Vladimir: Good morning dear friends, welcome to Vladimir a la carta. As we announced yesterday, we are going to talk with Rafael Ramírez, former Vice President of the Economic Area, former President of PDVSA, former Minister of Oil, and former Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations. So, we give you the most cordial welcome, Rafael, thank you for accepting the invitation to this show.
Vladimir: There are many current issues that we want to discuss with you, but there are also many issues with your management that are important to address because there is plenty, right? You were at the head of PDVSA for 12 years and, besides that, I understand that in previous years you also had other responsibilities. So, look, for example, why the PDVSA debacle? And what is your responsibility in the PDVSA debacle if you were in PDVSA for 12 years? Why is PDVSA the way it is? And what is your responsibility there? This is the first thing I would ask you.
RR: Look, PDVSA is in the situation it is because of Maduro’s bad government. In this I want to be very, very precise, because you know this is not a subjective perception that you say how you feel and you feel good or you feel bad. No! In oil, and on this subject, you talk with numbers. In 2013, I led a company that produced 3 million barrels of oil per day and that was capable of supplying the domestic market. All the refineries were working – we produced gasoline, we produced diesel, we produced gas. A company that had assets for $231 billion, had plants and equipment for $130 billion, and a net worth of $84 billion. That is, I handed over to Maduro a company that was working well, the fifth largest oil company in the world. What did Maduro do? Maduro has been in the government for seven years now. He has accumulated seven years of doing what he wants with PDVSA, what he wants with the government. And, well, he has done a terrible job, because today’s production is at 339,000 barrels; they have lost 2,644,000 barrels of production, and it has been his fault because these numbers that I am telling you are audited numbers. Besides, the whole country knows and felt that with us, with Chávez, during my administration, the country was doing well. I managed to bring, during my period of management, $700 thousand million into the national economy. Of those, $480 billion went to the Treasury. So, what are we talking about? A government that wanted… a group of people that wanted to control PDVSA. They got it; they have had nine boards of directors with people who have no idea about the oil business. Well, these are the consequences. Some people ask if it is possible to destroy a company in just seven years. Of course it is! The oil sabotage proves it. They destroyed the company in just two months. Maduro has had seven years and this is the result. But it is not only PDVSA. It has affected the whole country. Because if you were to say it is just about PDVSA, you would be wrong. You would say, «Good, then it’s just the PDVSA», but the whole country is in trouble.
Vladimir: You said that during your administration, $700 billion were deposited in the country’s economy, 480 of them going to the Treasury. Of those $480 billion, why no money was invested in PDVSA’s infrastructure to stop the current collapse? Or how much of that was invested?
RR: No, of course, we did. Look, every year we have a $20 billion budget in the oil industry. The numbers are there. In fact, since you use a computer, so do I. The fact that you have, that you have a company with $129 billion in facilities and equipment. When we got it, it was worth $36 billion, which only means that this is a company that was invested in. This is a company whose assets grew from $40 billion in 1999 to $231 billion. Money has always been invested in the oil industry because otherwise, we would not have any possibility of sustaining our operations in our activity. So it’s not us. Look, only in 2013 we invested $23,350 million; in 2012, $25,032 million; in 2011, 17,000[million dollars]; in 2010, which was a bad year because of the oil price, we invested 12 thousand [million dollars]; in 2009, $15 thousand million, and $18 thousand millions in 2008.
Vladimir: How can you see that? What does this investment translate into concrete terms? And I give you an example. Well, that money – it is here, it was spent on this, it was spent on that.
RR: Well, they translated every day into oil production. It is that producing 3 million barrels of oil is not something you do and it is there forever. No! It is necessary to invest in the oil industry every day if we want to maintain our drilling activities, our drills. We had 300 drills operating in the country and 87 vessels with joint ventures, 37 of which were our own. We had all our refineries in operation. That’s what it meant. In other words, we had all our equipment working, and we had an expansion in the Orinoco Oil Belt. When we nationalized the Orinoco Oil Belt, 600 thousand barrels of oil were being produced and when I handed over the company in 2014, we were producing 1,300,000 barrels of oil. That’s where you see it. That’s where you can see that we were permanently on top of the company. If we hadn’t done anything… As some say, if we hadn’t invested in the refinery – a refinery without investment can’t last six months. An oil production without drilling can’t last. Well. That’s how the oil industry works around the world. What happens is that they have lied a lot; they have said a lot of things. And well, unfortunately, oil is not a popular issue. You have to invest money every day. They have to invest in the oil industry, our infrastructure, our terminals, our tank farms, gas injection, our transportation logistics. Everything was working, because there was the money.
Vladimir: Rafael, listen, there is something there. I, of course, do not have much knowledge of the oil area, but some experts in the field think that it was a mistake to have invested in the Belt, and to abandon production in other states of the country, especially because of the issue of the cost of production, the cost of production in the Belt and elsewhere.
RR: Yes, I have heard that opinion. It comes from people I respect; among them, Professor Mendoza Potela, who is still at the Central Bank. It is a limited view of the oil issue because the project of the belt where the largest oil reserves of the planet are; it is not only an oil project. It was a project of the country. In the Orinoco Oil Belt, our Republic was going to be re-founded. We had more than 50 thousand square kilometers that were filled with the largest oil reserves on the planet. Of course, we had to go and invest there and we did and we produced a lot; we produced many barrels. As I say, during my last year, we were producing 1 million, 300 thousand. Today it produces only 180 thousand barrels. So, why would we give up the Orinoco Oil Belt? Why would we give up the last great national project, the Orinoco Apure Axis project? No! What for? So that the transnational companies can take it away because the same people who say that are the same people who developed the oil opening. The same ones who said that the transnational companies should take that oil, that they paid us only 1% royalties. No, sir. Our country has to take advantage of its natural resources and it has to go and find it and develop it well, as it has done for 100 years in the country. We never abandoned the traditional areas like Lake Maracaibo; only that those are very mature areas. That is to say, there have been working for years a centennial well that only produces 50 barrels a day. But, instead, on the belt, you had a well producing two thousand barrels a day, a big difference. We could not stop developing that reserve. It would be criminal, which is what happened here for many years when it was said that this was bitumen and therefore it was good that others took it away and did not pay us anything. We couldn’t do that. But it wasn’t just an oil project; it was a project for the whole country. There are the axes of development that we had for that region. Everything based on oil, then. The last great oil province in the world.
Vladimir: Now look at Rafael, that PDVSA dedicated itself to other functions, for example, Barrio Adentro, Pdval, Mission Ribas, Mission Robinson, etc. That was not a mistake, to bring the company in something else, which is what the Ministry of Health, Ministry, Education, Ministry of Social Affairs, etc. are for.
RR: But they weren’t there. The problem is that our company, being a national company, was not participating in the defeat of poverty, in the fight for social development. By the way, I am going to tell you that those activities are the things I am most proud of in my life, that is to say, those oil barrels that were used for Barrio Adentro to prevent our people from dying as they do now in our neighborhoods were among the best barrels we invested to bring the Ribas Mission to the youth. We graduated 1 million young people from the Ribas Mission. Or to make the houses, the Gran Mision Vivienda Venezuela, I tell you that the 600 thousand houses that we delivered are the best.
RR: That did not distract either PDVSA’s budget, or the effort of our industry, what President Chávez did as head of State, as head of the Public Treasury. He would say Rafael here we have these surpluses, because we had many surpluses. We gave the Treasury that impressive amount of money; we gave the Fonden more than $100 billion. What President Chávez said was, «Look, Rafael, these plans that we have, we cannot do them with the ministries.» You think that we would have graduated 1 million young people in high school education in the Ministry of Education that we had or that we have? Do you think we would have built housing? There were several ministers who are now in the government. Diosdado is one that made only 27,000 houses a year. We built 600,000 homes in two and a half years. It could not be done. It had to be done. We had to have the strength and the capacity of PDVSA to coordinate. But our operations were always a priority because President Chávez understood and I understood that it was our responsibility to keep the country running. Look at what Maduro has done with PDVSA. It shows that it is not true that the country can live without oil. That’s like taking the oxygen from a diver, I said somewhere, of course, and people don’t realize that it works that way. While you are receiving the income of 3 million barrels of oil, now that we have the disaster caused by Maduro, you realize the disaster that is the country without oil. Arturo Uslar Pietri said that if that ever happened we would have to call not only the United Nations, the Red Cross, and that’s what’s happening now in the country.
Vladimir: That thing that PDVSA had to assume the competence of the Ministries speaks ill of public management, let’s say, of Chávez himself. Okay? Ah, that’s good! Wow! You have a Minister of Education who cannot fulfill his task. You put the wrong person in that position. You had a Minister of Housing who couldn’t. You made a mistake.
