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Monday, 24 January, 2022

Profile| Eudis Girot, the trade unionist who revealed mismanagement at PDVSA

In 2004 he was a decorated oil-strike breaker for Hugo Chavez. Under the Maduro regime, the union leader got arrested at his residence, located in Urbaneja, Anzoategui. Demanding respect for worker's rights is how a 26-years PDVSA veteran and card-carrying member of the PSUV ruling party ends up in jail.

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The executive director of the Unitary Federation of Oil Workers of Venezuela (Futpv in Spanish), Eudis Girot, has been one of the principal spokespersons of the workers from the state oil firm PDVSA. In the last two years, Girot has led protests in defense of the labor rights of his fellow workers and has revealed mismanagement and corruption at the firm.

Now, he is in jail after being arrested by the Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence Wednesday night at his home. But he not always was an imprisoned enemy of the Bolivarian Revolution: while in 2020 the Nicolas Maduro regime puts him in jail, it was late president Hugo Chavez himself, who in 2004 awarded Girot the Orden del Libertador, the highest civilian honor in Venezuela, for helping the first Chavez government break the 2002-2003 oil workers strike.

The rise and fall

The life and career of Girot are the mirrors of the rise and fall of the Venezuelan oil industry under Chavez and Maduro. In 1999, when Chavez first took over and Girot had been working in PDVSA for only five years, the state oil company was producing some 3.5 million oil barrels a day with only 20,000 workers and zero labor conflict. In 2020, a conflict-riven PDVSA with more than 100,000 workers can barely produce 9% of its 1999 output, or under 300,000 b/d.

Among the demands of Girot was the restitution of the pension fund, health insurance, improvements in salaries and working conditions, and to expose the so-called PDVSA mafias that, according to information, are led by managers of the company. But, the International Labor Organization has warned, that Maduro, a former union leader himself, does not take kindly to this type of criticism and has harassed and imprisoned dozens of union organizers.

You must read Trade union labor in Venezuela is criminalized by Nicolas Maduro

That is how a 26 years PDVSA veteran, card-carrying member of the PSUV ruling party founded by Chavez, and a decorated strike-breaker ends up in jail.

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In six different opportunities, Girot went to the Public Ministry in Puerto La Cruz to introduced documents denouncing mismanagement by managers of PDV Marina, the oil company shipping arm. He assures that embezzlement continues in PDVSA facilities throughout the country, without receiving a response to the evidence presented.

One of the public denouncement he made was the deviation of 120,000 barrels of fuel from dock #9 of the Storage and Shipping Terminal of Jose, in the State of Anzoategui, last September 12.

The union leader race

In 2012 he was elected executive director of the United Federation of Oil Workers of Venezuela and almost immediately began making critical demands for better labor benefits.

Girot began working at the PDV Marina Anzoategui region 26 years ago, and shortly after Chavez took over, he became a member of the PSUV ruling party.

When he took over as spokesperson and began to reveal the irregularities and embezzlement that he assured was occurring in the oil industry, he was not decorated by Maduro. He began receiving death threats, and a car he was once traveling in was shot 18 times by four men on two motorbikes.

However, that did not stop him, and in March 2020, Eudis Girot began to radicalize street actions with national meetings, marches, and road closures in the eastern region.

Eight months ago, the organizer said he was eliminated from the PDVSA payroll and therefore did not receive the salary he was entitled to, and prohibited from entering any of the Venezuelan refineries and PDVSA regional facilities.

After his union actions, Girot got warned on September 17 of this year that the regime had requested an arrest warrant against him, which materialized Wednesday night, November 18, when members of the General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence went to his residence and arrested him.

He exposed the travails of the oil-storage ship Nabarima in mid-September when he warned that it was loaded with 1.3 million barrels of crude and that it represented a critical environmental risk for the Caribbean.

Today, union spokespersons in Anzoategui, such as the executive secretary of the Futpv, Jose Bodas, and Miguel Rodriguez, leader of retired PDVSA workers, denounced his arrest and promised new protest actions to secure his release.

Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho in Caracas.

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