Rubén Rivero Capriles

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Sowing Oil


Seventy-three (73) years have ellapsed and Venezuelan agriculture, industry and education remain stagnant. The ideas expressed on the essay below, which constituted the unfollowed recipe for Venezuelan development during the twentieth century, remain as current as ever. Sowing oil stands by to be executed. We must effectively and immediately implement the ideas below, so that for their hundredth birthday during forthcoming 2036, historians may report that sowing oil would finally become the reality of the teens, twenties and thirties of the twenty-first century.

On Tuesday, July 14, 1936 the Ahora newspaper, which was then published in Caracas, inserted on its first page the following editorial by Arturo Úslar Pietri (1906-2001), under the heading of "Sowing Oil". This was the first time an approach of this kind was attempted in Venezuela, and was the first appearance of the "Sowing Oil" slogan. 

“When considering in some detail the economic and financial climate of Venezuela, it is distressing to note the size of the destructive economy in the production of our wealth, that is, consumption without an awareness to maintain or reconstruct the existing quantities of matter and energy. In other words, the destructive economy is the one that sacrifices the future to the present. Taking things to the terms of the fabulist it is like the grasshopper instead of the ant. 

Indeed, in a budget featuring 180 million from revenue sources, mines account for 58 million, or nearly a third of total income, disregarding a number of other indirect ways and important contributions that may be similarly attributed to mines. The Venezuelan public wealth lies at present in more than one third on the destructive exploitation of underground deposits, whose life is not only limited by natural reasons, as their productivity is entirely dependent on factors beyond the will of to the national economy. This high proportion of internal wealth due to destructive origin will certainly grow as mining taxes become more fair and remunerative,  approaching the suicide dream of some naive persons who foresee an ideal Venezuelan budget entirely paid for by the sole income from mines, which would translate more simply as: make Venezuela unproductive and idle, a huge oil parasite, swimming on a momentary and corrupting abundance and doomed to imminent and inevitable catastrophe.

This worrisome proportion does not only scope the destructive nature of our economy, it goes even farther reaching tragic magnitude. The wealth of our soil not only fails to increase, it tends to disappear. Our agricultural production alarmingly decays in quantity and quality. Our  agricultural exports have lost international market share to the benefit of more active and skilled competitors. Our livestock degenerates and impoverishes through animal diseases, ticks and the lack of adequate crossibreeding. Land without fertilizers becomes sterile, cultivated   by old-fashioned methods, forests are destroyed without replanting large and are transformed into firewood and charcoal. From a recently published book we take this example: 'In the Cuyuní region about three thousand men used to work who would cut an average of nine thousand trees per day, totaling 270 thousand monthly, and in seven months one million eight hundred and ninety thousand trees. Multiplying this sum by the number of years that the forest took grow, you'll get an exorbitant amount of downed trees and will form an idea of the severity of damage.' These statements are the brutal epitaph of balatá, which, under other procedures could have been one of the greatest Venezuelan assets.

The lesson from this threatening picture is simple: it is urgent to solidly create a reproductive and progressive economy in Venezuela. It is urgent to take advantage of the transient wealth from the current destructive economy to create the sound, broad and coordinated basis of that progressive economic future, which will become our true act of independence. It is necessary to get the highest rent from mines and fully invest it in support, facilities and incentives for agriculture, farming and domestic industries. Instead of becoming parasite and useless people due to oil's malediction, this fortunate situation of sudden wealth should allow us to accelerate and strengthen the the Venezuelan people's productive evolution on outstanding conditions.

The allocation within our current budget which is devoted to the true development and creation of wealth is still small and does not exceed a seventh of the total expenditure amount. It is necessary for these expenditures intended to build and ensure the initial development of a progressive economy, that they may reach the mining rent levels.

The only wise and savior economic policy that we should practice, is to transform the mining revenue into agricultural credit, to stimulate modern and scientific agriculture, to import stallions and grasses, to restore forests, to build all the dams and pipelines necessary to  stabilize irrigation and the faulty regime of waters, to mechanize and industrialize the country, to establish cooperatives for certain crops and small scale ownership for other crops.

That would be the real action of nation building, the actual utilization of national wealth and such efforts should be the aim of all conscious Venezuelans.

If we were to propose a slogan for our economic policy we would launch the following, which seems to dramatically summarize our need to invest the wealth produced by destructive mining, in creating agricultural, reproductive and progressive wealth: sowing the oil.” 


Translated into English by Rubén Rivero Capriles, President of Rivero & Cooper, Inc. in Caracas on December 26, 2009