RR: On the contrary, I think Chávez did the right thing. I remember when Dr. Caldera was trying to renew the State and a commission spent a year working on it. No, it could not be done. We were making a revolution, and we had to make a revolution with the people – a fundamental factor in Venezuela. If we were talking about another country, it may be another one, but in Venezuela, it was to put the oil at the service of the people. We had to be direct. On the contrary, I think Chávez’s idea of the missions was great. It was an extraordinary solution because, well, it went from a heavy, bureaucratic structure, which was not committed to what we had to do, to a new body of men and women that wanted to help people and that, well, they created the conditions for that to be so.
Vladimir: There is another topic, Rafael. We are going to work on current issues, but there are issues I want to discuss with you as well because it is a golden opportunity to talk to you. Well, and that you answer many questions that there are not only from me but also from the audience and that is important.
RR: Thank you, Vladimir, especially because you and I know that I am censored in the country. There is no way I can be interviewed in any media that has radio concessions or anything like that. That is why we are on this path. I am the one who thanks you for giving me the chance to speak and give my point of view.
Vladimir: By the way, speaking about that before asking another question I have for you, some attribute to your authorship the dismissal of Vanessa Davis from Venezolana Television because of a question she asked you.
RR: Thank you for that question. First of all, I want to send my regards to Vanessa Davis, because that was not the case. I remember exactly that interview I did with her. I always had interviews with Vanessa the way I like them: difficult. In other words, she cannot have those complacent interviews where the journalist asks what a minister sends her to say. And with Vanessa, we were talking about the subject of The Parallel, and I remember that she asked me what I had said that we were going to pulverize the parallel. Well, because you were doing it as vice president of economy, during the policy of relaxing the exchange control. But when Vanessa asked me that, I didn’t even know that Maduro was backing down. What happened to me was that the plan I had, and that I was authorized to tell the country was betrayed by Maduro; he backed out, but I had nothing to do with that. On the contrary, I left very happily as always with Vanessa, but Delcy Rodriguez was the Minister of Communications at the time and well, the decision was not taken with Maduro and she was taken out of there. But I salute her, and I hope she stays in that critical line. I remember when she asked Chávez why during the Vargas landslides some people had been executed, well, Chávez paid attention and Vanessa was right. How much we need now someone like Vanessa to know what the FAES is doing in other neighborhoods. Well, Bachelet does it there in the UN; 5800 extrajudicial executions to happen.
Vladimir: Rafael, I have done it; I have done it.
RR: Of course, that is why we are talking using this channel, and I congratulate you because you cannot lose the journalist’s claw, especially to help our public opinion to seek the truth. I wrote an article this Sunday called «The truth will prevail in the end.» I believe that those who get into politics and the people, in general, have to seek the truth, even if it is under the stones. Not to follow Twitter, not to follow what the programs of hatred, of rioting, say, but seek the truth, because this is a space for truth. I congratulate you.
Vladimir: Look at that, Rafael. And you clarified that point with Vanessa to move on to another.
RR: No, I could never talk to Vanessa again. I am taking advantage of the space to tell her and send Vanessa a hug and my respect.
Vladimir: Look, Rafael, there is a subject that the workers of PDVSA resent a lot, which is the Pension Fund, and I recently interviewed Euidis Girod, leader of the Federation of Oil Workers of the FUTPV, and, well, he denounced the retirees. They denounced that $5 billion were stolen and that during your administration, the statutes of the Fund were modified, expropriating the ownership of the Administration. What happened to the pension fund again? And where is that money?
RR: Again, I appreciate this opportunity. And first of all, I want to convey my solidarity and greetings to the oil workers. I have always supported the oil workers. I support them in their struggles now because I believe that they were a fundamental factor in the Venezuelan labor movement. But, look, comrade workers, that pension fund was taken away from them starting in 2014. I left the oil industry in August 2014, but let me tell you something, the PDVSA pension fund, as you know, is a legal figure. Besides, PDVSA’s board of directors does not decide anything about those funds.
RR: I remember that in that board of directors, in which I never was, there have been during all this time Asdrubal Chavez, Willy Rangel, and other people, who should be held accountable. The only time I took part in the pension fund of the PDVSA Retiree Fund was to achieve a more equitable distribution of the yearly benefits among you because you all remember that even meritocracy was applied to the fund. Later, when there was that problem with Mr. Illarramendi, I remember, I found out from the press and asked the Fund’s board members what had happened. And when they explained to me that the Workers’ Fund had been swindled, I myself told PDVSA’s Finance to become part of that lawsuit against Illarramendi and repay the money to the fund. That was the only involvement I had. What happened? What did Malpica do? What did Simon Zerpa do with the Workers’ Fund in 2014? That’s something you have to ask Maduro. But don’t be fooled, don’t be fooled. You have to hold those who have been at the head of the fund during all these years accountable, those who by chance continue to be on the PDVSA board of directors. Keep fighting for your rights. The Maduro government, since it needed money to pay foreign debt, or I don’t know why, eliminated the sicoprosa, eliminated the pension fund, took the operational money from the refinery, and day to day from PDVSA’s production areas, they grabbed and destroyed PDVSA. This is the truth. And that is what you have to fight for: to get your money back. Of course, they stole it, but it was stolen by the current administrators. They have to say where that money is.
Vladimir: That is verifiable in the PDVSA acts? That this decision was made after you left, right?
RR: Yes, well, I’m sure I can assure you that we didn’t make that decision. I didn’t make it when I was President of the Board of Directors. Look, since January 2014, I knew that I was going to leave PDVSA because that was what Maduro wanted. That was what the group wanted, which is in tune with Maduro. Everybody wanted it. I didn’t make any major decisions on the board of directors since I already knew there was going to be a transition northeast. Check the board minutes under my management, and you will not find my signature anywhere. So I wouldn’t do it anymore if I intervened again. When a minister who is still now with Maduro wanted the building, you know that the pension fund has a building, well, as investments they wanted to take it away and I had to explain to President Chávez that the pension fund has nothing to do with the operation of the PDVSA company, but that it is a fund of the retirees that they administer, and that it has a board of directors that must be accountable to the workers.
Vladimir: Who was that minister?
RR: He is still with the government, but they were determined, he doesn’t have any, it wasn’t evil, no, they just don’t know. Everyone believes that the pension fund is something of PDVSA, it is not of PDVSA, it belongs to the workers, but no, they don’t have it, the PDVSA board of directors cannot decide what to do with the money unless they change the statutes, which is what they did in 2014.
Vladimir: Rafael talking about the work issue. Well, you had a very close relationship with Willy Rangel, who was already president of the Central Bolivariana and also part of the board of directors of PDVSA, and during your administration, there was a very serious complaint of mistreatment of workers by José Gregorio Villarroel, who was the manager of Labor Relations and there was also a person whose last name was González, I remember. And, well, there they talk about the forced retirement of workers and even leaders of the Federation itself who were harassed there. The case of José Boda, for example, and another that was harassed with the consent of Willy Rangel himself.
RR: Look, Vladimir, Willy Rangel is a man who betrayed President Chávez and the oil workers. Well, he fooled, he fooled everybody. He was at the head of the FUTV. I am a friend of other workers’ leaders Argenis Olivares, Eudis Girod, another comrade who was there when the defeat of the oil sabotage, took place. I worked with them trying to achieve the best possible conditions for the workers. Very few people talk about the fact that during our administration, I think, we were the only company in the Venezuelan state that put an end to outsourcing. We get called on it, but we included many PDVSA workers, we gave the PDVSA Card back to all those who had been outsourced, you know, permanently hired to work in the cafeterias, the camps, the divers, the boat, all that infrastructure that the old PDVSA was giving to the private sector. It is not the contrary. We did an extraordinary job defending the workers, the oil workers. Now, I could not get it in.
Vladimir: Why so much hate against this Mr. Gregorio Villarroel? Why are there so many complaints of abuse against workers even before the Ministry of Labor? I even have very close cases on that subject.
RR: Yes, yes, yes, I know, I know, I know. Well, look, I was responsible for the labor issue. He’s out there. I don’t know where he is right now, I don’t know who he’s working with. It was the labor committee that should be seen. Whenever I saw one in a yes there could be a complaint. That was the point. But we’re talking about a company with 100,000 workers, Vladimir, but it wasn’t a policy of PDVSA, of my management, to run over the workers, on the contrary, many workers who are listening to me, are aware and know about the struggle we gave against a management culture that was against the oil workers, which little by little we corrected. This was done from the simplest point of view, from having the Ministry of Oil at PDVSA’s side, from allowing the workers to have the same benefits, from putting an end to outsourcing, and above all, achieving and respecting some collective conventions that today have been trampled on and have ended. All of our oil workers will be able to tell you that despite any specific problems with us, there was a relationship between the workers and the company that was much better than what exists now, that they are receiving a bag of chicken, and that they are being mistreated and put in jail, and all of this. The abuse that is happening right now in the oil industry has nothing to do with any problem that a labor manager had against our own workers. It has nothing to do with that. Right now it is a policy of the government to take away the benefits of the oil workers, of all workers in general.
Vladimir: Rafael, by the way, Eudis Girot himself, with whom I had an interview last week, and that’s why I have some notes of what he said. He challenges you to come to Venezuela to account for your management and to answer all the questions.
RR: I would love to. Look, Eudis, and Vladimir, there is nothing that I want than to return to the country, but you think that I am going to return so that Maduro can put me there in the grave and bury me and kill me as they did with Nelson Martínez, or like they have more than 100 PDVSA workers who have been in prison for more than five years without even an arraignment, or that they do like Maduro has done with his political enemies who get humiliated and buried alive. No, that is nonsense. From here I can make this denunciation and this interview with you. We can debate when there are conditions. Of course, of course. Besides, look, I do not spend much time answering what is on Nicolas’ sick mind, who says that I live in a palace, I do not know where or in Tarek William Saab’s sick mind, that has some serious issues against me, but to the Venezuelan people, of course, as soon as there are possibilities, as soon as I have the possibility to go there and explain to our country my management and Chávez’s management at the head of the oil industry, it will be a pleasure and I will go to all the oil areas to explain not only what has happened, but how we are going to solve this terrible problem we have.
Vladimir: Rafael before we talk about Tarek William Saab, the prosecutor appointed by the ANC. I want to ask you something. Of all the explanations you have given until now, what does Rafael Ramírez regret? What did Rafa Ramírez screw up in his management of PDVSA?
RR: The biggest mistake I made was to support Maduro for the presidential elections. We did what Chávez said. I believe that it was also a serious mistake by Chávez to have said that we had to support Maduro, an induced error because probably nobody told him the truth that he would not return from that terrible surgery he had to have. And now we have this situation where a criminal government has come to power. There is no other word to describe what he does, he does whatever he feels like. In the country that has destroyed not only the work of Chávez, but he has also destroyed the whole country. Today our country is at the bottom of the world in everything. So that has been my biggest mistake and I apologize for that because we believed that, well, we did what Chávez said and we believed that this gentleman would make a government that was continuity of the Chavista management and well, he was a traitor, he did the opposite.
Vladimir: Look, but okay, apart from that aspect, in terms of management, in terms of your decisions with the people.
RR: That doesn’t seem like anything to me, because Maduro wouldn’t have won without us.
Vladimir: From the moment you were appointed by Chávez until the last moment in PDVSA, that is, from the operational point of view of management. What did you do wrong, something that made you think I was wrong here or there were no mistakes?
RR: Look, no, we are all subject to mistakes. Obviously, and I subjected my management to public scrutiny every year, yes, to my accountability, precisely to learn from my mistakes. Look, maybe the mistake is that we neglected the domestic oil market. The internal market, even though we produced 600 thousand barrels a day of gasoline and fuel. Well, it didn’t exactly give the best treatment as we’ve discussed to the domestic market. Maybe we should have improved that aspect, maybe in some tasks that we should not have been involved in some of them. What we were really doing was replacing ministries. We worked a lot, we put a lot of effort, it was a lot of man-hours in that, but well, it had to be done. It was the moment and it had to be done. And we were in a national company, we were in a revolution, and as I say, maybe at some point we made more effort in one thing or another. But, in general, I think the balance was very positive. It is a management that I can defend anywhere because of my management and Chávez’s management in the oil sector.
Vladimir: Here it says we have a question from Tal Cual that always sends us questions to the show. Rafael, they ask you what is your responsibility in the destruction of the oil drop during your administration because it can be seen and you received more than $500 billion in oil revenues. Why wasn’t the money invested in the cash cow? and then it says the following: You said that PDVSA was red, very red, so the current disaster is red very red as well.
RR: It has nothing to do with red very red, it’s a good phrase, it’s a phrase that was made famous by Chávez, you know. I said it among the workers. It was a moment, we were coming from the oil sabotage. It wasn’t, it wasn’t a little thing. Well, they turned managers against the oil industry, they stopped the company, we lost $17 billion, we were not producing oil. That was a moment, a political moment of much tension, but in the end, it became a red very red concept; it was PDVSA that was with the people, it was PDVSA that was in the Ribas Mission, it was PDVSA that was in Barrio Adentro. It was PDVSA that was with the people in the company of another town. What Maduro has done has nothing to do with the red, very red company. In fact, don’t you see how he exacerbates himself? It’s like a thing of hate against the word red very red, in the end, it’s against all of us, against Chávez, against the popular company, the people’s PDVSA. Go now and see, go see what PDVSA has become. We went back, we regressed worse than it was during the oil opening.
Vladimir: Rafael, the case of Diego Salazar Carreño, your cousin Diego Salazar, what do you know about that case? He is in custody. How much is truth? What responsibility, what involvement do you have in the things that are being blamed on him?
RR: Look, about Diego, what he deserves is a fair trial. Diego has been buried alive for several years here in the grave, like many other PDVSA workers. You know that I believe that they will never give him a fair trial in this government. The same with Eulogio del Pino, the same with Pedro Leon, the same with nelson Martinez if Nelson Martinez were alive, they would not have let him go. He would have unmasked Maduro and Delcy Rodriguez, with the issue of the financing they got from Citgo, which they put up as a guarantee in favor of the Rosneft. If our oil workers, if the managers could talk, they could say, “Good, many things would be clarified,” no! But they are kidnapped, and they certainly didn’t get any of them out. Yesterday they released a lot of people, which I’m glad about. But have you noticed that Nicolás Maduro doesn’t release any Chavista prisoners, nor those linked to the Chavismo, nor does he think of releasing Miguel Rodríguez Torres, or the oil workers. Well, that’s terrible. It means that all this is a maneuver to make a new pact, with sectors of the opposition. Well, there they are, with their tricks. But the truth is that there are hundreds of workers, oil workers, prisoners, accused of nothing. There are hundreds of Chavista officials accused of conspiring against Maduro’s government, and well, no one looks out for them, not even for the workers, not only from PDVSA, Corpoelec, and the ironmongers. Well, it’s a disaster, no! So, well, at some point there will be a pause, there will be a moment of justice and many things will be revealed. Well, no!
Vladimir: Another point, regarding this whole situation, that has to do with what happened in Amuay. What happened? The insurance issue there, because it is said that PDVSA had not paid the reinsurance and that is why it was declared sabotage there to prevent, to not assume responsibility for not having covered the reinsurance. What is the truth of what happened in Amuay? It has been a few years since this happened, no?
RR: Yes, but I proposed a deal. I will talk about Amuay and then we will talk about Harvest.
Vladimir: We’re going to talk about that too, we’re going to take it step by step.
RR: Amuay was a regrettable, terrible incident, especially because 44 people died who were in the National Guard detachment that should not have been there. That’s an issue that we always discuss with the Guard. It was a mistake for them to be there and what happened is that, of course, there is a refinery so old when that detachment was designed and put there to protect facilities; I’m talking about more than 50 years, 60 years ago. Well, the refinery was not supposed to grow so much so that when the incident happened people died because they were there. I remember that it was August, and, well, my respects to those who died there, to their families. A very regrettable fact. But two things about Amuay. First, I want to point out that as soon as that incident occurred, we ordered an investigation that was developed from three angles. That incident was developed, investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office, by the Sebin and we also hired a team of experts from the refining sector for international advice, to work on a report of what happened and how from Intevep we could demonstrate, it was possible to demonstrate that this was a provoked event and it was not accidental; it is not by chance that it was in Amuay, in Amuay we not only achieved this, what happened is that this was also exploited. But in Amuay there were many booby traps. When oil sabotage was thrown badly, the equipment was damaged and this was cleaned up, but it was like cleaning a mined area. Unfortunately, when this incident occurred, two of our workers died while trying to prevent the spread of the double-fire cloud that finally exploded. That is, they performed a heroic act; they were there, they risked and gave their lives trying to avoid the situation. Now, another thing I want to tell you is that this is not true, even because those Amuay insurances were made under another condition and other companies different from the one we had corporate insurance. Remember that PDVSA cannot be insured by anyone in the country. PDVSA and the oil companies are what is called a reinsurance system. You have to be reinsured. In London, for example, where there are big insurance companies, nobody has money to insure a $231 billion package. No, no, there are none in Venezuela, nor in Latin America, nor in China. We tried when all the political problems started to change to our parent insurers for China and we couldn’t. Well, no, because it is also a matter of trust in the oil world, it works above all with England. That is another issue that I wanted to say. That is not true, but it has been said. But, well, we certainly did not expect – we did not contemplate – that this was sabotage. Now that was determined by an impartial investigation. The other issue and I take this opportunity to clarify it, is that, above all, sectors linked to the opposition have said that from that point on, Amuay has not worked. That’s not true; that’s a lie. We have to remember that what we lost in the refinery were three tanks, some big storage tanks in area 43 of the tank yard. But it was not in any operational area. If this explosion had taken over the operational areas, that is, the process plants, the plants, the towers, all that stuff, well, Amuay wouldn’t produce anything now, but it wouldn’t have produced anything even the next day. It would have been destroyed. It would have been evident that the refinery had been damaged. Unfortunately, the incident happened, but it was in the storage areas. It was not and has nothing to do with the problems that Amuay and Cardon have right now, which they continue, from incident to incident, trying to reactivate them but in the end, they can’t do it. And do you know why they can’t do it? Because the managers who were able to reactivate that refinery after the oil sabotage are now imprisoned by Maduro as if they were criminals. There is Jesús Luongo, in prison as if he were a criminal in Falcón, accused of anything by the hitman prosecutor. Meanwhile, they are bringing people from Iran and other places to try to reactivate a refinery. They are very complex refineries. There is Ivan Hernandez, he knows what we are talking about. He reactivated the refineries with Jesus. Maduro started to improvise with the refineries, to play, with the whole workers’ control, and to place his people in the oil industry. That is like giving a Sukhoi to the passengers or giving a 747 to the passengers. You can’t do that. You stop. You need to study. You need to know the plant. They are very complex facilities. That is the truth of Amuay. That research reports, by the way, that normally is kept in reserve confidentiality, I asked for it to be published and it is on the web. No specialized company has countered it. There it is. If you search for you must find it, of course, in writing. You enter the PDVSA page. If you look for an article I have written, a speech, or a photo you are not going to find it. They deleted everything since Quevedo, Asdrubal. That was Delcy Rodriguez’s order there, but I think the report is already beyond the PDVSA servers. Yes, yes, it can be found on the web and I invite you to consult it.
