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Venezuela’s Chávez: Oil is a Geopolitical Weapon

Over the past few weeks there have been some signs that Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez has backed down from his earlier confrontational posture towards Washington. According to the Venezuelan foreign minister, Chavez has no intention of reducing oil exports to the United States. The economic importance of oil in terms of Venezuelan-U.S. relations cannot be overstated. Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world and the fourth largest supplier of oil to the United States after Canada, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. Last year, Venezuela's state owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) accounted for 11.8% (1.52-million barrels a day) of U.S. imports.


Tensions have been bristling between the two nations ever since April 2002 when Chavez, the democratically elected president, was briefly removed from power in a coup. Chavez, a firebrand politician and former paratrooper, accused (not without merit) Washington of sponsoring the attempted overthrow as well as supporting a devastating oil lockout in 2002-3. Never one to soften his language, Chavez bluntly referred to U.S. president George Bush with an expletive and the United States as "an imperialist power." What is more, according to Chavez, Bush had plans to see him assassinated. In a further barb, Chavez declared that if he were killed the United States could "forget Venezuelan oil."


For a time it seemed that their bilateral relations could sink no lower. Though there are many reasons for the deterioration in relations (including Chavez's ties with Washington's anathema, Cuban President Fidel Castro, the Venezuelan president's criticism of U.S.-led efforts for a free trade zone in the Americas and Chavez's opposition to the war in Iraq) oil was surely of paramount importance. When he took office in 1998 Chavez launched a reform of Venezuela's oil policy, seeking to reestablish a predominant role for the presidency in the design and implementation of an oil strategy through the Ministry of Energy and Mining. This move challenged vested interests in Pdvsa, a powerful, almost autonomous, company with total assets estimated at $100 billion. The company's executives, who earned between $100,000 and $4,000,000 a year, had grown accustomed to taking the lead in defining the oil policy of their virtual fiefdom. While Chavez did not deny the role of the private sector in the oil industry, his reform process aimed at curbing the trend toward the privatization of Pdvsa. On the international front, Chavez worked to achieve a higher price for oil through OPEC, the oil cartel of which Venezuela was a founding member. He also worked to increase the profile and power of OPEC world wide. Chavez additionally sought to guarantee that the state collected a greater share of oil revenues. He imposed royalties on oil output which was applied on foreign producers operating in the country, chief among them U.S. giant Exxon-Mobil. Last year, Venezuela raised royalty taxes on heavy crude projects in the Orinoco oil belt from 1% to 16.6%. Irate Exxon-Mobil representatives say that the company is paying the new rate "under protest."


PDVSA Serves the Nation

Keeping Pdvsa under firm government control was politically important. In recent years, Chavez has sought to utilize oil revenue to carry out an ambitious social agenda. In a recent study it was estimated that over 60 percent of Venezuela's 24-million people live in poverty and make less than $2 a day. Accordingly, as a result of record high oil revenues, Chavez has been able to carry out an impressive array of programs promoting literacy, job training, land reform, subsidized food, and small loans. Perhaps most ambitiously, Chavez has used the nation's oil wealth to extend health care and import Cuban doctors.


As Chavez began to export cheap subsidized oil to Cuba, Fidel Castro sent over 13,000 doctors to Venezuela. Today, the doctors are spread throughout the Andean nation and have access to over half the population, a first in Venezuela's history. Chavez's move to bring in Cuban doctors was one of many factors regarding his rule that provoked Washington. In May 2004, the U.S. State Department's Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba—the administration's propaganda office on Cuban issues—issued a report stating that Venezuelan oil shipments to Cuba needed to be halted if political change on the island was to occur – which was tantamount to calling for a de facto embargo against the Castro regime.

Are there any signs that the confrontation between the two antagonist nations will soon abate? Recently, Chavez has publicly stated that he wanted to mend relations with the United States. "We want to continue to send 1.5 million barrels of oil to the United States on a daily basis and to continue doing business," he said. What is more, Chavez added that although "we have said things, sometimes, very harsh things, it has been in response to aggressions." Chavez explained that, "what I have said is that if it occurs to the United States, or to someone there, to invade us, that they can forget about Venezuelan oil." He clarified that this is just "a theory that we of course do not want, and I hope that the United States does not want it either."


Chavez turns on the Charm

Chavez's recent conciliatory statements have brought little slack from Washington as the Bush administration's harsh anti-Chavez rhetoric continues to boil over whether its splenetic utterances coming from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or routinely from the White House and State Department press offices. On one level, Venezuelan imbroglio seems to be heading towards deeper water. Chavez has repeatedly stated his determination to reduce his country's dependency on oil sales to the United States. Accordingly, he has begun exploring the sale of parts of Citgo, Pdvsa's marketing and refining affiliate in the U.S. Citgo owns eight refineries and almost 14,000 gas stations located primarily in the eastern part of the country. Chavez has complained that Citgo, whose refineries are especially adapted to process heavy crude oil from Venezuela, sells oil to the U.S at a discount of two dollars a barrel. "We are subsidizing the U.S. budget," griped Chavez, who says Citgo contracts were signed before he assumed office in 1999. According to Citgo's 2004 financial reports, the company paid $400 million in dividends to Venezuela but paid almost as much in U.S. taxes. Energy Minister Rafael Ramírez, who also serves as Pdvsa's president, has announced a freeze on plans to expand Citgo. Meanwhile, though Citgo CEO Félix Rodríguez notes that "the government does not plan to sell off the company's assets," specialists suggest that Chavez may very well consider such a move after evaluating the profitability of each refinery. Alberto Quirós, a former executive at Royal/Dutch Shell in Venezuela, commented that selling the refineries would not be a bad idea right now. Chavez, he says, could get a decent price for the refineries because oil prices and demand are high. Were such facilities to be sold, however, the process would probably take at least a few years to be finalized.


Caracas Looks to Asia

In order to diversify the Venezuelan market for oil, Chavez made plans to begin shipping Venezuelan crude to China, the world's second-largest energy consumer after the United States. "Reaching China is a strategic question," says Ramirez. "It would be a mistake not to have a presence there. They are switching over from coal to more efficient fuels." In Beijing last December, Chavez remarked "We have reached agreements with China to begin to exploit 15 mature oilfields in eastern Venezuela that have more than one billion barrels in reserves, and a large part of that oil will come to China." What is more, Chavez stated that Venezuela wanted to become a "secure, long-term" petroleum supplier to India and this month the two countries concluded an energy cooperation agreement. Transporting oil to Asia, however, could prove logistically difficult. Pdvsa has expressed interest in moving oil across Panama to the Pacific Ocean via pipeline. The company is also exploring the idea of building such a facility across Venezuela's northern border with Colombia, extending to that country's Pacific coast. Shipping oil to Asia carries other logistical and infrastructural problems. China presently has an insufficient deep conversion refining capacity and transporting petroleum to the Asian giant would be costly due to the long distances involved. Moreover, the Panama pipeline eyed by Chavez already transports 100,000 barrels a day of Ecuadorian crude from the Pacific to the Atlantic. According to analysts, there is no way that the pipeline can be converted into being able to simultaneously ship Venezuelan oil to China in the opposite direction. Finally, China may be only interested in Venezuela in the short run, as Beijing is busy exploring for oil and gas closer to its shores in the South China Sea.


Despite these practical problems, Chavez's rhetoric suggests the Venezuelan leader earnestly seeks to challenge U.S. regional hegemony by putting together a formidable coalition of like-minded nations. In a recent interview on al-Jazeera, Chavez cited Venezuela's energy alliance with Cuba as an example of how "we use oil in our war against neoliberalism." What is more, when he was recently in Buenos Aires, Chavez launched the first gas station run by a joint venture between Pdvsa and the Argentine company Enarsa. The venture involves production, refining and distribution of petroleum by-products and natural gas. Chavez has also concluded oil agreements with Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. His desire to create a South American energy company called Petrosur, which would integrate regional oil and gas industries, is already bearing fruit.


Any interruption in Venezuelan oil exports to the U.S. would bring significant disruption to both countries and Washington is beginning to plan for such a contingency. Oil accounts for half of Caracas' revenue and 75 percent of its exports. Currently the U.S. purchases 60 percent of Venezuela's oil exports and according to analysts, finding new markets could prove daunting to Venezuelan authorities. The fact is, exporting to the U.S. market is convenient due to close proximity and low transportation costs. Additionally, U.S. refineries are particularly equipped to process Venezuela's sulphur-rich crude.


U.S. analysts doubt that Chavez can afford to drastically cut shipments to the United States. And if Chavez cut off oil supplies, argue government officials, the United States would quickly make up for the loss by seeking other sources. But a potential cut off would represent no small economic loss to the U.S., as oil imported from elsewhere would likely be more expensive. The reality is that for the U.S., purchasing Venezuelan crude is economically advantageous because the South American nation is geographically close to U.S. ports. In Washington, politicians are now hedging their bets. In a clear sign of concern, Republican Senator Richard G. Lugar has asked the Government Accountability Office to study how a sharp decrease in Venezuelan oil imports could affect the U.S. economy. Additionally, the Senate recently called for a review of the government's plans "to make sure that all contingencies are in place to mitigate the effects of a significant shortfall of Venezuelan oil production, as this could have serious consequences for our nation's security and for the consumer at the pump."


Even before Chavez was first elected he was explicit in describing his views about petroleum. "Oil is a geopolitical weapon," he declared, "and these imbeciles who govern us don't realize the power they have, as an oil-producing country." The evidence suggests that Chavez is now trying his best to follow through on this rhetoric.

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Antillanos and the Venezuelan State: Caribbean Blacks in the Maracaibo Oil Boom During the Juan Vicente Gomez Period, 1908-1935

(An unpublished historical essay)


Between 1914 and 1922 subsidiaries of the British oil company Shell entered Venezuela, transforming the small agricultural nation and giving rise to oil boom towns.  Following a massive oil blow out in 1922, American oil companies, subsidiaries of the giant Standard Oil of New Jersey, joined their British counterparts and a veritable oil boom commenced in the provincial state of Zulia, in the western party of the country.  In addition to contracting Venezuelans, oil companies also imported foreign laborers who joined their co-workers in sprawling settlements.  According to Lieuwen, the companies brought in West Indian blacks due to labor shortages;[1] other evidence suggests that Caribbean workers were brought in because they were considered more disciplined and servile than Venezuelans.[2]  Like Venezuelan workers, antillanos, as they were called, faced racist American and British oil managers.  Much like the Venezuelans, antillanos too were subject to work related abuses and substandard public health conditions.  As skilled laborers, however, antillanos could acquire property and even achieve a measured degree of prosperity.  Despite this prosperity the position of the antillanos was tenuous as they faced resentment at the hands of local residents.  Such a divisive situation was potentially explosive and threatened to derail community relations in the oil zone.  However, the shrewd Juan Vicente Gomez, who ruled in dictatorial fashion from 1908-1935, tactfully turned this situation to his advantage by enforcing racist legislation limiting antillano immigration.  By discriminating against the antillanos the Gomez authorities cynically manipulated public opinion by dividing the West Indian and Venezuelan workforce.  In the process, Gomez sought to create a sense of national identity which would shore up his mission of building up the central state in Venezuela.


