BP quería entenderlo


En junio de 2000, la directiva de British Petroleum Exploración de Venezuela me solicitó una presentación que le permitiera «entender a Chávez», según explícito interés expuesto en la carta de invitación. (En ese mismo año, BP emprendió una agresiva campaña mundial de imagen corporativa y empezó a publicar, junto con su balance financiero, uno de impacto ecológico y uno de inversión social.)* Acá está el guión de la misma, que conduje el 21 de aquel mes.




A presentation by Luis Enrique Alcalá to BPXV’s Leadership Team (June 21, 2000)

            Methodological note

Behind the analysis lies a viewpoint of history as a fractal process. The presentation will be of an impressionistic nature: painting large blotches of political reality with the aid of metaphors.


           Recent country trajectory

Crisis and supplanting the oligarchy

Venezuelans suffered a major disruption of quiet economic growth and social progress from the 1973-74 oil market upheaval, which was neither sought by nor originated in Venezuela. Any economy in the world that would see the value of exports multiplied by a factor of four in six months, would have been severely shaken. This distortion lasted for about a decade and still influences Venezuelan development.

Along this period the Venezuelan political establishment exhibited a stubborn reluctance to change. After several years of resisting increasing petitions of modernization of the political and judiciary systems, a previously very weak political movement (6-8% of preferences in 1997, one year before the election), took power in 1998 to bring Chávez to the Presidency.

In essence, an oligarchy or hegemony has succeeded another. (AD & COPEI, acting as owners of political power for 40 years, have been neatly supplanted by the hegemony of Movimiento Quinta República).

The Mule’s metaphor

The appearance of an unforeseen mutant and sterile powerful leader (The Mule), in the second volume of Isaac Asimov’s trilogy Foundation, can serve as a metaphor for understanding Chávez’ phenomenon. He may be sterile in the sense of not being able to produce a successor with his same features.


            Need of an anthropological viewpoint

– New sets of values, styles

In order to comprehend this new period in Venezuelan politics the focus should be centered in an anthropological approach, in the sense of understanding that a totally new set of political values and styles has emerged with Chávez’ ascension to power. This implies, among other things, discarding common analyses of his “breaches of political etiquette” in order to grasp essential processes.


            The logic of Chávez

Motives of the wolf

A second metaphor, this time from Rubén Darío’s poem Los motivos del lobo, serves as an explanation for Chávez very aggressive style of confronting political adversaries. This aggressiveness is in his biography and/or his nature.

People are angry

COPEI’s leader in 1997 (Eduardo Fernández) coined the phrase “el pueblo está bravo”, referring to a long felt dissatisfaction on the part of the impoverished masses.

Representation of anger

Chávez is the perfect representative of this anger of the people. His blunt attacks on almost any institution in the country should not surprise anyone.

Short range effectiveness

After a while, a permanently aggressive behavior would start to show diminishing returns. Once Chávez has vanquished all his enemies, there would be no way for him to avoid tackling real governance issues.

Surgical politics

A surgeon’s approach to politics indicates total control of the patient (through anesthetics or immobilization) and the use of invasive techniques.


            The driving dream of Chávez

Bolivarian United States

Chávez dream of power clearly extends beyond Venezuelan frontiers to include, at the start, the area represented by countries liberated by Simón Bolívar. In this mindset, for example, the present Colombian government pertains to the same category of “cúpulas podridas” (rotten domes) which he denounces in Venezuela and explain his tolerant postures towards Colombian guerrillas.


            The political fractal

This political state of affairs might branch in the near future (2-3 years) towards one of four main avenues:


Chávez may achieve stability and even be reelected. (Even a full-fledged dictator as Hitler could establish very friendly relations with the private entrepreneurs in his country and reactivate the economy, obtaining popular support through such a device).

Political collapse

The accumulation of political mistakes might lead to a very overloaded situation, with distinct breakup possibilities.

Civic deposition

Gradual insatisfaction of the people might allow activation of new political procedures (revocatory referendum) to legally depose Chávez.

Civic substitution

Chávez might be defeated in the next presidential election. (2006).


            The economic outlook

Present recession (quite diminished cement consumption)

Every indicator signals the extent of a hard economic recession.

Oil driver (new casting)

Oil starts to behave favorably for public income in Venezuela. New authorities, compliant to the government, have been appointed at PDVSA, to assure political control of the economic monster.

Gas conversion

At a certain moment energy authorities in Venezuela will become aware of the pending world conversion to gas. Venezuela has gas reserves amounting to 5-7 times those measured at Trinidad, for instance. (BP could have the technological advantage in case Venezuela wants to fast-track gas production and exports).


After oil, telecommunications will be the economic sector in which the government will want fast and important developments. New legislation has already opened the field to significant investments.

Treatment of foreign investors

In the short term, a friendly stance on the part of the government regarding foreign investment can be expected.


* En 1964 los empresarios venezolanos concibieron y emitieron su Declaración de Responsabilidad Social de la Libre Empresa, que daba piso principista a la organización y el concepto del Dividendo Voluntario para la Comunidad, que cumplió 40 años de existencia en 2004. El documento fue conceptualmente tan importante que la explicación venezolana de sus nociones fue requerida en el continente y en Europa, y misiones de empresarios nacionales fueron a distintos países a llevar el evangelio de la responsabilidad social, tan lejos como a Filipinas, donde la iniciativa del DVC fue copiada en la asociación Phillipine Business for Social Progress (1971). Treinta y seis años antes de que British Petroleum comenzara la publicación de balances sociales y ecológicos (año 2000), ya el liderazgo empresarial venezolano había establecido las líneas conceptuales de la responsabilidad social de la empresa, noción que terminó estando de moda en el mundo sólo al inicio del siglo XXI. (El empresario es pana, 12 de julio de 2012).




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