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Hugo Chávez: Environmental Hypocrite or Ecological Savior?

During a recent trip to Venezuela, I found myself in my Caracas hotel room watching President Hugo Chavez give a speech on TV.  I had come to the country as a guest of the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigation (known by its Spanish acronym IVIC), which was helping to organize an environmental conference about Lake Maracaibo.


I had long been interested in ecological concerns: my dissertation focused on the environmental history of the Venezuelan oil industry.  In my recent book, Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the U.S. (St. Martins' Press, 2006), I touched on the role of American oil companies in the Lake Maracaibo area.


As usual, Chavez was thundering against the United States, in this case striking an environmental theme.  North Americans, he charged, had pursued an "egotistical" model of development.  Chavez denounced the consumerist lifestyle in the United States, predicated on having more than one car per family. 


On other occasions, Chavez has argued that powerful nations are responsible for causing global warming.  What is more, he has publicly regretted pollution resulting from traditional sources of energy.  He has called on developed nations to look more favorably on alternative energy such as gas, hydro and solar power.  To its credit, Venezuela has ratified the Kyoto Protocol reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 


Venezuela emits only 0.48% of the world's greenhouse gases.  According to government officials, the country is in fourth place in Latin America regarding greenhouse emissions after Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.  Nevertheless, Venezuela exports 1 million barrels of oil per day to its northern neighbor and thus contributes to global warming.


For Venezuelan environmentalists, the country's dependence on oil exports is worrying.  In an effort to learn more about energy policy in Venezuela, I caught up with Jorge Hinestroza, a sociologist at the University of Zulia in Maracaibo and the former General Coordinator of the Federation of Zulia Ecologists.  We met in Maracaibo, where I was attending the environmental conference dealing with Lake Maracaibo. 


"In the next fifty years we should be going through a process of transition, to substitute oil for another source of energy," he remarked.  "I think from a scientific and technical standpoint we are not doing sufficiently enough to look for oil alternatives," he added.


There are encouraging signs, however, that the government is taking some action.  For a country whose economy is almost wholly dependent on oil production, Venezuela has taken some positive steps.


Brazil: An Ethanol Giant


Since 2002, Venezuela and Brazil have fostered an alliance through the promotion of joint energy projects.  For example, the Venezuelan state-run oil giant PDVSA has joined with Brazil's Petrobras to construct the Abreu de Lima refinery, located in dirt poor Pernambuco state.  The refinery will process crude oil resulting from joint exploration projects in Venezuela. 


The energy alliance has in turn bolstered political ties.  During the 2002-3 oil lock out, in which the opposition sought to topple the Chavez regime, Brazilian President Lula also shipped oil to Venezuela.


Now, Brazil is helping to spur alternative energy in Venezuela by shipping ethanol to its neighbor.  In South America, ethanol is an alcohol fuel made from sugar cane.  According to a recent study from the University of Minnesota, ethanol produces 12 percent less greenhouse gasses linked to global warming than gasoline.


For three decades Brazil has used fuel alcohol on a large scale, but it's only more recently that the country has been able to reap the full reward from its ethanol production.  Because of the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for the reduction of pollutant emissions, there are now great opportunities for sale of ethanol. 


With its eye on this great potential, Brazil has dived straight into the foreign alcohol market.  Authorities have announced that Brazil will invest heavily in transport infrastructure over the coming years.  Almost all Brazilian cars have flex-fuel engines running on both gasoline and ethanol, and the country has reduced its gasoline consumption by nearly half over the last four years. 

For Paulo Roberto Costa, Supply director at Petrobras (the Brazilian state oil company), ethanol shipments to Venezuela should "strengthen [Petrobras'] position as an energy company [and] generate great gains to the environment."  Costa added that Petrobras stood to benefit, as the company would "enter new markets and sectors, sponsor the growth of Brazil and collaborate to the integration of the countries of South America."


Venezuela Seeks Ethanol Self Sufficiency


Though Venezuela has imported ethanol from Brazil, the Chavez government has also taken action to produce the fuel on its own so the country can become self sufficient.  Venezuela has in fact taken the step of eliminating its consumption of lead-based gasoline.  The country seeks to produce ethanol for domestic consumption and to add 10% of the fuel to all gasoline.

According to Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez, "The elimination of lead from gasoline ... will bring great health and environmental benefits."  PdVSA has set up an ethanol producing subsidiary, Alcoholes de Venezuela. 


Venezuela will commence construction of 15 sugar cane mills in 2007 and hopes to complete 21 distilleries by 2012.  Chavez has pledged to invest $900 million to plant sugarcane and construct processing plants over the next several years.  Such a plan is certainly ambitious: Venezuela will have to plant 740,000 acres of sugar cane if it wants to meet its target.


Venezuela and Cuba: Solidifying Ties through Ethanol


Chavez has sought strong ties to Cuba in recent years, and Venezuela is now solidifying an innovative energy alliance with the island nation.  For years, Venezuela has exported oil to Cuba in exchange for Cuban doctors who have serviced the poor and disadvantaged through Chavez's Barrio Adentro program.


Now, Chavez has gone further by seeking Cuban assistance for his nascent ethanol program.  For Cuba, it is a novel opportunity to take advantage of its dormant sugar industry.  Though the country was at one time the largest sugar exporter in the world, the island's sugar industry fell on hard times in recent years when falling prices obliged the country to close almost half its mills.  Now, however, Cuba says it will modernize its old distilleries as well as build new ones which would be geared principally towards the production of ethanol fuel. 

Venezuela stands to gain from Cuban expertise in the ethanol sector.  The island nation shall provide Venezuela with parts from its dismantled mills for use in ethanol production.  "Cuba is advising us in the process [of ethanol production] and training personnel," remarked Maria Antonieta Chacon, president of the Venezuelan Agrarian Corporation.


Ethanol: Solving Chavez's Political Imperative


For Chavez, ethanol not only serves an environmental purpose but also relieves political pressure on the government.  In Venezuela, rural to urban migration is a thorny social problem.  Caracas, a polluted, crime-infested city, has seen explosive civil unrest in the past and needs to stem the flow of new rural migrants. 


Chavez's ethanol plans could help to ameliorate some of this migration by encouraging a nascent industry in the countryside.  According to PdVSA, ethanol and sugar cane fermentation "cuts dependence on oil and promotes other economic activities."  Under the program, sugar cane will be harvested in 12 states throughout the country and will lead to the creation of 500,000 jobs.


PdVSA has announced that it could build several ethanol plants in the central state of Yaracuy, which is one of the top sugarcane producing areas in the country.  Nelson Rojas, General Secretary of the state, remarked that the state's plans to create twenty plants in his state would be a boon to the local economy.  According to Rojas, each plant would create more than 12,000 jobs. 


Chavez at the United Nations


In his 2005 address to the United Nations, Hugo Chavez derided what he called "a socioeconomic model that has a galloping destructive capacity."  The Venezuelan president expressed concern about "an unstoppable increase of energy" and added that "more carbon dioxide will inevitably be increased, thus warming our planet even more."


It's rather ironic that Chavez, as the leader of one of the world's leading oil producing nations, would emphasize global warming at the United Nations.  Nevertheless, recent moves by the government suggest that Chavez is willing to undertake some modest changes in energy policy. 


While it's certainly environmentally vital for Venezuela to move off lead based gasoline and adopt alternative technologies, Chavez also has public relations considerations.  The Venezuelan President wants to paint himself as an underdog on the world stage, struggling against U.S. imperialism and the voracious consumerist appetites of North Americans.  By moving towards ethanol, Chavez may deflect criticism that he is hypocritical.  In adopting alternative fuels, he also gains politically by shoring up ties to Cuba and Brazil, two key allies in the region.

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Hugo Chávez’s Achilles Heel: The Environment

Located within the western provincial state of Zulia, Lake Maracaibo has long been a center of the petroleum industry.  Historically, the lake has been plagued by oil spills and pollution. 

Most recently, the lake has witnessed a profound catastrophe with the arrival of duckweed, a freshwater weed which has spread out across the surface of the water. Experts say that duckweed contributes to Lake Maracaibo's pollution.  Significantly, the weed could seriously change the habitat of various species of fish as it exhausts their oxygen supply and cuts off light from the depths of the lake. 


In Maracaibo, I interviewed Jorge Hinestroza, a sociologist at the University of Zulia and former General Coordinator of the Federation of Zulia Ecologists.  During the insightful hour long interview, Hinestroza illuminated many of the contradictions within the Chavez government's environmental policy. 


ICLAM and Lake Maracaibo


NK: Jorge, I have just been attending an environmental conference here in Maracaibo sponsored by the ICLAM (Institute For The Conservation of Lake Maracaibo, a government agency).  However, I see that some environmentalists in Zulia have been critical of the conference.  Why?


JH:  We could cite the case of Elio Rios, a doctor and veteran environmentalist.  Recently he sent out an e mail which accused ICLAM of excluding poor communities from the conference.  Rios is the Vice President of Azul (Environmentalists of Zulia).  Their group has been around for a long time, and probably has a couple of dozen active members.  Azul has made a name for itself by resisting coal exploitation in the Sierra of Perija [a mountainous area near the Colombian border]. 


Azul has undergone a very interesting evolution from the point of view of environmental politics.  Rios is himself a fervent follower and supporter of Hugo Chavez.  As a matter of fact, he participates in meetings of the Bolivarian Circles [pro-Chavez groups organized at the local level which carry out community projects with government assistance].  However, he has been one of the most vocal critics of the regime when it comes to the environment. 


When Elio says in the e mail that the ICLAM conference is elitist he's telling the truth.  The ICLAM conference was comprised solely of experts.  It is all rather ironic because supposedly in Venezuela we are living in an era which has opened the doors of science to the community.  But as this event makes clear, there is no link between the people and science. 


Environmentalism in The Chavez Era


NK: How have local environmentalists fared during the Chavez era?


JH:  As a result of the "Bolivarian Revolution," popular struggles have been frozen.  The expectation for change amongst the people has risen, and there is a great hope that the regime will resolve social problems.  Environmental concerns have practically been abandoned by popular struggles here.


NK: Could you comment specifically about communities within Lake Maracaibo and local environmental struggles? 


JH: The Chavez regime has sought to provide the immediate necessities of life for the people.  That is to say, the government offers large quantities of food and services, which in one way or another satisfies the most critical necessities of the people.  Government programs have dampened social tensions.  In various communities that I have visited, local struggles which confronted the great forces of transnational capital have been derailed. 


We might cite for example the case of the Olivitos Marsh, where a transnational company [Produsal, S.A., a company whose capital has been provided through Cargill and the state-run Pequiven or Petrochemical of Venezuela], produced salt [necessary for producing petrochemical products].  Produsal's arrival in Olivitos resulted in habitat fragmentation in the area.  The company also displaced fishing communities that were linked to the natural ecosystem. 


In response, local communities mobilized against the petrochemical transnational.  Local residents also struggled against the Ministry of Environment which for many years supported the company.  The Ministry handed out all the permits and supported big business, notwithstanding that it's a ministry pledged to protecting the environment. 


But with Chavez's political triumph, local communities practically halted their struggle.  The majority of the local fishermen were Chavistas.  They hoped that they would reclaim the waters that they had had traditionally used for fishing.  There was a lot of commotion when Chavez proclaimed the new Constitution which had important provisions favoring fishermen's rights.  However, local leadership later abandoned the struggle.


PDVSA and the Case of Lagunillas


NK: During the environmental conference, I participated in ICLAM visits to various companies around Lake Maracaibo.  During our visits, the managers presented a very clean corporate environmental image.  To what extent have they have really changed their environmental policies for the better? 


JH: As a result of industrial sabotage during the oil lockout of 2002-3, the government has spoken of the need for local communities to find out more about security and environmental risks within the oil industry.  Unfortunately, the government's promise to make the oil industry more transparent has not been met.  When we environmentalists complain about oil slicks for example, we get the same executives and environmental employees from PDVSA [Petroleos de Venezuela, the state run Venezuelan oil company] with the same rhetoric and discourse from the previous era before Chavez.


Another example of PDVSA indifference has to do with the actual sinking of coastal lands as a result of oil drilling around the town of Lagunillas [located along the east bank of Lake Maracaibo].  While I am sure there are new PDVSA executives with good intentions, basically environmental management is the same and the ideological orientation continues to be opaque. 


NK: That's interesting, I recently went on a tour of PDVSA installations in Lagunillas, but I didn't know anything about a relocation program.  What's it all about?


