El Reventón IV

A few days ago, I was privileged to attend a screening of El Reventón I and II, two documentaries by Venezuelan filmmaker Carlos Oteyza.

Using archival footage from Bolívar Films, and working off a script that reads like a great history book, Oteyza sets out to chart the history of oil in our country focusing on two pivotal moments, or “reventones.”

The first is the explosion at Los Barrosos No. 2, an oil well close to Cabimas that littered the ground with 100,000 barrels per day for nine straight days. Even though Los Barrosos was eventually capped (thanks, in part, to the miraculous intervention of San Benito, according to the film) it served as a clarion call to those seeking to tap Venezuela’s enormous potential.

The second “reventón,” the one with which he ends the second film, is the nationalization of the oil industry. A watershed moment in contemporary Venezuelan history and a landmark in the history of sideburns, the nationalization was the starting point for the current relationship between citizens, government, politicians, and oil.

While I was watching enthralled, I kept thinking we need another sequel, Reventón III. Because the next turning point for the industry was undoubtedly the oil strike of 2002, and the subsequent firing of 20,000 of the industry’s best minds. It was at that precise moment when Hugo Chávez finally took control of the country, and he’s kept it in his iron grip ever since.

But then, this weekend, El Reventón IV happened.

Regardless what hypothesis you may propose as probable cause for the accident at Amuay, there is no denying that “events” at oil refineries should not result in dozens of people killed and millions of dollars in losses … unless, of course, somebody, somewhere did not do their job.

Even the hare-brained hypothesis of “sabotage” would require gross negligence on the part of an oil company that is supposed to safeguard the industry from such happenings and have protocols in place to minimize the damage.

It was at this point, August 25th, 2012, when years of using the industry as a cash cow finally caught up with us.

Instead of a competent industry where damage is minimized, we have a burning inferno. Instead of management seriously pondering the probable causes and taking responsibility, we have political hacks quick to lay the blame somewhere else instead of where it lies. It is quite possible that because as a society we have chosen Mercal, Petrocasas and cheap gasoline over the safety of our refineries, dozens of Venezuelans are dead.

It, too, marks a before and after in the history of Venezuela’s oil industry.

12 thoughts on “El Reventón IV

  1. “Regardless what hypothesis you may propose as probable cause for the accident at Amuay, there is no denying that “events” at oil refineries should not result in dozens of people killed and millions of dollars in losses … unless, of course, somebody, somewhere did not do their job.”
    Repeating-this is a case of not following safety procedures that are well-known by all. Regardless, if it was a small leak or a large one- the first step is to evacuate people around it, secure the area, and begin to repair the leak-without delay. It is impossible to think that PDVSA employees at the refinery had not knowledge of a leak in this area-esp.considering the testimony of people far away who claimed they smelled an odor of gas three days prior? Inexcusable, I believe.

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    • Whilst procedures are fundamental to safe operations they are only as good as the people enforcing those procedures. It starts at the top. In the case of PDVSA that is Ramirez of “the-two-day-outage-fame”.

      The man and his immediate cronies are clearly incompetent, in fact extremely incompetent. It could be said he is undoubtedly in need of a ‘procedure’ or two.

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      • Not meaning to argue, Pedro-it starts at the bottom-even the newest worker (I’ve been there) gets safety courses. Frankly, it is just common sense- even a small leak is a big threat and must MUST be considered very serious and acted upon immediately.
        If you were at a refinery, wouldn’t you believe safety must be the number one priority-
        or you may create a very large crater…

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  2. The archival footage is great but God I hate the saccharine script and I absolutely abhor the ponderous narrator with the impossible-to-place accent. This is an excellent movie to watch on MUTE.

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    • I disagree. The narrator is Jaime Suárez, who is a legend in Venezuelan broadcasting. The script is fun! And also smarter than you give it credit for. For example, when they make the parallels between the indstry and the way people’s lives were changing, without knowledge really of what oil was about or how it was produced. I found it very perceptive.

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    • “Jaime Suarez”? Really? I guess it stands to reason the person behind that voice must have a name. I’ve heard him any number of times, of course, though it somehow never occurred to me that he must be a real human being rather than the soulless, nationality-less robot automaton he works so hard to come across as in his voice work.

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  3. Love the well-done ‘recopilación’ of the Venezuelan oil industry. Thank you, Juan! The voice-over’s accent seems to have minute traces of Castilian Spanish; that of an early American geologist, talking Spanish, has a Germanic base. These little idiosyncracies did not annoy.

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  4. This is very interesting. Very well done. Ken Burns style with more wit.
    In your last comment, I hope you are right.

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    • good point. Oteyza’s documentary should have subtitles in various languages, especially English and Dutch, if for no other reason than to satisfy the historical curiosity from the US (Creole, Mene Grande), Great Britain (Shell) and the Netherlands (Shell).

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