“Chávez Seizes Assets of Oil Contractors,” The New York Times, May 8, 2009.
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chávez asserted greater control over the country’s energy industry on Friday by seizing the assets of some foreign and domestic oil contractors while his government grapples with a sharp decline in oil revenue and mounting debts.
The move by Mr. Chávez on Friday also raises concern about Venezuela’s ability to increase its declining oil production at a time of low oil prices. The national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, hired the contractors to help it produce oil by operating drilling rigs, using technology to extract oil from aging wells or moving personnel or equipment on boats.
Our “people will never again be anyone’s slave,” Mr. Chávez said Friday.
“Speech to the Nation,” by Lázaro Cárdenas, Mar. 18, 1938.
Unofficially considered the Mexican “Economic Declaration of Independence,” President Lázaro Cardenas’s speech to his people announced the expropriation of Mexico’s oil industry. The American and Anglo-Dutch petroleum companies that had been operating in Mexico were nationalized, and a new company, Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), was created three months later.
It has been repeated ad nauseam that the oil industry has brought additional capital for the redevelopment and progress of the country. This assertion is an exaggeration. For many years, throughout the major period of their existence, the oil companies have enjoyed great privileges for development and expansion, including customs and tax exemptions and innumerable prerogatives; it is these factors of special privilege, together with the prodigious productivity of the oil deposits granted them by the Nation often against public will and law, that represent almost the total amount of this so-called capital.
Potential wealth of the Nation; miserably underpaid native labor; tax exemptions; economic privileges; governmental tolerance—these are the factors of the boom of the Mexican oil industry.
Let us now examine the social contributions of the companies. In how many of the villages bordering on the oil fields is there a hospital, or school or social center, or a sanitary water supply, or an athletic field, or even an electric plant fed by the millions of cubic meters of natural gas allowed to go to waste?
What center of oil production, on the other hand, does not have its company police force for the protection of private, selfish, and often illegal interests? These organizations, whether authorized by the Government or not, are charged with innumerable outrages, abuses, and murders, always on behalf of the companies that employ them.
Who is not aware of the irritating discrimination governing construction of the company camps? Comfort for the foreign personnel; misery, drabness, and insalubrity for the Mexicans. Refrigeration and protection against tropical insects for the former; indifference and neglect, medical service and supplies always grudgingly provided, for the latter; lower wages and harder, more exhausting labor for our people.
The tolerance which the companies have abused was born, it is true, in the shadow of the ignorance, betrayals, and weakness of the country’s rulers; but the mechanism was set in motion by investors lacking in the necessary moral resources to give something in exchange for the wealth they have been exploiting.
Another inevitable consequence of the presence of the oil companies, strongly characterized by their anti-social tendencies, and even more harmful than all those already mentioned, has been their persistent and improper intervention in national affairs.
As a logical consequence of this brief analysis, it was therefore necessary to adopt a definite and legal measure to end this permanent state of affairs in which the country sees its industrial progress held back by those who hold in their hands the power to erect obstacles as well as the motive power of all activity and who, instead of using it to high and worthy purposes, abuse their economic strength to the point of jeopardizing the very life of a Nation endeavoring to bring about the elevation of its people through its own laws, its own resources, and the free management of its own destinies.
With the only solution to this problem thus placed before it, I ask the entire Nation for moral and material support sufficient to carry out so justified, important, and indispensable a decision.
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