JH:  There are more than 60,000 people living along the east bank of Lake Maracaibo who are at risk from a serious disaster.  In the event of a large tremor, the Lagunillas protection wall could break and expose the people to dangerous flooding.  A relocation plan was developed more than 15 years ago.  The plan involved preparation of the community for an eventual disaster and evacuation contingencies.  As a matter of fact the authorities developed an alarm system and they had organized predetermined evacuation routes and secure relocation sites. 

Up to now, however, the authorities have only relocated between 10,000 and 15,000 people.  It seems to me that the relocation could have been carried out better in both quantitative and qualitative terms.  The point is that a technocratic vision still predominates when it comes to dealing with communities.  There should be more attention paid to social and environmental concerns, so that the relocation is carried out with a human face and not just in accordance with economic criteria. 


Moreover, through my discussions with local inhabitants I understand that the disaster contingency plans and alarm system was abandoned three years ago.  I have spoken with some PDVSA staff and they seem surprisingly uninformed about this serious matter.  A little while ago I spoke to a woman engineer from PDVSA.  When I brought up the issue of the Lagunillas protection wall and security risks she said no, that wall is not a risk, this wall is completely safe. This attitude indicates to me that something is gravely wrong. 


I believe that greater popular participation could minimize the risk of an eventual disaster.  If the Chavez government really takes its rhetoric seriously and promotes popular participation, this is the moment for greater dialogue on safety issues.


NK:  Through ICLAM, I was able to tour the PDVSA installations at Lagunillas and the control room which monitors seismic activity.  Outside of actually relocating people, is there anything else that PDVSA could do to protect the population? 


JH:  From a technical standpoint there's not much you can do.  We as environmentalists however pose the question of whether all this oil exploration along the east coast of Lake Maracaibo, which has affected 60,000 people and put communities at risk, has been worthwhile in a human sense.  We ask if the costs have been lesser or greater than the benefits.


Mining and The Sierra of Perija


NK:  What has been the situation within the Sierra of Perija and coal mining?


JH:  President Chavez once offered to halt coal production in light of the environmental disaster that would result.  Venezuelan coal production certainly pales beside domestic oil production in economic terms.  What is the advantage that coal mining brings for the Venezuelan economy and the Venezuelan people? 


Coal mining, from the outset, has caused considerable environmental destruction.  Not just that, but it's also affected the miners.  Workers have fallen sick with lung disease as a result of their work in the mines.  These workers have spent practically their entire lives in the mines and they are going to die young. 


I have also observed that around the mines, the rivers and forests have been destroyed.  Mining doesn't benefit the people nor the indigenous communities in the vicinity which have lost their agricultural way of life as a result of harmful ecological destruction. 


While it is true that the money from coal extraction has been used by Chavez for positive social works, the problem has to do with cost and benefit.  I wonder whether it is legitimate to destroy nature to favor a majority which is socially marginalized.  One must consider the plight of the next generation, the sons and daughters of the people who may benefit today.  What will they do when they find that the natural resource base has been destroyed?


NK: During my time at the ICLAM conference, I heard someone from the local development agency CORPOZULIA give a talk about ambitious new port facilities in the state of Zulia.  Could you comment about it and explain how it ties into the question of mining?


JH:  Currently we confront another environmental threat in the form of a newly proposed project, Bolivar Port.  Corpozulia and Bolivar Port are both linked to coal exploitation.  As a matter of fact, Corpozulia actually owns mining concessions.  This port which has been proposed for the mouth of Lake Maracaibo and the Gulf of Venezuela would prove catastrophic for mangrove vegetation in the area.  Suspiciously, we environmentalists have observed that many figures from the pre-Chavez era are pushing this project.  Investors and officials who are in favor of the port project sit on the government commission.  That is to say the same people who are interested in exploiting coal, which contributed to the displacement of Indians in the Sierra of Perija and the pollution of the soil and rivers, now proclaim that they are brothers of the Bolivarian Revolution. 


Lake Maracaibo and Duckweed


NK: What is the cause of the proliferating duckweed vegetation which has become a major environmental hazard in Lake Maracaibo? 


JH:  I believe that duckweed is not a chronic problem, because it abruptly emerged in 2003 and this points to sudden causes.  Sudden in the sense of an enormous deposit of nutrients in the lake, and a new economic component.  I believe that the new source of nutrients is the shrimp companies which proliferated in Lake Maracaibo starting in 2000.  Half the shrimp companies that exist in Venezuela operate in Lake Maracaibo.  Shrimp farming is sufficiently prolific to give rise to excess nutrients and the duckweed phenomenon.  I believe that ICLAM has sufficient data to prove this to be the case but doesn't pursue the matter for economic and political reasons.


NK: How has the Chavez government handled the duckweed problem?


JH: I think the official policy in relation to duckweed has been far from desirable.  We are dealing with a government that has revolutionary pretensions, but the Ministry of Environment adopts classic political posturing from the Fourth Republic [prior to Chavez's election] period.  In other words, only the experts know about this problem, while the communities are passive observers, assigned to pick up duckweed which provides employment for the community. 


The Chavez government says that environmental damage is inevitable and results from progress.  The government has even claimed that duckweed is beneficial, that it is good news for us.  Chavez, in 2003, said that the duckweed was benign.  The government said that duckweed would be very good for the population because it was going to serve as food for animals, and that it was almost a gift.


Fishermen, who number about 10,000-12,000 in Zulia, have been most affected by the duckweed phenomena.  Every year, every time that we go into the rainy season, duckweed invades the beaches.  Duckweed affects people living on the banks of the lake.  It is always the poorest fishermen who are most adversely affected, not the investors in the fish industry. 


Paradox of the Petro State


NK: Chavez constantly denounces the U.S. for wasteful consumerism and has warned of the green house effect.  But the irony is that Venezuela continues to be a major world oil producer.  Do you think Venezuela should be moving away from oil, in sync with the growing rhetoric?


JH:  I don't believe the peak oil theory is a fantasy; I think that by 2050 we will have exhausted oil as a viable energy resource and we will have to rely on new sources of energy.  What will happen to Venezuela, if we are not prepared to live from anything else besides oil?  In the next fifty years we should be going through a process of transition, to substitute oil for another source of energy.  I think from a scientific and technical standpoint we are not doing sufficiently enough to look for oil alternatives.  But the U.S. and its European partners are heading towards the substitution of oil.  And I believe the new energy paradigm will be hydrogen. 


In Venezuela we have developed a technological innovation.  It's a new way to take advantage of oil, in the sense of producing energy with less resulting pollution.  Venezuela could be a great producer of orimulsion, a product resulting from the mixture of water and heavy oil.  Orimulsion is less polluting than coal.  I don't understand why we produce coal, which is destroying the Sierra of Perija and the indigenous communities there, when we could develop orimulsion production plants.  We could develop orimulsion, which could compete with coal on the world market.  I am saddened that within the Chavez government officials have not chosen to sufficiently take advantage of orimulsion.


Jorge Hinestroza is professor of sociology at the University of Zulia.

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Battle for Maracaibo Black Gold: Zulia Oil Fields in World War II

(From a historical talk delivered in 2004)

During World War II, the oil rich Maracaibo fields, located in the westernmost Venezuelan state of Zulia, were considered a crucial resource for both the axis and allied powers.  In the war years Venezuela was able to benefit economically from the hostilities and reap huge profits from oil revenue.  However, the Venezuelan government's decision to sell oil to the allies resulted in Nazi counter measures, namely a submarine offensive in 1942 against oil tankers belonging to British and American oil companies.  Nazi submarine attacks tilted Venezuelan public opinion against the Axis and would eventually lead Venezuela to declare war on Germany.  Though Venezuelan leaders were somewhat cooperative on allied military war aims, they also exploited the new international political context after 1939 to wrest concessions from the companies.  Through such nationalistic moves, both the Eleazar Lopez Contreras administration (1937-1941) and the Isaias Medina Angarita administration (1941-1945), which were not democratically elected and which were headed by military men associated with the previous Juan Vicente Gomez dictatorship (1908-1935), sought to woo support from nationalist critics and their rising working and middle class allies.  Wartime hostilities, then, exposed political tensions in the country and forced the Venezuelan government to undertake a delicate balancing act.  Meanwhile, the war gave the United States a unique opportunity to increase its economic, diplomatic, and military ties to Venezuela.  By war's end the U.S. was able to head off German influence and to largely supplant the British in Venezuela.  However, closer ties between the United States and Venezuela did not place the oil companies in a beneficial position in this particular case.  Under the stresses of the war, the companies could not count on unconditional support from the U.S., and had to be more conciliatory towards increasingly more nationalistic regimes.


Historical Background


British and American oil subsidiaries of Royal Dutch Shell, Standard Oil and Gulf had long operated in the Maracaibo Basin prior to the outbreak of European hostilities in 1939.  The companies hastened to Venezuela due to the country's low transportation costs, rich deposits, and iron fisted government, headed up by the dictatorial Gomez.  By 1928 Venezuela had surpassed Mexico as the world's leading oil exporter,[1] and during the 1920s boom the country became the largest foreign oil supplier to the United States.[2]  Growing oil wealth allowed the Gomez state to expand its bureaucracy, support a burgeoning army, and carry out national integration through a road program.  Foreigners created oil enclaves in the state of Zulia, built roads and provided health care.[3] However, most oil camps were segregated with separate living areas for foreigners and Venezuelans.  North American and British racism fueled Venezuelan resentment on the oil fields, and some of the earliest strikes on the oil fields were prompted by arrogant foreign overseers.  Those companies that did provide housing for Venezuelans did so only reluctantly and housing was of poor quality.[4]  The oil companies showed scant regard for the safety and lives of local residents, and placed oil derricks and other machinery in close proximity to human settlement on the east bank of Lake Maracaibo.  Though Gomez monitored the oil companies in Zulia through local subordinates, he did not successfully regulate the oil industry.  "By and large," writes Ewell, "Gomez's relations with the companies remained in the spirit of the 1922 law in which the companies had secured generous concessions."[5]  However, Oil revenue helped to pay for automobiles, radio broadcasting, and eventually for newspapers and magazines.  Through such new media, literate working and middle class people became aware of national problems and would later clamor for tighter fiscal regulation of the oil industry.[6]


End of Gomez Rule


With vital economic ties to preserve with Britain and the U.S., the Venezuelan government had to tread carefully with the coming of war.  On many levels, the political position of Lopez after 1935 was delicate.  On the one hand, the regime, according to one observer, was "charged with an enthusiasm, born of relief at the ending of the Gomez tyranny."  Venezuelans, having endured 25 years of brutal Gomecista rule, displayed an instinctive revulsion of fascism and dictatorship.[7]  Resentment of the oil companies had burst forth in January 1936 when protests, looting and vandalism erupted after the death of Gomez.  The violence hit the oil camps, and represented the most serious disturbances the country had experienced in a quarter century.[8]  Clearly, any Venezuelan government perceived as being too conciliatory towards the oil companies risked public displeasure.


During the Lopez period, the oil companies continued to be a source of resentment within the Maracaibo Basin.  Unruly oilmen were only part of the problem.  Insufficient housing, unsafe working conditions and accidents, unsanitary boomtowns, high cost of living and low wages, were all sources of tension.  In 1936, there were 259 recorded accidents at Lago Petroleum Corporation which caused a loss of workdays.  That year, the company had an average of 2,650 workers on the payroll, so one may estimate that about 10% of the workforce could have experienced a serious accident on the job.[9]  Unions, which had been illegal under Gomez, now represented a growing pressure group on the government.  By 1936, a number of oil unions had emerged, including the Maracaibo, Cabimas, Lagunillas, Mene Grande, and Casigua Union of Oil Workers.  Crewmembers aboard oil vessels were also unionized.[10]  In late 1936, there was still no company doctor at the San Lorenzo oil camp, a chief grievance of oil workers on the east bank of Lake Maracaibo, the Sindicato de Obreros Petroleros Distrito Sucre.[11]  The government Ministry of Development wrote the Caribbean Petroleum Company stating that under the law the company was required to hire a company doctor at San Lorenzo.[12]  Oil inspectors themselves, working with the government's Ministry of Development, complained bitterly to superiors that oil companies would not pay for sick leave, only for time lost from industrial accidents.[13]  A year after the end of the Gomez dictatorship, in 1936, oil workers' total weekly expenses amounted to about 43.50 bolivares.  However, workers' salaries at this time were estimated at only 42.00 bolivares, thus leaving a weekly deficit of 1.50 bolivares.[14]  Many of these abuses would not be lost on a nationalistic and left leaning press.  Though Lopez had re-imposed censorship in February 1936,[15] one newspaper, Petroleo, whose editors were subsequently jailed for allegedly defacing the president, denounced one Gulf foreman for his "despotic" behavior towards subordinates[16].  The surly conduct of oil company men would not be reined in, however, because the state authorities were rough handling the workers themselves.[17]  The editors of Petroleo, furthermore, were pessimistic that any action might be taken at the state level as the new Zulia state president, Luis Roncajolo, "does not belong to the left."[18]


Political Climate of Late 1930s


In late 1936 this growing resentment became explosive.   Following the death of Gomez, "Oil workers in the Maracaibo Basin initiated a strike that shook Venezuelan society to its foundations."[19]  Demanding recognition of their unions and improvements in pay and working conditions, the workers challenged the hegemony of some of the largest oil companies in the world for an unprecedented 42 days.  Exports of crude oil dropped by nearly half during the strike, and practically all exploration and drilling operations ground to a halt.[20]  Creole, Shell, and the other companies were alarmed.  Suddenly, their position had become more vulnerable; it seemed that now the companies might have a more difficult time in always getting their way.  The political environment within the country had become increasingly more volatile and hostile towards foreign interests.  Even worse from the point of view of the oil executives, Communist organizers had come to exercise a substantial degree of influence over the oil workers.  Reacting with contempt, the companies refused to negotiate with any unions during the strike, or to accept any of the workers' demands.  For its part, the government harassed and jailed strikers.[21] 


By late June 1936, conditions on two important oil fields, Cabimas and Lagunillas, were quiet, however at Mene Grande the situation was still unsettled.  On that field, a clash had taken place between several hundred workers and government troops, resulting in four deaths and the wounding of several others.[22]  According to a US official, Colonel Isaias Medina Angarita, who would later become president in 1941, was in favor of furnishing the oil companies with the fullest protection from the army.  Indeed, when the President of the State of Zulia asked the government for an additional two hundred men to deal with the situation during the strike, Colonel Medina was reported to have favored sending six hundred instead.  Colonel Medina's intervention raised the total number of troops in the oil fields to at least one thousand.  Colonel Medina, interestingly, was at odds with other members of the government who were adverse to making a show of troops in the oil district.  A U.S. official wrote that, "the policy he [Medina] has so far carried out seems to have met with their [the companies'] approval."[23]  In January 1937, Lopez decreed an end to the strike and 20,000 workers were ordered back on the job.  In a small concession, the government ordered a tiny raise in wages for the poorest paid oil workers. In January 1937, the workers interpreted the end result of their titanic effort as a failure.[24]  Breaking the oil workers strike was somewhat risky from a political standpoint, but such a move would not spell disaster.  "While militantly organized," remarks Karl, "…the oil workers' small numbers and isolation in camps far from urban centers hindered their ability to influence national politics, even though they were able to organize several important strikes.  They could not unite with their industrial counterparts in the cities until the 1950s because a politically significant working class in manufacturing simply did not exist before that time."[25] 


Situation at Lagunillas


Despite government repression during the 1936-7 strike, Lopez did create a new Ministry of Labor and Communications, and under his administration a new labor law was drafted in 1936.[26]  Evidence also suggests that some elements within the Lopez regime were concerned about social conditions on the Maracaibo oil fields.  Interestingly enough, when the League of Nations requested information about oil contamination in the twilight of the Gomez dictatorship, Lopez himself ordered the armed forces to conduct a review of environmental conditions in Lake Maracaibo. [27]  Once Lopez came to power, some of his officials, such as Nestor Luis Perez, the new Minister of Development, criticized the oil companies' contamination.  In 1936, he remarked that the waters around Lagunillas, a town built on stilts in Lake Maracaibo, were completely polluted and mixed with human waste.  The wooden houses were covered in oil.[28]  Lagunillas was rapidly becoming an eye sore, not only from an environmental but also a political perspective.  Since the death of Gómez, Lagunillas had been a 'focal point of lawless elements', according to the US Charge d'Affaires.  The official added that the population of Lagunillas, approximately 1,500, "lives in decrepit buildings, some of which are on stilts in the waters of the lake, others behind a wooden dyke ten feet or more in height, flimsy houses, disease, and lack of sanitation or protection from the heat have contributed to the reputation of Lagunillas as a breeding spot for petty crimes, radicalism and attacks on the oil companies."  According to the U.S. official, the oil companies were very pleased with government initiatives to move Lagunillas, as such a measure would 'materially assist in the solution of the present strike problem.'  Moving the population would also relieve oil company managers, who were worried that agitators might dynamite a dyke in the vicinity.[29]


Unfortunately for the oil companies, the inhabitants of Lagunillas showed little desire to leave the town, despite the fact that many oil wells were still located close to the town, with the nearest derrick some 200 metres distant, and Ojeda, an on land site, had a much healthier location with good drainage.  In 1939 the residents of Lagunillas suffered when a fire damaged the town.  According to the US Charge d'Affaires, the fire was caused by an accidental explosion of a gasoline or kerosene lamp in a bar room located on the main boardwalk of the town.  'With the help of the wind,' added the U.S. official, "the fire swept rapidly throughout the town, burning down all but twelve shacks at one end of the rectangle.  The bridge connecting to land was burnt down at the outset, and a large portion of the inhabitants were cut off from shore.  Since the walled dike prevented inhabitants from swimming to shore, most of these residents were rescued in boats.  Some however drowned or burned to death.  Some thirty corpses were later found."[30]


Lake Maracaibo was covered with a patchy scum of petroleum, but the Charge personally doubted that this surface oil, which had lost its volatility, could have caused the fire, as such slicks had to be subjected to intense heat before they would burn.[31]  This time, unlike previous fires, the accident would exact a substantial death toll.  The state president reported that 1,240 houses had been destroyed, and more than 4 million Bolivares in damages sustained.[32]  By the time the fire was extinguished, 24 people had died and the town was left in ashes.[33]  In the wake of the fire, Standard Oil published an account of the Lagunillas fire in its official magazine, El Farol.  In its account, the oil magazine did not seek to address the causes of the fire, preferring instead to dwell on measures which Lago Petroleum Corporation had taken to extinguish the fire, to provide financial assistance for displaced residents and to improve the sewer system and other infrastructure within the new settlement of Ciudad Ojeda.[34]


The 1936-7 strike and oil pollution in Lake Maracaibo only served to underscore the view that companies frequently disregarded the needs of local residents and workers.  Politically, Lopez could not afford to be perceived as too closely allied with foreign interests.  Of key concern to the regime was a rising nationalist middle class, which outnumbered a slowly growing working class, and which rose from 37 percent to 54 percent of the nonagricultural workforce between 1936 and 1950.[35]  Lopez, the first Venezuelan president to speak to the people over the radio,[36] had to reckon with nationalist critics who had long charged that oil companies had bilked the Venezuelan treasury of much needed revenue during the Gomez years.  Following the fall of the Gomez regime, Venezuela saw the emergence of diverse political groupings such as the National Democratic Party, known by its Spanish acronym PDN and founded in 1936, which grouped together Communists as well as future nationalist figures on the left such as Romulo Betancourt.  The PDN, which would later reorganize as the political party Accion Democratica in 1941 and urge tighter controls over the oil industry, took a strong stand against Lopez and as a result was soon operating in secret.[37]  Furthermore, in 1937 Lopez used alleged Communist activities as a means of exiling a number of labor and political leaders.[38]  From the spring of 1937 to the end of his constitutional term then, Lopez, who had formed his own government party, governed without any effective organized and open opposition.  Though Lopez' chief base of support came from the army, and the president himself was under considerable pressure from military and business sectors who longed for the iron fist of the earlier Gomez regime in dealing with communists in Venezuela,[39] Lopez could not ignore his critics on the left who represented a growing force within the country.  Accordingly, under the new Development Minister, Nestor Luis Perez, Venezuela passed a petroleum law in 1938 which provided for greater government control and monitoring of the oil industry, as well as greater revenues for the government. 


"Unfortunately," writes Ewell, "it remained a paper tiger, since the companies refused to surrender the privileges they had under previous or existing law.  They simply ignored the new legislation."[40]  Lopez, then, pursued a dual track policy towards his erstwhile left wing critics: on the one hand, attempt to wrest concessions from the oil companies, on the other, pursue a crack down on political opponents.  Such a draconian position smacked of Gomez tyranny and also put Lopez at odds with growing international revulsion of fascist authoritarianism after 1939.  On the eve of the Second World War, Venezuela was long established as the world's leading oil exporter (30% of the total by 1939), and petroleum accounted for some 50% of Venezuelan government revenue .[41]  By 1940, Britain received fully 40% of her total oil imports from Venezuela,[42] and during the first years of the war that total jumped to as high as 80 percent of oil imports.[43]  Oil production in 1941 was concentrated in the hands of American firms, with 70% of total oil output.[44]  Moreover, in 1941 there were 1,000 British citizens and 1,100 Americans living in the Maracaibo Basin; a large number of Americans worked as oil company executives.[45]  Transportation of crude from Jersey Standard's producing fields in Lake Maracaibo region was carried out through use of specially constructed shallow draft tankers. A refinery owned by Royal Dutch Shell located on the island of Aruba, which processed Maracaibo crude, was strategically important as it supplied products not only to Britain, but also to France, "and the operation is practically dependant on the continuous movement of the small British tankers out of Lake Maracaibo."[46]  A British observer was concerned about the "serious possibilities of sabotage, or naval attack, in the area."[47] 


German Interests


Venezuelan oil also represented a vital commodity for the Nazis and the ability of the German state to wage war in Europe.  In fact, as late as 1938 oil produced from Aruba, Curacao and Venezuela accounted for 44% of German oil imports.[48]  Germany did not buy oil directly from Venezuela but from US and British-Dutch oil companies, which shipped Venezuelan crude to refineries in Aruba and Curacao and then sold the final product in Europe.[49]  Not only did the Nazis look upon Venezuela as vital to its economic interests, but also made an effort to increase German political influence in the country.  Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels urged German diplomats to organize German nationals living in Latin America into local National Socialist parties to promote the ideas of the fuhrer and devotion to the Nazi fatherland.  However, Count Franz von Tattenbach, the German minister to Venezuela, reported that Venezuelans were unenthusiastic about National Socialism.  The Nazis encountered an obstacle in the Catholic church, which derided the "neo-pagan" characteristics of the Nazi movement. 


Adding to the difficulties, Venezuela received its international news from non-German sources, mainly North American-based wire services.  Venezuelans routinely read unflattering accounts of Adolf Hitler's rise to power and the Nazi state's persecution of Jews.  Furthermore, Venezuela's Germans, who numbered between two thousand and three thousand, had assimilated into Venezuelan culture and did not adopt National Socialism's racial policies.  In fact, a Venezuelan Nazi party had existed since 1926, but as late as 1936 it had only eighty-six members.  In early 1937, Dr Edwin Poensagen replaced Tattenbach, a Weimar Republic appointee who had not promoted National Socialism in Venezuela, as minister to Venezuela.  "It is unclear however," writes Rabe, "whether the appointment of Poensagen, who had previously served in the South American section of the German Foreign Office in Mexico, signaled a new Nazi interest in Venezuela.  Making one of its first surveys of foreign influence in February 1938, the US legation in Caracas reported that it knew of no Nazi subversives."[50]  Though Nazi Germany faced diminishing returns in political terms, it rigorously pursued its economic ties to Venezuela.  In fact, Germany was Venezuela's second leading source of imports after the United States and purchased substantial amounts of coffee.[51]  In 1937, seeking to increase its oil imports, Germany proposed that Venezuela accept its oil royalties in kind (barrels of oil) instead of taxes and sell the royalty oil to Germany.  The sale of oil, Germany proposed, would be directly linked to German purchases of coffee. Germany would purchase the bags of coffee when Venezuela agreed to the royalty oil scheme.  However, Germany failed to convince Venezuela into accepting this trade proposal and by mid-1938, the Reich lost any chance of gaining special access to Venezuela's petroleum.  Venezuela had instead entered into a reciprocal trade agreement with the United States, which was well aware of Germany's trade efforts in Venezuela.  In an effort to preempt German efforts, the US granted Venezuela additional trade concessions to ensure that it accepted the reciprocal trade agreement.  Venezuelan-German trade remained at normal levels but ended abruptly in September 1939 with the beginning of the British naval blockade of Germany.[52]


