September 23, 2016

NY Times Headline, Seven Months Late: Venezuela ‘Buying U.S. Oil’

The absurd headline at a September 20 story at the New York Times is a sight to behold: “How Bad Off Is Oil-Rich Venezuela? It’s Buying U.S. Oil.”

As formulated, the headline is clearly meant to communicate something that is supposedly a surprising new development in that country, which, thanks to 17 years of Bolivarian socialist rule, has turned into a financially destitute humanitarian disaster area. But then, deep into the story, readers finally learn that “Early this year, the United States began shipping more than 50,000 barrels a day of the light crude that Venezuela needs to prepare its own oil for export, joining a handful of suppliers that have become vital to keeping the country’s oil industry afloat.” In other words, this is only big news to Times readers because the Old Gray Lady didn’t think it was worth reporting when it began happening.

Two years ago, Venezuela began importing oil from Algeria and Russia, because, as USA Today explained at the time, it needed grades of oil it once produced plentifully, but could no longer make in sufficient amounts:

For the first time in its 100-year history of oil production, Venezuela is importing crude — a new embarrassment for the country with the world’s largest oil reserves.

… While Venezuela has more than 256 billion barrels of extra-heavy crude, the downside is that grade contains a lot of minerals and sulfur, along with the viscosity of molasses. To make it transportable and ready for traditional refining, the extra-heavy crude needs to have the minerals taken out in so-called upgraders, or have it diluted with lighter blends of oil.

The country does have billions of barrels of medium and light crude sitting in the ground, but production of that has fallen because of a lack of investment and planning.

Used as the government’s cash cow, PDVSA was forced to fund many of the country’s graft-ridden social programs as well as cover the political campaign expenses for Chávez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro. That meant the company had to cut back investments in its key oil and natural gas businesses.

Farmers with no formal education are smarter than former president Hugo Chavez, current president Nicolas Maduro, and many other socialists. Even when they’re hungry, farmers don’t kill their cows, because they realize that milk production will stop if they do. Chavez and Maduro have been slowly killing their oil-industry cash cow for over a decade and a half, and are now apparently surprised it can’t just keep producing as much oil as before.

Seven months ago, several news outlets, including several of those supposedly inferior center-right blogs, noticed that Venezuela had started importing oil from that hated Yankee nation to the north. Predictably, the item reporting that development didn’t mention that Venezuela’s government is socialist:

Venezuela has more oil than any other country on the planet.

But it just bought a bunch of American crude.

A ship carrying half a million barrels of oil that was pumped in the U.S. docked at a terminal owned by Venezuela last week, according to oil data research firm ClipperData. The shipment was sent to a facility located on the Dutch island of Curacao in the Caribbean.

Focusing only on the past seven months, a search at the Times on “Venezuela importing oil” (not in quotes, sorted by date) returns nothing relevant, indicating that the Times did not cover this development. Two listings which which appear in the results contains all three words, but do not address the country’s oil imports; two others are primarily about events in Bolivia and Brazil, two other South American countries where socialism is failing and has failed, respectively, though on thus far less catastrophic scales. The two about Venezuela are worth excerpting to give readers an idea of how bad things are (bolds are mine throughout this post; links added by me):

Sept. 17, “Venezuela’s Crisis Keeps Non-Aligned Summit Turnout Low” (Note: This is actually an Associated Press story; the Times itself would never print something which would so deeply embarrass the Maduro government.)

Only 12 heads of state have arrived for the two days of meetings taking place on the (Venezuelan) Caribbean island of Margarita, including the leaders of Iran, Cuba and Zimbabwe. More than 30 world leaders attended the last summit of the Cold War-era group, held in Iran in 2012.

… In one high-profile incident caught on cell phone videos two weeks ago, Maduro appeared to have been chased away by a group of angry, pot-banging protesters after his caravan stopped in a poor neighborhood.

The government has put a brave face on its problems, importing food and water so that shortages that have devastated the once-booming resort island aren’t felt by visitors.

May 28, “How Venezuela Fell Into Crisis, and What Could Happen Next”

Supermarket shelves in Venezuela are chronically bare, and power shortages are so severe that government offices are now open only two days a week. The health care system has collapsed, the crime rate is one of the world’s worst, and inflation is rapidly eroding what remains of the currency’s value.

“The economy has gone from bad to worse to horrific,” said Jason Marczak, director of the Latin America Economic Growth Initiative at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, part of the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research organization. “The Venezuelan government is doing a good job of leading itself into chaos.”

No form of the word “socialism” is present in the May 28 story, even though, as seen above, it is supposed to be explaining “How Venezuela Fell Into Crisis.” Just one use of the word the Times avoided explains it all.

Here are a few paragraph from the bogus September 20 “surprise, surprise” story by Nicholas Casey and Clifford Krauss:

How Bad Off Is Oil-Rich Venezuela? It’s Buying U.S. Oil

One oil rig was idle for weeks because a single piece of equipment was missing. Another was attacked by armed gangs who made off with all they could carry. Many oil workers say they are paid so little that they barely eat and have to keep watch over one another in case they faint while high up on the rigs.

Venezuela’s petroleum industry, whose vast revenues once fueled the country’s Socialist-inspired revolution, underwriting everything from housing to education, is spiraling into disarray.

To add insult to injury, the Venezuelan government has been forced to turn to its nemesis, the United States, for help.

“You call them the empire,” said Luis Centeno, a union leader for the oil workers, referring to what government officials call the United States, “and yet you’re buying their oil.”

The declining oil industry is perhaps the most urgent chapter of Venezuela’s economic crisis.

(Paragraphs 8, 9 and 10)

The United States has always been a huge market for Venezuela’s oil. But with Venezuela’s state oil company hobbling along, it was actually forced to start importing oil from the United States.

Early this year, the United States began shipping more than 50,000 barrels a day of the light crude that Venezuela needs to prepare its own oil for export, joining a handful of suppliers that have become vital to keeping the country’s oil industry afloat.

Even that lifeline is tenuous. Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, is struggling to pay for the foreign oil. Some tankers wait in port for as long as two weeks to be paid, and sometimes they leave because of a lack of payment, said an oil executive who requested anonymity to avoid reprisals from the government.

One might be wondering about how Joseph Kennedy Jr., who worked for years with “our friends in Venezuela and Citgo (the state-run Venezuela oil industry brand)” to deliver discounted home heating oil and a priceless PR to select New England residents, is handling all of this, coupled with that country’s brutal repression.

His pathetic response, two years ago, as summarized by the Boston Globe: “(he) rationalizes his relationship with Venezuela on the basis that violence and human rights abuses exist in countries like Iraq and ‘in all sorts of countries where just our for-profit oil companies operate,’ and argues that he’s being unfairly singled out.” Sure, Joe.

Cross-posted at


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