Venezuelan Daily Brief

Published in association with The DVA Group and The Selinger Group, the Venezuelan Daily Brief provides bi-weekly summaries of key news items affecting bulk commodities and the general business environment in Venezuela.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

October 12, 2017


International Trade

3,411 tons of food and medical supplies have arrived at Guanta port in 142 containers aboard the SAN ANTONIO from Panama. The shipment includes wheat flour, sunflower oil, surgical masks, syringes. More in Spanish: (Bolipuertos, http://www.bolipuertos.gob.ve/noticia.aspx?id=37703; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/economia/llegan-puerto-guanta-mil-toneladas-mercancia_673416)

 

Logistics & Transport

Venezuela reels under ongoing transport crisis

Catching a bus in the Venezuelan capital today and making it to the desired destination on time can be quite an ordeal for commuters, as the country’s transport infrastructure is in shambles due to high maintenance costs, decreased tax revenue, rampant inflation and a system that is chronically understaffed. Venezuela’s spiraling transport crisis, trade union representatives say, is owing to government apathy and withdrawal of subsidies and a lack of investment in the sector. The president of a local union of transporters of Caracas, Hugo Ocando, told EFE that while salaries of drivers are fixed, maintenance costs are unpredictable as the country’s economy, in many areas, runs on the black market price of foreign exchange. According to Ocando, 70% of the country’s transport system has been paralyzed and in the Greater Caracas area alone, on-road vehicles have reduced from 18,000 to 6,000. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2444551&CategoryId=10717; EFE: https://www.efe.com/efe/english/life/venezuela-reels-under-ongoing-transport-crisis/50000263-3405419)

 

Oil & Energy

Big buyer of Venezuelan crude oil halts purchases from national oil company
The fifth largest U.S. buyer of Venezuelan crude, PBF Energy, has halted direct purchases from state-run oil company PDVSA, according to four sources, deepening a rift amid sanctions on this country. PBF is the second buyer in as many months to go elsewhere for its oil and further disagreements could spell new hardships for PDVSA, which owes bondholders US$ 1.2 billion in debt payments due this month. Venezuela relies on oil for over 90% percent of export revenue and U.S. refiners are among its largest cash-paying customers. PBF notified PDVSA last month it "is not going to take any more Venezuelan crude cargoes" from the state-run firm, said a PDVSA source who could not be identified because the information was not public. That notification came after a more than 40-day standoff over a previous shipment. In July, a Venezuelan heavy oil cargo intended for PBF sat off Louisiana awaiting a letter of credit to complete the sale. The tanker discharged in August. PBF has not directly purchased oil from PDVSA since early September, according to Thomson Reuters trade flows data. PDVSA's insistence that PBF prepay for cargoes hamstrung negotiations, the PDVSA source and one of the traders said, while the refiner suggested an open credit mechanism that would allow it to pay at least 30 days after delivery. In September, PDVSA also lost a supply contract for naphtha and natural gasoline to Brazilian petrochemical firm BRASKEM SA. Falling output and oil-quality issues have contributed to PDVSA's struggles to retain customers, and the situation worsened once its name appeared in a U.S. sanctions list. Venezuela in September sent less than 500,000 bpd of crude to the United States, its main destination for oil exports. The volume marked a 38% decline compared with the same month in 2016. Disruptions in imports from Venezuela also have affected Phillips 66, the firm said in August. PDVSA's supply to the U.S. refiner's Sweeny facility in Texas has dropped by more than two thirds this year in part due to oil quality issues forcing the firm to cancel cargoes and request price discounts. (CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/11/big-buyer-of-venezuelan-crude-oil-halts-purchases-from-national-oil-company.html; Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-pdvsa-pbf-energy-contract-exclusive/exclusive-pbfs-split-with-pdvsa-grows-as-u-s-refiner-halts-direct-deals-idUSKBN1CG24N)

 
Florida businessman admits to bribery scheme at Venezuela's PDVSA
The part owner of several Florida-based energy companies on Wednesday became the latest person to plead guilty as part of an ongoing U.S. investigation into bribery at Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA. Fernando Ardila Rueda, 49, pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to two counts, including that he violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with a scheme to pay bribes to PDVSA employees, the U.S. Justice Department said. He became the 10th person to plead guilty as part of a larger investigation by the Justice Department into bribery at Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) that became public with the arrest of two Venezuelan businessmen in December 2015. The two men were Roberto Rincon, who was president of Tradequip Services & Marine, and Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas, the manager of Vertix Instrumentos. Both pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to pay bribes to secure energy contracts. (Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-usa-corruption/florida-businessman-admits-to-bribery-scheme-at-venezuelas-pdvsa-idUSKBN1CG2Z8)