Wartime Climate


By 1940, with Britain increasingly isolated as the result of German attack and prior to the entrance of the US into the war, one observer remarked that "Venezuelan sentiment was bitterly anti-German, and…since the fall of France it had in addition become markedly pro-British."[53]  In 1941 oil shipments to Britain were cut off, however Venezuela was able to sell its oil to the United States which replaced lost European sales.[54]  In September 1940, as a result of intense lobbying by President Roosevelt, Congress increased the lending authority of the Export-Import Bank from $100 million to $700 million.  Venezuela was a recipient of part of the US economic aid package.[55]  Meanwhile, Lopez enforced neutrality legislation with a benevolent eye towards the British, and the government declared it illegal to send any propaganda into Venezuela or to make propaganda in the country.  No foreign political organization was allowed within Venezuela. [56]  Meanwhile, the government moved against private German citizens which it viewed as a potential threat.  As early as 1939, the Venezuelan government forced all German employees of Standard Oil companies in Venezuela to leave the country.[57] 


In clamping down on the German community, the Lopez regime was responding to international initiatives: it approved of inter-American resolutions recommending the strict supervision of foreigners, and furthermore outlawed political activity by foreigners residing in Venezuela.[58]  In Maracaibo, noted one observer, there had formerly been a number of Germans and Venezuelans of German origin working within the oil companies.  However, by 1940 all of these German employees had been discharged, in all three major oil companies.[59]  Thus, far from confronting the oil companies, the Lopez Contreras regime worked in tandem with them in an effort to combat German influence.  Though certainly bold, Venezuelan policy towards foreigners was hardly unique.  During the war, in fact, "Latin American republics showed a profound disregard for the concept of nationality and citizenship as inalienable rights…Nationality was casually revoked in the name of internal security and 'political defense.'  Nationals were transformed into enemy aliens or stateless persons by executive fiat, merely as one phase of a program of internal security."[60]  Latin American republics, furthermore, may have been motivated by fears, "probably exaggerated, of the machinations of Axis sympathizers and the threats posed by fascist organizations.[61]


In moving towards the allied side, Lopez had shrewdly outmaneuvered Venezuelan communists, who had discredited themselves by seeking to implant popular frontism in Venezuela in early 1941;[62] their opposition to the war against Germany proved a miserable failure and did not gain the party support from Venezuelan workers.[63]  In fact, Communists had moved to support the regime even before the Hitler-Stalin Pact, as they were concerned about the Fuhrer's claim to Venezuela as Germany's first colony.  Germany had made the claim, based on the business activities of a sixteenth century German company.  Communists feared that such claims could find a receptive audience among reactionary elements within the Lopez regime.  By emphasizing Lopez's positive attributes, they reasoned, and drawing close to some of his supporters, Communists hoped to drive a wedge between the president and this potential Fifth Column.[64]  On the other hand, Accion Democratica, a permitted political party after 1941 and led by nationalist Romulo Betancourt, denounced the Communists for maintaining exclusive allegiance to the Soviet Union.  Betancourt accused the Communists of practicing 'revolutionary gymnastics' within Venezuelan trade unions in order to score points with their Russian masters.[65]  Thus, the left had different views on the proper course of Venezuelan foreign policy at this early point in the war.  Such divisions and internal squabbles only helped to solidify Lopez further.


Venezuela and the Allies


On the other hand, though Lopez' pro-ally foreign policy did not result in any dire political consequences for the former Gomecista general, the growing war in Europe allowed the Venezuelan government more space to maneuver vis-à-vis the oil question.  What British observers feared most was that the president, bowing to public pressure in the midst of the global fight against fascism, might move against the oil companies. "Whilst Venezuela could not venture on any open form of hostility to Britain under present circumstances," remarked an observer, "she could be troublesome, especially by harassing the oil companies; and her attitude therefore matters."  According to the American OSS, the precursor to the CIA, some resident Americans in Venezuela were concerned that if Venezuela participated more actively in the war, the government might seek to expropriate foreign oil properties.[66]  The irony of this situation, however, was that any Venezuelan president who sought to take advantage of the new international context to exact leverage from the oil companies, also risked further radicalizing Venezuelan public opinion.  For Lopez, the challenge was to outflank nationalist and left wing critics through tough legislation, while simultaneously containing popular and nationalist mobilization which could result in the demise of his military regime.


As Lopez and his foes jockeyed for influence amongst the Venezuelan masses, events in the oil zone of Maracaibo would soon set Venezuela on a more direct collision course with Nazi Germany.  Correspondence by oil company executives in the early years of the war reveals a certain level of concern about German employees and the potential for sabotage.  In 1940, the Shell representative in Venezuela, Godber, received a telegram from his New York representative stating that, "in view of international situation it is necessary to provide adequate protection of property and continuance of oil movement.  In this connection we have taken up similar precautions respecting fleet and German crews are being replaced."  Wilkinson, the New York representative, added that, "all staff records to be subject to a careful scrutiny and replacements obtained where necessary.  In this connection loyalty of medical director is open to question and this must be considered together with any similar individuals in the event of real emergency."  Wilkinson added that New York was unable to give definite advice and had to leave Henry Linam, the head of Creole Petroleum Corporation, wide discretion to take any steps which he deemed necessary.  Linam would take any steps in joint consultation with Shell representatives and high government officials.[67] 


In September 1939, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, Gulf Oil Company and Shell approached the Venezuelan government, with the result that "necessary steps" were taken to protect the fields and Maracaibo Bar.  Godber, it seems, understood that Standard had already given instructions for enemy employees to be paid off and sent out of the country and that his own people were urging Gulf Oil Company to take similar action.[68]  At this early point in the war, observers did not seem to give much credence to possible German para-military activity within Venezuela.  As for Maracaibo, "extensive sabotage…is not regarded locally as a serious danger, although steps have been taken to guard against it."  The problem, as one observer explained, was that "the wells are too numerous, the bar difficult to block and easy to clear…In any case, the refineries are so much more valuable than the wells that any attack is likely to be made on them."  At the time of a British officer's visit to Venezuela, "the Germans were not much in evidence," but were known to be conspiring with the left and right prior to the presidential elections of 1941.[69]  US diplomats were also concerned about the dangers of Nazi sabotage.  They conceded that rumors abounded in Venezuela and that they lacked concrete proof to substantiate their fears, however they were concerned that Venezuela's Germans were tightly organized and that the Venezuelan government was not alert to the danger of German influence in the country. Ultimately, US and British fears were not realized, and between 1937 and 1945 no sabotage attempts were recorded in Venezuela.[70] 


German Community of Maracaibo


British naval intelligence, however, had long been concerned about the large, influential German community in Maracaibo.  According to a report, the German community in Maracaibo numbered some 1,000 in 1943.[71]  The German community was economically influential, noted the report, as it managed powerful trading houses in Maracaibo.[72]  Germans still retained interests in the coffee export trade and "their presence is a danger point."[73]  No Germans had shown interest in acquiring foreign property near the sea, however a semi-military organization and intelligence service probably existed.[74]  As early as March 1938, central groups of the German National Socialist Labor Party's Foreign Organization formed at Maracaibo.  The purpose of the Foreign Organization was to bind Germans living abroad more closely with each other and with the National Socialist Party in Germany.  Membership was restricted to German nationals.  Although the German Minister stated that members of the Foreign Organization could not participate in local politics, or to make any statements, the Venezuelan government refused recognition to the group. [75]  According to the OSS, in the first few years of the war a couple of known Germans in Maracaibo allegedly had Nazi sympathies or ties to the Nazis, including Hartwig Von Jess, the ex-German Consul at Maracaibo and apparently a leading Nazi in the city; Dr Frederich Pohrt, a former German military engineer and known Nazi, who left Maracaibo at the government's request "because of the strategic location of his house," and "Dr Weiss," the German head surgeon at Standard Oil of Venezuela, who had become a Venezuelan citizen shortly after the outbreak of war.  Weiss retained dual citizenship and frequently traveled between Standard Oil camps.  He was discharged by Standard in 1942.[76] 


Though Germans within the oil zone did not exert an impact on the outcome of the war, growing German submarine warfare in the Caribbean would shortly lead to serious political repercussions.  By 1941, the Lopez era was drawing to an end.  The president sought to show that he did not have dictatorial ambitions, and reduced the presidential term to five years with no immediate re-election.  The left opposition pressed for the election of the president and Congress by direct popular vote.  However, "Lopez and the conservative Congress refused…to change the system of indirect elections by which the Congress elected the president, and the state legislatures elected the congressmen.  Since the government had a substantial majority in Congress, the person Lopez Contreras nominated as his successor was certain to be elected."[77]  Oil workers remembered Lopez's successor, Isaias Medina Angarita, as the man who had been called in to put down strikers in 1936-7, and who had earlier served as Lopez's Minister of War.[78]  Ironically, once in office Medina proved to be much more democratically inclined than his predecessor, "one of the most atypical presidents in Venezuelan history…he was an intelligent, cultured, and humane individual…he was a sincere believer in the free expression of political opinion."  During Medina's tenure in office, the government did not hold a single political prisoner nor send a single Venezuelan into exile.[79]  Medina formed his own government party[80] but he also allowed most political parties to operate freely and legally.  By the end of his term all political organizations, including the Communist party, were operating freely in the country.[81]  Romulo Betancourt's political followers formally united to found Accion Democratica (AD) in September 1941, which became the principal opposition party to the government.[82]  Furthermore, in a departure from the earlier Lopez administration, which had imposed press censorship in 1936,[83] Medina proclaimed freedom of the press.[84]  As one author has written, "the period from 1941 to 1945 saw more political discussion, organizing, and activity than had occurred at any time since the nineteenth century."[85]  Such openness came at political cost.  Shortly, AD would gain control of the labor movement;[86] additionally many middle-class professionals found AD's multi-class political platform appealing.[87]  Moreover, Betancourt and his followers would come to eclipse the Communist party, some of whose branches had been allowed to operate openly after 1941.[88] 


Medina then had to appeal to the rising nationalist middle class, as had been the case with Lopez.  However, unlike Lopez, Medina faced stiffer competition for the allegiance of these middle classes.  Though Medina had demonstrated that he was flexible and liberal, AD maintained a strict policy of opposition, arguing that a gomecista could not lead the country down the path of true reform.[89]  However, in the short term international circumstances reinforced, rather than hindered, Medina's position.  The State Department, buffeted by Mexican nationalization of the oil industry in 1938 and concerned about antagonizing Venezuela during wartime, urged US oil companies to be more responsive to Venezuelan demands.[90]  Sensing an opening, Medina was aggressive by setting up a new exchange control in July 1941 which was less beneficial to the companies and a new income tax law in 1942 which reserved additional oil money for the state.[91]  Through such moves, Medina effectively took some wind out of the sails of AD's platform, which stressed Venezuelan economic nationalism and greater control over the country's natural resources.


Meanwhile, the U.S. government took advantage of wartime hostilities to increase its influence.  The U.S. State and Treasury departments, for example, provided Venezuela with financial advice, thus ensuring that the South American nation would not seek out such assistance from Nazi Germany.[92]  Furthermore, in July 1941, Washington promised to sell Venezuela $20 million worth of military equipment for approximately $9 million.  In that same year, US military advisors were sent to Venezuela.[93]  In further developments, in early 1942 Venezuela concluded a military collaboration agreement with the US which provided for US ground, naval, and air forces to enter Venezuelan territory in an effort to help defend oilfields.  By concluding this agreement with the United States, the Medina government was taking a slight political gamble: the Venezuelan constitution expressly forbade the leasing of national territory to a foreign power.  It also forbade foreign troops from entering national territory.[94]  Though Medina had moved against the companies, such diplomatic and military moves could go too far and expose the regime to criticism from left wing nationalists such as AD. 