Background to Gomez Rule


By the early twentieth century, that state building project had become a political imperative.  Indeed, during the 19th century Venezuela was hardly what one might call a modern nation state.  Divided along regional lines, the country was prone to divisive civil and political conflict.[3]  Within such a fractured environment, the possibility of a strong central state taking root was hardly promising.  For Gomez, who came to power in a coup d'etat in 1908, the central challenge was how to build a modern nation state.  Of central concern to Gomez was gaining control over the western state of Zulia which had long sought greater autonomy from Caracas.[4]  In an effort to consolidate central control Gomez constructed a national army[5] and built up an impressive network of state presidents who in many cases were sympathetic military officers.[6]  Gomez could keep further abreast of news in outlying states through a network of jefes civiles or district governors, direct and immediate government representatives at the local level almost always chosen by the president himself.[7]  What is more, Gomez could also count on his extensive family network to ensure control.[8] 


State of Zulia


For the moment Gomez had consolidated his position.  However, he could ill afford political problems in the west.  Measuring 63,100 square kilometers,[9] with 178,388 inhabitants in 1908,[10] Zulia was not only large in terms of sheer land mass, but also economically important.  When Gomez took power, Zulia had the most substantial budget of any Venezuelan state.[11]  For Gomez a crucial question was how to exert control over such a distant region as Zulia.  Transportation from Maracaibo to the interior was arduous and time consuming.[12]  Because of the logistical difficulties involved with travel, merchants frequently resorted to travel along the state's many rivers, such as the Zulia, Catatumbo, and Escalante.  These rivers constituted important means of communication with the Andes and Colombia.[13]  Merchants could in turn follow Zulia rivers by boat into Lake Maracaibo.  The largest lake in South America, it measured 200 km north to south, with a width of 120 km at the lower end and in the middle 85 km, and with a full circumference of 600 km.[14]  Historically the country's lack of transportation infrastructure had encouraged regionalism and caudillismo, and the last thing the regime desired was a powerful caudillo takeover in the economically and politically important state of Zulia.  Not only was internal transport problematic but the region was largely cut off from the rest of the country.  Travelers wishing to head from Maracaibo to Caracas had to endure a long, five day trek to reach the capitol.[15]  Faced with such obstacles Gomez sought to tighten his grip on Zulia.  Relinquishing the earlier policy of appointing "sons of the soil" to state government, he began to rely more and more on andinos and family relatives.[16] 


British Oil Companies in Zulia


With the arrival of powerful British oil companies in Zulia Gomez was presented with a unique challenge.  Nearly all the concessions awarded by Gómez in the initial years were sold to the British oil company Shell in 1913;[17] the company began commercial production later in 1919.[18]  On the one hand oil revenue stood to bolster state finances and Gomez's ability to centralize the Venezuelan state.  If large deposits of oil were found Gomez could siphon money to his military, expand the administrative bureaucracy and continue his project of national integration through road building projects.  Furthermore, with the money from oil proceeds Gomez could deploy more troops and administrators to Zulia.  With an efficient, centralizing administration in place at the state level, Gomez could head off any secessionist moves in Zulia and preempt any aggressive moves by would be caudillos.  What is more, in the event that oil investment really took off in the state, the companies would contribute to economic development along the eastern coast of Lake Maracaibo, where much of the initial oil exploration took place. 


On the other hand, monitoring the oil companies would prove difficult in such an isolated region.  If the oil companies abused the local population Venezuelan nationalism might be incited and cause political problems.  By permitting large and powerful British, and later U.S oil companies to operate in a far-flung region which had only recently tried to shake off government control, Gomez assumed a certain political risk.  In Maracaibo the growing oil presence was a concern for Zulia state president Santos Gomez.  In 1923 he personally wrote Gomez, warning his chief that oil workers could be subverted by enemies of the regime.[19]  Despite the many political risks associated with increased oil development, Gomez avidly embraced the industry's expansion.  One underlying reason for this was sheer greed.  The Gómez family was one of the largest landowners on the east bank of Lake Maracaibo, and stood to benefit from land sales to the oil companies.[20]        


Maracaibo Oil Metropolis


While certainly spectacular, the growth of the oil industry posed significant social problems for the Gomez regime.  The city of Maracaibo, "a sleepy coffee-exporting port of forty thousand in 1920," experienced the greatest transformation.  Maracaibo became Venezuela's oil metropolis, the country's most congested port, the second city of importance after Caracas.  The city's population more than doubled during the 1920s.[21]  In 1926 contemporary observers estimated that the Zulia state capitol's population could not have numbered less than 120,000.[22]  Meanwhile, the state of Zulia's population skyrocketed, from 117,457 inhabitants in 1920 to 204,075 in 1926, a 73.74% increase.[23]  Though the oil boom brought unprecedented new wealth, the authorities were ill prepared to deal with the vast influx of new migrants in search of work.  The arrival of foreigners, who occupied a privileged position, threatened to give rise to resentment in Maracaibo and the oil zone.  For the authorities the challenge was how to keep the local population satisfied while keeping a lid on social discontent.  The arrival of so many foreigners caused rental costs to skyrocket.  According to Lieuwen, living costs doubled and real estate values tripled in Maracaibo during the oil boom.[24]  While real estate prices affected the oil companies, which owned office buildings, mess and staff houses on the east side of Lake Maracaibo, skyrocketing prices affected the poor to an even greater extent.  Spartan in appearance, rooms in the Bolivar district in the heart of the oil zone displayed no comforts of any kind.  Even more serious from the point of view of poor residents was the high cost of food.[25]  By late 1924, British authorities reported, the situation had become so bad, that "the cost of living in Maracaibo…seemed…over 50% higher than in Caracas."[26]  Clearly, the Zulia state capitol was fast becoming a metropolis and it would take serious political commitment to meet rising social needs.


Social problems must be seen against the deteriorating political backdrop in Zulia.  Though U.S. diplomats reported that authorities in Caracas were not overly concerned about rumors that Maracaibo would break free of central control,[27] the U.S. consul in Maracaibo alerted his superiors to widespread disaffection in the city.  He argued that Zulia natives as well as Maracaibo residents "do not now and have not for years felt any great affection for the central government."   Local residents were also incensed "that although there are many quite capable Maracaiberos not one has ever been placed in a position of power in the state of Zulia."[28]  There was also the danger that prominent maracuchos might unite with oil residents.  In March 1926, L. Perez Bustamante, a member of the Maracaibo Institucion Boliviana, wrote Gomez to complain of the "avaricious" companies who had abused workers and Venezuelans.[29]


Labor Situation


These underlying tensions were underscored when oil workers at the Caribbean Oil Company's Mene Grande camp went on strike.[30]  Not only did workers demand an eight hour day but also a 2 bolivar advance for workers who made between 5 and 10 bolivars a day.[31]  For Zulia state president Febres Cordero the challenge was how to appease workers while simultaneously steering unrest in such a way so that oil companies did not turn against the regime.   At Mene Grande, all operations were paralyzed., casting uncertainty over production and profits.  Even worse from the point of view of the companies, the strike was tightly organized under Antonio Malavet,[32] a charismatic fireman who worked for Pan American Petroleum and Transport Co, subsidiary of Caribbean.[33]  Febres Cordero opted to pursue a more diplomatic solution, traveling personally to Mene Grande[34] to mediate between workers and the oil companies.[35]  Once Febres Cordero arrived at Mene Grande, he held a conference with Caribbean officials.  Startlingly, in a solid rebuke to the oil managers, Febres Cordero "urged that the demands of the strikers be met in some degree."  Febres Cordero's position upset oil managers, who feared that taking a conciliatory approach towards workers "might establish a precedent which would lead to further labor troubles."  Moreover, in a further snub to the companies, Febres Cordero met personally with Malavet and other strike leaders.[36]  Though the companies lobbied the authorities to send in troops, the government dragged its feet by not sending in enough soldiers.  In a revealing personal note to Gomez, Febres Cordero reported that oil company managers wanted him to send more troops to Mene Grande, but he replied that none were available.[37]  Gomez himself communicated with Malavet.  "Apparently," writes Flores, "Malavet wrote to Gomez under no pressure to do so.  He might have felt obligated to write, as Gomez had made clear that he intended to keep in touch with everything that happened in the country."  In his note to the dictator, Malavet passionately sought to convey the plight of oil workers. "Plagued by infinite incommodities and misery," Malavet explained, "we declared a strike against the tyrannical company, the Caribbean Petroleum Company.  Following your honorable Union, Peace and Labor, we implore your moral protection so that the honest and passive worker can obtain what he justly deserves under the wise constitution of Venezuela."[38]  Though Malavet was obsequious towards authority, nevertheless he seemed determined to lead the strike and obtain concessions for his followers.  Malavet never asked Gomez if he could declare a strike.  Rather, he proclaimed that oil workers had started a strike against a powerful British oil company.  What is striking, given this audacious display of independence from Malavet, is that Gomez deigned to personally answer the labor leader.  Though Gomez did not explicitly offer his support, he did not call for an end to Malavet's movement.  In an echo of future exchanges between local residents and Gomez, the dictator instructed Malavet to communicate with Febres Cordero so as to come to an amicable solution.[39]  Shrewdly, then, "Gomez offered some support to Malavet and the strikers by simply not condemning the movement.  But, by not providing an ostensible support, he also allowed the government to back out in case of disruption."  In keeping with the regime's long-term desire to place the companies under pressure without disrupting the industry, Gomez recommended that Malavet respect the law.[40]


Gomez and Labor


Taking his cue from Gomez, Febres Cordero was diplomatic at Mene Grande.  Meeting personally with both oil company officials and strike leaders, he obliged managers to agree to an eight hour shift for all employees, and an increase of 1 bolivar a day for all workers whose wages ranged from 5 to 10 bolivars daily.  Unfortunately, Malavet had become an inspirational symbol to workers, and the strike had a psychological effect on morale.  In the wake of the strike, foreigners grew alarmed as the laborers had grown restless "and state that they want electric light, sheets on their beds and all conveniences which the company furnishes their drillers, assistant drillers and other foreign labor."[41]  The increasingly militant work force posed problems not only for foreign managers but also for Gomez and his subordinates.  As Flores has written, "the government realized that foreign working methods had deeply altered the traditional minds and aspirations of native workers."  Though oil workers represented only a small fraction of Venezuelan workers (from 1925 to 1936, an average of about 11,500 people worked for the oil companies, just 1.3% of the workforce),[42] the government was concerned about their influence and felt a need to speak to their specific problems.[43]  Industrial unrest outside of government control was unacceptable given the growing economic importance of oil.  By 1928, in fact, Venezuela would become the second largest oil producer in the world and the leading world exporter.[44] 


Gomez and Oil Companies


Gomez then would have to impose civil order, which in this case meant getting the upper hand over both civil society and the companies.  The oil companies provided much needed revenue for the Gomez state; however the prospect of such powerful corporations operating in a remote area of the country which had longed for greater autonomy was politically sensitive.  The andino, along with his associates in Zulia, watched the political milieu carefully, using a carrot and stick approach to deal with the political exigencies of the moment.  At times Gomez employed repression, but more often than not state officials appeased rising social groups.  Sometimes Gomez even used workers as apparent bargaining chips to exert political pressure upon the companies. 


Simultaneously Gomez officials collaborated with the companies in a bid to halt subversion and revolution.  Gomez then was shrewd at playing both sides against the middle.  Still, rumors of oil companies sponsoring Zulia secession concerned Gomez and convinced the dictator of the need to appoint a stronger man as state president.[45]  A key figure who helped Gomez to consolidate the central state was Vincencio Perez Soto, "a strong, active and progressive man, but arbitrary,"[46] in June 1926.[47]  Physically attractive and 43 years old, Perez Soto was active and energetic in manner and prompt in the dispatch of business."[48]  Febres Cordero was transferred to Merida where he took up as state president there.[49] 


Arrival of Antillanos


One of the vexing social questions confronting Perez Soto was the arrival of the antillanos on the oil fields.  According to Urdaneta, antillanos arrived shortly after the blow-out at Los Barrosos.  In 1924, 1658 whites came into the state of Zulia and 695 blacks.[50] According to a local historian entire families from the Dutch and British West Indies migrated to the oil zone and by 1924 there was a British West Indies colony in the oil town of Cabimas.  The new arrivals worked as electricians, mechanics, carpenters, tractor drivers, and office workers.  They also served as interpreters between Americans and Venezuelan peons, who were often illiterate.[51]  By 1926 there were about 3,000 colored British subjects from Trinidad or other islands of the British West Indies.  This figure dwarfed the number of white British subjects and Canadians, totaling some 800 individuals.[52]  Migrants came not only from Trinidad but also from other British, French, and Dutch Caribbean possessions.[53]  According to Lieuwen, West Indians represented approximately 10 per cent of the unskilled labor force on the oil fields.[54]


For Caribbean migrants, Maracaibo must have seemed at least somewhat promising in the 1920s and 30s.  Certainly, conditions on many Caribbean islands were far from hopeful.  As Harrison has written, "during the first few decades of the twentieth century, the sugar industry of the British colonies was a hopelessly inadequate opponent of its American rivals…the situation for the mass of the rural people in the West Indian colonies was one of utter deprivation: they struggled to survive through their own agriculture and whatever work they could get on the estates."


