On Tuesday evening, President Nicolás Maduro announced what in revolutionary newspeak is referred to as a sacudón (shake-up), otherwise known to the rest of the globe as cabinet reshuffle.
The most noteworthy replacement happened in the Ministry of the Popular Power for Petroleum and Mining. Eulogio Del Pino, who is, and will continue to be, the chief of state oil company PDVSA, will be taking over as Minister for Asdrúbal Chávez, who will run for a seat in parliament in the state of Barinas. Del Pino will be pulling double duty much like the former Oil Czar Rafael Ramirez did, prior to being jettisoned to the U.N.
Mr Del Pino holds a MSc in Oil exploration from Stanford University and has held several key positions during his long tenure in the Venezuelan oil industry. As head of PDVSA, he also has a proven track record of skillful crisis management, having steered the oil company through its ongoing debacle of increasing production costs, mounting debt, and dwindling access to much-needed financial resources, by shifting PDVSA’s focus to its original mission: pumping out oil, instead of becoming the go-to piggy bank for sustaining the social programs and populist schemes of Chavismo.
Maybe the Stanford-trained engineer could revert 15 years of stagnant production and declining oil exports, Venezuela’s main and almost singular source of revenue, and perhaps even pressure the Central Government for economic reform. Given the deep state of financial ruin that Venezuela is currently in, Mr. Del Pino alone won’t be able to turn the tide, especially when critical investments are required for increasing Venezuela’s oil output. In this immediate scenario of doom, it’s doubtful that Del Pino will have much time to concern himself with long-term energy policy, even as he might have gained major trust within the higher echelons of the Maduro Government.
Del Pino is now poised to take the reins of the most important industry in the Venezuelan economy, at a time when an emphasis on pragmatism is as urgent as ever. Unfortunately, pragmatism is not a word deemed relevant within Chavismo. Let’s see if the Oil sector experiences a bit of an indispensable “Glasnost” under these Perestroika-less times.