CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez said Sunday the state-owned oil monopoly will be restructured from top to bottom. He started by firing the company's president.
Chavez, a former coup leader popular with the country's poor, named Guaicaipuro Lameda Montero, a general and engineer who was heading the government budget office, as the new chief of Petroleos de Venezuela.
"Today a major and profound restructuring of Petroleos de Venezuela starts, from the presidency down to the lower levels," said Chavez, speaking during his weekly radio program.
Lameda replaces outgoing Hector Ciavaldini, a chemical engineer who held the state monopoly's top job since Aug. 31, 1999.
Chavez's announcement came a day after an agreement between the government and oil workers was signed to end a five-day nationwide strike that had paralyzed the country's petroleum industry. The monopoly, known as PDVSA, is one of the largest suppliers of crude to the United States.
Chavez did not say why he fired Ciavaldini, but it appeared that the move was prompted by PDVSA's handling of the strike, which grew daily until the government was forced to meet pay rise demands of oil workers late on Saturday.
Before the deal with workers was inked, Vice President Isaias Rodriguez said he thought the strike lasted longer than originally planned because of PDVSA's poor negotiations with oil unions.
"Chavez took advantage of the opportunity to replace Ciavaldini when he failed to strike a deal with workers and put a military officer in his place," said Miguel Manrique, a political studies professor at the Central University of Venezuela.
"I think this forms part of Chavez's militarization of the government," said Manrique, referring to Chavez's tendency to name military officers to key government posts.