Venezuela: a ‘land of heroes’

OPEC Bulletin Commentary – April-May 2022

Venezuela is central to the history of OPEC. Dr Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso, the country’s Minister of Energy and Hydrocarbons in the late 1950s, was a leading figure in the push for the formation of the Organization. This led to the stepping-stone of the ‘Maadi Pact’ on the sidelines of the Arab Petroleum Congress in April 1959, and then OPEC’s eventual formation in Baghdad on September 14, 1960.

Following the establishment of OPEC, Pérez Alfonzo said: “We are now united. We are making history.” These words proved extremely prescient, for both Venezuela and the then fledgling Organization. Ever since, the stories of both have intertwined.

Venezuela has been at the forefront of OPEC’s decision-making processes, and in the establishment of key documents, such as the original version of the ‘OPEC Statute’ that was approved at the Second Meeting of the OPEC Conference in Caracas in January 1961.

Many generations of distinguished Venezuelan public servants have also taken up the baton passed to them and served the Organization with distinction in various capacities over the past six decades and more, including Dr Francisco R Parra, who was the country’s first OPEC Secretary General in 1968.

Parra was central to the adoption of the landmark ‘Declaratory Statement of Petroleum Policy in Member Countries’, at the 16th Meeting of the OPEC Conference in June 1968. In later years the statement became a byword for a turning point in OPEC’s history, by providing vision and intellectual weight to the Organization’s actions.

The country also held the Second Summit of Heads of State and Government of OPEC Member Countries in September 2000 under the leadership of (then) President, Hugo Chávez, which was a critical milestone in aligning the Organization with the needs of the twenty-first century. In more recent times, Venezuela has been integral to the establishment and successful implementation of the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ (DoC), and held the Presidency of the OPEC Conference when the ‘Charter of Cooperation’ (CoC) was endorsed in July 2019.

This historical context, and the future of the Venezuela-OPEC relationship, was evident in the recent high-level visit to Venezuela by OPEC Secretary General, Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, and an accompanying delegation, from May 7–13, 2022.

Barkindo was received by Nicolás Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, at the Miraflores Palace, where the two held a working meeting to discuss ongoing oil market developments. Barkindo commended the extraordinary leadership that President Maduro has played in the formation of the DoC and his unwavering support over the last six years, and the President praised the Secretary General’s tenure and said he bequeathed a remarkable legacy of accomplishment to future generations.

Barkindo was also bestowed with Venezuela’s highest civilian honour, the Order of General Francisco de Miranda, first class. The award recognizes Venezuelan citizens and foreigners who have made an indelible contribution to the progress of the country, with Barkindo acknowledged for his outstanding stewardship of OPEC during an extremely challenging period.

The ever expanding positive ties between Venezuela and OPEC were also on display when Barkindo visited the Ministry of Petroleum, where he was received by Tareck El Aissami, the People’s Minister of Petroleum. Barkindo commended the visionary leadership of El Aissami in proactively stewarding the oil industry and highlighted the positive economic impact of the reforms the Minister has spearheaded, under the guidance of President Maduro.

The Secretary General was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the Venezuelan University of Hydrocarbons on his visit to the Ministry, which he dedicated to his hard working comrades at the OPEC Secretariat.

Talks and meetings were held with many others high-level Venezuelan dignitaries, including Vice-President, Delcy Rodríguez Gómez; Felix Plasencia Gonzalez, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Wilmer Castro Soteldo, Minister of Popular Power for Agriculture and Land; Ali Padron, Minister of Tourism; and Asdrúbal Chávez, President of PDVSA, the group’s Board of Directors and many of the inspirational workers.

As Venezuela has over 40 national parks, covering over 20 per cent of the nation’s territory, no visit there would be complete without experiencing some of the country’s breathtaking natural beauty. The OPEC delegation had the privilege of visiting Canaima National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and location of the Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall.

Upon departing, Barkindo reflected upon the remarkable and enduring relationship between the two, and the immense generosity of the Venezuela people. He wished continued success and prosperity to the great and heroic Venezuelan people, who remain a source of inspiration for the rest of the world in their capacity to overcome any adversity.

Barkindo also accentuated that Venezuela is the ‘land of heroes’, outlining how OPEC continues to be inspired by the legacy of the great liberator, Simon Bolivar, Commander Hugo Chavez and President Maduro.

The story of OPEC and Venezuela has a unique history and heritage that has evolved over its more than six decades of existence. Full of personalities, events, stories and deeds that have helped shape the Organization’s path, and a history that will no doubt evolve further in the decades to come.

OPEC Bulletin April-May 2022

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