Photo: PDVSA TV

Reuters’s Alexandra Ulmer has a wild and unmissable report with the inside story of former Oil Minister and PDVSA CEO Eulogio del Pino’s downfall, from head of one of the largest oil companies in the world to common jail inmate. The tale is super juicy, though ultimately it’s very sad.

The first juicy bit is that she found out where he shot those bizarre Blair Witch Project-like videos of him speaking in a low voice and sounding exhausted and out or breath: he was hiking on el Ávila!

“On Nov. 29, three days after his ouster, an exhausted Del Pino went to El Ávila, a verdant mountain that towers over Caracas, the capital, where he liked to hike, one person said. Del Pino found a quiet spot under a tree and recorded a video on his cell phone. He said he believed he was about to become a ‘victim’ of an ‘unjustified attack.’”

Then she goes over his tenure at PDVSA and reflects on the fact that, despite his background as a Stanford-trained nerd, Del Pino was never able to fulfil the hopes that his appointment as PDVSA CEO had raised with many of the company’s investors and partners mostly because, by then, the company his predecessor Rafael Ramírez had bequeathed him was an unfixable wreck.

But then, his own shortcomings as a business leader didn’t help:

“Maduro promoted Del Pino, who was born in the Canary Islands and holds a Spanish passport, from PDVSA’s exploration and production division to the company’s top job in 2014.

At the time, foreign oil executives and analysts largely welcomed the arrival of the genial and low-profile technocrat. He replaced Rafael Ramirez, a once-powerful loyalist of the late Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor.

Ramirez, who dominated Venezuela’s oil industry for a decade, sought to make PDVSA “redder than red.” He urged workers to wear red shirts in support of Chavez’s socialist movement and to attend pro-government rallies.

Del Pino, by contrast, eased up on revolutionary garb and attendance at militant gatherings. He also sought closer relationships with foreign partners frustrated by currency controls and a lack of professionalism at PDVSA.

Still, many PDVSA insiders and oil executives were ultimately disappointed with Del Pino’s management. Instead of improvements, he presided over a major production fall that brought Venezuela’s oil output to near 30-year-lows.

Del Pino ultimately found his hands tied at a company where intervention by the government is common. Last January, Maduro replaced many of his top executives with political and military appointees.”

But the saddest, most ironic part about the whole affair is Del Pino’s surprising naïveté. He was urged by friends and family members to flee and, as a Spanish national, he would have had it easier than many. But he refused to believe they were going after him until it was too late:

“Days before masked agents arrested him, family and friends pleaded with Eulogio Del Pino to flee, warning that he could be next among executives detained or pursued, one after another, in a mounting purge of Venezuela’s faltering oil industry.

But the former oil minister, detained by police before dawn on Nov 30, was reluctant to believe he could soon be among those targeted in what President Nicolas Maduro has characterized as a cleanup of the all-important sector.

‘I told him: ‘Go!’,’ said one of three people who described the lead up to the former minister’s detention. ‘But he told me ‘I haven’t done anything wrong. I trust that they’re not going to do anything bad to me.”

That trust, the product of three years during which Del Pino held the top two jobs in Venezuela’s oil ministry, now appears alarmingly misplaced. Maduro is charging Del Pino and many other former industry executives with corruption and blaming them for economic woes now crippling the Andean nation.

It is not clear whether any of the charges against Del Pino are substantiated. Prosecutors, without presenting any evidence, accused him of belonging to a ‘cartel’ that operated a roughly $500 million corruption scheme in the western state of Zulia.’

We usually complain about the opposition’s naïveté in understanding the basically criminal and amoral character of chavismo. It drives us nut when the beatas fail to grasp that actual guilt makes zero difference, since the ultimate decision of your life and liberty depends on the whim of the kleptocrats who run the country unchecked. But I never imagined that a chavista top dawg like Del Pino could fall into the same trap.”

Did he buy into the propaganda so much that he failed to realize that people like Alfredo Ramos, Araminta González or María Lourdes Afiuni did nothing wrong but were nevertheless imprisoned on trumped-up charges and had their lives destroyed as a result? Or did he believe that because he had a Twitter profile pic with the galáctico he was going to be spared?

Either way, Alexandra’s piece is a must-read.

29 COMMENTS

  1. You are right, Claudio, Alexandra’s article is a must read.

    You millenials might want to Google up, “Ernst Röhm,” and the, “Night of the Long Knives,” to see how history repeats.

