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Venezuela needs a broad national movement that would include the military and the opposition to bring down Nicolas Maduro peacefully and restore the crippled oil industry, a former Venezuelan oil minister who has fallen out of favor with Maduro told Al Arabiya English in an exclusive interview published this weekend.
“I think we need to agree on some kind of national compromise to defeat Maduro and to heal the country,” Rafael Ramirez, who has long been a rival of Maduro within Hugo Chavez’s inner circle, told Al Arabiya.
Ramirez ran Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA for ten years between 2004 and 2014. In May last year, Ramirez—who lives in exile—told Bloomberg that PDVSA was on the cusp of total collapse and expected oil production to drop by 600,000 bpd each year amid lack of investment.
One year later, the economic crisis has deepened, and Venezuela’s production has plunged to below 1 million bpd, but Maduro is holding onto power months after the United States and many other western countries recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president.
“The way to resolve the political situation is to ask for a huge national movement that includes the military, the opposition, the Chavistas in order to confront and defeat Maduro,” Ramirez told Al Arabiya.
“People live in a state of fear and hopelessness under a governing political gang that refuses to enable a political solution to the very serious crisis facing our country. They have led our homeland into a deep abyss,” the former oil minister and PDVSA boss said.
With the political standoff and raging economic crisis, gasoline production in Venezuela—the country sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves—has slumped as the second-largest refinery in the country stopped operating, and gasoline import shortages have caused lines at gas stations.
The military is overseeing the rationing of fuel while shortages begin to bite deeper as crude oil production continues to fall, refineries operate much below capacity, and the flow of diluents necessary to produce fuels from Venezuelan superheavy crude dries up.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.