Archive for July 18th, 2006

Two Asian Species

July 18, 2006

Between travel and not spending much time at home, I haven’t been keeping up with taking pictures of all my flowers, missing some by a day or two and just not having the timw to take good pictures. I will actually be travelling again this weekend, but took these on Sunday. Not as nice as I like but neat

Left, Phalenopsis Cornu Cervi. I actually brought back a flask of these from the World Orchid Conference in Malasya four years ago and now they are recahing maturity. I love the texture of the petals, they are so waxy that they reflect so much light that it is not easy to take a good picture. On the right, an overall view of a Grammatophyllum Elegans with three sparsy of flowers. Below, a close up of a bunch of the flowers, about one and a half inch in diamete each.

Accidents up, transparency down in the new PDVSA

July 18, 2006

was a fire
at the Amuay refinery in Paraguana,
largest refinery complex. I could go on and on about the lack of investment,
the fact that there are more accidents, deaths and fires that there used to be
before the 20,000 oil workers were fired in 2003, I could tell you this is the
same stuff that made the Caracas-La Guaira viaduct collapse, but I wouldn’t.
What has really irked me about this is the lack of information as well as the
attempt by PDVSA and the authorities to hide the real nature and scope of the accident.

First of all, we have seen press releases in which PDVSA claims that the number
of accidents is lower than it had been in recent years. This is absolutely
false! This is a lie! PDVSA has never had the level of accidents that are
present today, nor the level of injured and deaths. In the “old”
PDVSA no unit was ever shutdown for more than three months, while we already know
that the cracking unit at El Palito has been shutdown for a long time due to an
accident, part of the Cardon refinery is still down after an accident last year
in which six people died and only this year, Paraguana has had five fires, five
deaths and over two dozen injured. (Two fires during the last week alone!). This was unheard of before 2003! In fact,
the magnitude of this fire never occurred before 2003 and this is the
third large fire to take place.

But the worst part is the attempt to make it look like this is
“normal”. Pro-Chavez reporters interview former oil executives and
suggest that fires like this were “hidden” by the old PDVSA, as if
you can hide 50 meter flames shooting out of a refinery surrounded by
people. But even worse, we are told that everything is normal, nothing has
changed and the plant will go into normal operation very soon, as soon as next week even.

Look at that burnt tower (Thanks Mora!)! Does it look like it will go back into operation
anytime soon? In fact, outside experts say this part of the plant will not go
back into operation anytime soon. Moreover, they even suggest the whole section may
have to be rebuilt before it can brought back into operation. Thus, another
70,000 plus barrels go out of Venezuela’s
production of gasoline and these guys are just smiling. Do I hear sovereignty

The “people” have a right to know what is going on, but they don’t.
PDVSA has become a huge blackbox. Over a month ago Minister Ramirez held a
press conference because, finally, PDVSA’s 2004 financials were being
submitted to the SEC. We were told all sorts of junk about results, even lies
like production numbers had been audited, when KPMG does not audit such things.
Almost two months later, you go into the EDGAR database, write PDVSA and the
financials (20F report), which are already late only by twelve months,
are not yet there. And he actually said they had filed them!

Never had
the information coming out of PDVSA been so bad. In the bad, bad days of the
fourth Republic, Congress had to approve contracts and bids while now the Ministry tells
Congress what to do and contracts are never discussed. Mysterious companies trade the
crude for PDVSA, something which used to be done in-house. There are very few
open bidding processes and the Minister is also the President of PDVSA, a company
filled by incompetent military making decisions which will negatively impact it
for years to come. Oh yeah! I forgot, according to PDVSA’s 2006 budget, salary per
employee will be at an all time high at the company. Mind you, I really don’t
mind if PDVDA pays their people the best salaries in the country, but a
certain former military hose first name is Hugo got to power by making a point about the high salaries
of this special class of Venezualns, only to replace them by an even more special one Guess what! They are even more special today in terms of
what they make, but they do not have the technical qualifications of their
predecessors, just look at the picture!

And then
we are told that PDVSA is stopping the sale of gasoline to some CITGO gas
stations because it
was “bad” business
. Sure, while refinery companies like Valero have no
capacity and are
basically printing money
we are supposed to believe that CITGO can lose
money refining and selling gasoline. Yeah and I believe in Santa Claus too!

Of course,
going forward things will only get worse. PDVSA will no longer be required to
file its financials with the SEC. The shareholders, read all the Venezuelans, will
no longer have access to the financials. There will not even be shareholders
meeting even to comply with the formalities of the law.

Yeap, ahora Venezuela es de todos, nope, del autocrata? You bet!