toward common trade policies, common regulatory or accounting practices or a common currency.

Until recently Mercosur was made up of three generally market-friendly countries and one weak one, all sharing significant trade flows; however, together they failed to enforce significant agreements or achieve collective action on trade. Incorporating more members in a grander endeavor would not make these objectives any more obtainable, especially if members that are dismantling their private sectors were added.

Furthermore, Europe had two countries with regional ambitions: France and Germany. The European Union was made possible by the wartime demolition and subsequent partition of Germany, leaving Western Europe with a single large power to set its terms: France. At least two South American countries have strong regional ambitions: Brazil and Venezuela. Both would like to be the father of continental integration, and neither wants another parent in the family. Either of them can effectively veto strong moves by the other, and likely will. Regarding policy they are not too similar, one is not about to dominate the other and neither is likely to be severely crippled by outside forces any time soon. Argentina, Chile and Colombia also are significant players in their own right, and they are not lining up together to tip the balance one way or the other.

Brazil likes Mercosur because it is a forum that cannot do anything without its approval. But Brazil's leadership might be diluted if UNASUR gets off the ground -- in fact that is what Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is counting on. UNASUR would have to function by unanimous agreement, which would probably paralyze it, or by majority, to which Brazil is unlikely to submit.

The main obstacles to South American integration go deeper than these political arrangements, and in fact have helped to create them; these obstacles are the Amazon forest and the Andes Mountains. These geographical features have prevented effective trade and/or warfare between the Andean countries and the countries in the Plata River and Atlantic seaboard areas.

The division between Brazil's image for the region and another contender's is not merely a contemporary phenomenon dependent on the particular visions of the region's current leaders. Rather, the region's fate was set by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 which, sanctioned by the pope, divided the region between the Spanish and the Portuguese along a north-south meridian granting the Portuguese most of the Atlantic seaboard. The Portuguese colonists eventually pushed inward more quickly than the Spanish colonists on the Pacific side of the continent, which had the Andes to contend with. Inevitably, Brazil emerged as an immense nation with tremendous resources, its own language and a strong sense of identity. Brazil is not about to agree to any strong regional accord that it does not control. And regardless of whether Venezuela is the contender of the day, Spanish-speaking South American countries are likely to band together to make sure Brazil does not dominate.

However, although the political rifts in the region remain as divisive as ever, the geographical barriers are gradually lessening. Tunnels are being built through the Andes, while roads, railroads and pipelines are crossing into the continent's interior. There is even a proposed project to connect the Amazon River across Peru to an Ecuadorian port on the Pacific Ocean, and another to build a highway across Brazil, Bolivia and Peru to connect the two oceans. Portions of this latter project already have been built. It will take a great deal more than these initial infrastructure projects to unite the continent, but they will be the true start -- rather than a meeting by a few people giving an old project a new name.



China, Venezuela: A Less Perfect Partnership than Chavez Says


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced several deals after his Aug. 22-25 visit to China. To take Chavez's word for it, China will install a fiber-optic network in Venezuela and build 20,000 houses in the country by the end of the year. In the energy sector -- the Venezuelan economy's real powerhouse -- Venezuela will increase the amount of oil sold to China to 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) by the end of the year, 500,000 bpd by 2011 and 1.0 million bpd by 2012. (Currently Venezuela sells China about 150,000 bpd.) Additionally, bilateral cooperation in agriculture, gold and coal mining, tourism and the developing of new oil and natural gas fields will blossom. China will also sell Venezuela 18 oil tankers and 12 oil rigs.

At first, this Chinese-Venezuelan pairing looks like a match made in heaven. China consumes about 7.4 million bpd of crude -- 3.6 million bpd of which needs to be imported -- and is positioning itself to be a long-term challenger to U.S. hegemony. Venezuela exports about 1.9 million bpd of crude, mostly to the United States, yet resents anything that even alludes to the colossus to the north. China has shipyards but needs someone to bring tankers full of crude to its doorstep; Venezuela wants to buy tankers, and wants a customer to take its oil. Venezuelan oil fueling Chinese industry seems like a nice arrangement.

That is, until one looks at a map.

Venezuela is located almost precisely opposite of China on the planet, and since all of Venezuela's export points are in the central Atlantic and the Panama Canal is unable to transit supertankers, a Venezuelan-Chinese shipping run would be the single longest shipping route in the world. Right now China's oil supplies come predominantly from the Middle East and Africa, making them potentially vulnerable to a number of possible foes. But oil shipped around South America and then across the Pacific is vulnerable to U.S. interdiction anywhere along the way.