 

Economy & Finance

Maduro came back empty handed from his recent trip to Moscow, with no announcement of any new money. Discussions were instead focused on solving existing issues. It is possible that Russia might prefer to see proof of Maduro’s strength before adding exposure, but in any case, Russia does not have the capacity to satisfy Venezuela’s financing needs. China’s potential support remains a more critical factor. While uncertainty is likely to remain elevated, overcoming the Q4 17 obstacles that both the opposition and the government face could be supportive of a possible negotiated solution to the crisis in 2018, which would be critical to avoiding default next year and/or in determining the conditions for a potential debt restructuring. (SEE ATTACHED BARCLAY’S REPORT)

 

IMF says Venezuela inflation may rise beyond 2,300%
Venezuela’s triple-digit annual inflation rate is set to jump to more than 2,300% in 2018, the highest estimate for any country tracked by the International Monetary Fund. An intensifying political crisis that’s spiraled since 2014 has weighed heavily on economic activity. Gross domestic product is expected to contract 6% next year, after shrinking an estimated 12% in 2017, the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook report published Tuesday. While Venezuela’s central bank stopped publishing inflation data in December 2015, the IMF argues the country’s consumer prices are estimated to leap 2,349.3% in 2018, the highest in their estimates, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 44%. As oil production declines and uncertainty increases, unemployment is forecast to increase to about 30% in 2018, also the highest and followed by South Africa’s 28% and Greece’s 21%. The Bolivarian Republic is not current with most of its key economic statistics, leaving economists scant data to crunch. Venezuela’s debt is growing, and it is increasingly unable to make interest payments. Printing money is no longer an option which it has already done. (Financial Tribune: https://financialtribune.com/articles/world-economy/74038/venezuela-inflation-may-rise-beyond-2300; https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-10/imf-sees-venezuelan-inflation-rate-rising-beyond-2-300-in-2018)

 
Cash shortages here are expected to worsen
Cash shortages are expected to worsen here, despite efforts by Venezuela’s Banking Association and the Bank Superintendent’s office. Currency exports, obsolete ATM’s and the absence of decisions by monetary authorities are causing the crisis. The Central Bank issued 289.3 million new VEB 500 and VEB 1000 bills, and data shows the amount distributed was VEB 393.322 billion, which is only 60% of cash required in July. There seems to be no end in sight for the shortages, which are expected to worsen. More in Spanish: (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/economia/proyectan-agudizacion-falta-efectivo-pais_673446)

 
Fears of a big Venezuela default subside
Investors are gaining confidence that Venezuela will make its next big bond payments. Notes from the state oil company that mature in November climbed to 94.5 cents on the dollar Wednesday, a three-year high, while amortizing bonds due in 2020 rose to their highest price since they were issued last year. There’s a US$ 985 million payment due Oct. 27 for the 2020 bonds, and US$ 1.2 billion due Nov. 2 on the securities maturing next month. While investors assign a 99% probability to Petroleos de Venezuela SA defaulting sometime in the next five years, according to credit-default swaps trading, optimism on the near term has been growing as the government assures investors it will pay. (Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-11/venezuela-default-fears-subside-as-shortest-pdvsa-bonds-climb)

 

Buchheit calls for post-Maduro Venezuelan debt standstill

Any incoming regime in Venezuela replacing President Nicolas Maduro will have to consider how to gain temporary relief from paying its creditors without giving them legal grounds to accelerate their outstanding debts, according to legal experts. One solution will be to create “some form of temporary standstill on creditor actions”, according to Lee Buchheit, partner at law firm Cleary Gottlieb, and Mitu Gulati, law professor at Duke University. Venezuela is struggling to service debts with a combined face value of US$ 63 billion after a collapse in oil prices left it with dwindling revenues and a huge fiscal shortfall. Talks are already being carried out bilaterally between Venezuela and its sovereign creditors, China and Russia, which are owed US $37.2 billion between them, but policy-makers in the country still face complex challenges to find a long-term solution. (Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/buchheit-calls-for-post-maduro-venezuela/buchheit-calls-for-post-maduro-venezuelan-debt-standstill-idUSL8N1ML2ZL)