Just as international developments served to bolster the Lopez regime, so would the course of the war after 1942 also help Medina.  Within two months of Medina's election, in fact, the German army invaded the Soviet Union.  Venezuelan communists abandoned their previously unpopular position of neutrality, and as a result the path was now clear for a closer convergence of views between the government and Communists.  By the end of 1941 Medina moved to sever diplomatic relations with the Axis powers; the Communists in turn launched a rigorous defense of the allied cause which now gained them a wider following amongst the anti-Nazi Venezuelan working class.  In a further startling development, Communists called on all non-reactionary forces to close ranks behind Medina and exhorted organized labor to desist from striking.  In the volatile international context, the Communists argued that strikes should only be used as a weapon of last resort.[95]  For all intensive purposes, AD mimicked the government as well, advocating a policy of 'benevolent neutrality' in favor of the allies.  AD however, was quick to temper this support by arguing that the war as essentially an inter-imperialist conflict, whose 'booty consists of the markets of underdeveloped nations.'  Furthermore, argued adecos, if Venezuela contributed to the war effort, it deserved a fair economic return for its moves against Axis powers.[96] 


Local Maracaibo Politics


In the oil zone in Zulia, AD followers who stood to be outflanked by Medina on the war sought to prove their patriotic credentials.  Through their official party newspaper, the party denounced alleged German influence.  In January 1942, the paper claimed that "correspondence" from Zulia revealed Nazi activities within Zulia state.  Recently, a button with a Nazi insignia had been found on the street in Maracaibo, which apparently had fallen from a necktie pin.  The button was found "in the vicinity of a commercial house belonging to a German firm, and belongs undoubtedly to some active member of the shadowy organization [presumably the Nazi party]."  The paper added that up until then, there was little indication that the resident German community of Maracaibo had been submitted to special police surveillance.  This was a matter of grave concern, as the Germans had extensive connections in Zulia, and "it is obvious what this proximity [of the German community] to the oil zones will mean."  In Zulia, the paper claimed, Nazi-fascist groups abounded, and "rumors were flying" that these groups, composed of foreigners and Venezuelans, might be active.  Accion Democratica concluded that persecution of Nazi fifth columns was important in this time of crisis and added that the local government should crack down on foreigners and suspend their rights.[97]  It is not clear whether the party pursued the story of an alleged Fifth Column in Venezuela, and claims by the newspaper have a ring of sensationalism.  AD was an opposition party in the state of Zulia, and it is tempting to surmise that adecos sought to discredit the local government or appear more patriotic than state officials.[98] 


More determined than ever, AD would shortly question the democratic principles of Zulia authorities.  With the intensification of the war in the Atlantic, state authorities debated the contentious issue of wartime censorship in a series of reforms to the state Constitution.  This debate proved to be ironic in many respects.  In addition to banning Communist doctrine and ideas, the state legislature also proposed banning "Nazi-fascist" doctrine.  Such a motion was obviously controversial, given the long history of press censorship under the Gomez dictatorship.  The debate was rapid, and the majority of state representatives voted against the measure.  The publishers of Accion Democratica, which criticized Zulia authorities for not taking a firm hand against foreigners, now posed as defenders of democratic freedom.  The paper remarked that the majority of the legislature was composed of closed off anti-democratic cliques linked to the state, "elected" in October 1941 during voting which did not allow for open monitoring and accompanied by almost complete abstentionism from "popular sectors."  Accion Democratica argued that the legislature was not morally qualified to take an ethical stand against Nazi-Fascist ideas.[99]  It is not clear from the evidence, however, whether AD defended the right of Communists, the party's political rival, to free speech or even Nazi sympathizers for that matter.


Military Matters


International developments would shortly draw Venezuela ever closer into the war, however, and render outright political feuding increasingly more difficult. Two days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Venezuela declared its solidarity with the United States and on December 31, 1941 the Andean nation severed relations with Germany, Italy, and Japan.  Initially, US military officials preferred that Venezuela stay neutral in an effort to preempt any German moves to shell Venezuela's coast.  Venezuelan neutrality, however was a mere legal fiction: in reality, Venezuela had granted US ships and airplanes special access to ports and airstrips.[100]  By siding with the United States, however, Venezuela exposed itself to German submarine attack.  Although the supposed Nazi fifth column failed to materialize or to organize any significant threat to state or local authorities in Zulia, AD continued its anti-Nazi campaign.  The party was particularly concerned about a menacing Nazi radio broadcast, threatening Latin American countries which had severed ties with Axis nations following a recent conference held in Rio de Janeiro.  AD claimed the Nazi warning was particularly directed at three countries, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia, nations that had spearheaded the anti-axis effort at the Rio conference.  Venezuela was the most threatened nation in the Americas, the party felt, because of its special strategic, military, and economic position.  Allied land, sea, and air power relied on Venezuelan oil; moreover Venezuela possessed "extensive Caribbean coastline, with numerous open bays, which could serve as naval and aerial bases to be used against the Panama Canal."[101]


AD's concerns were in fact not unfounded.  Tankers carrying petroleum from the western hemisphere had always been a primary objective in the German submarine campaign.[102]  In February 1942 German submarines plied Caribbean waters and sank 25 tankers in one month.[103]  One strategic objective for German submarines were the Dutch islands of Curacao and Aruba, Dutch colonies where US forces had set up defensive fortifications[104] and home to refineries which processed Venezuelan crude from Maracaibo.  With an estimated crude capacity of 480,000 barrels a day,[105] the Aruba refinery, owned by Standard Oil of New Jersey, and the Curacao refinery, owned by Royal Dutch Shell,[106] outranked Abadan in Iran with 250,000 barrels; the Baku complex in the USSR with about 230,000 barrels; and the largest plants in the United States at Baytown, Port Arthur,[107] Bayonne, Baton Rouge, and Whiting with over 100,000 barrels each.[108]   


On 15 February 1942, a convoy of oil tankers and ships left the Maracaibo Bar.  The first ships in line were the 'Monagas,' of the Mene Grande Oil Company, followed by the 'Tia Juana' and 'Pedernales' both belonging to the Lago Petroleum Corporation.  These tankers were followed by the 'Rafaela' belonging to Shell, and the 'San Nicolas'and 'Orangestad,' belonging to Lago Oil and Transport Co, based in Aruba.  A number of other tankers joined the column.  Suddenly the 'Monagas' received a strong impact, sinking immediately.  Three Venezuelan crewmembers were killed in the attack, as well as one of the commanding officers.  Twenty-one crewmembers were saved as well as the Captain.  After witnessing what had happened to the 'Monagas,' the other tankers changed course and proceeded to Aruba and the Venezuelan coast.  The tankers 'Tia Juana,' 'Pedernales,' 'Rafaela,' 'San Nicolas,' and 'Orangestad' were all hit by torpedoes and sustained casualties.  In all, four lake tankers were sunk and two were damaged.[109]  On the same day, the oil refinery on Aruba was attacked by German submarine shellfire.[110]  The refinery suffered minor damage and no casualties.[111]  Typically, tankers docking in Maracaibo would carry from 25,000 to 35,000 barrels of oil, so this German submarine attack would have resulted in substantial environmental damage, about 100,000 barrels of oil as a conservative estimate near to the Venezuelan coastline, plus an unspecified amount of oil possibly draining from the damaged tankers.  The action was the beginning of the Battle of the Caribbean from February 1942 to August 1943.  Termed PAUKENSCHLAG or "ROLL OF DRUMS" the U-boat operation in Western Atlantic/Caribbean waters was approved at a conference attended by Hitler and his naval advisers on December 12, 1941.[112]  It was not until 1943 that the tide turned in the battle for oil, and gradually the submarine menace was overcome in the Caribbean.[113]


The political fall out of the attack was predictable: by the 17th, street protests had hit Caracas, with angry Venezuelans demonstrating against German aggression.[114]  Within Zulia, oil workers at Mene Grande requested military instruction and great anxiety and shock reigned throughout the state.  A substantial number of crewmembers on board the oil tankers were Zulia natives.  Some of the wounded men were first brought to hospital in Maracaibo.  AD, seeking again to display its nationalist credentials, argued in February that the authorities should clamp down more harshly on supposed fifth column elements within Venezuela.[115]  Such charges would seem baseless: a full three weeks before AD issued its charges, Medina had issued Decree No 16, which provided for the control of the movement of Axis nationals and sympathizers in Venezuela.  Under the Decree, ex-Axis nationals who had become naturalized Venezuelan citizens and Venezuelan and Spanish nationals in the country suspected of pro-Axis and pro-fascist leanings would also be monitored.[116]  Meanwhile, Venezuela gave the United States permission to use its airfields in the Lake Maracaibo area for anti-submarine operations along the tanker shuttle route.  In March 13, 1942, US forces entered Puerto de la Cruz to help with coastal defense, and in June 1942 the United States was allowed to install and operate coastal batteries on Patos Island.  Such moves, however, were politically risky and in March 1943 the government sent the US force out of the country owing to strong pressures on President Medina.[117]


Oil and Wartime Production


In the short term, German U-Boat attacks signified serious economic losses for the Venezuelan state.  As a result of the lost tankers, production in the Lake Maracaibo Basin had to be cut back by nearly 100,000 tons of crude daily.  By July 1942 the situation was still dire, with tankers operating at only one-third their average capacity of 30,000 barrels and with a longer six-day turnaround as opposed to a normal one of two days.  As a result, Aruba and Curacao refineries operated at reduced capacity.[118]  Even more seriously, following the submarine attack many Maracaibo oil field wells were shut down and by May had still not been started up again.[119]  Overall, damage to the Venezuelan economy was devastating.  According to the Venezuelan Ministry of Development, in 1942 Venezuela produced only 148,154,365 barrels of oil, a significant drop from earlier years ( 226,780,800 barrels in 1941, 183, 830,117 in 1940, and 204,533,563 in 1939).[120]  The reduction resulted in decreased Venezuelan government revenues by 22 percent, and cut deep into the nation's foreign exchange reserves.  Venezuela could ill afford a reduction in oil exports: in 1942, petroleum represented 90% of the nation's exports and accounted for 40% of all government revenue.  The oil industry represented about 25 to 30% of gross domestic product.[121]  Annual production would pick up somewhat by 1943 at 179,383,349 barrels, an increase over 1942 but still below 1939 and 1940 levels, owing to scarcity of transport and some slight, ongoing submarine warfare.  All of this represented a serious set back for the oil industry.  "While this situation prevails," noted the American Consul in Maracaibo, "no oil is moving from Lake Maracaibo and most of the wells must be shut down.  A convoy system as now contemplated will greatly lengthen the turn-around of each tanker in the shuttle service."[122]  Spurred by greater demand and soaring prices, production would only increase by 1944, reaching 257,036,678 barrels during the year, and climbing to 323,405,191 in 1945. [123] 


Psychological Impact on Labor


Venezuelan labor, pinched by the economic slow down which had come about with German U-Boat attacks, radicalized.  The German submarine attack rattled many sailors, who had abandoned their ships and refused to continue work.  According to the US Consul, the Venezuelan crews were holding out for more advantageous employment terms, and were negotiating with the Venezuelan Minister of Labor and the heads of the various oil companies.  "Some local observers," said the Consul, "believe the seamen will not return to their tankers unless they receive a bonus of 50% over their basic pay." [124]  By May 1942, an agreement was negotiated with Venezuelan crews and the Mene Grande Oil Company, whereby the war bonus was increased from 10% to 20% as per before, with minimum wages of Bs 120 per month on the run from Lake Maracaibo to Las Piedras and Bs 170 per month on the run from Lake Maracaibo to Aruba.  This arrangement was designed to bring Venezuelan tankers into line with British ships, which had already fixed a war bonus of twelve pounds a month for every officer and crewmember.  Indemnities were increased by 100% for personal injury or death.  Under these terms, mediated by the authorities, Venezuelan crews went back to work.  Still, crewmembers did not achieve all of their goals: one demand of the workers, which would have required that tankers proceed only in daylight hours between the exit of Lake Maracaibo and Las Piedras, "has since been withdrawn."  "This demand," stated the American Consul, "greatly retarded the movements of the vessels…" According to the Consul, "most of the seamen wanted an escort vessel to accompany them and did not at first take kindly to the fact that the escorting ship was not always in sight."[125]


Though Venezuelan crews were at least successful in achieving some of their demands, other crewmembers were not.  On sea, it was largely Chinese and West Indians who manned oil tankers and who sustained the greatest casualties.  Chinese crewmembers on board tankers belonging to the Caribbean Petroleum Company had been recruited directly from China on a two-year agreement.  After service was disrupted following the German U-boat attack, a few Caribbean tankers were supplied with improvised crews.  The Chinese demanded a wage increase, perhaps a reasonable demand given that they had been excluded from a war bonus paid on Dutch ships.  When the Chinese refused to return to work, some 300 were treated as mutineers and put in a concentration camp on Curacao.  When a riot ensued, 12 were shot and killed.  The American Consul in Maracaibo commented, "even among certain officials of the Caribbean Petroleum Company in Maracaibo there is the feeling that the Chinese, active and important allies of the United Nations, were treated in a most disreputable way, likely to bring condemnation from the Government of China at Chungking."  In May 1942, the Chinese were so disgusted with their treatment that they refused to work under any terms.  They could not be repatriated and were held indefinitely by the Curacao authorities.[126]  The oil companies had long discriminated against Venezuelans and Antillean blacks, and the treatment meted out to the Chinese in this instance suggests that racism still shaped company policies.  Thus, even as oil companies proudly displayed their patriotic credentials by collaborating with the allied cause against a racist Nazi Germany, they continued to discriminate against their own workforce.