Conditions on the sugar estates, adds Harrison, reflected the harsh realities of colonialism: workers were malnourished and underweight, short and inadequately housed, and furthermore suffered from diseases such as malaria, hookworm and tuberculosis.  Many could only obtain temporary work, and employers adopted a policy of 'rotational employment,' where workers were taken on for a fortnight and then discharged to make way for others.  Meanwhile, the landless faced destitution or were forced to migrate.  The Great Depression after 1929 added to the hardship, since the price of sugar fell lower than at any time since the 1890s.  As a result, wages were reduced even further and jobs terminated throughout the Caribbean region.  Faced with such conditions, campaigning individuals such as Marcus Garvey joined the voices of protest as the West Indies witnessed strikes, demonstrations and riots.  Strikes on the sugar plantations spread throughout the islands and agricultural workers were joined by dock workers and industrial laborers pressing for better jobs and higher wages.[55]  Not surprisingly, then, in 1926 there were about 3,000 colored British subjects from Trinidad or other islands of the West Indies living in the Maracaibo oil zone.[56] 


Other Groups


Once ensconced in oil boom towns antillanos were joined by Chinese migrants.  While it is clear that at least some of the Chinese were from Canton, it is unknown whether they came directly from China or via other stopovers such as Los Angeles or other Caribbean destinations.  There is no mention of Chinese women entering the country.  The Chinese quickly established themselves in the laundry business, or opened dry goods stores, and seem to have achieved some degree of material success.[57]  Other migrants hailed from other British, French, and Dutch Caribbean possessions.  On government reports these migrants are referred to as "colored race"[58].  In 1933, for example, the Venezuelan Minister of Interior gave permission to Esther Ysmay Johnson to land in Maracaibo.  Johnson was of English nationality and "colored race," and was the wife of V.C. Johnson, an employee of the British oil company Caribbean Oil Company.  According to the Ministry of Interior, Esther Johnson hailed from Demerara (British Guyana), and had been on vacation in her native country.[59]  Lawrence Sainsbury, Clothilde Helouise Sainsbury and Frances Brumell, all colored British subjects, were given permission to return to Maracaibo following a trip to Curacao.[60]  Another French subject and woman of color, Alice Pinche, was granted permission to return to Maracaibo from Martinique in 1934.  Pinche had been resident in Venezuela since 1926 and was employed in the Bellavista hospital of the Caribbean Oil Company.[61]  It would appear that the Bellavista hospital was quite a multicultural institution.  Another French subject and person of color, Baptiste Homere Rodriguez, also worked there and had been resident in Venezuela since 1928.  In 1934, Rodriguez was granted permission to return to Maracaibo from Martinique along with his wife, Maville Brune Eleonore.[62]  Lastly, oil boom towns attracted Arabs from the Middle East, mostly British Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.  These immigrants were ubiquitously referred to as "Turcos," and some seem to have worked as moneylenders.  One local Cabimas historian claimed that many of the first arrivals in the oil boomtown were Lebanese Druze.[63]  Government documents suggest that 'Turcos' were businessmen and merchants.  By the early 1930s, at least one Middle Eastern businessman worked in Cabimas,[64] and in 1934 the authorities recorded the death of Mahmud Salami, 65 years of age, single, street vendor, and Syrian by origin.  Salami, from the British protectorate of Palestine, did not leave any goods and had no family members in Cabimas.  Salami, according to the authorities, had been in Cabimas since 1924.[65]


Antillano Daily Life


Antillano migrants did their best to carve out new lives for themselves in the oil zone.  In Cabimas, antillanos built wood houses elevated on poles.  This type of house was quickly copied throughout the entire oil zone, as it was cooler, cheaper and more comfortable.[66]  Between 1925 and 1927, during the time when the so-called "English Colony" of Trinidadians, Dutch, French and others was established in Cabimas, a Methodist pastor was active in the community while a Protestant church serviced the new residents.[67]  Venezuelans soon developed an entire lexicon designed to distinguish recent immigrants.  Black wives of Trinidadian workers, for example, were referred to as "Madama."[68] According to Brown, supposed conformist Trinidadians were sarcastically named "Mayfrenes," in reference to the English words "my friend."[69]   Despite the disparaging lexicon, "Mayfrenes" and "Madamas" were well received in the houses of Cabimas local residents and Trinidadians were the first to introduce soccer in the area.[70]  West Indian men frequently brought their wives and in some cases even their entire families.  Franklin Philip, a native of Grenada, worked in Lagunillas for the Venezuela Oil Concession's transportation department.  Philip notified the authorities that he would bring his wife from Grenada, Urma L. Philip.[71]  Another West Indian woman, Ida Scott from Trinidad, found employment as a laundress with the Venezuela Oil Concessions in Maracaibo.[72]  Pedro Isaac, a Grenadian, worked for the same company in Lagunillas as a mechanic.  Isaac sought to bring his sister from Grenada and the company attested to Isaac's financial solvency before the authorities.[73]  A Trinidadian woman, May Durant, found employment with the Venezuelan Atlantic Refining Company and according to her employers was a good worker and well-mannered.  Sam Johnson, another Trinidadian, also worked for Atlantic and was employed as master cook for the company.[74]  Paul Robert, a Grenadian, worked with the Caribbean Petroleum Company in Cabimas, and sought permission to bring his wife with him to Venezuela.[75]  In La Rosa, "Stephano" a native of St Lucia, lived with Hortencia Delay, a native of Guadeloupe, until his death in 1926.[76] 


Antillanos on the Oilfields


Many Caribbean workers prospered on the oilfields.  In 1935, Pedro Gomez de Willet, the government oil field inspector in Mene Grande, reported that antillanos and Chinese were markedly more preferred for office work.  At Mene Grande, the number of Chinese and Antillanos in office work was double the number of Venezuelans.  In particular, within the Production Department all office workers were antillanos and Chinese.  On various occasions, noted de Willet, Venezuelans had been employed as office workers in the Production Dept as well, but all, without exception, had been displaced as the result of "intrigues" encouraged by Europeans and Americans.  Foreigners, claimed de Willet, were intent on keeping Venezuelans in an inferior position within the oil companies.[77]  Statistics provided by the oil companies the relatively privileged position of the West Indians.  In 1936, for example, there were four West Indian employees at the San Lorenzo refinery belonging to Caribbean Petroleum Company.  All were men, and all were in their late 20's or early 30's.  In contrast to other Venezuelan workers in the company, the West Indians were literate and could write.  All earned much more than the average Venezuelan peon working for the company, whose salary averaged about 7 Bolivares daily.  The antillanos, by contrast, made 12, 14, 18 and 11 Bolivares and worked as engineers, accountants, and dispatchers.[78]  At Lago's La Salina refinery West Indians worked in skilled professions, laboring as electricians, mechanics, carpenters and office assistants.  West Indians earned much better on average than Venezuelans, most of whom were classified generically as "workers" and earned a salary of about 7 bolivares.  The average daily salary of West Indians at Lago was 13 Bolivares, with the lowest salary being 7 Bolivares and the highest salary 32 Bolivares.  All West Indian workers at La Salina were men except for Irene Thomas, a nurse from Trinidad.  Thomas was single, literate, 31 years of age, and earned a salary of 10 Bolivares.  She was the only woman on Lago's payroll.[79] 


Migrating Antillanos


What is more, antillanos commonly made trips to the Caribbean islands during the 1920s and 30s and some West Indian migrants had enough money to periodically return to their families.[80]  It would appear that in some cases, even women were able to make some money in the oilfields;[81] moreover West Indian men brought their wives with them and sometimes their offspring.  For example, in 1935 Cecilia Joseph, a British subject of colored race, was permitted to enter Venezuela along with her five children and their tutor.  Joseph and her children were returning from a trip to Trinidad.  Joseph was married to another British subject, Arnoff Joseph, who lived in the oil boom town of Casigua near the Colombian border.  The couple had two children, born in Venezuela.[82]  What is more, the colored foreigners Rupert Dyer and Iris Simpson, British subjects, son and niece of Alfred Dyer, respectively, were given permission to enter Maracaibo via Curacao.  Both Rupert and Iris were minors and sought to reunite with Alfred Dyer, who worked as a mechanic with British Controlled Oilfields.[83]  In another case, Vivian Cedric Johnson, a colored British subject, and Esther Ismay Johnson, also a colored British subject, were permitted to return from Trinidad to Maracaibo accompanied by their six children.  Vivian was employed by the Caribbean Petroleum Company.[84]  Similarly, Edith Acharbar, a colored British subject, was allowed to enter Maracaibo in 1935 following a trip to Trinidad.  Acharbar had been resident in the oil boom town of Cabimas since 1929, and her three children had been born in Venezuela.  Acharbar was accompanied by her youngest daughter, Rona Irene, also born in Venezuela.[85]


Antillano Women


Some British West Indian women made it to the oil areas and built lives for themselves.  In April 1934 word reached the Ministry in Caracas that a woman was illegally working as a midwife in the Las Delicias oil camp in Lagunillas.  The authorities asked state officials to look into the matter, as there were already "competent doctors" working within the area.[86]  On 17 April 1934, the local jefe civil in Lagunillas municipality investigated the matter and established that indeed Frances Trinningham, a native of Trinidad, was working as a midwife at Las Delicias. The official added that Trinningham worked in a Venezuela Oil Concessions hospital and was known to the hospital staff there.  Trinningham, added the jefe civil, held a medical certificates from the Medical Board of Trinidad and the Colonial Hospital of Trinidad.  In light of Trinningham's credentials, there were no grounds for taking action against her.[87]  In other government documents, officials pointed out that Francis Trinningham, referred to as Trimingham, had had done well for herself.  In 1934 she could afford to make a trip back to Trinidad and from there return to Maracaibo.[88]  Trinningham was not the only success case.  Daisy Assang, a colored native of Trinidad made a trip to Trinidad, was allowed back into Maracaibo in April of 1933.  A long time resident of Santa Rita,  Assang had goods and property in the town.[89]  Moreover, Mrs Cecilia Victoria Chandler, a British subject and person of color, was given permission to return to Maracaibo from Trinidad in 1934.  She had been living in Cabimas since 1926, and possessed property in that town.[90] 


Living Conditions


Despite this prosperity new migrants lacked potable drinking water and suffered from some of the same ailments as Venezuelans such as malaria, hookworm, and malnutrition.[91]  Documentary evidence from the period is sobering.  For example, William Goneda, a native of Barbados, married and a painter, died of dysentery on an oilfield belonging to Lago in the oil boom town of Lagunillas.  The oil company provided medical assistance, but to no avail.[92]  Charles Joseph, a four-month old Trinidadian infant, died in Lagunillas in 1928.  The cause of death was unclear.[93]  Celestina Freeman, a Trinidadian infant, died in Lagunillas, also at the age of only four months.[94]  Rodolhus Rose, single, carpenter, and native of Grenada, died young at the age of 34 in a hospital belonging to the Venezuela Oil Concessions in 1928.  No cause of death was listed.[95]  Nevertheless it may be that West Indian workers had more resistance to p. falciparum malaria, although this is controversial.  Scientists note that currently, 10% of the black Caribbean population has sickle cell trait and "there appears to be good evidence that the sickle cell trait confers some protection against malaria during childhood."  Data from Western Kenya indicates sickle cell trait may protect against falciparum malaria at later ages.  However, data on the resistance of subjects with the sickle cell trait to other forms of malaria such as p.vivax are "sparse and conflicting."[96] 


Antillanos and Gomecista Authorities


In addition to public health challenges, West Indians had to contend with unsympathetic authorities.  Oil companies frequently laid-off workers, and some Trinidadians were unlucky in attaining stable employment.  For example, Samuel Balfourd, a 35 year old single and unemployed Trinidadian, was detained by the police in Bolivar District for drunken behavior and for throwing stones at a policeman.[97]  Another single and unemployed Trinidadian man, Tiffin Hoope, was detained by the Lagunillas police for passing a bad check.[98]  Yet another unemployed and married Trinidadian, Daniel Marujo, was detained after he tried to escape from prison.  He had been languishing in jail for drunken disorderliness and "threatening danger" in a public road.[99]  An interesting case was provided by Andrew Butt, a native of the island of St Vincent, who gave a sworn statement at the Crown Solicitor's office in Port of Spain.  Butt had been employed by various oil companies in Maracaibo for eight years during the 1920's but was subsequently laid off.  In December, 1932 Butt went to the town of Bobures, obtaining employment in a sugar factory.  A year later, Butt left the company with three others.  After leaving his job, he was stopped by the authorities at Barinitas and taken to the police station.  He and his companions were questioned by the Chief of Police.  Butt and the others explained they were British subjects, and the Police Chief asked them to produce their passports.  "I explained to the Chief of Police," Butt remarked, "that we were on our way to Quebrada Seca (sic) in search of employment and that I did not have any passport with me but had left it at Bobures (sic)."  When he failed to produce his passport, Butt was detained at Barinitas for eight days and then sent under police guard to Barinas where he was placed in jail.  According to Butt, he remained in jail for an astounding 14 months.  While Butt and the others were kept prisoner, they were made to work on the road as convicted prisoners.  Butt remarked, "I worked as a laborer repairing and making roads and pulling down old buildings.  I was very poorly and insufficiently fed."  This unpleasant stay was put to an end in June of 1935, when Butt was finally placed on board a ship, fittingly named the 'Presidente Gomez,' and sent back to Trinidad.[100]  Why, or how, the British authorities could have let Butt languish in jail for more than a year without any charge is unclear.


