Here I was getting ready to praise Ali Rodriguez for reaching the conclusion that gasoline prices have to be increased, and newly minted Minister of Information Andres Izarra comes on TV to say that the Government is not considering it and they want to ”emphatically reject it”. According to Izarra, Rodriguez’ statements were “taken out of context”. Well, Rodriguez’s statements were quite clear he said that “gasoline in Venezuela is being given away essentially for free” and that the Government was studying ways to increase it without affecting the poor, which is eminently sensible.
What is happening is clear; Rodriguez has internally discussed within PDVSA and probably with the Ministry of Energy and Mines the huge gasoline subsidy to Venezuelans by PDVSA, as discussed in this blog a few days ago. They have probably come to the conclusion that this does not make sense long term, but did not know how to approach the issue with Chavez, so they floated this balloon that was so quickly punctured. Good for them anyway!
Rodriguez appears to be in the doghouse with Chavez in any case. A week ago Chavez had an event in a local theater to celebrate or praise one of is missions when he noticed that Rodriguez was not there. He publicly complained about it to Minister of Energy Ramirez and said Rodriguez should come to these events in one of the boggest scoldings any Government official has received in the last five years. (This was the same event in which someone in the balcony said “We are hungry”, to which Chavez snapped back “Does someone have a complaint?” and the same voice said “We are hungry”, to which Chavez said “Then you will have to leave the premises”).
Rumor has it that Rodriguez will be fired soon and replaced by former Minister of Defense Prieto, who is on the Board of PDVSA and happens to be the father of Chavez’ son in law. Prieto has become quite powerful and vocal within PDVSA, where his relationship with Chavez puts fear in people. Reportedly, there are many divisions and power groups within PDVSA, bickering and arguing about every detail. Unfortunately, most decisions, like the gasoline price increase, are being put off for fear of upsetting the maximum leader, while the real business of PDVSA (and Venezuela!) goes unattended.