Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.: The Right-Hand Man of the Government

Working Papers

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Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Working Paper #70

December 2007

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Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), the national oil company (NOC) of Venezuela, is a major energy producer. Vertically integrated, the company conducts large-scale domestic exploration and production activities in both oil and natural gas, operates domestic and international refining facilities, and sells gasoline products to consumers both at home and abroad.

The Venezuelan government has relied on PDVSA to fund and implement a heavily interventionist strategy with several aims. The influx of large hydrocarbon revenues has funded Venezuelan government projects to improve social conditions, particularly for the poor. These revenues have also enabled the government to cement patronage networks and nationalize those economic sectors that might otherwise threaten its rule.

This study provides a descriptive account of how the company operates under the considerable mandates of the Venezuelan state including a brief history of PDVSA, chronicling its development from nationalization, a snapshot of PDVSA as a company today, describing its production, refining, and other operations. Following these preliminaries, the study concentrates on PDVSA's framework today, suggesting three models: PDVSA as a government revenue-provider, implementer of political objectives, and viable business. The paper also outlines PDVSA's role as an important revenuecollecting actor for the Venezuelan government and how PDVSA has become an implementing agent for the state, delivering revenues to government-selected beneficiaries and making business decisions in support of government objectives. Finally, the paper addresses PDVSA as a business.

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