Venezuela has played a crucial role in OPEC’s history

Vienna, Austria, 14 September 2021--Article by HE Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, OPEC Secretary General, on the occasion of the Organization’s 61st Anniversary.

The fourteenth of September is a date of profound significance for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). It was on this day in 1960 that the five Founding Fathers of OPEC, Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo of Venezuela; Abdullah al-Tariki of Saudi Arabia; Dr Tala’at al-Shaibani of Iraq; Dr Fuad Rouhani of Iran; and Ahmed Sayed Omar of Kuwait gathered together in the Al-Shaab Hall in Baghdad and brought the Organization into being.

It is a tremendous source of pride for me, as Secretary General that I can commemorate this year’s ‘OPEC Day’ on an official visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. As a Founder Member, Venezuela has played a crucial role in the Organization’s formation and its subsequent successes throughout its history. On behalf of the entire OPEC Family, I would like to express our sincere thanks and appreciation to the Government and people of Venezuela who have done so much to make OPEC the distinguished Organization that it is today.

Following the establishment of OPEC, Pérez Alfonzo said: “We are now united. We are making history.” These words proved extremely prescient. Pérez Alfonzo had midwifed the birth of our Organization through his strong partnership with Abdullah al-Tariki of Saudi Arabia. Pérez Alfonso was ably supported at this time by another distinguished contributor to OPEC’s successful history, Dr. Alirio Parra. Subsequent generations of distinguished public servants took up the baton passed to them and have served our Organization with distinction in various capacities.

One of the most significant events in the history of the Organization was the Second Summit of Heads of State and Government of OPEC Member Countries, held in Caracas, Venezuela, 27–28 September 2000. The Second Solemn Declaration responded to new developments in the energy industry brought on with the dawning of a new millennium. This included addressing environmental issues, broadening the concept of economic development to embrace the key component of stability and at the same time placing a heavy stress on eradicating energy poverty.

On the occasion of the Second Summit, an extremely important speech was delivered by the former President of Venezuela, HE Hugo Chávez Frías, whose enduring legacy for OPEC continues to be felt to this day:

“It was precisely here, in Caracas, where the Statute of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries was approved, in January of 1961. I was barely born at that time. OPEC passed the Resolutions of the first Conference in Baghdad, on the shores of the Tigris, on September 14, 1960.”

He continued with a reflection on the 40 years of cooperation and success of OPEC, commenting:

“OPEC in these 40 years, the first 40 years, has discharged its objectives and today we are re-launching to continue discharging more effectively our objectives and to update them; to join the new path and write the new history of this new century.”

Venezuela was also extremely active in OPEC’s responses to the oil market downturn of 2014-2016 and the severe oil demand contraction due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This enterprise, known as the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ process, involves OPEC working with 10 non-OPEC producing countries to take concerted action in the interests of oil producers, consumers and the global economy. As a result of the courage and selflessness of this remarkable group of countries, a calamity in the oil market was averted. Venezuela has been an outspoken champion of these efforts, a valued member of our Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee and held the Presidency of the OPEC Conference in the critical year of 2019.

In all these undertakings, the steadfast support and wise counsel of HE Nicolás Maduro, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, was and remains critical. Through his interventions at the highest level, diplomatic skill and strategic thinking, President Maduro has been instrumental in ensuring the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ has had such a positive impact on the global oil market.

Given the richness of the history of the Venezuelan contribution to success of OPEC, my visit is an expression of the gratitude and affection that the entire OPEC Family feels toward this country. It is a partnership rooted in faith in international dialogue based on respect as the means of overcoming the challenges of our age. I have no doubt that inspired by the giants of the past and our 61 years of experience, together, we can achieve even more in the future and prosper for many decades to come.