Vladimir: Well, Rafael, before we get to the point you want to make in the Harvest trial and all this, there are a few questions about the issue of the refineries. But there is a subject that you talk about in terms of human resources, managers who are in prison, etc. This criterion that you are handling today could also be applied to the 20,000 dismissals from PDVSA or it was not an error seen in time. The dismissal of 20,000 workers that added up to I don’t know how many thousands of years of experience.
RR: Yes, yes, all that is true. But I am going to tell you that we were in a circumstance that was the country, it was the violence, it was the peace or it was them, I mean. Because I am telling you right now, you are telling me, let’s compare Eulogio del Pino or Nelson Martinez with what the oil people did, no! First, none of the oil people were imprisoned, even though they made us lose $17 billion and we were only producing 23 thousand barrels of oil in January 2003. They wanted to overthrow Chávez, they damaged the company that the Venezuelan State gave them in custody to overthrow a government elected by the people. So what are we talking about? We are talking about an oil coup; a destabilizing oil coup d’etat. They made a mistake and committed serious damage to the country. This was a coup for PDVSA, of course! We lost 19,500 managers, and many jobs in the oil industry. But I also tell you, 20,000 more stayed with us, and those 20,000 were able to reestablish all our operational capacity. Look, when people talk about how PDVSA has to be privatized because this is a disaster, how PDVSA was destroyed in seven years, the oil sabotage has to be a point of reference. In barely two months, they placed our production at 23 thousand barrels, only 23 thousand, and all the refineries it was not that they had stopped, they were sabotaged and there was no gas. And in barely three months, we were able to recover it. Now, neither Chávez nor I thought of putting the military, the friends of the PSUV, on that board of directors, no! It was people like Luis Marín and Felix Rodríguez. They were people like Francisco José Rojas in Finance. They were people like the refining people – Jesús Luongo, was a person who knew – they were people who had more than 30 years in the oil industry, who were horrified and frightened and angry by what the oil meritocracy did against our company. So, the sabotage showed that the oil industry can be destroyed in three months. Imagine what there will be left seven years after what Maduro has done, but they are two completely different cases. They wanted to bring the Venezuelan people to their knees. They wanted Chávez to resign. They wanted another coup d’état. You have to put things in context, no! It wasn’t. It wasn’t that we disagreed with their vision. They had a different vision from us. They had the vision of the oil opening. But they weren’t fired because of that. They left the job because they were put out of the loop. These guys who are in jail right now have nothing to do with it. They are in jail because Maduro did a raid on the PDVSA, simply to take control. He took control and look at how the industry ended up.
Vladimir: What do you know about the case of all managers who are imprisoned for alleged espionage, the case of Alfredo Marcial Chirinos Azuaje and Aryenis Torrealba.
RR: Those are two guys. Well, first of all, they are boys, aren’t they? One of them is the son of a former guerrilla. I don’t know him, but well, the people I know do know him. Let’s say, Toby Valderrama, the other Enrique, Pica, everybody. In other words, a boy being accused of spying for the imperialism. But secondly, these are accusations that are so far-fetched, so stupid. How is it that the Minister of Justice, without a trial, without any investigation, without defending the rights and the presumption of innocence of these boys, is capable of delivering a national broadcast saying that they found some CIA agents, even that the newspaper Granma of Cuba says so. Díaz-Canel said that they grabbed another CIA agent in Venezuela. Why a lynching against any of us who are against it. They were denouncing what is vox populi there at PDVSA in Commerce and Supply, where the people of Serrano and the people of Ruperti are in a ruthless fight to the death over the oil business. That’s what I was denouncing, if the ships came in they wouldn’t come out. This is government stupidity, everyone knows that. If they read my oil bulletins that come out every two weeks, they would realize that this is reported worldwide. How many ships entered China? How many left, how many ships from Venezuela? That is public and notorious. That was before, 50 years ago that it was a secret, now all that is known. So, what happened to the boys? They complained about a perverse manager. They believed that the workers’ president knows nothing. They went to the workers’ president to denounce him and they put them in jail. Those boys are innocent.
Vladimir: Rafael, what happened with the Chinese drill? What happened with the petrochemical complexes? This thing that is believed to be supposed to be in Zulia, Tachira, etc., that so much money was invested in that and announced like that.
RR: Very good. This is an extraordinary question for Quevedo and Maduro. Where are the Chinese drill bits? I had 300 drills working. Where are they? Or do they now say that they sanctioned us, that they blocked us? No, it’s not true. When we created our subsidiary PDVSA Servicio, we had those drills operating there. We didn’t care if the American companies left or not, we didn’t care if they sanctioned us. In fact, in 2010, they imposed U.S. sanctions on us because of our relations with Iran, given the relationship between the two governments, and nothing happened. Nothing happened because we were prepared. We were ready. We had the capacity, but where are those drills now? Go to the East, go to the East so that you can see them dismantled. Go East, go West, so that you can see them as scrap metal. They abandoned them, they destroyed them. Now a drill is not like a motorcycle. A drill is a gigantic thing, a platform. How is it possible that they have done that? I don’t know. They gave them to the private companies that took over Quevedo’s service contracts. Go and audit. Where is the National Assembly? Well, go get the drills. I delivered them perfectly operating. Look, my management always had a management report, accountability, it was made public and it was sent to the National Assembly. Now they are going to tell me that they did not know. Go and ask Maduro now, where is that? What happened to our gas, we are going to talk about the Mariscal Sucre project for the petrochemical industry. That gas was given to the Rosneft by Maduro and to the transnationals in Trinidad. To my dear people of Cumaná, whose illustrious son I am, by the way, a people I love very much because of all the possibilities we have for development and how wonderful that people are. We had the whole project of bringing gas, the old Christopher Columbus for the development in Güiria a petrochemical complex and we were moving forward. We made the longest gas pipeline in Latin America at the time, the José Bermúdez pipeline, 800 kilometers from Güiria to Puerto la Cruz. It is gigantic there. We took gas to Margarita, we took gas to Cumaná, but what did Maduro do? Well, he handed over that gas to the Rosneft. And what did Maduro do on the Deltana platform? He gave the gas to Trinidad and the gas from Oriente was given to Shell. What happens is that they don’t go forward because they’re incompetent, but they did give it away. Dear Vladimir, the gas that was going to supply the tablazo petrochemical complex was handed over to the European companies that took the Perla 3x the Rafael Urdaneta and we got the largest growth 15 tpf of gas, and the idea is that this gas would come to the thermoelectric and petrochemical complexes in the West, they gave it away. That gas is not coming to the country. So, what happens? Maduro dismantled, dismantled the oil plan, dismantled our projects, and now the country is suffering the consequences. Where is the gas? The transnationals have it. Ask Maduro, ask him about the drills, but also ask him about the ships. Maduro says that we are blocked and the Americans, no, Cuba is blocked and it produces gasoline; Iran is blocked and it sells us gasoline. We had 87 ships of our own. These days, there is a news item. We had four VLCCs; they are very large vessels with a capacity of 2 million and transport. I delivered the first one, the Ayacucho, and those ships were now taken by Petrochina. They took three ships for themselves and the part that was left in the hands of the INEA, which now privatized it, was then transferred to the Russians and now it is called the Máximo Gorki, that is, the Ayacucho that we had is now Máximo Gorki, it is privatized. But ask Maduro about that, ask Quevedo about that, ask those who were in charge of the oil industry.
