There are rig owners that have declined to discuss with PDVSA the rates for services and have preferred to keep their equipment locked up for a year in Anaco, in Anzoategui state. This is the case specifically of the company Helmerich & Payne, a U.S. transnational firm. That’s why an eminent domain declaration over them is being requested at the National Assembly, to thus assume control. We won’t allow them to sabotage our operations as they did at the end of 2002.
Our dispute with PDVSA has never been very complicated and our position has remained clear: We simply wanted to be paid for work already performed. We stated repeatedly we wanted to return to work, just not for free. We are surprised by yesterday’s announcement only because we have been in ongoing efforts in a good faith attempt to accommodate a win-win resolution, including a willingness to sell rigs. We have worked in Venezuela for 52 years and wanted to continue under reasonable conditions. At the same time, Helmerich & Payne has reduced its number of rigs in Venezuela in half since 1998. At that point, almost 30% of our land rigs were in that country, as compared to under 5% of our land rigs today.
Am I the only one to see these comments as more similar than different? Both of them are ostensibly talking about 11 oil rigs that have been sitting around for the past year.
Ramirez glosses over whether Helmerich is refusing to make concessions on future rates (which would be price-gouging) or, as the company insists, refusing to renegotiate the bills for work already performed. Helmerich skips over more than a century of the U.S., Britain, and Europe trying to bully Venezuela on oil affairs and, humiliatingly often, succeeding.
But the key similarity is that neither of them are talking to the general public. Ramirez is talking to Venezuelan voters. Helmerich is talking to his shareholders. The real situation is, and will probably remain, opaque. It’s entirely possible that this will be a straightforward, paid-in-full nationalization like that of Ternium (although I don’t think Helmerich has the Kirchners in his korner) or it may go to arbitration and not get paid for years. It’s possible that both of them are really on the same page as far as the takeovers of the rigs; the Venezuelan government wouldn’t miss a chance to score points with voters by making a routine takeover look like a powerful revolutionary act that is putting the empire in its place. It’s also possible that Helmerich is about to lose its rigs, and its insurer about to pay a few million bucks. Just another day in Rashomon-land.