Racism and the Antillanos


Despite the growing multinational character of life on the Maracaibo oil fields, by the late 1920s the political winds were shifting against the antillanos.  Soon enough West Indians experienced harassment and discrimination not just at the hands of individual policemen but by the larger government bureaucracy.  In Venezuela, as in other Latin American countries, non-whites were looked upon as inherently inferior.[101]  Racist notions were widely accepted by the Venezuelan elite, which took great pride in its European roots.  There are no definite statistics on the racial composition of Venezuela in the early 20th century, but observers agree that approximately 10% of the Venezuelan population was "pure black" and some 80% was a mixture of African, American Indian and European.  During the first years of the 20th century, some members of the Venezuelan white elite blamed the 'racially inferior' population for Venezuela's lack of development.  In 1912 Venezuela passed an immigration law limiting immigration to the "European race."[102]  A subsequent Foreigners' Law of 1918 contained a clause which permitted the entry of racial minorities as long as immigrants did not intend to settle permanently in the country.  This clause, which was preserved in subsequent immigration law, allowed the oil companies to bring in thousands of blacks from the Antilles.[103] 


However, pressure was growing by the 1920's to limit black immigration.  In 1926, Alberto Adriani, a Venezuelan statesman, economist and writer of Italian descent,[104] authored an article in the Boletin de La Camara de Comercio de Caracas warning of the dire consequences of lax immigration policy.  "The danger is not imagined," explained Adriani, and "the infiltration of black antillanos has been active in Venezuela in recent years." What is more, Adriani was concerned with Chinese and Indian immigration, however these two groups did not represent as serious a danger as blacks.  Already in 1926, continued Adriani, Venezuela had a sizable black population, which was not "convenient" for the country.  Antillean blacks would not help to improve Venezuela, as their way of life was inferior to Venezuelan nationals.  Even though antillanos might contribute to Venezuela economically, they represented a step back for the country in the intellectual, social, and political realm (interestingly, Antillean blacks frequently displayed a much higher educational level than Venezuelan workers, in contrast to Adriani's statement). What concerned Adriani was racial miscegenation in Venezuela, a "factor of deterioration."  Furthermore, an increase in the black population would menace Venezuela's "democratic institutions" and compromise the country's morale.[105]  It is not clear what institutions Adriani was referring to.  The Gomez Congress, in fact, was a rubber stamp body.


Race Relations on the Oilfields


Prior to the arrival of the antillanos, observers remarked that Maracaibo residents were more tolerant towards intermarriage between whites with Indians and blacks than Venezuelans from the interior.  Indeed, noted the U.S. consul, "there is hardly a single prominent native family in Maracaibo which has not a streak of Negro or Indian blood.  Prominent natives like A Duluc and J.E. Paris, who are pure whites, have wives with at least a small degree of Negro blood."[106]  Other accounts point to the segregated life in Maracaibo.  The U.S. consul, for example, pointed out that there were trams in the city, "but these are mostly patronized by Negroes, and it is considered a degrading thing for a white man to ride in them, and more so for a white woman."[107]  Whatever the case, once Caribbean blacks came into Zulia to work on the oil fields racial friction increased.  Though it's unclear how much Venezuelan racism existed against the antillanos, according to the British Consul "The colored British subjects are the cause of some trouble in this district…They are very assertive of their rights, and as they are not liked by the natives, are constantly getting into difficulties."[108]  Zulia state president Perez Soto was concerned about the growing antillano presence in the area.  Like Adriani, Perez Soto feared black immigration as a "prejudicial element" for Venezuelan society.  In 1926, he wrote the Minister of the Interior that since 1921 or 1922, about half the foreign immigration into his state had been black.  These immigrants headed to the oil fields and to sugar refineries in search of employment.  According to Perez Soto, the oil companies originally sought to import blacks because they considered Antillanos more disciplined and servile than Venezuelan workers.  However, much to the chagrin of the oil executives, these same blacks promptly lost this servility after about 6 months and became "unbearable."  At this point, the companies sought to rid themselves of these workers and this in turn created a social problem for the state of Zulia as the workers had no where to go and would wing up wandering the streets and stirring up trouble.[109]  Perez Soto was so concerned about the growth of black immigration that he had state officials keep track of colored arrivals in Maracaibo.  Perez Soto's figures were broken down by nationality (i.e., British Subjects, Chinese, North Americans, etc) and by race (yellow, white, black, etc).[110] 


Other Discrimination


Like Caribbean blacks, Chinese were subject to harassment and discrimination.  In August 1933, for example, local merchants in Cabimas wrote to the local jefe civil, Mario Maya, to complain about the Chinese presence in the area.  The Chinese, the petitioners contended, were "a vagrant race…without law and without nationality, that teems in all parts of the world…and it is a threat for humanity."  The merchants were unhappy as the Chinese were undercutting basic staples.  This was harming their businesses, and local residents hoped the authorities would put an end to the practice.[111]   Though it's unclear what became of the complaints, the authorities, through their actions, certainly exploited racist feeling.  In September 1929, the Minister of Interior wrote to Pérez Soto in Maracaibo, explaining that the Chinese were increasingly monopolizing certain kinds of businesses, including general stores, liquor stores and restaurants.  As this trend constituted a threat, not only to business but also to society as a whole, the Minister urged Pérez Soto to prevent the arrival of Chinese in Maracaibo.[112]  Pérez Soto agreed to comply.   In fact, Pérez Soto proudly announced, he had been restricting Chinese immigration for some time.  He had for example denied applications submitted by Chinese already resident in the area to bring their families into Zulia.[113] 


Racial Hierarchies


What is interesting to note is that even as the Venezuelan authorities, many of whom undoubtedly prided themselves on their lighter complexions (Gomez was from the Andean state of Tachira, and in photographs looked white in complexion, Perez Soto, the Governor of Zulia state, looked physically more mestizo) took punitive measures against blacks and inferior races, the Americans in Maracaibo and the oil zone discriminated against all Venezuelans regardless of skin color.  According to Luis Calvani, a government inspector of mines, in the early 1920's Maracaibo oil companies had segregated facilities, and a sign over one company bathroom read, "toilet solely for Americans." On another occasion, Calvani went to visit an acquaintance working for British Controlled Oilfields in the state of Falcon adjacent to the state of Zulia.  Calvani's friend later confessed that Venezuelans were prohibited entry into foreign workers' living quarters.  Calvani was allowed to stay in such quarters, however this was only permitted because he was a government employee.  Under other circumstances, he would have been segregated just like other Venezuelan workers.[114]  The episode is reminiscent of the worst type of segregation from the U.S. South, and in fact many of the American oilmen hailed from Texas and Oklahoma.  Racist attitudes towards Venezuelans permeated all the way up the corporate ladder.  William Wallace, an executive with Gulf, blamed the Venezuelan people for their economic backwardness: "When one has lived in the tropics and among, or in contact with, the average natives, and has lived for months and possibly years, one cannot help but wonder why it is they [Venezuelans] are so indolent, so lacking in progressiveness, why it is that the ordinary comforts and conveniences of what we call civilization seem to make no appeal to them whatsoever, and why it is that our so-called Anglo-Saxon sense of justice and fair play and straightforward dealing seems to find no lodgment in their mental makeup."


Revealingly, Wallace admitted that "after all is said and done, the best of our people have a secret feeling of their superiority, and while they may refrain from an open manifestation of it, or attempt to do so, nevertheless the sensitive Latin temperament detects the thing whose concealment is attempted."  Wallace went on to say that relations with lower class peons were particularly strained.  Wallace concluded, "it is my observation that the Anglo-Saxon mind and the Latin mind will never completely harmonize…The differences are essentially racial, consequently basic."  Though Wallace conceded that many lower American workers, including drillers, were "roughnecks," and prone to drinking, yet he reserved most of his criticism for the Venezuelans.  The problem, as Wallace described it, was that Americans were accustomed to working with machinery, while Venezuelan peons were unfamiliar with new technology.  Consequently, on frequent occasions, field workers would display resentment of their co-workers' "dumbness," and "to meet this situation we have tried to impress on all concerned that we are dealing largely with people whose mental horizon is that of a child."[115] 


Venezuelan Nationalism


Such racial hostility threatened to inflame Venezuelan pride and nationalism.  Inciting the populace against the racial injustice of Anglo foremen, however, would have carried certain political risk for Gomez.  Instead, Gomez channeled Venezuelan resentment against black foreigners.  In 1927 there were no less than 3000 British West Indians in the Maracaibo area.[116]  However, Perez Soto, in accordance with the law, had been restricting the "undesirable" immigration of people of color.[117]  In a crackdown on antillanos, the authorities ruled that antillanos on vacation could only return to Maracaibo after they had proven their residency in Zulia. Antillanos who wished to bring family members to Maracaibo would have to apply to the government.  What is more, oil companies which sought to bring black domestic servants into the country would have to acquire permission from the authorities.  As a result of these measures, Perez Soto was proudly able to announce that, "the immigration of people of color, which constitutes a threat, if not a certain danger, for the racial future of Venezuela, has been successfully contained."  Unfortunately, Perez Soto continued, some Antillean blacks were now disembarking in other ports such as La Guaira, Puerto Cabello or Carupano, and would then proceed over land to Maracaibo.  Others entered via the states of Falcon or Trujillo, and since state borders and roads were porous, it was impossible to control the flow of blacks into Zulia.  Perez Soto suggested that black and yellow races resident in Caracas, Valencia, or other cities should be required to obtain a permit from the local jefe civil demonstrating their residency in those areas.  With this documentation, Chinese and antillanos could then travel by sea.  The ship owners could then issue a transportation cedula or identification card to these aliens.[118]  It is not clear why Perez Soto supported the immigration policy.  Clearly, he had fallen under the sway of racist arguments of the day, pushed by Alberto Adriani and others.  Could he have hoped to shore up public opinion, by appealing to more nationalistic workers?  If that was Perez Soto's idea, it was a shrewd move.  By pushing for the legislation, he could gain popularity and divide Venezuelan workers from antillanos.


