DOSSIER | Promises
The first stone
USD 27 million was spent to build the fertilizer plant; resumes were forwarded for 8,000 jobs. All in all, the bushes covered the foundational plate
On these grounds, near Puerto Nutrias, in 2007, then Barinas state governor Hugo de Los Reyes Chávez opened the fertilizer plant
FRANCISCO OLIVARES | EL UNIVERSAL
Saturday September 22, 2012 12:00 AM
The Venezuelan territory is full of first stones, exceptional announcements, and forecasts of a country turned into a world super-power by the Bolivarian revolution.
One of these "first stones" cannot be found. The place where it was laid back in September 2007, exactly five years ago, has been devoured by the bushes. A ramshackle shed hints that once upon a time humans were present there. In order to identify the venue of the important event, there is the need to know the region. Not even the billboard bearing the face of President Hugo Chávez and advertising the superb work remained. For this reason, some residents of Puerto Nutrias, in western Barinas state, avail themselves of any visitor with some access to the media to claim no hope of a trumpeted project.
This was the case in a recent visit to the state by attorney Alfredo Romero, apropos an activity of opposition campaign team Comando Venezuela. Some local residents approached him and took him to the construction site of one of the two big plants comprising a national plan called "Socialist Petrochemical Revolution." The first stone was laid by then Barinas state governor Hugo de Los Reyes Chávez and his son, the Venezuelan president. Afterwards, it was said that the project accounting for USD 1.7 billion would free the forsaken locale from backwardness.
Puerto Nutrias would be an important link in the Apure Orinoco Hub. The flag program of the brand-new government in 1999 raised high expectation among Venezuelans. The outline included a plant to produce in the first stage 2,600,000 tons of fertilizers for Florentino agricultural production centers, a network of farms arising from the seizure of La Marqueseña estate, also located in Barinas. Puerto Nutrias not only would provide socialist farms with fertilizers, but also would export the product to all of the Americas.
We will be a petrochemical power
Fully proficient in teaching, President Hugo Chávez explained Venezuelans at El Tablazo Petrochemical Complex, Zulia state, on his radio and TV show Aló Presidente (Hello, President!) number 295 of September 23, 2007, the scope of his petrochemical revolution.
After depicting a future full of "progress," he demeaned previous governments and recalled that when his revolution arrived, Pequiven was being privatized.
The president maintained that it would be a "tremendous program" within the economic revolution. "We were in the agricultural revolution three weeks ago; in the industrial revolution of iron, steel, aluminum; until next week, we were in the gas revolution, and now we are in the petrochemical revolution." All of it in the context of the "new power geometry."
The government rationale for this project states that Puerto Nutrias Petrochemical Complex formed part of the Socialist Plan for Petrochemical Revolution, composed of five plants of nitrogenous and phosphate fertilizers. The investment sketched for the project would amount to USD 1.72 billion, according to President Chávez.
Expectation in Puerto Nutrias
The president's news raised enormous expectation in the depressed settlements of about 2,000 inhabitants in Puerto Nutrias; 15,000 in Ciudad Nutrias and a total of 35,000 in the whole region. Only on that site, 5,000-8,000 jobs would be created. The dream of people loyal to the president since his inauguration in 1999 would finally come true. As the settlement is only 100 kilometers from Sabaneta, the town where the president was born, local residents somewhat hoped that he would honor his debt to his place of origin.
The only stone
In addition to the new plant, President Chávez promised housing, drainage, treatment plants and roads. Why? "Because Puerto Nutrias will grow in five-year term; it is a far-flung project," he emphasized.
In this way, Barinas state governor Hugo de los Reyes Chávez; mayor Francisco Ramírez, and members of the communal council attended the event to lay the first stone of the development.
"Well, having laid the foundations, I will be there soon to review the works in process," the president declared.
The president in the following years would not pay any visit to Puerto Nutrias. After the opening event, an office was established in the town for staffing. Local residents would submit their resumes to take part in the works. A year passed and all of a sudden, without prior notice, the office vanished together with the people's papers and hopes of a brand-new life.
No more news of the work until January 2001, when a bulletin from Pequiven notified that "until further notice, the building projects of Paraguaná and Puerto Nutrias Petrochemical Complexes will stop for lack of budget."
As posted on the website of the National Development Fund (Fonden), a total of USD 27.99 billion has been disbursed for the construction of Puerto Nutrias Petrochemical Complex, that is, 92.59% of the budgeted amount.
Translated by Conchita Delgado
Following a wave of nationalizations carried out by the late President Hugo Chavez between 2007 and 2012, Venezuela has become the second most frequent respondent to investment treaty arbitration in the world (38 cases in total), after Argentina.