Rafael Ramírez, former Oil Minister accused of corruption, predicts imminent change after elections

In the article, An election between sanctions and transition: Venezuela at a crossroads, published by the International Affari Institute (IAI), Ramírez recognizes that the electoral process has been framed by numerous and serious irregularities, at the same time he admits that the majority opposition , led by opposition leader María Corina Machado and unitary candidate Edmundo González Urrutia, has great chances of achieving victory.

Macario González, deputy of the National Assembly (AN), elected in 2015, who is currently the president of the Permanent Comptroller Commission of the parliamentary body, when consulted by DIARIO LAS AMERICAS Regarding the aforementioned article, he said that Ramírez’s recognition of the citizens’ support for the opposition shows that all Venezuelans, even the dissident Chavismo, want political change in the country.

Ramírez also points out in the text that in the last eleven years, Nicolás Maduro, who intends to remain in power for six more years, has led the South American country to the worst crisis in its history, causing poverty levels to reach 80 % in 2023. Which has generated the extension of popular discontent among 80% of the Venezuelan population who are waiting for political change.

In González’s opinion, although he shares the content of the writing, Ramírez was part of the looting of billions of dollars that have led Venezuela to an unprecedented crisis in the last 25 years of Chavismo and Madurismo.

He recalled that the Venezuelan legislative branch, with an opposition majority, prepared a report on corruption cases that involved 11 billion dollars during the administration of Ramírez, also known as “the oil czar.” However, the Supreme Court of Justice annulled the process.

In addition, Tarek William Saab, the attorney general appointed by the questioned National Constituent Assembly (ANC), accused Ramìrez in 2017 of being the “intellectual author” of the alleged crimes of fraudulent embezzlement, money laundering, money laundering and association to crimes that involve embezzlement of USD 4.8 billion in PDVSA.

Macario González added that since that statement in which Rafael Ramírez called PDVSA, one of the most important oil companies in the world, “reddish red”, “it led to the bleeding of the state oil company, as a result of the number of barrels of oil that They stopped producing. In quality, 700 thousand barrels per day are produced, when before Hugo Chávez arrived the production was 3,200 billion per day.”

Regime obstacles

In his article, the former oil minister explained that given that the scenario faced by the Chavista leadership is politically risky, they have chosen to take measures to control the electoral process and results. However, polls that reflect the intention to vote in favor of the democratic alternative and the massive mobilizations organized by opposition factors suggest that Maduro will be electorally defeated.

He recalled that between 2015 and 2023, the Nicolás Maduro regime has intervened judicially through the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), at its service, different parties that make up the Venezuelan opposition, including Democratic Action (AD), Primero Justicia (PJ), the Christian Social Party COPEI, Voluntad Popular (VP). In addition to some parties related to Chavismo such as the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV).

He indicated that, in addition, both the TSJ and the National Electoral Council (CNE), used by the regime as a mechanism of political control, ratified political disqualifications issued since 2019 against political leaders, both opponents and supporters of Chavismo, who aspired to compete in the elections. electoral elections, which were originally going to be held in December of this year and the Chavista dictatorship brought them forward by scheduling them for July 28, the birthday of the late ruler Hugo Chávez.

The leadership of Marìa Corina Machado, who is touring the country campaigning in support of the unitary opposition candidate Edmundo González, has been strengthened by bringing together thousands of people willing to achieve political change towards democracy in Venezuela.

Ramírez, who after having been in the oil portfolio for 12 years has become a strong critic of Nicolás Maduro, whom he accuses of having betrayed the legacy of Hugo Chávez, also made reference to the obstacles imposed by the regime to the Permanent Electoral Registry. (REP) of voters, both outside and inside Venezuela, who were not allowed to register and change their address. It is estimated that of the 3 million voters abroad, only 508 new voters were registered and 6,000 were able to change their address.

Possibles scenarios

Likewise, he predicted some possible political scenarios for the July elections, among which he highlighted that if Maduro and his entourage feel cornered, “they can still try to prevent the candidacy of Edmundo González through political disqualification, using the CNE or the TSJ “, since the electoral process does not have international observation, because the Venezuelan electoral power rejected the presence of the observation mission of the European Union (EU).

“Another possibility would be that they try to suspend the electoral process, and in the event that there is majority support for the opposition, the regime can still resort to electoral fraud, which could provoke a massive popular mobilization against it,” he wrote.

He noted that in this scenario, “the role of the armed forces, which until now have been fundamental in supporting Maduro, as well as that of the international community, would be crucial to prevent political unrest.”

Finally, the former Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations (UN) also warned that a political agreement between the different political forces of the opposition and the Chavista sector will be essential, which will allow “returning to the true spirit of the Constitution, reestablishing the rule of law and address the immense needs of the population.

Given this, deputy Macario González González asserted that the time will come when the former oil minister must respond to the Venezuelan justice system “to clarify all the acts of corruption and the property damage that was caused to the nation and that led PDVSA to the debacle during his management at the head of the oil industry. “Everyone will have to pay for the crimes committed, since these do not prescribe.”

The words of the former president of PDVSA, who was a trusted man of Hugo Chávez, reflect the division that exists within Chavismo, a few weeks before presidential elections that will take place in the framework of a severe economic crisis and the collapse of the oil industry, for which he blames the Venezuelan regime.