 

Politics and International Affairs

US hopes Maduro regime will allow Venezuela to “speak up and decide” in regional elections
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon says the Maduro regime must allow the people to “speak up and decide” in Venezuela’s upcoming regional elections next Sunday. He also said the United States and Spain have joined in a “special association” in favor of the people of Venezuela, and that both governments have clearly “condemned repression that feeds the Venezuelan political crisis”. He said both the U.S. and Spain are promoting dialogue as a way out of the ongoing crisis here, within the European Union and the Organization of American States, “pressing on behalf of the Venezuelan people’s right to self-determination and not for the government’s own perpetuation”. He called on the European Union “to do more” in sanctioning the Maduro regime for “violating democratic rules”, More in Spanish: (El Nacional: http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/mundo/confia-que-venezuela-hable-decida-las-regionales_207184)

 
Is Venezuela a dictatorship? A key election will offer clues.
Venezuelans go to the polls this Sunday in state elections seen as a test of President Nicolás Maduro’s willingness to share power. But with polls showing the ruling socialists at risk of landslide losses, the authoritarian government appears to be falling back on a trifecta of tactics.  Two and half months after the creation of a super congress that gave the government nearly absolute power, Maduro has called the vote for state governors clear evidence that democracy remains alive here. Nevertheless, opposition leaders are decrying a dirty campaign by the Venezuelan government, which President Trump has denounced as a “socialist dictatorship.” State media is airing almost round-the-clock supportive coverage of pro-government candidates, while portraying their challengers as hypocritical and inept. All candidates, meanwhile, are being limited to four minutes of political ads per day on independent networks that now survive by self-censoring. Food baskets are being doled out to hungry voters at pro-government rallies. In a move seen as purposely misleading, the ballots for Sunday’s election will include a host of candidates who lost in the primaries and are not supposed to be running. This week, the government abruptly announced it would relocate a number of voting centers for “security reasons.” Opposition leaders said the move involved 205 locations in heavily anti-government districts in 16 states. That, critics say, amounts to manipulation and confusion. In Vargas, a coastal state just north of Caracas, for instance, the brother of opposition candidate Jose Manuel Olivares was detained last week by intelligence police for allegedly stealing a car — a charge his family denies. While stumping for votes, the candidate is often shadowed, he said, by state agents. Winning candidates from the opposition will likely find their powers restrained. Maduro has said that all governors will come under the authority of the Constituent Assembly, a government-controlled super congress created in a July vote marred by allegations of massive fraud. That body is likely to make life tough for any governor who is not in line with Maduro. Yet the vote is still seen as a key test. If turnout is high, polls suggest the opposition could capture governorships in up to 19 of Venezuela’s 23 states. Analysts are watching to see whether the government faces allegations of vote rigging, similar to those that emerged during the July election. Despite the polls, Maduro last weekend said his party is “expecting a historic success.” Given their strategy of subordinating governors to the government-controlled assembly, authorities might risk little by allowing a clean vote — while gaining much from the optics. The government may be calculating that such an event could defuse international pressure and appease its domestic opponents. Maduro is deeply unpopular, in part due to a severe economic crisis brought on by declining oil prices and what many view as government mismanagement. Recent polls show the president's approval rating at 23%. But opposition leaders have also lost support due to infighting and alleged disorganization. Some critics have pilloried them for even participating in the state elections, arguing the move is validating the government and playing into Maduro’s hands. Still, the election is an important bellwether for the opposition, which has largely failed to sustain the large-scale street protests that rocked the nation earlier this year. The activists’ concern now is that government tactics — and a general sense of helplessness among voters — may depress turnout on Sunday. (The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/is-venezuela-a-dictatorship-a-key-election-will-offer-clues/2017/10/11/d4301382-ad01-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html)

 