Wladimir: That is the fault of the Maduro government?
RR: That is the fault of Maduro, in China, they have capitalist companies; they said that there was solidarity there, and we were clear about this. I was clear, there was a different relationship, but the companies… These companies came for their interests, and that’s why when we went to the belt, it was a battle. They had to pay us our bonus, they had to pay us our royalties, they had to pay the taxes. If you look at all the joint ventures we made, they all have the same legislation. There were no concessions to anyone, because in the end, China, well… has a government that claims to be socialist, but has capitalist companies. Well, no, they need natural resources and so do the Russians. And the Americans do too. So here it is not a question of whether you like a country or not, it is a question of you as a minister of your country having to defend the interests of the Venezuelans, and that is within the framework of an Organic Hydrocarbon Law. All these contracts that Maduro has written up and signed have now violated the law. Look, very few people realized there was a problem when the Supreme Court took away the National Assembly that Luisa Ortega left, and after she resigned, that same day – the same sentence. I think it is the 139th that says that the oil projects passed from the Executive are to be approved by the Supreme Court of Justice, that is, the party. Nothing else was ever discussed in the Ministry, nothing ever went to the Assembly. All my projects went to the Assembly. There was the opposition. They would ask anything. They were public, they were published. Now that’s like a warehouse, but they are handing over the country.
Vladimir: Look, Rafael, regarding the Assembly, when the opposition proposed in the National Assembly that the PSUV question you, they did not accept it. The PSUV was the majority in the Assembly. That would have been a golden opportunity for you to explain so many things.
RR: Whenever the Assembly questioned me, I went, during Chávez government. Now, what happened after was that I left as the ambassador at the United Nations. Well, in the assembly, especially when Ramos Allup presided over it, it was unleashed. Well, there is a coven of witches, it was a horrible thing, precisely headed by this gentleman who now gave amnesty to Freddy Guevara, and they raised a file against me – it’s absurd and stupid since it does not even have a sense of proportion. It’s a crazy thing to put up a political show. And you know what happened with the PSUV? They received the order because I spoke with Hector (Rodriguez) who was the head of the faction, they received the order from above. He did not want to tell me not to go out and defend my administration, which was Chávez’s administration. However, the PSUV went to defend Cilia when they took her before the Assembly, but they did so to defend the administration and to have a discussion on the policy of the full oil sovereignty. They did not go. Then you know what I am talking about. Since I realized that neither the government nor the PSUV was going to defend me because Maduro was already involved in their plan, I went to the Supreme Court of Justice in the Constitutional Chamber and presented my defense against the Assembly’s allegations, because the Assembly does not have an accusatory function of any kind. But, anyway, such was the media’s impact that I went there and I got a firm ruling from the full court, where they denied that all this man said in that thing was a moral lynching. Ah, but the objective was not the truth. The objective was to get me out and all that information and all that maneuvering had the support of Maduro from the National Assembly. The most notorious fact was that they didn’t go, they didn’t go to the assembly, they didn’t discuss anything. But I’ll tell you again, if they discussed the defense of Cilia’s nephews, which is shameful – because that’s not what the Assembly or the government is meant for – that’s a criminal case that’s being tried in a court of law in the United States. But, well, then you realized that this was a political operation against me. But I have a Supreme Court ruling. And that it wasn’t Michael Moreno in the previous Supreme Court directive, and they’re going to erase that as well like they’ve erased my speeches and my photos. No, it’s there. The truth must be pursued, searched for under the rocks.
Vladimir: Rafael, the last question: President Nicolás Maduro is saying that you live in the Palace of I don’t know what. Where do you live, and what does Rafael Ramírez live on today?
RR: Good, very good. I am exiled, I am persecuted. I am in Europe. I cannot say where I am. First, I am not going to make it easy for the government because I would be helping Maduro in his efforts to capture me. They have tried everything. They have done terrible things, like trying to put me in jail, so I say to all those comrades who want me to go: I will go with pleasure, but it won’t be a useless suicide, because even some suicides are useful. No, no, no, this would be completely useless. Then, I am out of the country, which hurts me a lot, Vladimir. I would like to be there with my people. I would like to help. I would like to solve this disaster that Maduro has made now. What do I live on? Look, I have more than 30 years of experience working in the oil sector. I was the Minister of Oil for 12 years, and the CEO of the fifth largest oil company in the world for 10 years. I worked in the oil sector and I know a lot of people, I know, I have my relationships, I have my knowledge, I am an advisor, I work with that. What else am I going to live on? You know, that’s a curious thing, like you have not entered the case, but I tell you: Harvest WHEN …
Vladimir: That’s what you wanted. You can talk about Harvest.
RR: No, because Harvest is very important. Look at this done in the quick story. Thank goodness for that. Now we don’t have channel time, but we can talk. Look, this is a company that operated in Venezuela, okay. It was a company that has an operational agreement and like most companies, we managed to get it to migrate to the figure, to become a joint venture. Well, the company later had its problem, the founder died or whatever it is, and they wanted to leave Venezuela; they tried to sell their assets. Now, in Venezuela, it is not like the Russians do now that transferred PetroMonagas to a Russian security company. No, no! According to the Organic Law of Hydrocarbons, any change of shareholders or any change, the contract in a joint venture has to go to the National Assembly because you are changing the terms of the contract that were approved by the National Assembly. During the oil opening that was not so, it was a free for all, but in our law, you have to go to the National Assembly. Well, these people didn’t want to go then. I don’t know why, but besides, they pretended more reserves than they had, the transnational companies sometimes pretend to put their reserves on the books, the country’s reserves, and the reserves, and it turns out that the country’s reserves are non-transferable, inalienable, unseizable, according to the Constitution. That’s why this Petro thing is a scam. That goes against the Constitution. But going back to Harvest, it was never possible. It reached my level, it couldn’t come. In the end, I left the ministry and they were able to. I don’t know how they managed to ask Asdrubal, how they did it, but they transferred the company to one, a private one, by the way, very linked to Ramos Allup. I’ve said it before and the answer to them is offenses against me, but I invite the National Assembly to investigate who the partners are there. But that’s not the point. This company, then I, being in 2018, out of everything, even the government, sues me, filing a civil lawsuit, the only lawsuit that I had, that I have had and that I have abroad. I do not have a lawsuit abroad, I do not have any cause abroad. My only problem is with Nicolas Maduro and his government. Well, they sue me, but since I’m here, I left the United States on December 4, 2017. I was no longer in the United States, I could not be there, that is, I had no diplomatic immunity, I did not want to be there and I left for Europe, I cannot return to Venezuela either. At that time, Harvest introduces the lawsuit. The judge believes that since I do not respond to the notifications, he believes that I am in contempt of court. What happened with the notifications? They arrived at the Ambassador’s residence there in New York, which is where Samuel Moncada lives, and of course, they do nothing to notify me there is a trial against me, not even a minimum of notifying a Venezuelan citizen who had a judicial situation. So, in 2019, I get imposed a disproportionate fine, which as I said in an article, not even in 10 thousand years of life could I pay. It is something unreal. When I find out about it, I tell the judge, look, I’m going to defend myself, come on because it’s the first time I’ve had a chance to defend myself from the allegations against me, which were all false. And you know what Harvest does? It hires a research company, two research companies, to locate my supposed fortune, palace, and all that nonsense that Nicolas Nicolas Maduro says and only exists in Nicolas’ mind. I don’t think anyone believes that. I hope you don’t believe that. I mean, I hope that no one with a little intelligence will believe that I have a palace in I don’t know where in Europe and another one over there. I have several palaces, not just one but several, according to Nicolás Maduro. Well, Harvest hires the company and they don’t get anything, what are they going to get if they believe him? Look, on Twitter they have said that I celebrated my daughter’s wedding and spent $2 million in Curaçao. I don’t have a daughter and I don’t have $2 million for a Curaçao marriage. After that, they said that Carlos Vecchio’s wife is a cousin of mine. they have lied about everything. Well, these people are investigating my supposed fortune and, well, they don’t get anything, they can’t get anything, but then they try to reach an agreement with me. I say, “No, we are going to trial because I have nothing to hide, you’re lying, you’re lying through your teeth and you’re hurting me and my name and my reputation and my family. So let’s go, let’s go to the trial.” They didn’t want to go, and because this is not a trial like Venezuela, this would have to go to a court in Houston. No one can accuse that court of being a Chavista in Houston to prove their claims, because there is a universal principle everywhere. It is the presumption of innocence, Vladimir, if I accuse you of being corrupt as you were accused at some point in the social networks, they have to prove it. Understand this, it is not me who has to prove that I am not corrupt. No, you have to prove that the person is corrupt or is a criminal, or what is called the presumption of innocence. So, when we get to the trial, okay, now I prove that’s how you knit. They couldn’t, they backed out and withdrew before going to trial, because that has consequences. Going to trial with those lies and what they’ve done will have consequences, but they withdrew from the lawsuit. But that’s very important to me because he’s the one who continues to make policy based on what Twitter says, the hate, the persecution, the intolerance. Well, my friend, we are going to continue poking our eyes out here and we are going to create a country of one-eyed people as we are now, a country of one-eyed people.
