• 4 minutes Pompeo: Aramco Attacks Are An "Act Of War" By Iran
  • 7 minutes Who Really Benefits From The "Iran Attacked Saudi Arabia" Narrative?
  • 11 minutes Trump Will Win In 2020
  • 15 minutes Experts review Saudi damage photos. Say Said is need to do a lot of explaining.
  • 2 hours Ethanol, the Perfect Home Remedy for A Saudi Oil Fever
  • 6 hours Hong Kong protesters appeal to Trump for support.
  • 16 hours Europe: The Cracks Are Beginning To Show
  • 4 hours Memorize date 05/15/2018 cause Huawei ban is the most important single event in world history after 9/11/2001.
  • 18 hours Iran Vows Major War Even If US Conducts "Limited Strikes"
  • 4 hours Millennials: A boil on the butt of the work ethic
  • 5 hours A little something for all you Offshore swabbies
  • 13 hours Ban Fracking? What in the World Are Democrats Thinking?
  • 32 mins LA Times: Vote Trump out in 2020 to Prevent Climate Apocalypse
  • 20 mins When Trying To Be Objective About Ethanol, Don't Include Big Oil Lies To Balance The Argument
  • 3 hours Saudi State-of-Art Defense System looking the wrong way. MBS must fire Defense Minister. Oh, MBS is Defense Minister. Forget about it.
  • 3 hours Shale profitability
  • 6 hours US and China are already in a full economic war and this battle for global hegemony is a little bit frightening
  • 1 day Yawn... Parliament Poised to Force Brexit Delay Until Jan. 31
  • 13 hours Let's shut down dissent like The Conversation in Australia
Alt Text

Can Oil Survive The Looming Economic “Ice Age?”

A wide-spread economic recession is…

Alt Text

Three Essential Factors For Oil Prices In 2020

Three essential factors will determine…

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is an independent journalist, covering oil and gas, energy and environmental policy, and international politics. He is based in Portland, Oregon. 

More Info

Premium Content

Paranoia And Purges For Venezuela As Oil Misery Continues

As the finances of Venezuela continue to deteriorate under the collapse of crude oil prices, the government of President Nicolas Maduro is becoming more paranoid and vindictive.

Venezuela derives the vast majority of its export earnings from sending oil overseas. With the largest endowment of crude oil reserves in the world, the oil-driven economy worked well for the late Hugo Chavez: he provided generous support for the poor, and built allies in the western hemisphere by dispensing cash and cheap oil in exchange for political allegiance.

But state-owned PDVSA has struggled to keep production up. Rather than using its earnings to develop more fields, much of its earnings have been diverted for political and social projects. Chavez also purged PDVSA of thousands of experienced workers, leaving the company short of well-trained staff.

Chavez could paper over the decay of PDVSA’s production base because oil prices were so high in his final years. And for the first year or so of Maduro’s tenure, while the economy began showing worse signs of stress, he too didn’t feel any urgency to solve PDVSA’s problems. Related: Oil Price Crash: Top 5 At-Risk Countries

However, the utter bust in oil markets pulled the rug out from beneath the Venezuelan economy. Inflation is running at an annual rate of 68 percent. Shortages of food and medical supplies are common. Shoppers at grocery stores need to submit finger prints to ensure they are not purchasing more than their allotted amount of basic goods. A confusing set of varying exchange rates and currency controls are doing very little to slow capital flight.

Maduro is cracking down on political opponents as the country deals with the economic crisis. Antonio Ledezma, the Mayor of Caracas, was arrested on February 20 on charges of conspiracy and working with the U.S. to stage a coup, touching off a wave of protest. Last year, in the wake of the unprecedented riots facing the “Bolivarian” regime, Leopoldo Lopez was also tossed in jail. Dozens of other perceived political enemies remain locked up. A teenager was shot and killed at an anti-government rally on February 24. Maduro’s government was quick to blame the police officer – as if security forces have not been encouraged from above to take a hard line with opposition protests over the last few years.

Maduro’s pronouncements have become more paranoid as the economy has worsened. He has accused Vice President Joe Biden of being the mastermind behind a plot to oust him from power, and questioned whether President Obama was aware of that fact. On February 2 President Maduro had the head of a major retail chain arrested for conspiring against the state by creating long lines at store locations that Maduro said was “irritating the people.” Related: Could Venezuela Become World’s Next Energy Giant?

Maduro continues to rely on assertions that food shortages, economic hardships, and even violence are the result of American plots, a claim that has worked in the past but is becoming an increasingly tired line of argument for many Venezuelans.

The only hope for Maduro is a dramatic rise in oil prices, which could provide a reprieve from the economic crisis he finds himself in. He has pled with Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members to slash production to boost prices, but to no avail. He even went hat in hand to China for financial assistance, with only modest pledges from Chinese President Xi Jingping.

The economic situation may only grow worse. The government’s budget breaks even with oil prices at an estimated $117.50 per barrel. Inflation could rise to an eye-popping 100 percent in 2015, and GDP could fall by as much as 7 percent. The government will likely see a shortage of foreign exchange of at least $7 to $8 billion this year. Gauging the credit default swap market, investors are betting that the chances of a default over the next five years are a near certainty.

With no imminent rebound in sight for oil prices, Maduro is resorting to state-sponsored repression to quell growing opposition.

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:




Download The Free Oilprice App Today

Back to homepage



Leave a comment

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News
Download on the App Store Get it on Google Play