Restrictive Immigration Policy


Meanwhile, conflicts between Antillean and Venezuelan workers moved Gomez to issue a circular in 1929.  People of color could not enter as immigrants and all antillanos resident within the country would have to carry papers indicating their legal right to move from one place to place.  This measure was held to be just because "the primordial element to be considered for those who come to settle in Venezuela is race; a race which raises the physical, intellectual and moral level of Venezuelans."[119]  Under the new guidelines, antillanos freedom of movement would be greatly restricted.  When they sought to travel, antillanos would be obliged to provide authorities with a residency certificate.  This certificate would stipulate the time which the alien had spent at a given address, as well as their current job status.[120]  The new law led some white foreign residents to prove their racial status in order to avoid confusion.  For example, in November 1930, the Caribbean Petroleum Company wrote a statement confirming that company employee Robert George Bloomfield was English and white race.  The same company attested to the white race of Jacques Jean Louis van Schaijk, another employee.[121]  As late as 1933, the Caribbean Petroleum Corporation was still sending certificates to the local authorities, attesting to the whiteness of some of its British and Dutch employees.[122]   


The new immigration law gave rise to serious complaints from antillanos.  In November 1929, the British Consul, Raymond Kirwin, wrote the Federal authorities in Caracas that "various complaints have been presented recently before this Consulate by British colored subjects, antillanos, owing from the fact that their wives have been denied visas to return to Venezuela after spending some time in the British Antilles visiting with family."[123]  The Minister of Internal Relations sought to clarify, explaining that foreigners of "that class" who resided in Venezuela could travel, as long as they presented the certificate of residence, a job description, plus a note attesting to good conduct.[124]  However, in Trinidad the new law caused confusion.  The Venezuelan Consul on the island wrote the Minister of External Relations that some black people had certificates to go to Maracaibo.  The certificated had been issued by the Zulia state president but had been issued after the Circular went into effect.  The Consul expressed his confusion and asked his superiors what he should do.[125]  The Minister of Interior Relations replied that antillanos could return, as long as they complied with new conditions in the immigration law.[126]  In light of this pressure, employers sent word to the authorities attesting to good conduct of colored British subjects.  Henrietta James, a cook at the oil camp of San Lorenzo, and a likely British West Indian subject, was recommended by her employer at the Caribbean Petroleum Corporation as a woman in good labor standing.[127]  Maria Ryan, a native of the island of Montserrat, and employee of the Caribbean Petroleum Corporation in Maracaibo, sought to leave for Montserrat due to reasons of health.  Her employer wrote a note of good conduct on her behalf to the authorities, in order that she should subsequently be allowed to return to Maracaibo accompanied by her sister.[128]  The Caribbean Petroleum Corporation certified that Edith Connell had been working at the company's hospital for some time, and sought to bring her brother to Maracaibo from Trinidad.[129]  For some West Indian residents, the new guidelines made life more complicated.  A case in point was Joseph Stewart, a black British subject who was a carpenter and resident of the oil boom town of Cabimas.  Stewart had been a Venezuelan resident since 1926.  In 1931, he married a black Trinidadian woman.  His wife left Venezuela for Trinidad to be with her family in the same year.  Unfortunately, as Stewart explained, he was not knowledgeable about the "liberal and humane" Venezuelan laws, and had neglected to fulfill the necessary paperwork for his wife's return to Maracaibo.  When his wife attempted to return to Maracaibo, the Venezuelan Consul in Port of Spain refused to supply her with a visa.  Stewart wrote state president Perez Soto personally, begging the latter to change this policy so that his wife could return home after a one year stay in Trinidad.[130]


Oil Tankers


Perez Soto's efforts to halt antillano arrivals complicated matters not only for Caribbean blacks resident in Venezuela, but also for antillano seamen serving on board foreign oil tankers. According to the German Consul in Maracaibo, many deserters and sailors entered the country by jumping ship.[131]  The authorities were concerned about monitoring these antillano seamen but the question was how to keep track of them.  In 1928 a Gulf repetitive expressed puzzlement concerning state policy towards antillanos.  Under the Perez Soto regime, the British Consul normally deported sailors with "black blood" arriving from England on tankers flying the British flag.  However, the British Vice Consul was not prepared for assuming responsibility for these seamen in port.[132]  One day prior to the arrival of the Gulf tanker Caroni, a Gulf representative wrote: "As our oil tanker CARONI is shortly to arrive in Maracaibo, today, and as the tanker carries colored Antillean crew, in view of the fact that we shall change the registry of the ship to Venezuelan as soon as possible; this letter requests permission for the crew to disembark in Maracaibo while we can acquire passage and arrange for the deportation of the crew.  Naturally the company shall assume responsibility for the seamen while they are on Venezuelan soil."[133] 


It is unclear what finally became of the CARONI crew, however it is likely that Gulf concluded that it would have to assume responsibility for the colored crews.  Later that month, the same company representative wrote Perez Soto that Gulf would assume responsibility for deporting colored crews, and not passing on the added responsibility to the British Consul.[134]  Thus, Gomez and his associates had created considerable logistical difficulties for the companies.  The regime might have reckoned, however, that taking such a stand on antillanos would not have wrecked its political relationship with company managers who also held racist views towards Caribbean blacks.  Therefore, the regime only stood to benefit, since it could appeal to more racist Venezuelans who disliked vulnerable antillanos who had no political power.


British Consul


Facing hostility from the authorities and, it seems, from much of the public, antillanos held few options.  It was unlikely that the companies, dominated by racist managers, would come to their assistance.  In desperation the antillanos turned to the British Consul, Robert Cameron, who "has had a great deal of trouble since General Soto assumed the duties of his office here…This has in the main been caused by the methods used in handling colored British subjects from Trinidad."  The problem according to the U.S. consul, was that "these men, being as a rule more intelligent and better workers than the native laborers, get better pay from the oil companies." 


Unfortunately, "this has aroused the ire of the native labor and has in turn reacted against the Trinidadian in official circles."  In a personal aside, the U.S. consul remarked, "moreover the Trinidadian is an individual who is not easy to get along with.  He is insolent and overbearing when he thinks he can afford to be so and he looks upon the Venezuelan as his social inferior."  Nevertheless, Sloan, the U.S. consul, admitted candidly that "this attitude has led to what appears to be discrimination and numerous cases of seeming unjustified arrest and cruel treatment of prisoners in the jail have been reported to the British Vice Consul."  Sloan reported that this situation was made more complicated by the fact that the British Vice Consul, Cameron, was an employee of the Caribbean Petroleum Company and could not devote all his time to consular duties.  Cameron, confided the U.S. consul, "has not handled these cases in a diplomatic manner, because he has often listened to the complaint and without further investigation has assumed it to be the truth and has demanded redress.  A feeling of mutual dislike exists between the British Vice Consul and the officials of the Government stationed in Maracaibo."[135]  Sloan did not outline the individual cases, so it is difficult to assess the veracity of the American Consul's comments.


Word of Cameron's actions in Maracaibo reached high British authorities.  Far from expressing any concern about the plight of antillanos, they were troubled that Cameron was jeopardizing British-Venezuelan relations.  In July 1927, the British Charge d'Affaires in Venezuela notified British authorities that the Zulia state government had recently complained to Caracas about Cameron.  "This gentleman," stated the report, "is reported as interceding on behalf of the British West Indian subjects living there every time one of them is fined or arrested by the Police because of misdemeanors (drunkenness, insulting behavior, fighting, etc) and it is pointed out that Mr. Cameron gives always more credit to the guilty men than to the authorities."  The British Charge further charged that in one instance Cameron took the side of a West Indian subject "who became very dangerous on account of a fit of madness, and was confined to a madhouse after proper medical examination.  Mr. Cameron did insist on urging his release, although even the friends and countrymen of the man were convinced of his madness."[136]  The author of the report concluded that, "I may be allowed to remark that although there are in Maracaibo quite many Dutch and French West Indian subjects, their Consuls do not place any unusual claims upon the Authorities.  This no doubt co-operates in making such subjects more obedient to the Police regulations than the British West Indians, who almost always find support in their Consular Representative."


In addition to these transgressions, the Charge d'Affaires also accused Cameron of using abrupt and discourteous language when dealing with Maracaibo authorities.[137] 
While it is entirely possible that antillanos were disorderly and sought trouble, this was hardly unique behavior in the oil zone.  Unruly American rough necks had been a constant eyesore in the Maracaibo oil zone.  Additionally, according to reports, British subjects, who were not referred to by race, were constantly drinking aguardiente, "about as potent as a mixture of sulphuric acid and methylated spirits."  The British hobos and roughnecks, and "various other undesirable gentry," became down and out and unemployable, and had to be repatriated by the Maracaibo Vice Consulate.[138]  Furthermore, though drunken disorderliness was a feature of oil field life, Venezuelan police methods were arbitrary and consular intervention with the authorities was a frequent occurrence.[139]  Interestingly, Cameron fell under scrutiny not only by his diplomatic superiors but also by oil company managers.  Doyle, the manager of Caribbean Petroleum Company where Cameron worked as an accountant, complained to the British Legation in Caracas that his subordinate was "inclined to be too credulous in espousing the complaints of coloured British subjects and too zealous in pressing them on the local authorities who, Mr Doyle thought, had shown some forbearance in their desire to avoid trouble with the Vice Consulate."  Doyle had spoken to Cameron and thought the latter would be more prudent in future.  In this case, intervention by British corporate interests was decisive in influencing official government policy.  Instead of investigating the matter of the West Indians, the Caracas Legation took Doyle's side and replaced Cameron with one Colonel Seagrim.[140]  Seagrim was an agent for a number of commercial firms in Maracaibo.  Following his appointment, one British diplomat remarked "in attempting to gauge the situation in Maracaibo, I have discomfited the unfavorable reports which I heard about Colonel Seagrim---that he took the Vice-Consulate merely in order to obtain Lloyd's agency and other agencies, and that he has neglected the Consular work.  The heads of the oil companies do not respect him…"[141]  Thus, despite their reservations about Seagrim, British authorities were so anxious to rid themselves of Cameron, a loose cannon, that they were willing to put up with Seagrim and his shady business dealings. 


Triangulating Gomez Dictatorship


Thus, by discriminating against the antillanos the Gomez state had shrewdly appealed to racist public opinion and not suffered any political damage whatsoever.  Gomez's policy had not endangered his relationship with the companies or the British government, both of which wanted to rid themselves of the antillanos.  With the departure of Cameron West Indian workers lost a valuable ally.  By 1933 the colored West Indian population was on a steady decrease and might not again increase, "as the Venezuelan government now prohibits the entry of members of the coloured races…"[142]  Nevertheless, those West Indians that did make it to Maracaibo, according to Venezuelan government officials, became a kind of privileged caste.  One government oil inspector remarked "the Companies do not care anything about the Venezuelan worker, the housing, the jobs and all the best is reserved for black antillanos.  It is a crime that the Companies continue to employ blacks and dismiss Venezuelan workers." One oil inspector remarked that Lago Petroleum Corporation employed 140 Black West Indians, which meant 140 Venezuelans without work.  Every day, the inspector continued, trucks full of Venezuelans were leaving for the states of Falcon and Lara, not to mention ships full of workers headed out of the Maracaibo area.  The inspector concluded, "the Companies should dismiss those blacks and protect the sons of the nation, who are generally good peons, workers, docile and honorable."[143]  What is interesting to note is the inspector's language, for example when he referred to the "crime" of employing blacks instead of Venezuelans, many of whom were likely black or meztizo themselves, or hailing from Margarita Island. 


The inspector's complaints about West Indian labor and the underprivileged position of Venezuelan workers was not new.  In fact, as early as 1927, there is evidence of friction between Venezuelan workers and West Indians.  For example, in January of that year, a group of workers employed by British Controlled Oilfields working on the Mene de Mauroa field approached Perez Soto, complaining of a West Indian "antillano," who ran the local supply store.  According to the workers, the antillano was a drunk and "treated Venezuelans very poorly."  The workers demanded that the West Indian be fired from his post.[144]  In other instances, natives and foreigners competed for jobs.  At one point, Gomez even became involved in labor disputes in the oil zone, ordering Perez Soto to investigate the case of some Venezuelan workers who complained of having been fired unjustly.[145]  Perez Soto promptly swung into action, requesting that the Venezuela Oil Concessions explain its labor policies.  G. Witteveen, a company manager, explained to Perez Soto that the company had indeed let go of 21 workers, however "amongst cooks, kitchen assistants, dish boys and waiters, not all of the dismissed workers were Venezuelan, as Joseph Newfield is a colored Trinidadian antillano, and others are also colored foreigners."[146]  Interestingly then, the company representative seemed defensive, justifying the firings by saying that not just Venezuelans had been fired, but also at least one Trinidadian.


