Robin and I honeymooned on Margarita Island (and Caracas). Now 19 years later the island is back in the news hosting an international climate conference.
According to the WSJ, it’s being run with typical Bolivarian efficiency,
“When we say 9 a.m., we usually mean 9 a.m.,” said one Saudi delegate, stunned—at around 11 a.m.—as he waited for the conference proceedings to open on Tuesday. He had just spent an hour looking for an English translator who could help him get ID tags printed for his country’s delegation.
He wasn’t comforted when an attendant told him that his oil minister Ali al-Naimi, probably the single most powerful figure in global oil markets, would need to get in the queue and receive his name tag in person.
But the conference itself sounded fantastic as participants,
were treated to periodic presentations by mid-level Venezuelan government officials discussing the virtues of socialism and the evils of capitalism, not to mention its effect on the environment.
“Venezuela’s position on climate change is that the capitalist system is unsustainable for the life of the planet,” Mr. Ramirez told delegates this week.
Ummm, doesn’t Venezuela screw mightily with the climate by only charging something on the order of $0.03 (that’s right, 3 cents) per gallon of gasoline sold in the country?
Let me end with this awesome photo of Venezuelan oil minister Ramirez on the left posing with the Saudi oil minister on the right:
It’s kind of a Manute / Muggsy situation, innit?
Forbes has a breathless article on Mexico called “How Oil Reforms Could Trigger Mexico’s Biggest Economic Boom In A Century.”
It is still far from certain that EPN can get serious oil reform through the Congress, but if he does, then it’s true that Mexico’s fortunes will change for the better. Still, I’m skeptical of the following claim:
“Not only will it be bigger than the revolution in shale drilling and fracking has been in the United States,” says Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, “This will be the most significant change in Mexico’s economic policy in 100 years.”
What is fascinating though is EPN’s genius spin on these reforms. President Lazaro Cardenas is still hailed as a hero for taking over Pemex in 1938. Nationalization was so popular that the day is still commemorated in a national holiday. What is less known that in 1940, Cardenas changed the laws to allow Pemex “to enter into production-sharing and profit-sharing contracts with private, Mexican-owned companies.”
It was President Ruiz Cortines in 1958 who modified the law to essentially eliminate the possibilities of such contracts. So Peña Nieto has positioned himself as a latter day Cardenas, or at least a man intent on restoring Cardenas’ original intent with respect to oil. Duncan Wood has a great quote where he “likens Peña Nieto’s political performance to Jesus Christ’s miracle of raising Lazarus (or Lazaro) from the dead.” As he concludes, “They know how to put on a show.” That they do.
Mural of Cardenas signing into law oil and agrarian reforms.