The Chavez years have seen a harsh crackdown on private enterprise in Venezuela with the nationalizations of numerous formerly private companies, often for explicitly political reasons. Combined with tight control over the financial sector, government largesse when it comes to fuel subsidization, and clear government favoritism of politically connected firms, economic freedom is clearly under assault.
State run firms have also become tools for the advancement of Chavez’s agenda. In the case of PDVSA, the state controlled oil firm that has become a personal kitty for Chavez’s attempts to spread the warped ideology and program of Chavismo, the president has gone so far as to gut the company of its most technically capable staff members. Between 2002 and 2003 Chavez fired 22,000 members of PDVSA’s managerial, engineering, and clerical staff. The former employees have been denied severance, due process afforded by Venezuelan law, and many have found themselves blacklisted and unemployable in the Oil and Gas sector in Venezuela. Less one think that Chavez was merely trimming the fat from a bloated government firm, in the intervening years he has hired nearly 70,000 regime loyalists to the payrolls of the company.