What is more, the oil companies, because they felt increasing pressure from the authorities, sought to get rid of their black West Indian labor force.  On 12 October 1927, Perez Soto proudly wrote Gomez that an administrator at Venezuela Gulf, Mr. K Winship, would shortly fire all black workers in the company's exploration and exploitation departments, and replace these workers with Venezuelans.  A contented Perez Soto reported to Gomez, "one clearly sees the hand of God helping you for the greater good of the Nation."[147]  However, the new policy, pushed for by local officials, was not met with universal acceptance by oil men.  According to Gulf's Pablo Polakis, the company's General Superintendent of Drilling, Mr. Newton, was unhappy about the new instructions.  Apparently, Winship had made it known verbally, without explaining any concrete reason, that Newton should promptly start to fire all Antillean or other foreign blacks, and to replace these workers by the end of the year with Venezuelans.  Newton did not protest the measures on moral grounds, arguing instead that Winship's reform would be prejudicial to Gulf's operations from an economic standpoint.  The blacks, stated Newton, were already trained and it would require some work to train new Venezuelans.  For his own part, Polakis was nervous about public exposure.  In a confidential note, the company man remarked that, "these instructions have been given verbally to avoid evidence (in case the English Consul would learn about this officially---and in such case without written evidence he will not be able to complain nor present official complaints to his government."  Polakis felt sure that the recent decision would not be popular and would be opposed by drilling chiefs, however Polakis was confident that the instructions would ultimately be carried out.  While arguing that he was not a racist, Polakis stated that he simply wanted a better future for Venezuelan workers.  On the other hand, Polakis was not opposed to white immigration, and commented that "if arms are missing----let this be filled at least by the White Race and above all by Latin Race---the only way of advancing the country in moral as well as material terms."[148]  Thus, Gomez's racist moves to expel the antillanos from the oil companies met with a mixed response from oil men.  Lower level foremen, who worked with antillanos, were reluctant to part with their colleagues and may have even developed social bonds with the Caribbean workforce.  However, foremen did not make company policy and Gulf oil managers showed indications that they would comply with government directives.  Thus, for all intensive purposes Gomez's draconian policy on antillanos had not harmed relations with the companies.


It is not clear whether Gulf ultimately followed through on its promises to dismiss West Indian workers.  However, there is some evidence to suggest ongoing West Indian presence in the Gulf workforce.  In 1933, for example, the British subject and man of color Cuthbert Robertson, a longtime resident in Venezuela returned to Grenada and was granted permission to return to Maracaibo.  Robertson was a Gulf employee at the time.[149]  Perhaps, the government backed off or the companies reached some type of compromise with the regime.  In the 1930s oil inspectors reported that there were 70 Antillean women working as domestics in employ of foreign oil workers in Cabimas. Gulf was one of the primary companies operating in the Cabimas area.[150]  In any case, if Gulf did make moves to get rid of its West Indian workforce, there is no evidence that other companies followed suit.  In the case of Lago Petroleum Corporation, which operated in the Cabimas area along with Gulf, documentation is readily available for later years and it is clear that West Indians were kept on the payroll.  In 1933 there were 35 Antillanos working for Lago in Lagunillas and the company also had West Indian employees in Cabimas.[151]  Clearly, at least some oil companies had reservations about getting rid of the West Indian workforce.  West Indians were more highly skilled than Venezuelan peons, and many Trinidadians were surely familiar with the Spanish language, making excellent interpreters or office workers.


Curious Case of Percy Creaves


Nevertheless, growing pressure on West Indians from local officials and some company officials would lead antillano workers to complain to the British government.  A case in point was Percy Creaves, who worked on the Mene Grande field with the Caribbean Petroleum Company.  Creaves suffered an attack of "temporary insanity" in May 1930.  He noted that he had left his duties as fireman, running  in the direction of the hospital.  Creaves arrived at hospital, only to find the premises filled to capacity.  As his "torture of head was unbearable," he went to his room and used a mixture he had prepared himself.  Creaves went to bed and after some sleep felt refreshed but still suffered from intense headache.  Creaves complained that "no medical aid or Company official came near me."  Creaves claimed that he "saw strokes of fire coming down to me from the air representing fork lightning.  I got up speedily to see if rain was coming in my wildness of mind.  I noticed it was a flash light used up and down in the adjacent room by the occupants," and the light hit him in the head.  About 7 o'clock that night Creaves went to the adjacent room with a wood cutting axe and asked the occupants why they were flashing the flashlight.  Creaves claimed that before he could get an answer, he was pushed back.  Creaves was then held by three other workmen of the company at Mene Grande.  Creaves claimed that he was beaten and unable to defend himself.  After Creaves arrived in his room, "bottles upon bottles showered on the door luckily for me it was closed."  Creaves claimed that the police then came and arrested him without saying word.  He was taken to the police station where he stayed for three or four days, and the company never inquired as to his health.  Creaves said that his attackers were not arrested, and that he went without food for some time. 


Creaves' odyssey was far from over.  Following his ordeal, he was conveyed to San Lorenzo, and from there to the San Timoteo Police Station where he was confined for another three days.  Creaves claimed that he was shackled and then placed on a launch headed for Lagunillas.  His clothing and house furniture were confiscated and never seen again.  At Lagunillas, Creaves was again imprisoned for three days without food, and on the fourth day the antillano was released and "told to go to hell."  "I could not find hell on earth," remarked Creaves, "so I went back to Mene Grande."  As soon as Creaves arrived at the oil field, he was again arrested, confined, and kept in prison for four days.  He was then released, placed on a 4 wheeled truck, and driven to the Central Railway Station of the Caribbean Petroleum Company.  In arguing his case before British officials, Creaves argued that he had never done his company superiors any harm, and that he had worked at the firm for six consecutive years.  Creaves finally found his way to Maracaibo, and paid a visit to the British Vice Consul.  Creaves explained his story and asked if he could claim some kind of gratuity.  Eight days later the Vice Consul replied that Creaves was not a British West Indian.  Creaves, however, countered that "as far as I know I was born in the Island of Barbados in the 1881 July 3rd."   Creaves then became an invalid and a beggar on the streets of Maracaibo and "I can firmly state that my livelihood was ruined by the command of the Caribbean M.G. Petroleum Company during the year 1930."  In concluding, Creaves remarked "I am now informing my High Court officials of England my Mother Government that my life is still a wreck…I am asking my Government to take my case into consideration, and find out for me, by the Law-Courts of England, if my ruined life; by the command of the C.P.C. [Caribbean Petroleum Corporation] worth me anything.  Since the beating I received from 5 persons in number and the continuous locking up of the company police I am still unable to earn my daily bread."[152]


The British Legation was not sympathetic.  In a terse dispatch, A.B. Hutchinson wrote, "…his [Creaves'] behavior at the time of the incidents referred to appears to have been such that the authorities and other people with whom he came in contact believed him to be insane and even dangerously so, and it is not altogether surprising that they took the measures they did against him…It is not seen how any claim can be made on the man's behalf and the only way of helping him that I can suggest would be to have him repatriated on the ground of destitution.  There appears to be no doubt as to his nationality, as he holds a British passport, which describes him as a native of Barbados."[153] 


Not all British officials took the same view, however.  In a note, Colonel Seagrim disparaged West Indians overall as a troublesome lot.  However, in the specific case of Creaves, Seagrim took an understanding view.  "I had quite a long conversation with Creaves [sic]," wrote Seagrim, "and as a result of this, I consider that he appears perfectly sane, but liable to work himself up into a passion when discussing the matter of his grievance.  He is an elderly man, far more likeable than the average West Indian, and, from what I gathered, he is going through a rough time, having no means, sleeping out in the streets, begging food, etc.  He seems very respectable, his face and manner show no signs of dissipation or vices, and I consider that his is a case that deserves sympathetic treatment." 


Furthermore, Seagrim remarked that "he has been a fireman for the last six years, he says, and attributes his illness to the excess of heat when on his job and also to domestic troubles, his wife having deserted him in 1928."[154]  Seagrim's more upbeat appraisal had little impact upon the British authorities in Caracas, however, and there is no record that they spoke to the Caribbean Petroleum Company regarding his dismissal. 


Plight of Antillano Workers


Creaves' case was not isolated.  Other West Indians, who were unfortunate in obtaining work, wound up in hospitals.  An interesting case was Samuel Agard, who like Creaves seems to have suffered some kind of psychological disorder, referred to by the British Consul as "infantile imbecility."  The British Consul wrote Perez Soto, requesting that Agard be deported to Trinidad so as to avoid additional hospital expenses accruing to the British government.  Already, Agard had spent six months under observation and treatment.[155]  The Zulia Secretary General responded that Agard would be declared an "undesirable immigrant" and presumably deported back to Trinidad.[156]  While it is unclear why Agard and Creaves suffered psychological trauma, it seems at least possible that the everyday stresses of life in the oil zone hastened, rather than slowed down, mental breakdown.  Far from expressing interest for West Indian workers, British officials did not seem to express much sympathy for West Indians in Maracaibo, nor did they intercede on their behalf.  The lack of encouragement or support from higher officials must have come as a blow to West Indians, who faced an unclear and uncertain future.  Nor did the fall of the Gomez dictatorship in 1935 help to improve the lot of West Indian laborers.  According to a local Cabimas historian, an increasingly more nationalistic and militant oil work force pressured to have a 1936 Work Law enforced which sought to place tighter controls over the number of foreign workers laboring on the oil fields. These provisions were applied to the Trinidadians, "the majority of whom returned to their islands." To see fellow oil workers turning against them surely was distressing for the antillanos, who had been living in the oil zone for more than ten years and had built a life for themselves.  While it is unclear just how massive this outflow of labor was, many Trinidadians were successfully able to stay in the country as they had children born in the country or they had married Venezuelan women.[157]  According to British observers, the British West Indian community was still considerable after World War II, though diminishing, and there were antillanos living in Cabimas and Lagunillas.[158]  The British West Indians represented a floating population, their jobs of insecure tenure, "in the sense that they are liable to transfer constantly, not only overseas, but up country to the camps or anywhere in this vast territory."[159]




The arrival then of antillanos in Zulia provided authorities with the opportunity of promoting national identity and xenophobic racism.  However, the Venezuelan case is hardly unique.  In Cuba, for example, Haitians, Jamaicans, and others played an important role in the U.S. dominated sugar industry, and by the early 1930s there were between 150,000 and 200,000 Caribbean immigrants in Cuba,[160] a much more substantial community than the antillanos in Maracaibo.  As in Zulia, the Cuban authorities, in this case the regime of Gerardo Machado y Morales (1925-1933) appeased Cuban nationalist sentiment by initiating the repatriation of Haitian and British West Indian workers at the end of the 1920s.[161]  However, "large scale unemployment and the sudden appearance on town and city streets of tens of thousands of sugar workers, many of them native-born blacks and Caribbean braceros, increased the elite's apprehension of the risk of social unrest." Cuban fears about unemployed Caribbean blacks roaming the streets are, again, similar to moves by Zulia authorities to clamp down on antillanos.   Anti-antillano discourse, predicated on fears of unfair competition and "a general dilution of Cubanidad," were promoted not only by intellectuals but also by workers,[162] similar to what occurred in Zulia.  Furthermore, in a clear parallel to the Zulia case, "Cuban anti-imperialist discourse was also deeply influenced by fears of Antillean immigrants, whose movements to and from Cuba were attributed to foreign domination of the sugar industry."[163]  As in the case of the Zulia antillanos, Jamaicans had a higher literacy rate than many Cuban workers, which earned the antillanos promotion to higher paying jobs.   Just as antillanos requested the assistance of Robert Cameron in Maracaibo, Jamaicans and other antillanos in Cuba enlisted British consular support to uphold their rights when dealing with employers or local authorities.[164]  In Costa Rica, antillano workers competed with local workers in a depressed labor market on United Fruit company banana plantations,[165]  however "racially charged jingoism served to divide the labor force along lines of nationality."[166]  In Dominican Republic, antillanos were recruited as seasonal cane workers from the late 19th century onwards, however legislation became increasingly hostile to Afro-Caribbean immigration[167] and both the elite and workers organized to oppose West Indian immigration.[168] 


Zulia Antillanos found themselves in a paradoxical situation: on the one hand they were often skilled laborers who received higher pay than many Venezuelans.  However, within the racial hierarchy, antillanos were at the bottom of the ladder.  As a result, they had to be constantly wary of the Venezuelan workforce, which complained to higher authorities about the West Indian presence.  There is some evidence to suggest that antillanos were accepted to a degree in local oil boom towns, however West Indians had to be careful.  As skilled laborers, the antillanos could acquire property and even achieve a measured degree of prosperity, but that material success was in constant danger of being taken away.  There is no evidence that West Indians participated in labor disputes during the Gomez era, for example during the 1925 oil strike.  Could it have been that antillanos, having acquired some goods and prosperity in the oil towns, were upwardly mobile and did not wish to associate with Venezuelan workers?  Such a conclusion is possible.  However, an equally suggestive possibility is that West Indians were leery of participating in such actions due to their precarious status in Venezuela.  In backing racist and xenophobic legislation, Gomez exploited racist sentiment latent in Venezuelan society.  It was a shrewd move.  Appealing to workers on the basis of race stood to undermine class solidarity and ensured that the workers would have difficulty launching a serious political challenge to the regime.  By getting workers to think of themselves as Venezuelans and not part of a wider class struggle including antillanos, Gomez was probably able to benefit somewhat and diffuse political and social discontent directed at the regime.  What is more, in picking on the antillanos Gomez did not jeopardize his relationship with the companies.  Wary of Caribbean blacks, oil managers rarely defended their migrant workers and in some cases even acceded to racist government directives.  Thus, while the arrival of the antillanos was potentially worrisome in that it threatened to destabilize social relations Gomez turned this unfavorable situation to his advantage.  By playing the race card Gomez was able to shore up his state building project and foster  Venezuelan nationalism.



[1]  Lieuwen, "Petroleum in Venezuela, A History" 49
[2]  Ministerio de Fomento, Memoria del estado zulia 1927 (Caracas: Editorial Sur America, 1928), "Inmigracion," Perez Soto to Ministro Relaciones Interiores, Presidencia No 26, 8 July 1926, 67
[3]   Angel Ziems, El gomecismo y la formacion del ejercito nacional (Caracas: Editorial Ateneo, 1979) 21
[4]  See BAHM, "El Zulia en 1926 and 1929," No 90 April 1976, Ano XVII, Hector Garcia Chuecos to Gomez, Maracaibo 21 April 1926, 61
[5]   Ewell, Venezuela and The United States,  115
[6]   Tomas Polanco Alcantara, Juan Vicente Gomez, aproximacion a una biografia (Caracas: Grijalbo, 1990) 439
[7]   Polanco, Juan Vicente Gomez, 440
[8]   Bautista Urbaneja, "El sistema politico gomecista," in Caballero, et. al., Juan Vicente Gomez y su epoca, 56
[9]   Ministerio de Fomento, Anuario estadistico 1938 (Caracas: direccion general de estadistica, imprenta  nacional 1939), 5
[10]   Ministerio de Fomento, Anuario estadistico 1908 (Caracas: direccion general de estadistica, imprenta nacional 1910), 11
[11]   Ministerio de Fomento, Anuario estadistico 1908, 414
[12]   Carmen Amanda Perez, Maracaibo y la region andina, encrucijada historica (Maracaibo: Corpozulia, Centro de Estudios Historicos Universidad del Zulia, 1988), 36
[13]   Amanda, Maracaibo y la region andina, 33
[14]   Venezuela Up To Date, Vol 1 1927 (Caracas 1927) 575
[15]   Amanda, Maracaibo y la region andina, 33
[16]   Linder, "'Con Un Panuelo de Seda:' 6
[17]    Edwin Lieuwen, "The Politics of Energy in Venezuela," in John D. Wirth (ed.), Latin American Oil Companies and the Politics of Energy (Lincoln: University Nebraska Press, 1985), 194
[18]   George Philip, Oil and Politics in Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 19
[19]     Sandra Flores, "The Gomez Administration and The Oil Workers" (Venezuela, 1908-1935), MA, UT Austin, 2001, 22
[20]     AHZ, Tomo III 1922, Registro Público, Actos Registrados en la Oficina Subalterna de Registro Durante El Mes de Mayo Proximo Pasado."
[21]     Edwin Lieuwen, Petroleum in Venezuela (Berkeley, University California Publications in History Vol 47, 1954) 53
[22]     PRO, FO 369/1924, K 5360/4288/247, Foreign Office Minutes, 26 April 1926, 473
[23]     Gonzalez, La revolucion de los barrosos, 104
[24]    Lieuwen, Petroleum in Venezuela, 53
[25]    NA, 831.5017/1, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, Maracaibo April 30, 1926
[26]    PRO, FO 369/1924, K 11187, T.D. Dunlop, 20/9/26
[27]    NA, 831.00/1290, Wainwright Abbott to Secretary of State, Caracas April 3, 1926
[28]    NA, 831.1292, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, Maracaibo March 31, 1926
[29]  BAHM, "El Zulia en 1926 y 1929," L. Perez Bustamante to Juan Vicente Gomez, Maracaibo 25 March 1926
[30]   NA, 831.504/9, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, Maracaibo July 30, 1925
[31]    Flores, "The Gomez Administration and The Oil Workers," 14.  According to Lieuwen, a five bolivar daily wage in 1925 was worth $1 U.S.  See Lieuwen, Petroleum in Venezuela, 50
[32]   NA, 831.504/9, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, Maracaibo July 30, 1925
[33]    Julio Quintero, "Los campamentos petroleros de la costa oriental del lago de maracaibo: el sindicato como factor de integracion comunitaria, caso maraven" (Maracaibo, Magister Universidad del Zulia, 1991), 247
[34]    NA, 831.504/9, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, Maracaibo July 30, 1925
[35]    Flores, "The Gomez Administration and The Oil Workers," 16
[36]    NA, 831.504/9, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, Maracaibo July 30, 1925
[37]    Flores, "The Gomez Administration and The Oil Workers," 16
[38]    Flores, "The Gomez Administration and The Oil Workers," 29, 30
[39]   Flores, "The Gomez Administration and The Oil Workers," 31, 32
[40]   Flores, "The Gomez Administration and The Oil Workers," 32
[41]    NA, 831.504/9, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, Maracaibo July 30, 1925
[42]    Flores, "The Gomez Administration and The Oil Workers," 24
[43]    Flores, "The Gomez Administration and The Oil Workers," 25
[44]     Ewell, Venezuela and The United States,  135
[45]     McBeth, Juan Vicente Gómez, 143
[46]    NA, 831.00/1298, Willis Cook to Secretary of State, Caracas June 7, 1926
[47]    NA, 831.00/1315, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, Maracaibo November 26, 1926
[48]    PRO, FO 371/14300, A 7369, Mr O'Reilly, Leading Personalities in Venezuela, 17 October 1930
[49]    NA, 831.00/1298, Willis Cook to Secretary of State, Caracas June 7, 1926
[50]   NA, RG 59, 831.122, Feb 27, 1925. American Foreign Service Report from Maracaibo Consulate.
[51]   Humberto Ochoa Urdaneta, Estampas de cabimas (Maracaibo: Centro Histórico de Cabimas, 1993), 44-5.  It is perfectly understandable that Trinidadian workers would have knowledge of Spanish, as Trinidad was a former Spanish colonial possession.  Even under English rule, Spanish continued to be spoken and by the late 19th century English speaking teachers were frustrated by their child pupils, many of whom only spoke Spanish or an 'unintelligible' patois.  See Donald Wood, Trinidad in Transition, The Years After Slavery (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 34, 229
[52]  NA, RG 59, Internal Affairs Venezuela, 831.00/1304, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, August 5 1926 
[53]   AHZ, unmarked folder 1933, Caracas 27 December 1933, Pedro Tinoco, Minister of Interior, to President, Estado Zulia.
[54]   Lieuwen, "Petroleum in Venezuela," 52
[55]   Michelle Harrison, King Sugar, Jamaica, The Caribbean, and the World Sugar Industry (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 120-27
[56]    NA, RG 59, Internal Affairs Venezuela, 831.00/1304, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, Aug 5 1926. 
[57]   AHZ, unmarked folder 1935,"Novedades Policiales del Municipio Cabimas, 25-5-35, and 24-5-35."
[58]  AHZ, unmarked folder 1935, Notas Ministro Relaciones Interiores Agosto 1935, Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia, Caracas 29 August.
[59]  AHZ, unmarked folder year 1933, Caracas 27 December 1933, Pedro Tinoco, Minister of Interior, to President, Estado Zulia.
[60]  AHZ, unmarked folder year 1933, Caracas 24 June 1933, Pedro Tinoco to President State of Zulia.
[61]  AHZ, unmarked folder 1934, Notas Ministerio Interior Mayo 1934, Caracas 29 May 1934, Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia.
[62]    AHZ, unmarked folder 1934, Notas Ministerio Interior Mayo 1934, Caracas 29 May 1934, Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia.
[63]   Ochoa, Estampas de cabimas, 76-7
[64]   AHZ, unmarked folder 1933, section correspondencia personal 1933 dirigida al Gral Vincencio Pérez Soto, L Pinto Salvatierra, "Memorandum para el Gral Vincencio Pérez Soto en relación con la oposición a embargo habida en el juicio seguido por Benzecry & Benmergui contral Nasib Salomon I Chemel Halim."
[65]   AHZ, unmarked folder 1934, Legajo, Telegramas Jefes Civiles Distritos Foráneos Julio 1934.  La Rita, 18 July 1934, Mario Maya to Secretario General Estado.
[66]    Ochoa, Estampas de cabimas, 44-5
[67]    Natanael Maria Pinero, "Penetracion del Evangelio en Cabimas," in Primer congreso de la historia de cabimas (Maracaibo: Produccion Editorial Edinson Castro, Ediciones del Centro Historico de Cabimas, 1993), 130
[68]   Ochoa, Estampas de cabimas, 45
[69]   Brown, "British Petroleum Pioneers in Mexico and South America" 24
[70]   Ochoa, Estampas de cabimas, 45
[71]    AHZ, Vol 16 1929 "Inmigracion, Certificados de Buena Conducta Para Obtener Permisos Para Entrar a Venezuela"  Statement, VOC Inter-Office, Shore Lagunillas, 15 July 1929.
[72]    AHZ, Vol 16 1929 "Inmigracion, Certificados de Buena Conducta Para Obtener Permisos Para Entrar a Venezuela" Statement, signature illegible, Maracaibo VOC 17 June 1929
[73]    AHZ, Vol 16 1929 "Inmigracion, Certificados de Buena Conducta Para Obtener Permisos Para Entrar a Venezuela" Inter-Office VOC, East Lagunillas, Departamento de Construccion, 20 June 1929
[74]    AHZ, Vol 16 1929 "Inmigracion, Certificados de Buena Conducta Para Obtener Permisos Para Entrar a Venezuela" JF Emanuel A to Presidente Estado Zulia, Maracaibo 27 June 1929
[75]    AHZ, Vol 16 1929, "Companias Petroleras."  Statement James Williams, Jefe Taller Caribbean, Cabimas 25 July 1929
[76]    RP, Defunciones 1926 Municipio Cabimas, 12 July 1926.
[77]    AHMEM, Ministerio Energia y Minas, Ministerio de Fomento, Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, Maracaibo, Informe Mensual 1935-36, Pedro Gomez Willet to Inspector Tecnico de Hidrocarburos, 9 September 1935
[78] AHMEM, Ministerio de Fomento, Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, Maracaibo, Censo de Empleados y Obreros de las Diferentes Companias del Estado Zulia.  Occidente del Pais, 1936, The Caribbean Petroleum Corporation, San Lorenzo---Installation, Censo del Pay Roll diario del campo de San Lorenzo para el dia 30 Junio 1936
[79]    AHMEM, Ministerio de Fomento, Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, Maracaibo, Censo de Empleados y Obreros de las Diferentes Companias del Estado Zulia.  Occidente del Pais, 1936, Lago Petroleum Corporation, La Salina refinery, empleados mensuales, Lago Petroleum Corporation La Salina, lista de empleados (Diarios) 15 Mayo 1936
[80]   AHZ, unmarked folder 1933, section, "Entradas de Extranjeros."  Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia, Caracas 10 March 1933
[81]   AHZ, unmarked folder 1934, section, Legago No 2, Notas Ministerio Interior, Mayo 1934, Caracas 24 May 1934, Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia.
[82]  AHZ, unmarked folder 1935, section, "Notas Ministerio Relaciones Interiores, Oct 1935" Caracas 15 Oct 1935, Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia
[83]  AHZ, unmarked folder 1935, Notas Ministerio Relaciones Interiores, October 1935, Caracas 25 October 1935, Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia
[84]  AHZ, unmarked folder 1935, telegramas copiadores 1935, Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia, Caracas 19 November 1935.
