Feature The tragic — and totally avoidable — self-destruction of one of the world’s richest oil economies. In the spring of 1959, at a secretive meeting at a yacht club in Cairo, Venezuela’s then-minister of mines and hydrocarbons, Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso, hatched a plan to give big oil-producing countries more control over their black gold — and a greater share of the wealth it promised to create. A year later, his scheme would be formally christened the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. Venezuela, which sits atop what are arguably the biggest petroleum reserves in the world, was the only non-Middle Eastern country to be included — a testament to its importance to the global oil business. Venezuela was considered rich in the early 1960s: It produced more than 10 percent of the world’s crude and had a per capita GDP many times bigger than that […]