Vladimir: Look, Rafael, you have no problem entering the United States. Now you can enter whenever you want. You have your visa.
RR: Yes, yes, I have no problem
Vladimir: You have no cause anywhere else in the world.
RR: Nothing, nothing, nothing and nowhere, not even in Europe, nothing. That is to say, nothing. I cannot enter Venezuela as I would like, I would like to go to Venezuela, but I cannot pay so that besides not the Sebin, so that they see in me with their irrational crazy hate that it has, no!
Vladimir: How do you see this process of dialogue that has been opened up and that the government has denounced it? This liberation that you commented before but your vision. The Government is taking a political turn. How do you evaluate it? What is happening now is that there is talk of an agreement with the government.
RR: The government is a great manipulator. And every manipulation gives it a little more time and oxygen. And people don’t learn that they are not going to change because it is their nature to be like that. Here what is coming together is a new pact. It does not even have the greatness of the importance of the fixed point pact, no, it is a pact between elites who are taking over the country because they have to agree to repeal all the social benefits that we achieved with Chávez, to end the welfare state that we had with Chávez, to hand over our oil industry based on that is the pact. Now there are people in the opposition who are willing to make a pact with Maduro and others are not. So Maduro frees those but why doesn’t free anyone from the Chavismo? You realize that there are always procedural benefits, releases, and all this for people in the opposition. It’s fine with me. I’m happy that I had family members, prisoners, political prisoners in San Carlos, but no, I don’t understand why they don’t release the Chavistas, why they don’t release the military. There is that Chaparros boy, a person who was a commander, who was an aide to Chávez, a tremendously outstanding leader of the Bolivarian Armed Forces, he is in prison without any benefits, nothing. They are kidnapped while alive and the same goes for those from PDVSA who are waiting for Pedro León to die, as Nelson Martinez did, for them to die, they have no face, they are buried there while alive, without the right to defense. There is a lady named Gladys Parada who was accused by the fuel smugglers, this lady has been in jail for five years and she does not even know what she is accused of. So it’s not worth such an elite pact. Behind the backs of the country. What for? To have elections tomorrow. I wrote an article and set my position straight, but I don’t believe in elections. You can’t vote in this condition, not for the reasons Maria Corina says. Look, I am very far from this lady and I find it incredible that she has the impunity to call a foreign intervention in the country, an American invasion of this country, a crazy thing, that you can say that and nothing happens to you. In the United States they would have put you in the electric chair if you had asked for an invasion by the Russians. You can imagine that. No. But then you don’t have that opposition. I don’t agree with military solutions or foreign interventions. We Venezuelans are going to resolve this issue, but not like this, not in elections like this one. How are the 4.7 million Venezuelans who are abroad going to vote? In what conditions? How do the parties participate? If Maduro has already intervened in the Supreme Court of Justice, I believe that five parties have already intervened, even the PPT was intervened by the Tupamaros. How do you enforce your policies if you are censored? How do people in the neighborhoods participate? If the FAES keeps them at bay, it is a social cleansing that can be done by society.
Vladimir: In Belarus they participated. The citizens participated and did not make it easy for the government.
RR: Look how it is, how badly we are in Venezuela, that there are even elections in Belarus. But there is also a parliamentary election. That is not going to change anything. I was saying that the opposition had to participate when this boy Henry Falcon threw himself into the presidential elections. He would have won. A national coalition would have won if we hadn’t put everything into it. But intolerance, intolerance also on the part of the opposition to not want anything to do with the Chavistas. While the opposition does not understand that we Chavistas are at least half the country, we are not going anywhere. What happens is that now we are between two extremes that in the end shake hands. They want the same thing in the end, power for power’s sake. But what do we do, the great majority of Venezuelans, Chavistas or opponents, who are against what is happening in the country? In other words, we are going to see that the country is lost, that it ends. We are going to let our young people continue to make a new life abroad, why? a country with so much wealth, despite what has happened in PDVSA. Look, the oil industry is recovering. Those who are trying to convince people that what PDVSA is selling is because they want to buy a piece of jewelry as a scrap. The oil is there. We can recover it. The infrastructure is there. We know how to do it. We did it with the oil sabotage. Now Maduro is proclaiming that they have put an end to the oil rentista model. No, man! You destroyed the country, Nicolas, you destroyed the country. And now the opposition, who now really have to privatize the company, they already did that when the oil opening and it didn’t work. We entered the crisis of the 80s and 90s. No, no, no, oil is the only thing that will get us out of this situation. It’s the only source of income we have. From that, we will rebuild the country. But we have to recover the country. And that’s what we need to do, we need to look beyond our noses. But it’s not just any plan, it’s not just any program. I vindicate the work of Chávez, I vindicate the objective of the homeland plan. That the country was working well when it was in force. Maduro has shown that the right-wing is not a solution to the country’s problems. Maduro is a government of the right that has made an economic policy in favor of a new class, a new oligarchy which is that of the bodegones and the new houses in Avila, the houses in Morrocoy, this whole thing. Besides, look, I am going to tell you something, you cannot call elections or summon elections to such a state of defenselessness. There is Andrés Izarra’s wife, Isabel, denouncing that some gentlemen of the Sebin arrived and robbed her house. The house of her children. The house has nothing to do with other people, with Ledezma, which is not the house of his mother, of his paternal family. And it was robbed. Me. I always told my children that when we, well, my father was in the FAL in the ’60s, in the guerrilla, and we were raided in an apartment that my family had, because there at Avenida Universidad, the Mary Bueno Building, was stolen by DIGEPOL, what would I think that 50 years later the Sebin would do the same against the political opponent? But that is happening. So, in a situation like this, where there’s no law, no rule of law, how are you going to vote would have an extraordinary victory, which I’m sure Maduro would not even win an election or the condo board. So, suppose you have that victory. Let’s go back to doing what they did with the Assembly of 2015. They’re going to use any judicial trickery to render that ineffective. Maduro needs legitimacy. He’s crazy for someone to oxygenate. I don’t believe in that. We’ll have to wait. I would believe it. You know what? In a referendum, there we are going to unify the entire force with one purpose: to get Nicolas out because he has been a disaster, because he has done wrong, because he has violated the law, the Constitution, because of everything he has done. Let us go, then, and open a space for a new possibility for our country. We have learned a lot with the intolerance and the conflict that we have in the hands of two extremes, we are not going anywhere.
Vladimir: Rafael Let’s move on to the question from the audience. We have little time, but. So I would appreciate a short answer because there are many questions. If you were a minister and President PDVSA again, would you honor all that has been taken away from PDVSA workers and would give them back their benefits?
RR: Of course I would. It is your right. That was a robbery. Rapid Response
Vladimir: Why isn’t Quevedo in jail?
RR: This is a great question. Quevedo was a token that was put in and from the military and was a disgrace to the military. That’s a disaster. The damage the country has caused him. Quevedo should at least be held accountable. He can’t be an untouchable
Vladimir: Around here they also ask you that if you had 12 years at the head of PDVSA you are responsible for nothing.
RR: I am not responsible for this disaster.
Vladimir: Do you think at this time PDVSA is strategically important for China and Russia?
RR: Yes, PDVSA is not the problem, the problem is oil. Of course it is. We are still the largest oil reserve on the planet.
Vladimir: It is very important to ask why gasoline is not being produced in the country, why is it being imported, what happened to the gas? Why did we lose Citgo? Why did Rosneft withdraw? What happened to the Orinoco Oil Belt?
RR: There has been a stampede. Maduro is a lousy manager, it’s a disaster and nobody wants to do business with Maduro, even if he surrenders the country. Nobody is willing to do anything, they are incompetent. Nothing is moving forward. No, there is gas, because there is no oil. Ninety percent of gas is associated with our oil. So, if you don’t have oil, you don’t have gas. The plants are all stopped.
Vladimir: After 12 years and you don’t have any responsibility for today’s disaster.
RR: I don’t have any. We can discuss it with whoever we want. We can make a special program about it. I don’t have any.
