It must be interesting to make collection calls to the presidential palace in Caracas:

Venezuela’s state oil company is behind on billions in payments to private oil contractors from Oklahoma to Belarus, some of which have now stopped work, even as President Hugo Chavez funnels more oil revenue to social programs.

Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, says unpaid invoices jumped 39 percent in the first nine months of last year — reaching $7.86 billion in September. And that was when world oil was selling for $100 a barrel.

With prices plummeting by more than half, PDVSA is trying to renegotiate some contracts. But analysts say hardball tactics to reduce charges from crucial service providers could backfire by lowering Venezuela’s oil output. And foreign debt markets are reflecting jitters about Venezuela’s finances.

Pity the poor people of Venezuela who must suffer the consequences of Hugo Chavez’s incompetence.