Though war represented a slight economic boom for sailors who were in the position to request bonuses, on land and in oilfields severe unemployment resulted from work stoppages. [127]  In May 1942, Accion Democratica related that on the Cabimas field oil companies had fired many workers.  It was unfair, argued the paper, that workers should be the ones to pay the price for Nazi submarine attacks.  The paper was quick to point to inconsistencies in the companies' wartime position.  If the companies wanted workers to be loyal and to protect oil installations from the threat of sabotage, then they should not let go of the workforce.  The paper argued furthermore that the government had not shown much patriotic spirit: it should protect workers and make sure Venezuelans were not fired during wartime hostilities.  Unlike Venezuela, pointed out Accion Democratica, the Chilean government had been more responsive to its people by signing an agreement with copper companies, ensuring that the latter would not lay off workers during the war.[128]  Thus, Medina profited from Venezuelan nationalism in the wake of Nazi submarine attack, however he was also coming under attack for not heeding the needs of Venezuelan labor.  The evidence suggests that despite combative editorials in Accion Democratica, workers continued to feel the pinch from wartime hostilities and the fall off in oil production.  In late 1942 the oil workers union of Cabimas sent a letter to Medina, expressing the need to continue and expand an oil company program which allowed laid off workers to acquire farming land.[129]


Oil Companies and War


With labor resentment growing in the oil zone, oil companies could ill afford to appear antagonistic towards the government.  However, old guard company managers, such as Creole Petroleum Corporation's Henry Linam, stood in the way of progress.  As the British representative at the Ministry of Fuel and Power put it in 1942, "Mr Linam…is a rough, tough, self-made American businessman, who, to borrow the phrase he would probably use himself, 'hates Roosevelt's guts,' is fanatically anti-New Deal, and is not persona grata either to the Venezuelan government or to the United States Ambassador at Caracas."[130]  Linam antagonized senior figures in the Medina government such as Attorney General Manrique Pacanins,[131] a figure who had sought the help of the oil companies in the drafting of a new oil law.  "But," noted the British authorities, "instead of giving it to him, they had produced a counterdraft which was inspired solely by selfish ends…a fact which he [Pacanins] attributed primarily to the Standard Oil Company and Mr Linam."[132] 


By November, it seems that not only was Linam viewed as a loose cannon by the Venezuelans but also by the Standard board, which relieved him as president.[133]  The British Foreign Office was pleased with the new switch, as Linam "had not the first idea of dealing with Latin Americans when the latter have most of the cards."[134]  Meanwhile, oil companies during the 1940s saw they would have to improve public relations.  Particularly keen on marketing public relations strategy was Creole Petroleum Corporation, a subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey.  Under the leadership of Proudfit and Linam, Creole would start a so-called "indoctrination school" to hire Berlitz instructors to teach Spanish on the fields.  Management increasingly realized that it could not achieve its objectives without appearing more sensitive to Venezuelans.  According to World Oil, the English instruction was positive, because "...students show remarkably keen insight into the aims behind the company's program, and realize that an American in a responsible job with no knowledge of the language, customs, laws, policies and relationships in a foreign country, is a definite, and sometimes dangerous, liability to his country." 


Another step initiated by oil companies was to provide medical assistance for squatters who lived outside the oil camps.  Creole started to construct schools and stores, provide medical services for workers and their families, operate extensive transportation systems to get workers from their homes to the worksites and back, and saw to sanitation, water supply and electricity.[135]  Simultaneously, the oil companies began to develop a public relations program.  Topicos Shell, the glossy magazine published by Shell in Venezuela, started publication in 1939.  The magazine was meant for internal company distribution.[136]  Topicos Shell provided articles dealing with technological innovations in the Venezuelan oil industry, staff and personnel, as well as news about the company's workers and oil field life.  El Farol, Standard's oil publication, was published bi-monthly and started in June 1939.[137]  At first, El Farol was mainly designed as a tool for management to communicate its views to employees.  Later, however, the emphasis changed and the magazine began to address social issues.[138]  Creole also had a radio show, "El Reporter Esso," transmitted from Maracaibo at the Ondas del Lago radio station.  The first transmission of the program was 2 March 1945.  Many of the same personalities who worked on El Farol and for Creole's public relations program also worked on the show.[139]


Medina and War


With the companies on the defensive, and with Creole in the midst of the furor over the Linam affair, Medina pressed his advantage.  The president announced that a new petroleum law would include provisions for refining oil in Venezuela, and that Henry Linam was persona non grata.  In a public effort to assert his nationalist oil policy, Medina made a celebrated visit to the state of Zulia.  Venezuelan Communists, eager to cultivate a burgeoning alliance with the president, organized mass demonstrations in support of the regime.  Medina allegedly made his Zulia tour at the behest of the Communist-controlled oil union, the Union Sindical Petrolera.[140]  The president's trip came at a sensitive moment for residents of Lake Maracaibo.  Three years after the tragic fire at Lagunillas, former natives of the town still suffered.  After the lake town had been destroyed, residents were forced at long last to emigrate to a nearby site on land, Ciudad Ojeda. 


However, the new settlement was hardly ideal for the newcomers, and in 1942 residents displaced from Lagunillas submitted a list of grievances to Medina when he arrived in Zulia.  Residents requested a medical dispensary, access to promised funding for the displaced, creation of a girl's school and water for rural homes and agriculture.  Residents had not received state, federal, or municipal monies to pay for supplies, firemen or repairmen.  Residents also claimed they were exposed to malaria despite improved drainage.  Another problem, complained the residents, was that Ciudad Ojeda was not located on municipal or federal lands but on property belonging to the British oil company Venezuela Oil Concessions.  As a result, no one had the right to build within the urban fabric of the town.  Residents wrote Medina that they had petitioned municipal, state, and even national authorities about this question, but their needs had not been attended to.[141]  Ranchers, who had been displaced by oil development in the vicinity of Lagunillas and who had relocated to the Ojeda area, also petitioned Medina.  They remarked that their cattle had no water to drink, and requested improved highway networks.[142]  Thus, Medina arrived in the state of Zulia at a moment of high political and social tension. 


The president rose to the occasion.  The international press described his main address at Maracaibo as hitting Venezuela 'like a bomb…setting off an explosion of nationalist sentiment.' It highlighted his statements that "oil should be a stable source of work," and that "Venezuela should have a major share of the wealth of the soil." At one point during the Maracaibo gathering, a Communist labor leader, Jesus Faria, remarked that the war paved the way for Venezuela to now request a fair share of its oil wealth.  Given that the United States and England were in the midst of global conflict, they would be more receptive to such a modest request.  Medina shrewdly realized that he might outmaneuver the Communists.  After Faria had finished his delivery, the president stood up and objected to the way in which the argument had been presented, arguing that Venezuela was a sovereign nation and that it did not have to ask Mr Roosevelt nor anyone else for permission to claim what rightfully belonged to Venezuela.[143] 


While it is unclear from the evidence whether Medina personally attended to all of the diverse needs of the Zulia population following his trip to Maracaibo,[144] the president did move aggressively to push a new petroleum law which was passed by Congress in March 1943; the new law stipulated that the Venezuelan government should receive 50 percent of oil industry profits.[145]  The law furthermore unified and updated previous oil legislation, the promotion of domestic refining, a broadening of government influence and powers, and the end of oil company customs exemption privileges.[146]  The US State Department, in no mood for trouble, urged the companies to work with the Medina administration.[147]  In the short-term, Medina had blunted the cries of nationalist critics.  Ominously, however, AD delegates in Congress protested that the government had not done enough to exert control over Venezuela's natural resources.[148]


Unlike AD, the Communists had supported Medina and played a combative role in criticizing the oil companies through their newspaper Aqui Esta!.  Interestingly, however, the paper did not limit itself to company abuses; it also attacked derelict local government officials within the oil zone.  Oil field life was hardly idyllic, according to the paper, especially in the large oil field of Cabimas, where workers did not receive adequate safety equipment[149] and were burned in industrial accidents.[150]  The paper also denounced oil company accidents on the water, as well as authorities' failure to ensure maritime safety.[151]  The companies had set up safety committees but these rarely carried out their mission.[152]  Meanwhile startling sanitary conditions prevailed on the oil fields; worker's houses were completely dirty; and garbage was not picked up.[153]  Even worse, in Lagunillas, some oil companies, particularly the Venezuela Oil Concessions, employed minors aged 16 to 18 for difficult physical work.[154]  Meanwhile, appalling public health conditions prevailed on the oilfields, and local residents suffered from malaria and gastroenteritis.[155]  Aqui Esta! reported that the companies did not provide adequate medical care[156] nor did they supply pure drinking water.[157]  Unfortunately, lake residents could not use lake water for domestic purposes as it was contaminated.[158]


Not only did Aqui Esta! tackle company abuse, but also publicized the shortcomings of the authorities.  The paper denounced allegedly derelict and corrupt oil inspectors working in areas inhabited by Motilon Indians, to the southeast of Lake Maracaibo.  One oil inspector, charged the paper, did not report oil spills by the Colon Development Company.[159]  The specific charges prompted the inspector to write a note to the paper defending the government's record in monitoring spills.[160]  The paper frequently published open letters written by government officials in response to community complaints.  For example, the Zulia Unification League, Lagunillas section, wrote to the Executive Assembly Ad Honorem in Charge of Price Regulation in Bolivar District, raising the question of the spiraling cost of local rents in Cabimas and Lagunillas.  Local authorities responded  publicly in the paper that they would promptly look into the matter and investigate.[161] 


Not only did workers have to put up with high rents, but also with elevated costs for food.  Within the town of  Mene Grande, for example, Aqui Esta! called on the authorities to normalize prices.[162]  Aqui Esta! also took up the needs of local residents in Mene Grande, where the authorities, argued the paper, had to do more to improve services at a medical dispensary.[163]  In Lagunillas, the town was in need of a slaughterhouse, a public market, a medical dispensary, and proper sewer system and aqueduct.  The perimeter of the city and adjacent areas needed to be cleaned up, cost of living reduced, and freedom of public meetings for political parties guaranteed to all.[164]  Aqui Esta!'s reporting of oil field life was corroborated by correspondence reaching the Venezuelan President's office.  According to the Cabimas Union of Petroleum Employees and Workers, families living on oilfields were subjected to very unsanitary conditions, but oilfields housing single men were even worse.  The union pleaded with Medina to supply an aqueduct for the community, more medical supplies, and obstetric assistance. The union went on to note that on different occasions, it had brought this dire situation up with the oil companies, which had in turn ignored the complaints.[165]  Another source of public health concern in Cabimas was roads, however following a lengthy press campaign, Aqui Esta! proudly reported that local streets had been paved over with oil, thus eliminating unhealthy dust that had plagued the community.[166]  At the local level, then, Communists and Zulianos lobbied the government and were at least somewhat successful in getting the authorities to acknowledge material problems within the oil zone.  Documentary evidence also suggests that the authorities took a keener interest in overseeing environmental conditions on the oilfields under Medina.  From 1942 onwards,  inspectors working with the Ministry of Development's Technical Office of Hydrocarbons recorded not only large spills in the Maracaibo Basin, but very minute ones as well.  Even more impressive, oil inspectors actually fined companies for their spills.[167]


German U-Boats


Though the Nazis attempted to disrupt allied shipping further, they did not represent a serious threat in the Caribbean after 1943.[168]  In July of that year German U-boats made one last serious attempt to damage the Venezuelan oil industry, when a submarine torpedoed and sunk the SS Rosalia, holding a full cargo of 4,000 tons of Venezuelan crude, near Curacao.  Not only did the incident create yet another environmental hazard in the area of the Dutch islands, but resulted in a high human toll. The crew on board the SS Rosalia was West Indian and Chinese.  Only thirteen men survived the attack after the ship went up in an explosion.[169]  Though the Nazi threat was receding, the OSS, the precursor of the American CIA, was concerned.  In a report submitted to the spying agency, a "qualified" observer, a historian on a trip to Latin America, set forth his remarks about the Maracaibo oil region.  The historian noted, "I have just returned from a trip through the oil country of Venezuela.  It was necessary for me to travel from Maracaibo to Merida and back in order to undertake a mission I had there. Travel in the oil country is extremely difficult.  The police are very vigilant in an awkward pestiferous sort of way."[170]  Notwithstanding this, added the historian, "it was my impression that with a good forged cedula No 4, foreign agents could move as easily through this area as I did."  In any case, however, the historian was skeptical about Nazi plans for the area, and tended to dismiss what he viewed as a sensationalist press: "While passing through Valera [sic] I came upon a sheet called Aqui Esta…which carried an article entitled "Submarinos Nazis en el Caribe: Relato de un Contrabandista."  The implication of the article is that preparations for submarine bases have been made in the Caribbean."  This, concluded the historian, was an "odd and apparently harebrained story."[171] 


