“Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and yet the country has run out of gasoline. The socialist government has lost the capacity to extract oil from the ground or refine it into a usable form. The industry’s gradual deterioration was 18 years in the making, tracing back to then-President Hugo Chávez’s 2003 decision to fire the oil industry’s most experienced engineers in an act of petty political retribution.
The near-total collapse in the nation’s oil output in the ensuing years is a stark reminder that the most valuable commodity isn’t a natural resource, but the human expertise to put it to productive use.”
“Chávez sought control of the nation’s oil wealth to fund his political ambitions, but first, he had to dismantle the mechanisms that were put in place to protect PDVSA’s autonomy.
In a move intended to begin that erosion, Chávez began appointing military leaders to PDVSA’s board. The conflict between PDVSA’s top management and Chávez culminated in a national strike, which took place from December 2002 to February 2003. Chávez proceeded to fire 18,000 state oil workers, including 80 percent of its top engineers, handing control of the industry to the military.
The workers who were fired had “an average of 15 years of experience,” Toro says. “In a sense, he threw away 300 thousand years of experience.”
“Now, instead of producing five to six million barrels of oil [a day], which is the amount we should be producing, last month’s report from OPEC showed that our production, based on external sources, was 339 thousand barrels per day. After once having been a major player in the oil industry, we’ve become nothing. An insignificant exporter of oil,” he says.”