Chavez shakes up PDVSA executive suite

In a move that could have implications for Venezuelan oil production, President Hugo Chavez, continues to tweak the leadership alignment within the country's oil and gas industry and in its state firm PDVSA.

Eric Watkins
Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 12 -- In a move that could have implications for Venezuelan oil production, President Hugo Chavez, continues to tweak the leadership alignment within the country's oil and gas industry and in its national oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA). He has made several recent executive appointments and approved six new members to the PDVSA board of directors.

Chavez retained oil minister Rafael Ramirez as president of PDVSA. Other members of the board are Ivan Orellana, who recently became oil vice-minister; Asdrubal Chavez, refining, trade, and supply vice-president; and Eulogio del Pino, PDVSA's exploration and production vice-president.

Ramirez, in turn, removed from the board the former head of PDVSA's production and exploration unit Luis Vierma; along with Dester Rodriguez, Jesus Villanueva, Carlos Martinez, and Bernard Mommer.

He also swore in six new members: Hercilio Rivas, recent president of PDVSA's research unit Intevep; Carlos Vallejo, previous president of PDVSA's natural gas unit; Ricardo Coronado, second in command for exploration and production in western Venezuela; Luis Pulido, head of PDVSA's oil services unit; Faddi Kabboul, who has worked in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC, on oil-related issues; and Aref Richany Jimenez, an army general who headed the state armament company.

While the changes are said to indicate Chavez's desire to keep his most trusted allies at the top of PDVSA, especially when production needs to be boosted, those removed from the board are not necessarily out of favor.

To the contrary, Chavez last month appointed former oil vice-minister Mommer as the country's new governor at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Mommer, a Marxist mathematician, is considered a key architect of Chavez's oil policy. He served as consultant to Ali Rodriguez during his tenure as OPEC secretary-general and initiated such policy changes as having the company take majority stakes in most oil projects and raising taxes and royalty payments.

Chavez's changes in the PDVSA board follow a restructuring of the state firm made in early August (OGJ Online, Aug. 7, 2008). At the time, reports said that the changes gave PDVSA the responsibility of "participating in ventures intended for the sustained, organic, and integral development of the country, including agricultural, industrial activities."

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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