    • Good analogy

      Another? Google “Reign of Terror”.

      I imagine that Maduro sees himself as Robespierre, or Danton.

      History does indeed repeat itself

      • Maduro and his ilk would flatter themselves if they imagine such things. They are simply criminals of extreme cynicism and heartlessness, who took complete power before the biggest and longest oil boom in the country’s history but somehow managed to leave the country in complete and unimaginable shambles in every possible way.

        • I imagine they would. I doubt the bus driver knows, or would take the time to discover the fate that awaited Robespierre and Danton.

          I think, when all is said and done, and Chavismo is relegated to the ash heap of history, that the best thing that can be done for Venezuela is for Delcy, Maduro, Vlad, Jaua, Aristubulo and Diosdado is to see everything they “built” come tumbling down. Starting with the mausoleum of El Finado.

          And then start on the history books. Time to let posterity know what these frauds were REALLY like. I think a picture of Diosdado or Delcy superimposed over a picture of starving kids picking through a rubbish tip would be a good place to start.

  2. What can one say. Revolutions eat their children, we all know that. Well. Eulogio seems like he didnt. Is kind of shocking to find out one of the top men in the country is so naive, but well… he ran PDVSA under this bunch of idiots and at no point said “fuck it, I’m out of this circus”. So, seems that apart of what he may or not have stolen, he was a true believer. A.K.A a pendejo.

  3. One wonders how “innocent” the leader of such a profligate operation as PDVSA can really be. Was he not aware of the Homeric skimming and fraud that was going on as the nation’s only cash cow was drawn and quartered and divvied up? He’s like Alfred E. Newman from the old MAD MAGAZINE series: “What me worry?” And this as Rome burns ….

  4. Having previously been part of the ruling mob, as Robespierre was to discover, will not mitigate the shock of suddenly finding oneself staring up at the merciless steel of the mob’s guillotine. With Trotsky, it was an ice pick. One can only imagine the horror Del Pino must be going through today.

  5. Cayo por la tipica arrogancia del vivo criollo. “Eso no me va a pasar a mi, eso le pasa a los webones”. Porque los chavistas aplauden leyes represoras? Porque creen que solo se las van a aplicar a los “escualidos”. Por inocencia? No me j………..

  6. Naiveté is innocence and, also, means lack of judgment. Del Pino is certainly not innocent. He was PDVSA’s Director of exploration and production during most of the corrupt Ramirez period, until 2014 and , as such, privy and coo-responsible of the tragic conversion of the company into a cesspool. He was accomplice or major factor in many cases of corruption I have mentioned in my blog. As Ramirez did, Del Pino was a traitor to his management responsabilities, puttting the already broken company in the hands of the labor sector, which even intruded into the corporate planning of the company!!! He presided over the end destruction of PDVSA and was a sameless shrill of both Chavez nd Maduro.
    Del Pino deserves punishment. Of course, what is going on is a fraudulent maneuver by Maduro to try to save his own while throwing others under the bus. But in a real just environment Ali Rodiguez, Asdrubal Chavez, Rafael Ramírez and Del Pino deserve life in prison. Nelson Martinez I know little about, will refrain – for now – from putting him in the same group with the ones just mentioned.

    • My guess is that Ramirez is hopping on a G650, cos he rolls like that, and flies directly from NY to Langley where he’ll sing as loud and clear as he can. Going back to Caracas isn’t an option obviously and doing nothing will mean loosing everything he so hard “worked” for. He needs some sort of deal with the gringos which I’m sure he’ll get being the highest ranged chavista to jump ship up to now.

  7. What might a defroked Chavista do in that situation, having been outed by his own clan? Survival for himself and his family comes first, I would think, and shelter from those who would pitch him in a Venezuelan lock up. The ability of these guys to worm out of trouble is fantastic, but I wonder what Ramirez’s options really are?