FBI and Maracaibo


Nevertheless, by 1943 the US had an undercover FBI agent working with Creole Petroleum Corporation and about 80 American coast-artillery men stationed at Las Piedras, on the Paraguana Peninsula, to the North and East of Maracaibo.  It was thought that the area was vulnerable and exposed to enemy shelling from the sea, and submarine nets were placed before the entrance to the harbor.[172]  During the war, both Harry Prioleau, the executive vice-president of Creole Petroleum Corporation based in New York, and Arthur Proudfit, who ran Creole's operations in Venezuela, worked behind the scenes with the FBI.  The Bureau had two agents working undercover with Creole.[173]  In an FBI memo, the FBI remarked that "Mr Proudfit, who has his office in Caracas, Venezuela, has at all times been very cooperative with the office of the Legal Attache, is a great admirer of the Bureau and has been very discreet concerning the Bureau's connections with his company.  He has worked very closely with the Bureau agents using his company as a cover."[174] 


In March 1943, the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS prepared a report entitled "A Short Guide To Venezuela," presumably directed at US agents expected to work in Venezuela.  The report noted, "with respect to your mission you are in a tighter spot than your buddies in other continents.  The peoples of Asia and Africa know that we have traditionally had no national ambition for their resources or their land.  To them we are the defenders of the common man.  In Latin America this same view is not so widely held.  American firms doing business there have not always concerned themselves with the living conditions of their workers, nor shown proper regard for democratically established local government."  The report went on to spell out exactly what kind of behavior was expected of its agents in Venezuela: "In countries such as Venezuela, where American industrial activities predominate, American executives and engineers have sometimes refused to mingle freely with the people, have dealt only with the upper crust of society, and have worked closely with unpopular dictators.  Some of these Americans have done a disservice to our country.  Fortunately, however, there have also been scrupulous and sensible Americans who have tried to be 'good neighbors.'"  In another interesting aside, the report pointed out that, "there is no race prejudice in business and public life; don't be the first one to try it…Treat colored people without condescension and don't expect humility or inferiority from them."[175]  As US government officials worried about offending Venezuelan sensibilities, Medina continued to navigate a middle course on German nationals.  Venezuela only sent diplomats and their families to the United States for repatriation.  Meanwhile the authorities agreed to intern German sailors at various sites but under comfortable conditions.  To the concern of US officials, who sought a crackdown, ordinary German residents were left alone.  Venezuela ran its own internment facility, and declined US overtures to deport ordinary German residents to the United States.[176] 




Following the fall of the tyrant Gomez in 1935, Venezuelan politics was radically transformed as the result of dramatic social and political change.  Lopez and Medina, both military figures from the old gomecista tradition, sought to come to terms with these momentous changes, in the first case through repression and in the second through accommodation.  When war erupted in Europe in 1939 and both sides raced to control Venezuela's oil supply, the small South American nation was forced to take sides.  Though Venezuela paid a human and economic cost for its allegiance to the allied effort in the short term, the war probably bought political leaders some valuable time.  As long as Venezuela faced an external enemy, leaders could rally nationalist forces and blunt the strength of nascent political movements.  Oil companies for their part had to confront a hostile new environment where Communists openly agitated in the press against corporate abuse.  The unusual international climate allowed both Lopez and Medina to extract concessions from an increasingly more vulnerable oil industry which could not rely on host governments to provide a united front.  While the lull in naval combat from 1943 to 1945 did enable Venezuela to recoup its oil exports, politically such a pause in wartime hostilities did not perhaps work to president Medina's advantage.  By the fall of 1945, the war now ended, Medina and AD now vied for control of the country.  When Medina attempted to appoint a presidential successor at the end of his term, AD protested.  Young, modernizing officers feared a possible return of Lopez and old gomecistas on the right (which, they feared, would impede the advancement of their careers), and Medina's communist allies on the left who had been advocating for workers in such publications as Aqui Esta!.  The officers, along with their AD allies, participated in a military conspiracy to remove Medina from power.[177]  The rise of AD represented the triumph of emerging middle classes in Venezuela which had been clamoring for a voice in the nation's affairs ever since the death of Gomez.  Gomez' military successors had tried to contain or outflank this phenomenon during the war years, but ultimately only managed to postpone the day of reckoning.



