Even the detractors of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have never accused him of thinking small.
Chavez is currently running for re-election in Venezuela’s upcoming presidential election, scheduled for 7 October, against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, the former governor of Miranda state. Fifty-eight year-old Chavez, who has held power since 1999, is seeking his third six-year term as president. Chavez has survived three cancer operations. Depending what (notoriously unreliable) poll you read, the forty year-old Capriles is closing the gap, even though Chavez said, “The bourgeois say they are going to win, but they know they’re losing and it is impossible to reverse a gap (in the polls) of not less than 15 points with less than a month and half to go.”
Should Chavez win the election, he has big plans for the country’s economic crown jewel – oil. During a visit to Carabobo in the Orinoco Oil Belt in Monagas state, Chavez pledged to invest $130 billion in Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Belt between 2013 and 2019 to boost national production from 3 million barrels per day to 6 million bpd, doubling output to make it OPEC’s second largest producer after Saudi Arabia, knocking Iran into third place.
It is a substantive pledge, as $130 billion represents roughly a third of the $383 billion the Venezuelan Treasury has collected over the decade. As Chavez noted about the country’s petroleum reserves, “It is the main material wealth that Venezuela has had for 200 years, but we need independently to manage the country’s wealth.” Chavez said in a televised address that of the estimated 6 million bpd to be produced in Venezuela in 2019, “4 million bpd will come from the Orinoco Oil Belt, which now produces 1.2 million bpd.”
Chavez is not making an idle boast about Venezuela’s oil reserves, as two years ago OPEC reported that Venezuela, which has the largest conventional oil reserves and the second-largest natural gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere, of the organization’s 81.33 percent of the globe’s known oil reserves Venezuela had 24.8 percent, exceeding Saudi Arabia with 22.2 percent. Geological studies by the state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) hydrocarbon conglomerate estimated that 300 billion barrels can be extracted from the Orinoco Oil Belt.