9 de julio de 1998

Mickey Mouse, please help us!

If we look at it objectively, there seem to be few things that are as important for the future of the oil industry of Venezuela as is the development of Orimulsion. Likewise, there are few places in the world with which Venezuela has closer ties than to Florida. On the 24th of June 1998, the State of Florida, without valid fundamental reasons, ratified its prohibition on the use of Orimulsion for its power generation.

We have thereby received an insolent and costly slap in the face. Venezuelans, however, continue to pack their bags to go spend their money on vacations in Florida as if nothing had happened. In my opinion, this simply proves that there is a total absence of the only ingredient necessary to confront and solve the difficult situation our country is in, that is, a sense of patriotism.

As a youngster, I participated in parades in honor of national holidays which promoted the concept of a nation by singing hymns and waving flags. I don’t complain about this, on the contrary, I’m proud and grateful for it. Times change, however, and I’m not sure we want to exaggerate with the parade issue if we wish to give our children the best of all gifts, the pride of belonging to a country, of being a Venezuelan.

Orimulsion is a product invented and produced in Venezuela, and it can be attributed both mythical as well as real elements and characteristics. I therefore believe it is possible to develop a campaign of national identity around it. In this sense (although technically incorrect) it should be enough to visualize images of energy and power bubbling up from the turbulent waters of the Orinoco to the sound of Enya's "Orinoco Flow".

I realize that I am running the risk of being accused of patriotic mumbling and many would ask me what we would do with national pride anyhow. The answer is obvious. We would be able to show the world that Venezuela, more than a simple geographical presence, represents a community of wills and desires that should be respected as such.

I am absolutely sure that Venezuela would be a country with a bright future should all of our youngsters react against Florida’s decision by threatening to cancel trips to Disney World and asking their parents to take their “cheap, give me two” shopping sprees elsewhere.

What worries me even more is the fact that this national apathy towards Florida’s prohibition on Orimulsion comes in the face of a widespread cry for declaring a national emergency due to the drastic fall in world oil prices. As an example of this silence, it is enough to note that the discreet protests emanating from the Venezuelan American Chamber of Commerce (VenAmCham), the only entity that would conceivably have the right to a pained silence, surpass those of the Congress, Fedecamaras, the CTV, universities and presidential candidates.

In today’s world, it has become evident that public opinion is a strong weapon that can be effectively used to obtain favorable results from international commercial negotiations. For good or bad, we are generally not amazed, for example, by the exaggerated advantages awarded agriculture in Europe because we recognize the power of public opinion wielded by this sector.

We have given Bitor and its management (a black box to most) the responsibility of negotiating an issue of utmost importance to the country without giving them either the support of powerful groups that could conceivably promote a strong lobby nor the support of solid public opinion to which they could make reference. This is infantile, and what happened was simply bound to happen.

When I broached the subject to my young daughters, specially the part of not going to Disney World, there seemed to be an immediate backlash since they thought I was insinuating that Mickey was responsible for our troubles. Harmony returned when I explained, however, that what we should really be doing is writing to Mickey to ask him to help us, since without Orimulsion there is no money and without money we cannot continue to visit him.

Harmony could also return to Venezuela if we manage to unite everyone around sacrifices that make real sense such as: defending Orimulsion at all costs; imposing emergency duties to avoid total atrophy of our possibilities of creating internal jobs markets and; prioritizing investments within the country.

If on the contrary we: a) ignore Florida’s slap in the face; b) continue to permit the contraband in our ports, thereby guaranteeing job places in other countries; c) keep building (mostly with public funds) gasoline stations in the face of a lack of schools; d) continue to base emergency plans on the collection of additional taxes in order to finance the indolence of others; and e) take on additional debt which will have to be repaid by our grandchildren, there will be no country left to harmonize.

Unfortunately, should this occur, I will have no other choice but to suggest to my children that they should quit seeing Mickey as a source of recreation and look at him as a future boss, as many compatriots who have had to leave the country actually consider him already. Let’s take advantage of Orimulsion and consolidate ourselves as a nation.

In the Daily Journal, Caracas, July 9, 1998