Vladimir: Here Daniel Alvarez tells you that Chavez’s legacy is the gasoline lines.
RR: No, Daniel, that’s not true. This is the legacy of Maduro when Chávez in my administration never lacked gasoline. But let’s see what it’s like to have a little memory. This never happened in the country. When I was in charge of President Chavez’s PDVSA, there was never this problem in gasoline. Well, the oil sabotage, there was gas, gasoline. We consumed a lot, 600 thousand barrels, a day of fuel and we could still export 40 thousand, that is there, it is in the numbers.
Vladimir: Why do you believe that the sanctions are not the cause of PDVSA’s collapse?
RR: Because the collapse of PDVSA came from the very year 2015. Already when Quevedo enters in 2017, production had fallen from 3 million to 1.7 million. Then Quevedo leaves and hands over the company to Tareck El Aissami and in only six months he lost half of the production that Quevedo left him, the same production that we had in 1930, that is, when Juan Vicente Gómez. Unbelievable.
Vladimir: Ask him about Diosdado Cabello.
RR: I don’t know anything about Diosdado. I wonder how he is doing. I hope he is well, I don’t know. Greetings. Diosdado should do something. Diosdado has a lot of responsibility for politics and morals with Chávez. I do not understand how Diosdado has allowed Maduro to do what he wants with him and with the Chavismo. This is a topic of a conversation with Diosdado.
Vladimir: What do you think about the possible sinking of this ship from Navarre with 1.3 million barrels on board?
RR: I saw it just because of a tweet from Eudis Girot and it is terrible, it is very dangerous. You know that the operations there in the Gulf of Parias are very sensitive from the ecological point of view because of the issue of the Delta, but no one says anything, so they haven’t said anything about the spill of El Palito. It’s incredible, the spill. The 25,000 barrels of El Palito are monitored in the dispersion of the stain to Morrocoy National Park. And nobody says anything. We when we had an incident happen. Well, we had to address it, we had to immediately try to prevent the spill. You have to repair environmentally, but here it is total indolence. Nobody says anything. At PDVSA nobody talks. Have you seen Rubalcaba say anything? Nothing, nothing. And Tareck El Aissami, who is a Twitter specialist, only says general things about OPEC. By the way, nobody in OPEC cares anymore about what Venezuela says. We are a zero on the left, unfortunately. In 2008 I was at OPEC. When Venezuela said something, all the journalists reflected it. It was important. We were the fourth-largest oil producer within OPEC. Now we are in ninth, we only beat Gabon and we are there is one more shame. They are ministers who don’t know about the sector, they have no idea, they don’t say anything. They don’t say anything.
Vladimir: Another thing is that they ask you about that. I am seeing some messages from people who are asking for the release of working prisoners.
RR: That is very unfair what is happening because now they have blamed any operational problem, especially since the company was militarized on the most innocent, excuse me for saying so. Those who have the least to do with, the most foolish, I was going to say. But they are not the dumbest. The ordinary workers, because I know why you take them prisoners of an injustice. I’ve seen the handcuffs. The children have their lives destroyed. Of course, there is a situation to study psychologically that these prisoners who are living in the country have to thank Maduro for releasing some of them. Thank you, Mr. Dictator, for ending five years of my life. And now you’ve freed them. Maduro is not a dictator. Maduro has to respond. And Tarek William Saab, why were those people in prison? Why have they treated them the way they have? How did they ask for five years of their life in prison? The humiliation of having his name destroyed here has given the name of a crowd, including me, and nothing happens. No, no, this is not so.
Vladimir: Nobody said anything. Antonio Garcia asks you.
RR: Well, because we all trust that things would not be like that. Now it is so soon. I started to realize in 2014 itself, Maduro was moving me aside, on the side of the PSUV, on the side of everything, isolated. And finally, they took me out and I thought I was going to go to prison in 2017, when I quit, which I already say, I can’t stand anymore. Well, I think, I don’t know why I started writing in Panorama and Aporrea and Maduro didn’t like it. Maduro is a guy who does not accept criticism, in fact, Vladimir. I proposed to be the candidate. I said let’s go to the PSUV to hold primaries. Rodríguez Torres also wanted to, look, Rodríguez Torres, look where he is. And when I was about to return, I was called by the military who are still there and they told me Minister, don’t come. These people gave the order to the groups that only obey Maduro that as soon as you land, you’ll go to jail, you’ll go to prison, believe it or not, they’re going to bury you there alive.
Vladimir: You have spoken of a Patriotic Junta. I ask you what is the difference between that and a coup d’état? Are you proposing a way out of Maduro through military means? Because if you name a Patriotic Juta it would be with the Armed Forces completely. It happens, for example, on April 30 with Guaido’s attempt.
RR: Well, first of all, that was a bad operation, an operation directed towards abroad, and it’s one thing that they didn’t have any reverberance in the military. I am not proposing a coup d’état. What I am saying is that the country, including Chavismo, including those who support Nicolás Maduro, have to realize that Maduro cannot continue to lead the government, he has no legitimacy, he has destroyed the country. So, what I am proposing. I take the name of the Patriotic Junta from our experience, when Fabricio Ojeda, in 58, my father was involved in the overthrow of Marco Pérez Jiménez, a young economist from the UCV, together with my mother. Of course, later they betrayed Fabricio Ojeda, then they murdered him, and then what happened with the Punto Fijo pact happened. That is another story. What I am talking about is the vehicle. It cannot be. Look, this can’t be solved by one person. Let’s say that there are elections tomorrow, of course, Maduro is going to lose. Maduro doesn’t win anything even with all the traps because he has so much rejection. And you are going to be president tomorrow, or I or someone else is. It won’t be possible to solve it with just the action of one man from one party. No, come on, look, we’re like we’ve ended a war. It’s like the countries in Europe after World War II. We need to agree on an approach, I think, I argue that it must be Bolivarian. I am not one of those people who go around reneging on Chávez. Not of socialism, nor Bolivarianism. No, no. I believe and I vindicate what led us with Chávez to conquer a better life situation for the Venezuelan people. What happens is that this maturity has nothing to do with socialism or Chavism, this is a disaster. I do not know what to call it. It’s a right-wing government, but it’s a bad right-wing government, a policy its package is a monetarist policy, like the one that Macri announced was very funny because Maduro speaking and Macri speaking was like a competition at that time, in the worst measures they finished off the Bolivar, they finished off production 64% of the GDP and they finished off the oil industry, they finished off labor rights, that is, they cleaned up and did the dirty work for the Venezuelan bourgeoisie to have a slave labor force that only earns 3 dollars a month. We are below Haiti, it is a disaster. Well, what kind of government is this anti-national, pre-delivery government? That is if they are good at giving up everything. They delivered the oil, they delivered the gold, they delivered the works, they played crazy with the Exxon mobile in Guyana, crazy people. I warned Delcy Rodriguez when I was Chancellor, I warned Maduro. I went to a meeting with Ban Ki-moon, where the president of Guyana, Granger, was present. It was clear that they were going to hand that over to Exxon Mobil. Let’s not say anything, because they are trying to reach an agreement with Exxon Mobil in Venezuela. That is, on account of agreements with Exxon Mobil. So they delivered the Essequibo, Exxon is going to produce soon more than what Venezuela produces in Guyana. Check out the OPEC reports, Guyana has already taken a producer of our oil. It’s nothing against Guyana. Be careful, I am far from that nationalist chauvinism, that if there is a war with Colombia with Guyana, God forbid that it should happen, and that is what Maduro wants, he is crazy to have a war with a brother country. No, but this is the oil of the Venezuelan people, chico. And in any case, we could have reached an agreement with Guyana, not with Exxon Mobil then. This incredible government is very dedicated.
Vladimir: Here he also asks you about the operations, his alleged operations. You remember what your brother Fidel Ramirez wrote in the Panam Post about sending supposedly false invoices, and so on. What relationship your brother had with PDVSA.
RR: All that lie, none. They mess with my brother. Well, is it because his name is Fidel? None. None. When the oil sabotage took place, what was her name? Colomina, I think, said that brother Ramírez has the medical services of PDVSA. That is a lie. I have never, never, never, never, never, never had anything to do with it. My brother’s only participation in all this was that if he helped Chávez when he was sick
Vladimir: You were giving away oil to Cuba.
RR: That is perfectly reviewed and audited. That was a change of medical service. That’s funny. Then Brazil did it with President Dilma. Ah, but then it was well done there because nobody messes with Brazil. We did good and it was good, and I would do it again. Why don’t we go and change the 100,000 barrels of oil that the United States used to sell them, 1.3 million barrels a day, which we have to keep selling because it is our best market? Why shouldn’t we change it for health? Of course we would.
Vladimir: Well, look, I’m just finishing up, eh? They tell you around here. In short, an opportunity for Rafael to defend himself against Madurismo, how he is going to renounce from Chávez, and still enjoy the red bonanza.
