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Oil is the Devil's Excrement

By David Jacques, 3 July 2018

Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo was a prominent Venezuelan politician who served two terms in office with the Centrist Betancourt Administration (1947-48 & 1959-64). As Minister for Energy he was drawn into conflict with the U.S. under Eisenhower who had negatively affected quotas on Venezuelan oil by favouring new trade agreements with Canada and Mexico. Alfonzo’s response was to form an alliance with oil producing Arab nations in an attempt to regulate the global oil market. His ideas came to fruition with the establishment of 'The Organisation of Oil Producing Countries' - OPEC.

However, protection within the market and the promise of unfettered wealth arising from Venezuela’s immense oil reserves were undone by what economists came to term the 'natural resource curse'; the sudden influx of money would cause the national currency to dramatically appreciate, wages are driven up, prices inflate, manufacturing, imports and exports all slump. Though this was yet to occur for Venezuela during the early OPEC years, Alfonzo saw it all coming. In a prophetic 1975 speech he uttered the infamous lines; "Ten years from now, twenty years from now, you will see; oil will bring us ruin. Oil is the Devil's excrement".

The description of oil as Capitalism's infernal obscenity ‘the Devil’s excrement’ also saw Alfonzo reaching back into the depths of time, invoking the Pre-Columbian peoples to whom the term was first attributed. These factors, pointing towards mythology and superstition, helped to shape the cycle of artwork produced. The narrative generated for the short animation focuses on the exiled Alfonzo in the Georgetown Washington Hospital. Ailing and delirious, he is visited at his deathbed by a diabolic sentient 'thing', accompanied by a Daemonic Chorus who capriciously commentate on the event for us. A series of condemnations and wind-ups ensue and it becomes evident that the triumphant visitor has called with one purpose in mind, to claim its quarry.

In all we are presented with a hallucinatory parable, telling of an addiction to a noxious, omnipresent substance. The ultimate outcome seeing corruption, poverty, war, pollution and all this revolving around a grim speculation…

the case all along was that we had never been in control of oil, it’s oil that’s been in control of us.