Additionally, Venezuela's crude oil is both viscous and contaminated with a host of impurities -- heavy and sour in the oilman's lingo. Not the sort of stuff anyone would pay top dollar for. In fact, Venezuelan crude generally trades for less than "normal" crude blends -- sometimes upwards of $5 a barrel less. The transport costs of a 45-day sail to China would add another $3 to $4 per barrel -- and that is assuming China's refineries can even swallow the stuff in the first place.

China can be described as aggressive. China can be described as hungry for commodities. China can even be described as focused on displacing the United States. But what China cannot be described as is stupid. China will not pay a premium of nearly $10 a barrel for the privilege of using the world's most-exposed energy transport route to consume some of the lowest-quality crude that has ever been discovered.

The only way China will take delivery of large volumes of Venezuelan crude is if:

1) Venezuela assists China in revamping its refineries to digest the stuff;

2) Venezuela buys its own tankers for the long-haul journey;

3) Venezuela pays the entire extra transport cost; and/or

4) Venezuela supplies the crude at a discount commensurate to its quality.

Taken together, this means that if Chavez were actually to make good on his promise to supply China with 1.0 million bpd of crude, he would need to extend the Chinese a discount in the neighborhood of $8 million to $9 million a day. That is a very high price for rhetoric. There is a reason every announcement about the details of this much-vaunted Chinese-Venezuelan cooperation has come from Chavez and there has not been so much as a peep from the Chinese.

The one area in which Chinese-Venezuelan cooperation is likely to blossom is refining. Most of the world's major oil fields -- and the vast majority of its high-quality oil fields -- are past maturity. Chinese leaders are well aware that, as the years grind on, heavier and sourer oil will become more prevalent in the global crude stream. Despite years of creeping degradation, Venezuela still commands the technology to process such materials, and China knows full well that it will need precisely those skills -- particularly if China is to ultimately develop reserves of heavy oil just off the mainland's shore. The desire to master such technologies can neither be quantified nor ignored.

The government entity making the most inroads into the world of heavy crude is the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), which boasts a refining capacity of 2.42 million bpd. That is more than enough to absorb every drop of crude Venezuela currently exports. But in the meantime, once CNPC finishes upgrading its refineries it will be happy to absorb everything Chavez is willing to send -- that is, of course, assuming Chavez is committed enough to his rhetoric to ship it across the Pacific free of charge.



Venezuela: Buying Alternatives


Elnusa, a subsidiary of Indonesian state oil firm Pertamina, announced Aug. 15 it will join with Venezuelan state oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Co. (NIORDC) to construct a $4 billion, 300,000 barrel per day (bpd) oil refinery on the island of Java. The pipeline is expected to begin operations by 2010.

According to the announcement, Elnusa will hold a 30 percent stake, NIORDC will get 20 percent and PDVSA will hold 25 percent. The other 25 percent would remain available for other interested participants. Elnusa asserts that Venezuela would provide 150,000 bpd of crude for the project's operations, while the remaining 150,000 bpd would come from Iran.

The question, as is normally the case with such projects, is: Who will pay for it?

The short answer is Venezuela. Iran has little spare cash in any circumstance, and the Islamic republic's sole overseas venture is called Hezbollah. Indonesia is chronically cash-shy as well. Only Venezuela has spare money and the expectation of having more in the future. It is simply an issue of demographics. Indonesia has 220 million people and is actually a net oil importer, despite being a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Iran may produce more oil than Venezuela -- about 3.75 million bpd versus 2.4 million bpd -- but its population is three times as large, so it has less surplus revenue to play with.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in contrast, has been splashing out his country's oil money in an ongoing effort to purchase influence and further the goals of his Bolivarian Revolution. But it is difficult to truly portray oneself as independent of the United States when the United States is your largest customer. Seven years after Chavez rose to power, more than half of Venezuelan oil exports still flow to the colossus to the north.

Efforts to diversify have largely failed. Venezuelan crude oil is extremely viscous stuff -- "heavy gravity," in the language of oilmen -- and difficult to refine without extensive modifications, such as those present at many refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Caracas has shopped around the world, most heavily in Asia (Chavez himself is going there again next week), to find alternate customers, but to no avail. No one wants to pay top dollar to ship subpar oil around South America and across the Pacific -- and why should they? Other Venezuelan energy-for-influence deals include subsidizing oil use throughout Central America. But though that buys influence, it sharply undercuts Venezuela's bottom line.

No, if Venezuela is going to diversify its client base, it will need to first establish alternate refining sites such as the one already in progress in Brazil. That means fewer Bolivarian diplomats gallivanting along the East Asian rim, and more PDVSA engineers -- and Venezuelan money -- going to work at prospective refining sites.

