In a surprise move, Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez has announced a "profound" restructuring of Petroleos de Venezuela SA, naming an army general to the helm of the company.
Chavez appointed Gen. Guaicaipuro Lameda Montero as the third president of PDVSA since he took office less than 2 years ago (excluding former Pres. Luis Giusti, who, anticipating his imminent dismissal, resigned shortly before Chavez took office).
Lameda replaces Hector Ciavaldini.
In addition, Chavez appointed Oswaldo Contreras Maza as the new president of Citgo Petroleum Corp., the Tulsa-based wholly owned subsidiary of PDVSA.
Like Lameda, Contreras also is an army general and a nuclear engineer who most recently served as a PDVSA vice-president.
The PDVSA restructuring followed only hours after a labor-management agreement had ended a massive strike by oil industry workers in that country.
Chavez did not specify his reasons for removing Ciavaldini, saying only that "an in-depth restructuring" of the state oil corporation was under way.
Ciavaldini, who had served as PDVSA president since September last year, was the second person to head the corporation since Chavez took office in February 1999. Ciavaldini's predecessor was Roberto Mandini, a former Citgo Petroleum Corp. vice-president.
"I have placed my sight on PDVSA thanks to the workers, and we will begin today with the [company's] presidency," said the Venezuelan president.
"What we want to do is to strengthen PDVSA and place it in first place," said Chavez.
Noting that the state oil corporation had incurred debts in "senseless spending" and "unlimited squandering," the Venezuelan president said every bolivar obtained from the sale of oil "does not belong to PDVSA. It belongs to all Venezuelans."
"I, myself, am reviewing things at PDVSA with a magnifying glass. The [labor] conflict has opened my eyes in that regard and I thank PDVSA workers," said Chavez, adding that from the beginning of his government he had been working to reduce excessive and unwarranted PDVSA spending.
"There is still much to be done," he said.
Contreras's appointment, which took effect Oct. 15, breaks with tradition under which US executives previously have been named to the post. Contreras replaces David J. Tippeconnic at the helm of Citgo.
Chavez made the announcement during the Oct. 15 airing of his weekly radio talk show, "Hello, President," saying that Contreras had done "an extraordinary job" at PDVSA and "also is going to do a tremendous job" at Citgo.
In an interview published in the local newspaper El Nacional the day following the announcement, Contreras said he had not yet determined what actions he planned taking as the new Citgo president.
"Citgo business is profitable. Simply, we will have to make some adjustments to improve the company's performance," Contreras was quoted as saying.
"Citgo is going to enter into a process of transition. Removing personnel without first doing a serious analysis is not the most appropriate style for a process of this kind. First, we will analyze the situation to know who should continue and who should leave the company."