Or Orinoco overflow!
‘Sowing the oil’ was a phrase much in the news when I was in Venezuela recently. It is a phrase that has a long history, since 1936 in fact, and was coined by Arturo Úslar Pietri; if you're interested I found a good translation at The Devil’s Excrement blog, here. He made at least two other pertininent and insightful speeches - these can be read via links on the same site.
“Why Is The Economy Growing? This reinvigoration of the Venezuelan economy is direct — although nonexclusive — result of the increase in oil prices to an average of 57.4 dollars per barrel (Brent blend, December 2005). The hydrocarbons are — and will continue to be for years to come — a pillar of the economy. But, then, what else is news in Venezuela? The novel thing is that definitely the country is sowing or planting oil in the productive sectors of the economy, as required by Arturo Uslar Pietri seventy years ago.”, taken from Luciano Wexell Severo’s long but nonetheless reasonably fair article “In Venezuela, Oil Sows Emancipation”.
Venezuela's Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreno outlining ‘Popular Distribution of Petroleum Rent’,"…under the leadership of President Chávez, the people defended our main resource and rescued it, in order to make it serve our Nation. Under this same orientation, it is also the people who will be the beneficiary of petroleum rent: the popular distribution of this rent constitutes the revolutionary dimension of our oil policy, beyond its eminently national character. It is, at the same time, a popular vision of the sowing of oil. The sowing of the oil in the past failed, certainly, because it rested on an elitist vision of an exclusionary Venezuela." The rest here, OK, OK! "Anti-imperialist" rants are what really bug me about Chavez the man of whom I have been an outspoken critic – especially his clowning on the ‘International stage’ – but I have also supported his social programmes boosted by high oil revenues.
He is also not squandering it as many critics are saying. I now believe he is using it well to try to boost Venezuela to where it should have been decades ago. From the Energy Bulletin, "We have the largest oil reserves in the world, we have oil for 200 years." Mr Chávez told the BBC's Newsnight programme in an interview to be broadcast tonight [3rd April] "$50 a barrel - that's a fair price, not a high price."…anyone see the programme? Full, original article here.
On March 30 he said this, telling the oil giants to pay their way or get out, and on March 31st he signed a deal with 17 oil companies (not all – some didn’t sign). He spoke for nearly 2 hours and I watched the whole thing, when he speaks of Venezuela and it’s people he can be quite a good orator and somewhat convincing – except he always has to go off on a tangent and waffles about US imperialism – in this case it was re the US envolvement in the 1964 Brazilian coup that had it’s anniversary the same day.
Whilst there I also heard him speak in Apure State, my home from 1987 – 1995 (apart from a one year break in the Orinoco Delta  the photos in the link are what I saw every day but they do not do it justice: the fauna and flora are wonderful) re the endogenous development schemes he is undertaking; again he was convincing and honest; whilst there (all on TV) he spoke with my ex-boss who has just signed a deal that saw them collect 4 million US dollars for a ranch that had been invaded by 'settlers' but they also donated another massive ranch in Apure that will now be used by dozens of small cooperatives. “El acuerdo contempla una indemnización de 4,1 millones de dólares por la expropiación de una finca de 12.950 hectáreas en el céntrico estado de Cojedes hasta ahora propiedad de Agroflora, que adicionalmente donó otra finca de 43.000 hectáreas en el occidental estado de Apure, valorada en 4,7 millones de dólares.” Unfortunately on the same TV programme he said that he thought the opposition may not field a candidate in the December Presidential elections and that if so he would propose a change to the Constitution to allow for his reelection....indefinitely...DOH!
Anyway, what I’m getting at (because this post could go on for ever) is that the country has turned a corner; where before there was no overt inversion or investment and things were looking bad, now I see improvements everywhere, money being well spent on infrastructure, people at work everywhere, the roadsides being cleared and cleaned, people getting educated where before they were the ‘forgotten’, the money being spent countrywide is incredible - they are importing cememnt not because the national production is poor but because so much is being used! The waiting list for new cars increases as people everywhere spend, spend, spend!and those that can’t see the improvements don’t want to see them. I am enthused and happy because this is what should have been happening years ago – you may have guessed that Venezuela is ‘mi segunda patria’, and why not, my children are half Venezuelan and I may move back soon!