[1]  Charles Bergquist, Labor in Latin America, Comparative Essays on Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia.  (Stanford, 1986), p. 206
[2] Carl Soberg, Oil and Nationalism in Argentina (Stanford,  1979), p. 55
[3] Judith Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change (C. Hurst and Company, 1984), p 63
[4] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change , p 64
[5] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change , p 66
[6] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p 62
[7] Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives [hereafter LHCMA] University College London, Report by Colonel CG Vickers, V.C., on his mission to the British Communities in Certain American Countries and in Portugal, pp. 37, 38
[8] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p 74
[9]   Archivo Historico Ministerio de Energia y Minas, Caracas [hereafter referred to as AHMEM], Informe Annual Presentado al Ministerio de Fomento por la Lago Petroleum Corporation, 1938
[10]   Rosalba Monet, Sindicalizacion y Conflictos Laborales 1936-1941, Aportes Para El Estudio del Movimiento Obrero Venezolano, Magister Historia UCV Caracas 1986, p 341
[11]   AHMEM, Ministerio de Fomento, Direccion de Minas Correspondencia del Sindicato de Obreros Petroleros Caribbean Petroleum Estado Zulia, letter, Sindicato de Obreros Petroleros Distrito Sucre (San Lorenzo) to Ministerio de Fomento (Caracas) 20 April 1936
[12]   AHMEM, Ministerio de Fomento, Direccion de Minas Correspondencia del Sindicato de Obreros Petroleros Caribbean Petroleum Estado Zulia, letter, Nestor Luis Perez to WTS Doyle, Caribbean Petroleum Corporation, Caracas 15 June 1936
[13]   AHMEM, Ministerio de Fomento, Direccion de Minas Correspondencia del Sindicato de Obreros Petroleros Caribbean Petroleum Estado Zulia, Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, Maracaibo ( M Guadalajara G.) to Ministro Fomento (Caracas), 30 May 1936.
[14]   Laura Randall,  The Political Economy of Venezuelan Oil (New York: Praeger, 1987), pp.62-63
[15] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p 75
[16]   Petroleo, 21 Oct 1936, "De Lagunillas," p 3
[17]   Petroleo, 21 Oct 1936, "De Lagunillas," p 3
[18]   Petroleo, 21 Oct 1936, "Presidencia del Zulia---Notas Editoriales."
[19]   Bergquist,  Labor in Latin America, p.230
[20]   Bergquist,  Labor in Latin America, pp.230, 236
[21] Berguist, Labor In Latin America, p 240
[22]   National Archives, Washington [hereafter referred to as NA], RG 59, 831.00/1631, Nicholson to Secretary of State, Caracas June 29, 1936
[23]   NA, Internal Affairs of Venezuela, RG 59, 831.00/1637, Nicholson to Secretary of State, Caracas July 13, 1936
[24] Bergquist, Labor In Latin America, p 240, Winfield Burggraaff, The Venezuelan Armed Forces in Politics, 1935-1959 (Missouri , 1972), p. 38
[25]  Terry Lynn Karl, "Petroleum and Political Pacts in Venezuela: The Transition to Democracy," LARR, Vol 22, No 1, 1987, p. 71
[26] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p 75
[27]   AHMEM, Ministerio de Fomento, Inspectoria Tecnica de Hidrocarburos, Informe Contaminacion del Mar Por Los Hidrocarburos, Estado Zulia 1935, Eleazar Lopez Contreras to Ministro Fomento, Caracas 13 April 1935
[28]  Monet, Sindicalizacion y Conflictos Laborales, p 333
[29] NA, RG 59, 831.5045/44, Henry S. Villard to Secretary of State, Caracas 22 January 1937
[30] NA, RG 59, 84/848, Archer Woodford to John Bernhard, Maracaibo 23 December 1939
[31] NA, RG 59, 84/848, Archer Woodford to John Bernhard, Maracaibo 23 December 1939
[32] Boletin del Archivo Historico de Miraflores [hereafter referred to as BAHM], No 147-148-149, Jan 1996-June 1997, Manuel Maldonado to Lopez Contreras, Lagunillas 14 November 1939, pp 232-3
[33] BAHM, No 147-148-149, Jan 1996-June 1997, "La Tragedia de Lagunillas de Agua," telegraph, Manuel Maldonado to Lopez Contreras, 7/8 November 1939 p 223
[34] El Farol, "El Lamentable Siniestro de Lagunillas," November 1939 p 8
[35]  Karl,"Petroleum and Political Pacts in Venezuela," p. 70
[36] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 67
[37] Burggraaff, The Venezuelan Armed Forces in Politics, p. 36
[38] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 76
[39] Burggraaff, The Venezuelan Armed Forces in Politics, p. 40
[40] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 75
[41] John Knape, "British Foreign Policy in the Caribbean Basin 1938-1945: Oil Nationalism and Relations With the United States," JLAS, Vol 19 Issue 2 (Nov 1987), p. 279
[42]  Knape, "British Foreign Policy in the Caribbean Basin," 280
[43]  Stephen G. Rabe, The Road to OPEC : United States relations with Venezuela, 1919-1976 ( Texas, 1982), p. 73
[44]  Coordinator of Information OSS, Latin American Section Jan 9, 1943, Survey of Venezuela Sections III, IV, and V, No 80, pp. 39, 40, 42
[45]  LHCMA, Report by Colonel CG Vickers, p. 38
[46]  Public Records Office [hereafter referred to as PRO], FO 371/22581, A 6521, p.41, EJ Sadler to British Ambassador
[47]  PRO, FO 371/22581, A 6521,42, EJ Sadler to British Ambassador
[48] Fitzroy Andre Baptiste, War, Cooperation, and Conflict, The European Possessions in the Caribbean, 1939-1945 (Greenwood, 1988), p. 9
[49] Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 69
[50] Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 67
[51] Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 68
[52] Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 69
[53]  LHCMA, Report by Colonel CG Vickers, pp. 37, 38
[54]  Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 79
[55] Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 71
[56]  LHMCA, Report by Colonel CG Vickers, pp. 37, 38
[57]  PRO, FO 371/22851, A 2348 29 March 1939, p. 21
[58] Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 68
[59]  LHMCA, Report by Colonel CG Vickers, p. 38
[60]  Edward N Barnhart, "Citizenship and Political Tests in Latin American Republics in World War II," HAHR Vol 42, No 3 (August 1962), p. 297
[61]  Barnhart, "Citizenship and Political Tests in Latin American Republics," p. 298
[62]  Steve Ellner, "The Venezuelan Left in the Era of the Popular Front, 1936-1945," JLAS, Vol 11, Issue 1 (May 1979), p. 172
[63]  Ellner, "The Venezuelan Left in the Era of the Popular Front," p. 173
[64]  Ellner, "The Venezuelan Left in the Era of the Popular Front," p. 173
[65]  Ellner, "The Venezuelan Left in the Era of the Popular Front," p. 178
[66] LHCMA, Report by Colonel CG Vickers, pp. 37, 38
[67]  PRO, FO 371/22851, A 2348 29 March 1939, p. 35
[68]  PRO, FO 371/22851, A 6192/480/47, 12 Sept 1939, Mr Starling, Petroleum Dept, to Mr Balfour, 36
[69]  LHMCA, Report by Colonel CG Vickers, p. 38
[70] Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 68
[71]  Survey of Venezuela OSS, Sections III, IV, and V, No 80 Jan 9, 1943, Appendix VI, Cities and Ports, Maracaibo, p. 104
[72] PRO, Admiralty Documents, Jan 1938, Major Nelville, Royal Marines, 20 Dec 1938, App B to NIC of 20th Dec 1938
[73]  Survey of Venezuela OSS, Sections III, IV, and V, No 80 Jan 9, 1943, Appendix VI, Cities and Ports, Maracaibo, p. 104
[74]   PRO, Admiralty Documents, Jan 1938, Major Nelville, Royal Marines, 20 Dec 1938, App B to NIC of 20th Dec 1938
[75]  NA, RG 59, 831.00-NAZI/1  LH, Nicholson to Secretary of State, Caracas March 24, 1938
[76]  Survey of Venezuela OSS, Sections III, IV, and V, No 80 Jan 9, 1943, Appendix VIII, Who's Who, pp  34-7
[77] Burggraaff, The Venezuelan Armed Forces in Politics, pp 45, 46
[78]  Ellner, "The Venezuelan Left in the Era of the Popular Front," p. 173
[79] Burggraaff, The Venezuelan Armed Forces in Politics, p. 49
[80] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 76
[81] Burggraaff, The Venezuelan Armed Forces in Politics, p. 49
[82] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 77
[83] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 81
[84] Burggraaff, The Venezuelan Armed Forces in Politics, p. 49
[85] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 76
[86] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 82
[87] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 92
[88] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 90
[89] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 91
[90] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 67
[91] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 68
[92] Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 71
[93] Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 71
[94] Baptiste, War, Cooperation, and Conflict, p. 135
[95]  Ellner, "The Venezuelan Left in the Era of the Popular Front," p. 173
[96]  Ellner,  "The Venezuelan Left in the Era of the Popular Front," p. 182
[97]  Accion Democratica, 31 January 1942, "Nazis En El Zulia," p. 6
[98] Though the OSS reported that the state president of Zulia in 1942, Alberto Losada Casanova, had pro-Nazi feelings, it is unclear if other state officials in Zulia had other similar leanings, see Survey of Venezuela OSS, Sections III, IV, and V, No 80 Jan 9, 1943, Appendix VIII, Who's Who, p. 20
[99] Accion Democratica, "Niegase Proposicion Contra el Nazi-Fascismo en La Legislatura del Zulia," 24 January 1942, p. 12
[100] Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 72
[101]  Accion Democratica, "Nos Amenaza El Tercer Reich," Feb 1942, pp. 7, 8
[102]  J.M. Spraight, "The War of Oil," Military Affairs, Volume 13 Issue 3 (Autumn 1949), p. 138
[103]  Spraight, "The War of Oil," p. 139
[104] Baptiste, War, Conflict, and Cooperation, p. 115
[105] Baptiste, War, Conflict, and Cooperation, p. 29
[106] Baptiste, War, Conflict, and Cooperation, p. 31
[107] Baptiste, War, Conflict, and Cooperation, p. 29
[108] Baptiste, War, Conflict, and Cooperation, p. 31
[109] Efrain Barberii, De Los Pioneros a La Empresa Nacional 1921-1975, La Standard Oil of New Jersey en Venezuela (Lagoven, 1997) p. 216, NA, RG 59 831.6363/1279, Maracaibo May 18, 1942, Renwick McNeice to Secretary of State
[110]  NA, RG 59, Internal Affairs Venezuela, 831.6363/1262, McNiece to Secretary of State, Maracaibo February 28, 1942, RG 59 831.6363/1279, Maracaibo May 18, 1942
[111]  Archivo Historico de Miraflores, Caracas [hereafter referred to as AHM], 15 TB, Feb 16-28.  Gilberto Ghersi to Secretary Presidency, 16 February 1942
[112] Baptiste, War, Conflict, and Cooperation, p. 143
[113] Spaight, "The War of Oil," p. 139
[114]  AHM, 15 TB Gilberto Ghersi to Secretary Presidency, Caracas 18 February 1942
[115]  Accion Democratica, 28 February 1942, "Mene Grande Pide," "Repercusion de La Guerra Submarina en el Zulia," p. 6
[116] Baptiste, War, Conflict, and Cooperation, p. 167
[117] Baptiste, War, Conflict, and Cooperation, p. 168
[118] Baptiste, War, Conflict, and Cooperation, p. 145
[119]  NA, RG 59, Internal Affairs Venezuela, 831.6363/1279  PS CLT, McNeice to Secretary of State, Maracaibo May 18 1942
[120] AHMEM [Archivo Historico Ministerio de Energia y Minas, Caracas], Ministerio de Fomento, Direccion de Hidrocarburos, asunto: Panorama Mundial de La Industria Petrolera, 1949, p. 18, WH Bostock, "Conozca Su Compania, 300,000 Barriles Diarios, Un Nuevo Record En La Produccion del Grupo Shell," Topicos Shell, March 1947, p. 4
[121]  David Painter, Private Power and Public Policy: Multinational Oil Companies and US Foreign Policy, 1941-1954 (IB Tauris and Co, 1986), p. 18
[122]  NA, RG 59, Internal Affairs Venezuela, 831.6363/1262, McNiece to Secretary of State, Maracaibo Feb 28, 1942
[123]  AHMEM, Direccion de Hidrocarburos, Panorama Mundial de La Industria Petrolera, 1949, p. 18
[124]  NA, RG 59, 831.6363/1262, McNiece to Secretary of State, Maracaibo February 28, 1942
[125]  NA, RG 59, 831.6363/1279  PS CLT, McNeice to Secretary of State, Maracaibo May 18 1942
[126]  NA, RG 59, Internal Affairs Venezuela, 831.6363/1279  PS CLT, McNiece to Secretary of State, Maracaibo May 18 1942
[127]   AHMEM, Direccion de Hidrocarburos, Panorama Mundial de La Industria Petrolera, p 18
[128]   Accion Democratica, 23 May 1942, p 8 "Despido de Trabajadores Petroleros."
[129]   AHM, Presidential Correspondence, 1-1-3, Sindicato de Obreros y Empleados Petroleros de Cabimas to Medina, 26-11-42
[130] PRO, FO 371/30743, A 9283 Starling, Ministry of Fuel and Power, to Mr Perowne, 7 October 1942
[131] PRO, FO 371/30743, Hopwood to Godber, 18 October 1942 
[132] PRO, FO 371/30743, Godber to Hopwood, 19 October 1942
[133] PRO, FO 371/30743, 19 November 1942 
[134] PRO, FO 371/30743, 1 December 1942, minutes
[135] Bergquist,  Labor in Latin America, pp.239,240, 242, Wayne C. Taylor, John Lindeman, The Creole Corporation in Venezuela, Washington?: National Planning Association, 1955, p.87., Joe Alex Morris, Nelson Rockefeller, A Biography (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960), pp.119-120, George Ives, "Creole's Venezuela Indoctrination School," World Oil, September 1, 1947. 
[136]   F Scott Bob, A Comparative Study of Six Corporate Publications in Venezuela and the United States, MA Thesis UT Austin 1975, p 41. 
[137]  Omar Vera Lopez, Doble Via, Ensayo Sobre Comunicacion En La Empresa Moderna, Cromotip 1972, Caracas?  Edited, Creole Petroleum Corporation, p28
[138]  Bob, A Comparative Study of Six Corporate Publications in Venezuela, pp 44, 45 
[139]  El Farol, "Un Cuarto de Siglo de El Reporter Esso de Maracaibo," no 232 March 1970, p22
[140] Ellner, "The Venezuelan Left in the Era of the Popular Front," p. 174
[141] AHM, 1-1-3, Informe Sobre Situacion i Necesidades de Ciudad Ojeda, Junta Pro Mejoras de Ciudad Ojeda, Alberto Nunez, Eugenia Zamarripa, Carlos R. Prieto, to Medina, Ciudad Ojeda 16 November 1942
[142] AHM, 1-1-3, Criaderos de Lagunillas, Rolendio Bracho, Simon Cruel, Ismael Sanchez, others, to Medina, n.d.
[143] Ellner, "The Venezuelan Left in the Era of the Popular Front," p. 175
[144] Documentation suggests that problems within the oil zone were left to fester, and several months later a local community group, the Zulia Unification League, wrote President Medina regarding the town of Cabimas.  The oil settlement lacked an aqueduct and sewer system, and the municipal hospital lacked sufficient resources to attend to the community.  See AHM, Box 1-1-3, Liga Unificacion Zuliana to Medina, Cabimas 16 November 1942
[145] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 77
[146] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 68
[147] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 77
[148] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, p. 68
[149]   Aqui Esta!, "Arbitrariedades en Cabimas," Jan 17, 1945 p.12
[150]   Aqui Esta! 6 Dec 1944, "Informacion de Mene Grande, Un Accidente de Trabajo," p 11
[151]   Aqui Esta!, 2 June 1943, "Notas de Lagunillas---Hacen Falta Boyas Especiales Para Las Gabarras," p. 6
[152]   Aqui Esta!, 16 Aug 1944, "Informacion de Mene Grande, Un Comite Que De Seguridad No Tiene Nada," p 6
[153]   Aqui Esta!, 12 July 1944, "Notas de Lagunillas, Falta de Sanidad en Campo Milagro," p.6
[154]   Aqui Esta!, 12 July 1944, p 12 "Notas de Lagunillas, Las Companias Petroleras Emplean Menores,"
[155]  Aqui Esta!, 28 February 1945, "De San Lorenzo y San Timoteo, Absorviendo Tierra Vive La Gente En San Lorenzo y San Timoteo," p 6
[156]  Aqui Esta!  "Noticias de Mene Grande, Importante Asamblea de LUZ en Lagunillas."
[157]  Aqui Esta!  19 January 1944, "Notas de Casigua"
[158]  Aqui Esta! 23 February 1944, p 6 "Reivindicaciones del Municipio Gral Urdaneta.'
[159]  Aqui Esta!, 6 December 1944, "Desde Motilonia, en El Estado Zulia," p 14
[160]  Aqui Esta!, 17 January 1945, "Estado Zulia---Aclaratoria a Mis Compatriotas de Motilonia," N. Andarcia Arias p 4
[161]  Aqui Esta!  January 5, 1944, "La Junta Ejecutiva ad Honorem Reguladora de Precios en el Distrito Bolivar Contesta a Liga Unificacion Zuliana Seccion Lagunillas."
[162] Aqui Esta!, 12 January 1944, 'Noticias de Mene Grande, Elevadisimos Precios en Los Articulos de Primera Necesidad.'
[163]  Aqui Esta! 12 Jan 1944, 'Noticias de Mene Grande, Proteccion Oficial Para el Sostenimiento de Un Dispensario.'
[164]  Aqui Esta! 26 Jan 1944, "Por Una Unidad de Accion en Bien de Lagunillas."
[165]   AHM, 1-1-3, Sindicato de Obreros y Empleados Petroleros de Cabimas to Medina, 26-11-42
[166]   Aqui Esta! 3 March 1945, "Niegan Petroleo En Las Calles," p 4
[167]   Ministerio de Relaciones Interiores, Memoria y Cuenta, Ministerio Relaciones Interiores 1945, p XXIV, Exposicion, "Aplicacion de la Ley de Vigilancia Para Impedir La Contaminacion de Las Aguas Por El Petroleo."
[168]  In February 1945, when Germany no longer had the military potential to attack the Caribbean area, Venezuela declared war on the axis in order to be eligible for membership in the emerging United Nations.  See Rabe, The Road To OPEC, p. 72
[169]  Stanton Hope, Tanker Fleet, The War Story of The Shell Tankers and The Men Who Manned Them (London: Anglo Saxon Petroleum Company, 1948), pp 59-60
[170]  Coordinator of Information, Latin America Section, April 10, 1942, p. 1
[171]  Coordinator of Information, Latin America Section, April 10, 1942, pp 6, 8
[172]  NA, RG 59, Internal Affairs Venezuela, 831.6363/1279  PS CLT, McNeice to Secretary of State, Maracaibo May 18 1942
[173]  Declassified FBI file, Prioleau to Hoover, Feb 25, 1946, file no 64-28947
[174]  Declassified FBI file, CH Carson to DM Ladd, February 4, 1946, file No. 64-28947-6
[175]  OSS/State Dept Intelligence and Research Report part XIV 1941-1961, "A Short Guide to Venezuela, 12 March 1943, pp 1, 3, 57
[176]  Max Friedman, Nazis and Good Neighbors, The United States Campaign Against The Germans of Latin America in World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp 149, 150, 239
[177] Ewell, Venezuela A Century of Change, pp 94-5

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 D Phil., (Ph.D.), Modern History (Latin America), Oxford University, July 2002 (Dissertation: "Maracaibo Black Gold: Venezuelan Oil and Environment in the Era of Juan Vicente Gómez, 1908-1935").  No online link.

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