PDVSA Managers Go On Strike

Thursday morning, managers of PDVSA had finally gone on strike after more than five weeks of protest over February nominations of a new board of directors for the company. The striking workers say the new directors are inexperienced and did not earn their jobs through the established merit-based promotion system, but were appointed only because they were Chavez allies.

During Chavez's three-year-old administration he has reversed the previous trend toward privatization of PDVSA in favor of greater state control. The striking workers, PDVSA executives and managers, blockaded the nation's two largest refineries to put them out of operation. Chanting "not one step backward", they demanded that the previous board of directors be restored.

Nevertheless, since the protests began, the Chavez administration has taken a firm line, asserting its privilege to name PDVSA's directors and establish the company's policies. "[PDVSA] has to be aligned with the nation's general plan of development," said vice minister of Hydrocarbons, Bernardo Alvarez.

Mr. Chavez has vowed that in case of a strike he would replace the PDVSA workers with military personnel. However, that idea has received widespread criticism because of the great technical knowledge required to run petroleum operations. "Militarizing the installations is... simply impossible," said Elias Santana, spokesman for the citizens organization 'We want to choose'. Even the minister of defense rejected that option. Nevertheless, the administration has not relented. The night the strike began, vice president Dioslado Cabello repeatedly interrupted television and radio broadcasts for an almost ten-minute speech complaining about "media manipulation" in favor of the strikers and asserting that the government would not negotiate. "We are going to use whatever means may be necessary to re-establish normality," he said.