Great moments in bait-and-switch

In researching Venezuelan oil nationalizations I stumbled onto this little article by Bernard Mommer, dated April 1999. I had seen it before but this part never jumped out at me like it did today (emphasis added):

President Chávez appointed Alí Rodríguez as his Minister of Energy and Mines. In PDV, he appointed as President Roberto Mandini, a high-ranking member of PDV’s meritocracy who had nevertheless kept a critical distance from Luis Giusti and his policy. Chávez also appointed three outsiders as Vice-Presidents, two military and one civilian, all of them belonging to the inner circle of the President. Although the government has pledged that it will fully respect the private contracts, nevertheless these appointments signal very significant changes in Venezuelan oil politics.

For those late to the show, they didn’t respect the private contracts (PDF). Instead they forced private oil companies operating in Venezuela into joint ventures that had some advantages but in which the private companies lost their independence. They got risk with very limited reward.

One time in late 2007, I asked a PDVSA official from the 1990s what he’d like to ask PDVSA President Rafael Ramirez or Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He thought for a few seconds and then said something like, “If you really believe what you’re saying today, that the Apertura was such a bad deal, why didn’t you cancel the contracts when you first came to office rather than waiting until now, with the projects built and operational?”

Fun to ponder.