On August 14, 2004, Venezuelan voters will decide on a referendum, which has the utmost world historic and strategic significance. What is at stake is nothing less than the future of the energy world, the relations between the US and Latin America (particularly Cuba), and the political and socio-economic fate of millions of Venezuela's urban and rural poor.
Recent announcements from Repsol YPF, the big Spanish oil and gas company, indicate an ambitious expansion program, with projects planned for countries like Libya and Equatorial Guinea that are not for the risk-averse. But none has attracted as much attention as its gamble on Cuba.
Peak Oil, petrodollars and the US interest in Venezuala
Ten percent renewable sources of energy, established as a worldwide goal for 2010, is already a reality in Latin America, but that has been achieved mostly through big hydroelectric dams, which environmentalists argue are not sustainable.
One would think that countries that are net importers of oil and gas would make concerted efforts to conserve energy, and to work feverishly towards developing alternative sources. But the paltry sums of money allocated for the necessary research and development of alternatives is negligible.
After several failed efforts to unseat Venezuela's popular President Hugo Chavez, the fuel sector of corporate America is getting nervous. Venezuela is growing in prosperity, relying on its own mineral resources and technological patents to build new wealth. Chavez is exactly the kind of indigenous national leader whom American power can't tolerate.
A succession of ministers of mining and hydrocarbons in Bolivia have attempted to lead the process of reforming the laws governing the industry, since the country's president was forced to step down late last year by protests over natural gas policy.
PetroPolitics Special Report: More than any other commodity, oil is the lifeblood of modern economies and the engine of military machines.