    And what of the glory days of tailored Italian suites, the Manhattan bistros, and the role of Gran Jefe at the UN …

  8. I am not so sure that he was all that innocent during his time in Pdvsa , there were things said about some of his decisions that give off a whiff of bad odour …..that he tried to make up for later after the damage was done and irreversible ….time will tell , what people familiar with Pdvsa did notice is that after Ramirez left Pdvsa became totally submissive to what the ruling clique demanded , during Ramirez time , Pdvsa still retained some autonomy were the issues where not directly interesting to Chavez , Elulogio kept his job by being totally unobtrusive and suppliant , thats why he trusted that he would not be bothered , he was so obedient and low profile that nobody would bother making him into a political villain …in that sense he was innocent , maybe thats the reason why Ramirez did nothing to hinder his rise to the position of Pdvsa president ……Martinez was the candidate to replace Ramirez , but apparently illness made it inconvenient when the time came for Ramirez to be unseated from his post……!! Now both Martinez and Eulogio and Ramirez are being made the villains of Pdvsa ruin……….., the artificers of the orgnizations fall and corruption …….!!

    • Ramirez is not innocent! He is the main rsponsible, together with Chavez, Maduro, Merentes, Giordani , aAli Rodriguez and Del Pino, in the disaster of PDVSA. This is very well documented. He did as Chavez wanted him to do. There was no trace of independence or autonomy in PDVSA during his presidency. His ganfg is being put in prison: Voillalobos, Derwick, Reiter, Alvarado, Diego Salazar, Luongo cousin, etc. This is happening.
      They re not being made the villains, Bill. They are the villains. Of course, there are meany more, they are not the only ones. This was hyper-corruption.

      • They are all villains , they have all contributed to the ruin of our Oil Industry and economy , they all acquiesced in following whatever disastrous orders they recieved from Chavez and his succesor …..some have attempted to make believe that Rafael was corrupt while Del Pino was not , I suspect he was as corrupt as Rafael only in a smaller scale …..Chavez went directly to him (not to Ramirez) to prod the offshore gas projects forward , apparently he responded by ordering the abrupt signature of at least one of the uncosncionable offshore drilling contracts you have denounced , one which is costing Pdvsa an eye and an ear with no work being advanced ….!!
        The only difference was that Ramirez had political power of his own which he used to maintain some autonomy in the inner decisionmaking , he would be totally pliant in obeying Chavez commands but not necessarily those of others within the ruling circles……after Ramirez was unseated Pdvsa became ever more suppliant to the commands of anyone from the inner circle , Del Pino had no political power of his own , he was more of a stooge than Ramirez was .
        The inner circle confrontations dated from before Chavez death , Ramirez had rivals inside the circle who couldnt get at him because of his closeness to Chavez , once Chavez died he lost that protection and became vulnerable, Del Pino of course lacked any outside political support of his own , he was totally at the mercy of whoever was dominant in the inner circle in that sense his Pdvsa became even more pliant than Ramirez Pdvsa ever was.

        The things to note is that the scale and magnitude of Ramirez corruption was known to all within the ruling circle before he left Pdvsa and much resented .’why him and not us’ they thought , still no one would take action agaisnt him because he had Chavez protection , once that was lost we was ready to be discarded but without denouncing the corruption which would naturally be perceived as part of the general overall corruption of the regime , also he personally is believed to have access to information and records that can be embarrasing to all members of the regime .Only thing is that if he reveals it he incriminates himself as much as he incriminates the rest.Some suspect he even has things from Chavez that would prove pure poisonous to Maduro and others in the ruling circle……some of Chavez private papers went missing after his death and he is suspected of having purloined them …..all conjecture of course..!!

        Now that Pdvsa is imploding financially and operationally in ways that canot be concealed , the game blame must be played to the till in order to excuse Maduros and Chavez part in the whole process…..and distract attention from their own responsibility in the matter …..suppose thats the main motive for the accusations of Pdvsa management brought about by william saab…..

  9. I think Ramírez has too much to lose if trying to cooperate with the US. I can only imagine how much he has stashed in overseas accounrs and the Feds will track it down.My bet is him skipping off to a country with no US extradition and out of the reach of Maduro,

  10. Guess who was a big promoter of many ventures between Petroecuador and PDVSA…. Anyone?
    Guess what country does not mind to house for 5 years (and counting) an alleged criminal in the embassy?
    If there is a silver lining to this, is that Ecuador’s borders are porous to say the least…No doubt, Ramirez will always have to look over his shoulder.

  11. Ulmer has some-kind of regionalist tick, describing the “economic woes now crippling the Andean nation”. ‘Crippling’, no doubt, ‘Andean’, not quite. Surely, both Caribbean and Andean, and so much more Caribbean than Andean.

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