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Oil Workers Exodus Could Complicate Efforts To Reverse Venezuela’s Collapse

Not only ordinary Venezuelan people have been fleeing poverty and hyperinflation in the Latin American country in recent years.

Oil workers are also leaving their poor-paying jobs in the country holding the world’s largest oil reserves for a better life and oil jobs in other oil-rich countries, leaving fewer and fewer skilled workers who could help reverse Venezuela’s collapsing crude oil production, even if Nicolas Maduro is ousted and a business and private-investment friendly leadership takes over, Associated Press correspondent Scott Smith writes.

Venezuelan oil workers have been leaving the country since 2003, with the first wave of fleeing workers under previous president Hugo Chavez. Many of those have found jobs and a new life in other countries hungry for skilled oil workers, including Kuwait, Angola, Canada, and Iraq’s semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.

Tomas Paez, a professor at Central University of Venezuela, told AP’s Smith that Venezuela’s oil workers are employed in the oil industries in 90 countries worldwide. The initial wave of emigration began in 2003, when an estimated 30,000 Venezuelan oil workers fled, after Hugo Chavez publicly fired thousands of them for staging a strike.

Thousands more have fled since then, leaving fewer and fewer skilled workers that could help turn around the ailing oil industry.

Those who are still working in Venezuela’s oil sector work in dangerous conditions without safety precautions and many of them often report hungry for work.

More than 3 million Venezuelan people have fled the country amid an aggravating humanitarian crisis and an extreme poverty rate of 40 percent.

The economic collapse adds to years of mismanagement and underinvestment in the oil industry to further complicate attempts in Venezuela, one of OPEC’s five founding members, to stop the steep decline of its oil production.

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OPEC figures show that Venezuela’s crude oil production dropped by another 33,000 bpd from November to just 1.148 million bpd in December, compared to average 1.911 million for 2017. As of this month, Venezuela’s production could accelerate the plunge because under the new U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha to dilute its heavy crude grades.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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