In Venezuela a national strike has been carried out from December to
January 2003. The strike has had in national oil company, the PDVSA, a
subject important that it participated in part to the protests.
Contrarily to the custom strike mostly was made from the managing part
of the country with the payment of the wage to some workers who joined
to the agitation.
What many have defined one "locked" (strong and not legal strike) aimed
to provoke general manifestations and to discharges the president Ugo
Chavez. To such aim the block of the oil activities was strategic for
the strikers. The money from the production of the crude oil are
remarkable because the bolivariana nation are the fifth producer of oil
in the world.
The computers infrastructure of oil company PDVSA was in hand to
the society INTESA possessed with 60% of the actions from the American
company SAIC, a big USA company that has many contacts with the
During the strike the PDVSA has repeatedly asked for having the keys of
access (password) to the computers system of the company for being able
to continue the oil production. According to the Venezuelan oil
society, SAIC through INTESA has changed from remote the codes of
access to the computer infrastructure so the entire production was
stopped. In order to obtain the control of the national oil,
PDVSA have been engages various hacker with the precise task to bring
back the computer system under the control of the PDVSA and so to
continue the fuel distribution.
From the 2003 government has had the test that the computer system
cannot be left in hand to private aliens and that the software must
completely be managed from the Venezuelans. With decree
presidential n. 3390 of 28 December 2004 the Venezuela has decidedly
taken the road of the free software that it considers strategic for the
Josè has participated to the action of the hacker team that have
brought back the computers under the national control. He can therefore
give us its version of the facts and to illustrate the complexity of
the operation that he has been called to carry out for the good of the
Hi, my name is Josè Luis Rey, and at the time of the PDVSA crisis I
were working as IT Consultant for the ministry of Planning and
Development, I've been involved in the PDVSA crisis since the very
begining, and left the company short after the 3MM barrels per day of
production were reached, meaning that PDVSA have achieved full
production capacity. I left PDVSA on April 21st, 2003.
Sandro kensan: What is your point of view of the national
Josè Luis Rey: As I state below, the national strike was a cover
a big conspiracy, which main visible goal was to remove Hugo Chavez but
with a hidden goal to keep a very good bussines rolling.
This bussines was so good that a US$ 1200 invest on the INTESA stock
(of US$ 2000), returned more than 50 million dollars in net revenue un
just six years, which I see as an excelent ROI.
Sk: Can you give us a panoramic view of the computer
JLR: PDVSA has a lot of computer systems of various kinds, from
they call integrated envinronment (geological and mining operations)
til desktop platform, with some field and bussines automation systems
and the like in between those two. Although the core bussiness
applications are the integrated environment, most of bussiness
automation is hadled as expected from the desktop environment
available at most workplaces in the corporate offices.
Sk: In order to obtain the control of the national oil,
contacts you and in order to make what?
JLR: I was a former IT Consultant for the Ministry of Panning
Development, Felipe Pèrez Martì at the time of the strike, the
President Hugo Chavez asked his Ministries for help to recover
oprational status of the state oil industry, and Felipe asked me
to help in the crisis, so I ended in PDVSA, under direct command of Ali
Rodrìguez (the former president of the corporation) and Diego Uzcategui
(his right hand), they ordered me to recover operational status of
western fuil distribution plants, because there were a severe crisis on
at least 6 states due to the lack of fuel, at this time there were only
fuel for ambulances and fire fighters, and even them were getting short
Sk: Which was the feeling, the air, that was breathed
hacker team when you start this delicate job?
JLR: I was not in contact with any hacker community at that
some other IT people from the national government, and other IT
consultants. As the crisis was being controlled, people was
recruited, and some of them turned out to be outstanding hackers who
helped a lot in some fronts, from the recovery of the desktop support
to the implementation of security measures to avoid possible
counterattacks on the computing platform.
Sk: You have had contacts with your Americans
the SAIC that had retained the access codes, the password?
JLR: No, I have not contacted anybody from SAIC during the
although people from PDVSA tried to recover the changed passwords and
new access codes set up by the people of INTESA, but oficially INTESA
did not recognize any valid speaker at PDVSA, and this is the kernel of
I will try to make a very long story short, but I really think this is
the most interesting and unknown part of the story.
The INTESA contract had a five year term, and it was already extended
twice six months before the strike, when it was beeing evaluted the
possibility of PDVSA not renew it again, this was based on the fact
that ageement between
PDVSA and SAIC was not giving the desired results as pacted during its
In that time SAIC agreed to buidup a national consultancy firm in
Venezuela and to arrange tecnological transfer to this niew firm
(INTESA), in return PDVSA agreed to buy all an every IT service and
equipment from INTESA, with a warrantied ammount of US$ 350 million a
year (but all the aditional services will raise this amount
substatially) by at least 5 years. But SAIC never did
technological transfer, brought lots of alien consultants to solve
specific matters and didn't reinvest in INTESA, rather they returned
winnings to their headquarters. As if this wasn't enough, INTESA
was a partnering between PDV-IFT (a PDVSA branch) and SAIC-Bermuda (a
SAIC branch located on fiscal paradise), and it is forbidden by law to
make associations between state companies and companies on fiscal
paradises, also since INTESA was not a 100% state company, assignment
of the contract should go over a public licititation procedure, but
instead was assigned directly.
So the agreement was very questinable at that time, and the Ministry of
Planning and Development was pushing for the adquisition of the SAIC
part of INTESA by PDVSA and other state entities.
And this is the real begining of the crisis, second extensión was about
to expire, coup attemp of April was a failure, and some big interests
were about to be harmed, so the conspiracy started, people from PDVSA
and SAIC build up a contingecy plan in which if some kind of disaster,
flood, earthquakes, and faily short list of problems, which included
specifically: "General National Strike", an event that happened about 3
o 4 times in last half century in this country.
The conditions of contingency plan were absurd and may be expressed in
just one sentence: "as the problems escalate, PDVSA will pay more, and
more money to INTESA, while INTESA will gave in return less and less
services", if you put it mathematically the limmit of this equation is
PDVSA paying infinity money for zero services which is simply
But the plan specification was really interesting, because it forgot
very radpidly about broken infrastructure, and all that things
usually seen after a catastrophe, and started to describe the states of
contingency based in things like: lack of fuel and unavailavility of
product delivery due to lack of transport (wow, incredibly visionaries
capable to predict something like the fuel truck companies refusing to
work, and ships stopped in the middle of the sea)
Ahh, but there was another very important clause, that established an
emergency link team, as the only recogniced contect with PDVSA, as soon
as contingecy was declared (and may be declared unilaterally by INTESA).
So when the crisis started, and former workers left the company, INTESA
did not recongnice any valid authority from PDVSA as was stated on this
plan, not even Ali Rodiguez, so they resuse to talk with us.
Sk: What was the job that the team had to make?
JLR: I can not speake for all teams, and there were lots of
my specific responsibility was to recover control of the server
platform including desktop platform controlled mainly by the third
biggest Active Directory of the world at that time. I was working
closely with the mail and collaboration work recovery team, and had two
team at my charge, one for the windows platform and one for the unix
I also had to interact with application recovery teams.
Sk: Which were the greater obstacles that could compromise
release of the computers system?
JLR: Taking the control of the active directory, the main entry
to most bussines and office automation applications, and after that,
securing the infrastructure to avoid possible counterattacks on the
recovered platform, most of the logistics were oriented towards this
Sk: Seen the change of the password from the American
you even had fear for some external or internal participation that
could render vain your enterprise? Do you had fears of sabotages?
JLR: I don't consider INTESA an american company, and I have
that most of the passwords and codes were changed by citizens, under
command from other citizens, but I cannot assure you that orders came
from US executives or the like.
Not only fear, I have direct proof of sabotage to computer systems,
while at fuel distribution plants I have seen reconfigured control
boards, lacking its manuals, specifications and schematics, I also was
surprised by an alone console starting to work magically, which
disabled a fully recovered fuel distribution facility, this was done
remotely through managements systems like tivoly and some times
timbuktu, after that, mi first acction on a recovered system was to
search and disable this kind of software.
Sk: How much time has been necessary for a first
the computer infrastructure so that the crude oil production can
JLR: Crude oil production is almost unrelated to the kind of
infrastructure impacted by the strike, most of the systems are for
bussines applications and exploratión for new oil sources, the most
affected core bussines were plant control systems, mainly at fuel
distribution facilities and refineries.
Sk: You worked also of night?
JLR: Yes, the first 4 day I slept while not at plants, mainly in
going and comming form airports, and during flights (obout half an hour
flights). But at some point I just didn't work, so I had to sleep
on the back of trunk from 3:00am to 5:00am.
Sk: When the large one of the enterprise had been made
feelings you had?
JLR: I think that most of the people working in the contengency
the same feelings (and passions), and as time passed people coming back
were sharing less and less of that feeling (and passion), so they were
much more like the old corporate employes of what I call the Old PDVSA.
Sk: You imagined that from your job the free software was so
important that the government reacts with the approval of decree 3390?
JLR: No, in fact as soon as I went back from the fuel
plants, to the main headquarters in Caracas, we started to lose more
and more systems until we had no desktop platform or any internet
connection, I quickly installed a Linux box, with an ADSL line, and
restored internet access, printing platform, and some other essential
services, also CNTI setup a web mail replacement for the lost PDVSA
mail system, this mail was also free software.
I used to publish this as a free software success but neither the
government nor PDVSA was very much interested on this matter, the
approval of 3390 have another unknown origin, which I suspect comes
from Brazil, since Hugo Chavez announce was just after his return from
the Manaus meeting with Lula.
Sk: At the end, the future of the software used to the PDVSA, it
is fresh news of Supercomputer with free software.
JLR: PDVSA is making a migration plan for it's systems, the have
better intention of doing this well, I am currently working with them
in this regard, but despite the all the good intentions you must sort
certain obtacles, and the biggest one is the corporate culture of some
of the their executives, which start to offer passive resistence,
fortunatly CIO of PDVSA, Mrs Socorro Hernandez is very akin to this
technology, and she is a real iron women, she does not eat or sleeps
just works all the time :-)