But as the Elnusa announcement (which could very well prove premature) indicates, this is far from being a done deal. So far, only 75 percent of the project's shares have been announced. Elnusa waxed philosophic that a Japanese investor -- perhaps megafirm Sumitomo -- would be invited to join. The necessity for such an additional partner is twofold.

First, more startup cash is needed, and the Japanese are anything but capital-shy. Second, Japanese involvement in all things Indonesian has been a steadily strengthening facet of Japanese foreign policy.

Considering Japan's interest in the Strait of Malacca, in purchasing a regional ally as a counterbalance to China and in Tokyo's ongoing obsession with diversifying its energy sourcing, providing a boost to an Indonesian refinery with Iranian and Venezuelan crude suppliers might be just what Japan needs.

************

Meanwhile, high spending and dwindling oil output put Venezuela in perhaps the worst political position. President Hugo Chavez will aggressively push for OPEC to reduce production, since his mismanagement has already reduced Venezuelan output by some 800,000 bpd under the cartel's existing quota regime. Should OPEC slash quotas, Caracas will not have to adjust its own plans a whit. Similarly, Chavez will threaten to cut off exports to the United States and nationalize the Venezuelan holdings of American companies -- anything to "talk up" the price of crude.

But such "solutions" ultimately depend upon actors that the Chavez government cannot control. Likewise, cutting spending is simply not an option. The government in Caracas remains in power because it continually pays bribes for the support of the populace, to the tune of some $32 billion per year at last measure. Cutting those payouts is simply not an option.

There are two things, therefore, upon which Chavez can fall back. The first is the country's central bank, which currently holds $19.1 billion in its net operating hard-currency reserves -- funds that Chavez already is attempting to tap. The second is the country's bolivar-dollar exchange rate: a 50 percent devaluation would double the country's oil income.

Inflation is the downside of either strategy. Dumping a few billion into an economy worth only $85 billion while devaluing the currency would be a horrendously inflationary move that almost inevitably would lead to social unrest. Chavez is pursuing ties to Cuba in part for this reason: Those links already comprise some 35,000 "advisers" whose purpose is to keep Chavez's Bolivarian revolution going at all costs. Chavez has also steadily militarized his politically loyal militias, aiming for a "reserve" of 1.5 million men.

Now call us kooky, but if you have 1.5 million guys running around with surplus FAL rifles when the social order gets a little questionable, what happens when you run out of money to pay them? Chavez is preparing for -- and contributing to -- what well could be a bloody future.

Ricardo Rayol disse...

Fez um baita resumo CUrriCUlar do pequeno fidel. A conclusão é preocupante.

Heitor Abranches disse...