[85]  AHZ, unmarked folder 1935,telegramas copiadores 1935, Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia, Caracas 14 November 1935.
[86]    Ministerio de Salubridad y de Agricultura y Cria, Direccion de Salubridad Publica, Memoria presentada a las camaras legislativas de los estados unidos de venezuela, Tomo I (Caracas: Lit y Tip Vargas, 1935), No 956, Caracas 4 April 1934, H Toledo Trujillo to Medico Sanidad, Maracaibo
[87]    Ministerio de Salubridad y de Agricultura y Cria, Memoria, 1935, oficina subalterna de Sanidad Nacional, No 2242, Maracaibo 22 Abril 1934, A Castillo Plaza, to Ciudadano Ministro de Salubridad y de Agricultura y Cria, Caracas. 
[88]    AHZ, unmarked folder 1934, "Notas Ministerio de Relaciones Interiores Junio 1934." Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia, Caracas 6 June 1934.
[89]    AHZ, unmarked folder year 1933, "Entradas de Extranjeros, Abril 1933" Caracas 5 April 1933, Pedro Tinoco to President State of Zulia.
[90]    AHZ, unmarked folder 1934, Legajo No 2, Notas Ministerio Interior, Mayo 1934, Caracas 24 May 1934, Pedro Tinoco to Presidente Edo Zulia.
[91]   Siro Vázquez, "The Conquest of Maracaibo," United Nations World, July 1951, 61
[92]    Registro Principal (Maracaibo) [hereafter referred to as RP] Defunciones Lagunillas 1927, Lagunillas 17 Marzo 1927
[93]    RP, Defunciones Lagunillas 1928, Lagunillas 20 Apil 1928
[94]    RP, Defunciones Lagunillas 1928, Lagunillas 16 July 1928
[95]    RP, Defunciones Lagunillas 1928, Lagunillas 24 May 1928
[96] Graham R. Serjeant, Beryl E. Serjeant, Sickle Cell Disease, Third Ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 21, 28
[97]    AHZ, unmarked folder 1934, Novedades occurridas en el Cuartel del Policia durante el dia de ayer, 20-5-34"
[98]    AHZ, unmarked section 1935, Novedades policiales municipio Lagunillas Nov 1935. "Novedades policiales durante el dia 19 Noviembre."
[99]    AHZ, unmarked folder 1935, Novedades Policiales del Municipio Cabimas Nov 1935." Novedades policiales durante el dia 24-11-35.
[100]   PRO, FO 369/2441, K8362, 22 July 1935. 
[101]     Susan B Thompson, "The Musiues in Venezuela, Immigration Goals and Reality" (PhD. diss, Cornell University, 1981), 22
[102]     Thompson, "The Musiues in Venezuela," 23
[103]    Thompson, "The Musiues in Venezuela," 24
[104]   Alberto, Juan Vicente Gomez y Eustoquio Gomez, 215
[105]    Alberto Adriani, "Venezuela y los problemas de la inmigracion," Boletin de la Camara de Comercio de Caracas, 1 November 1926, No 156,  3485
[106]    NA, 831.00/870, Emil Sauer to Secretary of State, Maracaibo November 14, 1918
[107]  PRO, FO 369/1924, K 5360 Memorandum for Mr Hobson, 26 April 1926
[108]   NA, RG 59, Internal Affairs Venezuela, 831.00/1304, Alexander Sloan to Secretary of State, August 5 1926. 
[109]   Ministerio de Fomento, Memoria del estado zulia 1927 (Caracas: Editorial Sur America, 1928), "Inmigracion," Perez Soto to Ministro Relaciones Interiores, Presidencia No 26, 8 July 1926, 67
[110]    Memoria estado zulia 1927, "Inmigracion," Segundo Trimestre 1926, "Movimiento Inmigracion Maracaibo," 68
[111]   AHZ, unmarked folder 1933, Eliseo Villareal, Hernan Arias, Claudio Silva, etc. to Mario Maya, 26 August 1933
[112]   Ministerio de Relaciones Interiores, Memoria ministerio de relaciones interiores 1930, "Inmigracion,"  88, Rubén González to Presidente Estado Zulia, Caracas 5 September 1929
[113]   Ochoa, Estampas de cabimas, 76-7
[114]    Calvani, Reminiscencias, 24-5
[115]    NA, RG 59, 831.504/28, Wallace to FA Leovy, New York Oct 27, 1926.
[116]    PRO, FO 369/2003, Hobson Feb 8 1927, Consul Hobson's Tour of Inspection to Willemstad, Aruba, and Maracaibo, in File No K 3689, 48, 50. 
[117]    Ministerio de Fomento, Memoria del estado zulia 1928 (Caracas: Editorial Sur America, 1929), "Inmigracion,"  Perez Soto to Ministro Relaciones Interiores, Maracaibo 5 May 1927, 72
[118]    Ministerio de Fomento, Memoria del estado zulia 1928 (Caracas: Editorial Sur America, 1929), "Inmigracion,"  Perez Soto to Ministro Relaciones Interiores, Maracaibo 5 May 1927, 72
[119]   Thompson, "The Musiues in Venezuela," 24
[120]   Ministerio de Relaciones Interiores, Memoria ministerio de relaciones interiores1930, "Circular Sobre Entrada Al Pais de Individuos de Raza de Color," Document No 111, Caracas 5 October 1929, Ministro Relaciones Interiores to Ruben Gonzalez
[121]    AHZ, Vol 1 1930, "Companias Petroleras."  Statement, Caribbean Petroleum Company, 17 Nov 1930
[122]    AHZ, unsorted folder 1934, statement Caribbean Petroleum Company 20 November 1933, November 20 1933, Maracaibo.
[123]    Memoria ministerio de relaciones interiores 1930, "Circular Sobre Entrada Al Pais de Individuos de Raza de Color," Doc No 124, JM Garcia to Ministro Relaciones Interiores, Caracas 16 November 1929, 137
[124]    Memoria ministerio de relaciones interiores 1930, "Circular Sobre Entrada Al Pais de Individuos de Raza de Color," Doc No 125, Ministro Relaciones Interiores to Gobernador Distrito Federal, Caracas 19 November 1929, 138
[125]    Memoria ministerio de relaciones interiores 1930, "Circular Sobre Entrada Al Pais de Individuos de Raza de Color," Doc No 126, Ministro Relaciones Exteriores to Ministro Relaciones Interiores, Caracas 16 November 1929, 139
[126]    Memoria ministerio de relaciones interiores 1930, "Circular Sobre Entrada Al Pais de Individuos de Raza de Color," Doc No 127, Ministro de Relaciones Interiores to Ministro Relaciones Exteriores, Caracas 19 November 1929, 139
[127]    AHZ, Vol 7 1928, Companias Petroleras.  Statement Senor E Redden, San Lorenzo, 22 October 1928
[128]    AHZ, Vol 7 1928, Companias Petroleras.  Statement signature illegible, Maracaibo 9 July 1929
[129]    AHZ, Vol 16 1929, Companias Petroleras, Caribbean Petroleum Company, Maracaibo 17 June 1929
[130]    AHZ, Documentos Particulares y Sin Lugar de Origen 1932, Maracaibo 12 November 1932, Joseph Stewart to Gral Presidente Edo Zulia
[131]    Memoria estado zulia 1928, Leonte Olivo to Jefe Civil Distrito Maracaibo, "Inmigracion," Maracaibo 3 March 1927
[132]    AHZ, Vol 10 1928, Companias Petroleras, Wm Clark to Vincencio Perez Soto, Maracaibo 4 June 1928
[133]    AHZ, Vol 10 1928, Companias Petroleras.  Wm Clark to Vincencio Perez Soto, Maracaibo 11 June 1928.
[134]    AHZ, Vol 10 1928, Companias Petroleras.  Wm Clark to Vincencio Perez Soto, Maracaibo 28 June 1928.
[135]   NA, RG 59, 831.00/1318, Sloan to Sec State, December 16, 1926
[136]    PRO, FO 199/241, K 9988/9988/247, Extract from note No. 147 from the Venezuela Charge d'Affaires, 20 July 1927.  It is unclear here whether the Charge d'Affaires was referring to the Creaves case, mentioned later and originally reported in 1930, or to another case altogether.
[137]    PRO, FO 199/241, K 9988/9988/247, Extract from note No. 147 from the Venezuela Charge d'Affaires, 20 July 1927
[138]    PRO, FO 369/2117, K 3748 20 March 1929, letter dated February 22 1929
[139]    PRO, FO 369/2003, Hobson, Feb 8 1927, in file No K3689, Consul Hobson's Tour of Inspection to Willemstad, Aruba and Maracaibo, 52
[140]    PRO, FO 199/271, British Legation, Caracas, September 1927, O'Reilly (?) to Chamberlain 
[141]    PRO, FO 369/2117 K 8221 5 July 1929, TD Dunlop, Inspector of Consular Establishments, 10  
[142]    PRO, FO 369/2382, K 2067, Feb 1934.  John MacGregor, memorandum on the status of the Maracaibo Consulate, 23 Nov 1933. 
[143]    AHMEM, Ministerio de Fomento, Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos.  Informes.  Maracaibo 1931, C.A. Velutini to Oficina Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, Cabimas 8 June 1931
[144]    AHZ, Vol 4 1927, Companias Petroleras.  Vincencio Perez Soto to Gerente, British Controlled Oilfields, Maracaibo 7 January 1927
[145]    AHZ, Vol 4 1927, Companias Petroleras.  Vincencio Perez Soto to Juan Vicente Gomez, Maracaibo 5 May 1927
[146]    AHZ, Vol 4 1927, Companias Petroleras.  G. Witteveen to Secretario General del Estado Zulia, Maracaibo 3 May 1927
[147]    AHM, 607 C, Oct 1-15, 1927, Perez Soto to Juan Vicente Gomez, Maracaibo 12 October 1927
[148]    AHM, 607 C, Oct 1-15, 1927, Pablo Polakis to Manuel Belisario, Maracaibo 11 October 1927
[149]    AHZ, unmarked folder 1933, Caracas 2 June 1933, Pedro Tinoco to President State of Zulia.
[150]    AHMEM, 1932-33, Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, asunto: Correspondencia e Informes, CA Velutini to Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, Cabimas 8 March 1933
[151]    AHMEM, 1932-33, Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, asunto: Correspondencia e Informes, G Gabaldon P to Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, Lagunillas 12 March 1933, 1932-33, Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, asunto: Correspondencia e Informes, Carlos Perez de la Cova to Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, Mene Grande 8 March 1933
[152]    PRO, FO 369/2297, K 10795 13 September 1932. 
[153]    PRO, FO 369/2297, K14447, 14 December 1932
[154]    PRO, FO 369/2297, K14447, 14 Dec 1932.
[155]    AHZ, Vol 10 1928, Consulados, Seagrim to Perez Soto, 14 June 1928.
[156]    AHZ, Vol 10 1928, Consulados, Secretary General, to Seagrim?
[157]    Ochoa, Estampas de cabimas, 45
[158]    PRO, FO 924/441, LC 1196, 20 February 1946, "Report by Mr AD Francis on visit to Maracaibo and Western Venezuela".
[159]    PRO, FO 924/441, LC 2759,  "Memorandum, Visit to Maracaibo Regarding Formation of a New Anglo-Venezuelan Association". 
[160]   Barry Carr, "Identity, Class, and Nation: Black Immigrant Workers, Cuban Communism, and the Sugar Insurgency, 1925-1934," HAHR, Vol 78 Issue 1 (Feb 1998), 83
[161]   Carr, "Identity, Class, and Nation," 84
[162]   Carr, "Identity, Class, and Nation," 86
[163]   Carr, "Identity, Class, and Nation," 87
[164]   Carr, "Identity, Class, and Nation," 90
[165]   Carr, "Identity, Class, and Nation," 114
[166]   Carr, "Identity, Class, and Nation," 115
[167]   Samuel Martinez, "From Hidden Hand to Heavy Hand: the State, and Migrant Labor in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, LARR, Volume 34 Issue 1 (1999), 62
[168]   Martinez, "From Hidden Hand to Heavy Hand," 64

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