Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo

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Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo
Minister of Development of Venezuela
In office
15 November 1945 – 9 April 1948
PresidentRómulo Betancourt
Rómulo Gallegos
Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Venezuela
In office
13 February 1959 – 23 January 1963
PresidentRómulo Betancourt
Succeeded byArturo Hernández Grisanti
Personal details
Born(1903-12-13)13 December 1903
Caracas, Venezuela
Died3 September 1979(1979-09-03) (aged 75)
Washington D.C., USA
SpouseAlicia Castillo
Professiondiplomat, politician, lawyer

Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo[A] (13 December 1903 – 3 September 1979), was a prominent Venezuelan diplomat, politician and lawyer primarily responsible for the inception and creation of OPEC, along with Saudi Arabian minister Abdullah Tariki.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Pérez Alfonzo was initially a medical student before pursuing a PhD in political and social sciences at the Central University of Venezuela.[1]

Political career[edit]

Gallegos administration and subsequent exile[edit]

Pérez Alfonzo helped found the political party Democratic Action (AD; Acción Democrática). As Minister of Development during the first democratic government of Venezuela, the short-lived administration of Rómulo Gallegos (1947–1948), he was responsible for increasing oil revenues for the country by raising taxes through what later became known worldwide as the 50/50 formula. Initially, the Seven Sisters (the dominant Anglo-American oil companies), responded to the 50/50 law by threatening to ramp up production elsewhere while slowing down production in Venezuela. Perez Alfonso subsequently encouraged other governments to adopt the 50/50 formula, which they ultimately did.[2] The 50/50 formula was the global norm until 1970.[2]

With the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Rómulo Gallegos by the military in November 1948, Perez Alfonzo obtained political asylum in the United States after spending 9 months in jail. He moved to Mexico for financial reasons, where he resided until the return of democracy in 1958, when the democratically elected President Rómulo Betancourt called him back to government service to finish the job he had begun under the presidency of Gallegos, this time as Minister of Energy. During the years he spent in Washington he studied the activities of the oil industry worldwide and, in particular, the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC), which served to reinforce his ideas about creating OPEC, further developing his thoughts about conservation and stabilization of petroleum production and the defense of oil prices.

Betancourt administration and OPEC creation[edit]

As Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons during the second democratic government of Venezuela of president Rómulo Betancourt (1959–1964), he was responsible for the creation of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) for the purpose of rationalizing and thereby increasing oil prices in the world market. Triggered by a 1960 law instituted by US President Dwight Eisenhower that forced quotas for Venezuelan oil and favored Canada and Mexico's oil industries, Perez Alfonzo (also known as the Father of OPEC) reacted seeking an alliance with oil producing Arab nations to protect the continuous autonomy and profitability of Venezuela's oil (among other reasons), establishing a strong link between the South American nation and the Middle East region that survives to this day. His extensive notes of the TRC methods for regulation of production to maximize recovery served him well both in Venezuela and later when he took them translated into Arabic to the Cairo meeting that served as launching platform for OPEC, where Wanda Jablonski introduced him to then minister of petroleum of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah Tariki, co-founder of OPEC.[3]

Personal life[edit]

He was an ascetic vegetarian.[1]

Legacy and death[edit]

Aeropuerto Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo

After the 1973 oil crisis, economic prosperity for Venezuela was relatively short lived. In 1976 Pérez Alfonzo gave an intuitive warning about what economists now call the "natural resource curse": "Ten years from now, twenty years from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin... It is the devil's excrement."[4] This was the case during the "1980s oil glut". OPEC member countries were not adhering strictly to their assigned quotas, and once again oil prices plummeted.[citation needed][5]

Pérez Alfonzo died in Washington, D.C., at the Georgetown University Hospital on 3 September 1979, having succumbed to pancreatic cancer. He was 75 years old.

El Vigía's Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo Airport[A] was named in his honor in 1991.

Since 1998, the Orden Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo (Order of Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo) is the Venezuelan award of state given to those who contribute to works related to mining, petroleum and energy.[6]


  • Petróleo: jugo de la tierra. Caracas: Editorial Arte, 1961.
  • La Dinámica del petróleo en el progreso de Venezuela. Caracas: Central University of Venezuela, 1965.
  • Petróleo de vida o muerte (debate with Arturo Uslar Pietri). Caracas: Editorial Arte, 1966.
  • El pentágono petrolero: la política nacionalista de defensa y conservación del petroleo. Caracas: Revista Política, 1967.
  • ¿Hasta cuándo los abusos de La Electricidad?: informe sobre el caso Guarenas. Guarenas: Municipal Council, 1969.
  • Petróleo y dependencia. Caracas: Síntesis Dos Mil, 1971.
  • Hundiéndonos en el excremento del diablo. Caracas: Editorial Lisbona, 1976.
  • El desastre (with Domingo Alberto Rangel and Pedro Duno). Valencia: Vadell Hermanos, 1976.
  • Alternativas (with Iván Loscher). Caracas: Garbizu & Todtmann Editores, 1976.
  • Venezuela y el petróleo. Caracas: Centro Gumilla, 1976.


  1. ^ a b Though often misspelled Alfonso, the correct name is Alfonzo, as confirmed by the airport photo and other official sources[7][8][9][10][11] and the majority of reliable references.


  1. ^ a b Colgan, Jeff D. (2021). Partial Hegemony: Oil Politics and International Order. Oxford University Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-19-754640-6.
  2. ^ a b Colgan, Jeff D. (2021). Partial Hegemony: Oil Politics and International Order. Oxford University Press. pp. 63–64. ISBN 978-0-19-754640-6.
  3. ^ Marius Vassiliou (2 March 2009). Historical Dictionary of the Petroleum Industry. Scarecrow Press. p. 364. ISBN 978-0-8108-6288-3. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  4. ^ Useem, Jerry (3 February 2003). "'The Devil's Excrement'". Fortune.
  5. ^ Useem, Jerry (3 February 2003). "'The Devil's Excrement'". Fortune. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  6. ^ "Ley que crea la Condecoración 'Orden Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo'". Gaceta Oficial de la República de Venezuela. 7 April 1998. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  7. ^ "Colección: Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo". Gobierno Bolivariana de Venezuela (gob.ve). Archived from the original on 16 October 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  8. ^ "IUTEPAL Extensión Maracaibo". Instituto Universitario de Tecnología Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo (IUTEPAL). Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  9. ^ "Escuela Privada Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo". Compañía Anónima Nacional Teléfonos de Venezuela (CANTV). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  10. ^ "En 1979 falleció el padre de la OPEP: Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo". Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV). Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  11. ^ "The launch of the book 'The Petroleum Pentagon'". Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  • (in Spanish) Fundación Polar (1997), Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela