Ali Rodriguez Accepts PDVSA Post

Ali Rodriguez is preparing to step down as secretary-general of OPEC and return to Caracas to preside over PDVSA. Mr. Rodriguez said the decision was not an easy one to make. He was in constant consultation with OPEC ministers while making his final decision to step down.

His departure as OPEC chief became public late Friday and followed days of rumors, denials and secret meetings. But the outcome looked inevitable: Mr. Rodriguez was the one man, Mr. Chavez and other government officials argued, who could ensure the well-being of PDVSA. The company, fractured and politicized after a six-week struggle ended in the massive protest march April 11 that eventually led to the temporary ousting of President Chavez, will need all the help it can get from the soft-spoken Mr. Rodriguez.

And while the dissident staff gained a victory with the removal of Gaston Parra as PDVSA head and his board, a majority of dissident officials felt used by political opposition that staged the April 11 protest march under the banner of PDVSA.

Mr. Rodriguez is expected to have a highly qualified board consisting of at least five top company executives and three external directors. Some of the names that are circulating already served on the board under former PDVSA head Guaicaipuro Lameda. Messrs. Rodriguez and Chavez are expected to name the board Sunday or Monday.

Mr. Rodriguez, who's expected to head back to Vienna on Tuesday or Wednesday, will begin consultations with ministers to decide who will be his interim replacement at OPEC headquarters. Mr. Rodriguez suggested that his deputy OPEC's head of research, Adnan Shihab-eldin, could take over as secretary general for an interim period. "The president has authorized me to keep the Vienna post as long as there is no replacement. But it's better to have one as soon as possible and Shihab-eldin could do it," Mr. Rodriguez said. OPEC has an extraordinary ministers meeting June 26. Mr. Rodriguez has served 16 months of his three-year term of office. OPEC sources say finding a replacement for him could prove difficult. The choice of secretary-general must be unanimous and has in the past been fraught with political maneuvering.