RR: No, I do not deny Chavez. On the contrary, I keep talking about Chávez, about his work. I do not have a relationship or fanaticism, nor am I from Saibaba anything like that. No, no, I am very conscious, very critical. I believe that Chávez was a tremendous president in this country, a revolutionary to the letter, and paid dearly for his loyalty to the Venezuelan people because Chávez has been able to retire and has been able to stay away from the 2012 elections. No one would think of going to the elections after having a cancerous lesion. But Chavez knew the commitment to the Venezuelan people. He made the situation in our country difficult.
Vladimir: Why were some of Chavez’ government officials sanctioned and you were not?
RR: And why am I going to be sanctioned? I ask whoever asks me and why if I have nothing, I am not from the Maduro government, I have not participated in the repression, I have not participated in the violation of human rights, I have not participated in economic operations to favor Maduro or anyone else. Rather, ask yourself why, and the only time I have been sued in a lawsuit in Houston I won. Hey, people should ask themselves a little bit but why, will it be that all that is a lie, will it be that Maduro cannot defend himself. I wish I was in Venezuela defending myself, that we had weekly programs like this. I would be all over the country walking around, explaining everything that has happened. A big lie. But Maduro needs a scapegoat because he did not succeed with PDVSA. They thought it would be easy. They believed that Malpica could handle PDVSA, Malpica, an administrator, or that Simon Zerpa who was the Foreign Affairs Protocol could be a good Finance Minister, his Vice President PDVSA, please. No, no, this is so
Vladimir: What do you think of dissident Chavism? Mauricio Confesses Maduro
RR: Notice that when one reads there are things like that. I don’t know if this Mauricio even exists. It is a topic in Venezuela. When one does politics with Twitter, these government people, for example, Jorge Rodriguez, a specialist in setting trends. But I know how it works in all the ministries there are a lot of people stuck in the computer and bots that buy to be trends if they want to destroy you. For example, if Maduro doesn’t like this show and wants to destroy you, then they start from there as soon as it finishes. It’s like that. I have always lived it, we have all lived it. This thing of doing politics with Twitter is not going anywhere.
Vladimir: It didn’t happen in your government.
RR: No, sir, and you know that you were not, you were a minister, well, your brother was a minister. You should ask your brother. It didn’t happen and greet him. By the way, what your brother should do is give me my right to reply to the interview that Maduro gave him, but I don’t think he’s going to be able to give it to me. Tell him, tell Ernesto to give it to me. Look, but that didn’t happen. Have you ever had Chávez avoiding the Ideas debate? Did you know him well? Chavez, a guy who was up for it, but Maduro? Maduro does not have the capacity for that. We did not talk. Do you remember when we went to the Assembly for a big debate with the opposition? They asked about everything. I spent hours, I remember that I was with Ali in an open debate in front of the whole country for hours. It is not worth returning to politics with a capital P if we want to get out of this quagmire If we want to continue killing ourselves and giving up the country, that is something else.
Vladimir: There is a recurring question here: How soon can you recover the oil industry? And what would you do to recover it?
RR: Look, the oil industry has a great advantage. Oil is there. It is not like Mexico, it is not like Indonesia. The oil is there. Those who know about oil know that it is there. That’s why they want to buy a bargain. What is needed here is to have a little bit of common sense and patriotism, not to have any second thoughts as we did in the sabotage. Workers, oil, this infrastructure is there and we will have to invest money, yes, but we have that money. By the way, in my last year, I handed over $40 billion to Maduro. There are those numbers in the Central Bank so that Flemming and Malpica could disrupt them, squander them. Where is that money? If we could do that in one year. Look, we can set up a fund to recover the oil industry and we are going to do it, but we have to recover it, but with the workers.
Vladimir: A question you are asked around here, Rafael, regarding the use of public money in the campaign during your stay at PDVSA, money that was used or resources that were used: flannel, etc., mobilization, POP material, clothing, etc. A question that was even asked by Girot.
RR: Girot was always, always campaigning with me. You can ask Girot and he can explain Girot, the Morochos, all the people. What happens is that PDVSA is incorporated into the political battle, it was incorporated into the struggle for the defense of the government, for social guarantees. We mobilized the poor people. Yes, and this is an issue that I want to touch on here. Of course, we had our mobilization resources to mobilize the entire poor population, yes. We did not ask for any card, we could not even get the card of the country that did not exist, Chávez would never have thought of doing that is infamous and we did not ask for anything. But we knew that the poor people in the Brasil neighborhood, in Cumaná, could not go to vote. We knew that upstairs, in Antimano, upstairs in Macarao the people cannot vote if you do not help them. In fact, I think that any government should guarantee that poor people go to vote because in the East people vote very easily. I remember. I used to go to the Santa Rosa de Lima, people ate their sandwich, queued for a bit, sat down, they had conditions.
But no, if you know the Brasil neighborhood in Cumaná, it is very poor. So these people could not exercise their democratic right to vote, because they had no conditions. So they accuse us of guaranteeing that condition. Well, I accept it. If we did, we did. They accuse us that the oil workers were in favor of Chávez. Well, we did, yes, because those who politicized the oil industry were the oil people. Those who turned PDVSA, the old PDVSA into a political agent were the oil people. They had the consequence, they took the genie out of the bottle and that was the oil workers. And well, there it is. It was the red PDVSA.
Vladimir: It was a mistake to buy CITGO as a question here Archimedes Amaya.
RR: Always, always. I always said so. I remember that this was part of the internationalization policy of the oil opening. You don’t need Citgo to sell Venezuelan oil. It is as if you buy a food product in the supermarket to sell it. No, everyone sells oil in the United States: Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Canada and they don’t have the refineries. What you have to do is make big, long-term supply contracts with the refinery. I was always against keeping CITGO. In fact, in 2014, among all the things I told Maduro and I told him that we had to lift the exchange control, we had to renegotiate the debt, you can’t maintain the conditions of the debt if the conditions of the country changed. If you get into debt to buy a car and you lose your job or your income drops, well, you give up that car, but you’re not going to take food away from the country to pay off an absurd debt like this they paid off. Why did they do it? Because a lot of people in Maduro are in the business, just like a lot of people in Maduro are in the exchange rate differential business. So, among all that proposal I made, very well, hey, we are going to sell CITGO, they are going to take it away because Chávez is no longer there. It’s just that Maduro thinks he’s Chávez, but everyone knows he’s not Chávez. No U.S. government would have been able to do this to Chavez that they are doing with Maduro, because it would have had the region against it. Chavez had his own political weight, Maduro did not. So, what if someone sells that? He said Come on, okay, he authorized it. I made a process and got offers from US refiners for $14 billion in 2014. He didn’t want to, why didn’t he? Well, because he believed that he could get along with the United States, there it is. We lost Monomeros, we lost CITGO. And well, when people talk, they only talk about that. We also lost the Cienfuegos refinery. That refinery was ours, 49 percent of ours, Maduro gave it away. I don’t know why. On the recommendation of Delcy Rodriguez. We lost the Jamaica refinery, we lost the Refidonsa refinery in the Dominican Republic, in other words, they handed it over but are not accountable to anyone, we lost the Nynas refinery there in Sweden. So what are we talking about here, a government that has given up everything, a government that is incapable of defending Venezuela’s assets before international trials, we are now, while when we were there neither ExxonMobil nor Conoco Phillips could handle us, now any so-and-so sues the country and takes away refineries, takes away anything.
Vladimir: Here Jesus Monroe says the pension fund for retirees.
RR: I tell you again, Jesus, ask Asdrubal Chavez, ask Willy Rangel, I tell you, Vladimir, he is not a friend of mine at all, nor was he ever just that he was there. Jesus, you, the workers have to demand from the current administrators, who are the same as before, what happened to your fund.
Vladimir: Well, the end, unfortunately, it’s been a long time. I thank you very much for accepting the interview.
RR: I thank you, it’s very important, it’s really very important. Receive a hug. I congratulate you for your work and well, I know everything that has happened to you, but go ahead and say hello to Vanessa, say hello to your brother. We must create public opinion. It cannot be that everything is being done based on hate. Whoever feeds the hate has a subordinate interest, but those of us who want the country. We have to see each other and agree, clarify what to clarify, but move forward to rescue this that is possible. The country is rescuable and the oil industry is much easier than the country.
Thank you, Vladimir, and greetings.
Vladimir: thanks to Rafael Ramírez, President of PDVSA, former Minister of Oil. And to you, dear friends, we invite you to join us tonight in Arguments and Not Insults. Like every Tuesday, last week we could not do it because I was a little bit broken, but today we are going to do it tonight at seven on our YouTube channel Vladimir Villegas TV, and also on Facebook Villegas journalist. Thank you very much and we’ll see you tomorrow.