O totalitarismo militarista da Venezuela


A realidade é teimosa, inclusive para o crioulo vestido a Presidente da Venezuela. A sua pretensão é a de converter a República Bolivariana no último paraíso socialista, o que choca com a simples evidência, de ser o país o mais consumista de todos os da América do Sul, a ponto de liderar o consumo de whisky escocês, “per capita”, no mundo, cuja tendência é no sentido do crescimento, e apenas em 2005 a venda do destilado de malte aumentou 55%, em relação a 2004. Apesar de se tratar de uma característica interessante, um país e regime não se caracterizam pelo número de “botellas” de whisky que consomem, nem pelo número de bêbados que têm, mas sim pelo tipo de projecto económico, social e político que desenvolvem, no sentido de criar maior produtividade e riqueza distributiva. O projecto do Presidente Hugo Chávez segue uma ideia única, que se poderia denominar de totalitarismo militarista, mais que um socialismo ao estilo cubano de Fidel de Castro. Nas eleições presidenciais de 3 de Dezembro de 2006, obteve 61,35% dos votos, correspondente a quase 6 milhões de votos. Desde sua vitória eleitoral, o presidente venezuelano ameaça directamente as empresas a desenvolverem um socialismo incaracterizável e “sui géneris”, pretendendo acabar com as elites económicas. O governo declarou que não vai incentivar a propriedade privada, mas estimulará a classe operária a assumir o seu papel no processo histórico. Esta linguagem dialéctica que faz parte das memórias da história e que tão maus resultados trouxe ao mundo, pese o facto de muitos continuarem a viver essa ilusão, tem na Venezuela, como teve no resto do mundo onde se pretendeu implantar, o declínio do próprio regime e do Estado. A Venezuela não é diferente, e o pára-quedista crioulo eleito presidente é menos, e constata-se que o Estado não tem capacidade de gestão para tudo o que pretende realizar, tendo como consequência que desde 1998, encerraram 40% das indústrias. O mandatário desde regime, não poderá cumprir os seus objectivos, dado que actualmente os rendimentos fiscais da indústria superam os rendimentos petrolíferos. Nesta louca marca ideológica, pelo caminho, pode destruir as empresas, dada a paralisação das importações de matérias-primas em virtude das alterações produzidas, podendo criar o colapso do processo produtivo. Os rendimentos petrolíferos não são uma panaceia inesgotável. A empresa pública, Petróleos de Venezuela S. A. (PDVSA), tem vivido momentos tormentosos com a mudança de cultura operacional, uma vez que deixaram de se considerar os critérios de rentabilidade e eficácia, passando a usar tais critérios como um mecanismo para a aplicação directa de políticas sociais, o que implica um deficit crónico de fluxo de caixa (cash flow), o que se traduziu numa queda da produção, por ineficiência. Com um tipo de gestão desta natureza, é de considerar impossível o plano governamental de produzir cinco milhões de barris diários de crude em 2012. A demissão de 20000 técnicos da PDVSA, depois da greve petrolífera de 2002, deixou a empresa sem especialistas, os mais habilitados do mundo para o tratamento de petróleo pesado. Os técnicos despedidos encontraram rapidamente emprego no México e Canadá, principalmente. A situação levou a um aumento de incidentes nos jazigos, que levaram à paralisação das centrais de fracções mais pesadas dos crudes e à importação de componentes para o refinado em gasolina e gasóleo. O excesso de liquidez, pelo alto preço do petróleo, provoca a inflação e faz aumentar as importações. Nos anos de 1990, a Venezuela importava uma média dos ditos componentes, com um custo de cerca de 11000 milhões de dólares anuais. Em 2005, esse montante passou para 24500 milhões de dólares, atingindo cerca de 31700 milhões de dólares em 2006. A venda de veículos no ano passado aumentou de 200130 para 303.000. Este fluxo de capitais criou uma nova classe social, a “boliburguesia”, que é uma burguesia bolivariana associada à corrupção, de uma nova direita contraditória com o discurso presidencial estalinista misturado com fascismo. O comportamento do Presidente Hugo Chavéz manifesta elementos fascistas, misturado com o culto à violência como instrumento político e à tradição heróica. Os negócios realizados na venda e transporte de petróleo, compra de armas e nos contratos de obras públicas, são multimilionários. O Banco Central conjuntamente com outros fundos têm mais dólares em reserva que o resto da América Sul, em conjunto. Esta nova burguesia, é uma plutocracia que cresceu graças aos negócios do Estado. Os novos-ricos são servidores públicos e membros das forças armadas, estatuto que no actual regime civil e militar venezuelano com frequência se confundem, e que se manifestam estreando os luxuosos veículos todo-o-terreno. A corrupção existente no funcionalismo público e nas forças armadas é uma conduta estandardizada nos oito anos de regime revolucionário. Para a compreensão popular, só o Haiti excede a Venezuela nesta área. Os dados reais desconhecem-se, mas, existe a certeza dada em relatórios de entidades internacionais, de que a Venezuela é um dos países com maior nível de corrupção da América do Sul, dado não haver um quadro legal que regulamente este ilícito, e muito dinheiro circula sem qualquer controlo. Situação ilícita raramente denunciada, e quando é feita, nada acontece. Para se ter uma ideia, dos 650 casos denunciados em 2005, em 69% das ocorrências, os denunciantes foram demitidos, em 20% das restantes situações a investigação não pode continuar a sua tramitação. A informação quase sempre é reservada, e apenas 18% das contratações do Estado são públicas, e dessas 94% são por adjudicação directa. O sistema educativo é usado, como um instrumento ideológico dos alunos aos denominados “valores da revolução”. Acontece que tais valores se encontram por definir. O governo é de tal forma ineficiente, que cerca de 140 mil professores que deveriam ensinar os ditos valores revolucionários, ainda não foram educados nos mesmos e continuam a ensinar o mesmo de sempre. Pretende o governo venezuelano e o seu mentor, criar um sistema de pensamento único, como aconteceu com os soviéticos ou os cubanos. Ainda que, não o expressem, e essa é a grande contradição do povo venezuelano, segundo uma sondagem, preferem um país com liberdade de ensino e não um sistema onde os ensinem que o pai da Pátria é Hugo Chávez e que a revolução é o princípio e fim da vida venezuelana. Torna-se necessário repensar algo perigoso, que é o facto de a Venezuela possuir mais armas por cada mil habitantes que qualquer outro país da América do Sul.





Jorge Rodrigues Simão
Publicado no Hoje Macau 09.03.2007 e Le Monde 11.03.2007

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