Mexico confirms it will join talks between Maduro regime and pro-democracy coalition
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray has showed the Mexican Senate a letter from Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza inviting Mexico to be a part of the group of countries that will accompany possible talks between the Maduro regime and the pro-democracy MUD coalition. Jorge Rodríguez, who heads the regime’s team in proposed talks, claims that a cohabitation agreement will emerge after Sunday’s regional elections. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión, http://www.noticierovenevision.net/noticias/politica/rodriguez-asegura-que-luego-de-elecciones-el-gobierno-y-oposicion-concretaran-acuerdo; http://www.noticierovenevision.net/noticias/internacional/mexico-confirma-acompanara-negociacion-entre-gobierno-y-oposicion-venezolana)

 

Opposition denies Maduro’s claim of progress in dialogue

The negotiator for the Venezuelan opposition in the process of developing a dialogue with the government of President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday that the president’s claim that negotiations have progressed 95% is totally false – the fact is they are losing ground. “Once again we must contradict the government. Political negotiations have not moved forward – they are losing ground every day,” opposition lawmaker and negotiator Luis Florido told the press in a statement. Florido said that Maduro’s remarks and those of the Venezuelan ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Jesus Uzcategui, are untrue, and since the government has not complied with the conditions required by the opposition, the dialogue is going nowhere. “From the MUD (opposition coalition) we repeat that... rather than the exploratory process being completed, it has gone backwards, because they took away our electoral guarantees by not allowing us to substitute candidates and they’re trying to get away with electoral fraud,” he said. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2444509&CategoryId=10717)

 

DATANALISIS director says democratic movement could gain 13-16 gubernatorial seats

José Antonio Gil Yepes, director of the DATANALISIS polling firm says that the pro-democracy movement could gain 13-16 governorships in Sunday’s upcoming elections, in addition to the 3 it currently controls out of a total of 23 states. He said some United Socialist Party candidates “will emerge ahead of the regime”, because he said: “The regime could lose with a margin of 84-16 which is President Nicolas Maduro’s approval rating over the past 4 months”.  He said abstention by disappointed opponents would not significantly lower the traditional rate of 40-50%. Gil added that 78% of the population distrusts the National Elections Council, and called the current voting system “obsolete”. (2001: http://www.2001.com.ve/en-la-agenda/172122/oposicion-podria-ganar-13-o-16-gobernaciones--segun-director-de-datanalisis.html)

 

BARCLAY’S: Venezuela: Obstacle course
Doubts over the competitiveness of elections in Venezuela are keeping the country’s outlook uncertain. The October 15 regional elections are therefore an important test in this regard. The most recent DATANALISIS poll shows the opposition has a strong lead, with more than twice the number of voting intentions than the government. There are 14 states in which polls suggest the opposition has an unassailable lead, which could make manipulating the outcome hard. Conditions favor the government in just three states. The remaining six states have a bias towards the opposition, but the outcome will depend on turnout and the ability of the opposition to overcome the obstacles imposed by the government. In any case, the opposition could obtain sizeable gains. More important than the number of states will be which states each side wins and the distribution of the national vote, which would be an indicator for a potential presidential election in 2018. (SEE ATTACHED BARCLAY’S REPORT)

 

Maduro again says elected governors must pledge allegiance to his ANC

President Nicolas Maduro has again said all governors elected next Sunday must be subordinate and pledge allegiance to his sham “National Constitutional Assembly” (ANC). He said those who do not will not be able to exercise their authority. He claimed all those who vote will be validating the ANC, “because it called up these elections”. The MUD pro-democracy coalition immediately called a press conference to reply to Maduro’s claim, saying: “People do not vote to endorse the ANC, they vote because it is their Constitutional right to do so”.(2001: http://www.2001.com.ve/en-la-agenda/172128/maduro-ratifico-que-gobernador-electo-debera-subordinarse-y-juramentarse-ante-la-anc---video-.html; http://www.2001.com.ve/en-la-agenda/172151/mud--la-gente-no-vota-para-avalar-la-anc--vota-porque-es-su-derecho-constitucional.html)

 

Exiled Attorney General says rule of law no longer exists in Venezuela

Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega – deposed by the sham National Assembly - said on Tuesday in Bogota that the rule of law and democracy no longer exist in her country. “I want you to know that in Venezuela there exists neither rule of law nor democracy nor any freedom … In Venezuela there is a breakdown in the constitutional order,” Ortega added during a conference on human rights in Colombia, organized by the Political Science, Government and International Relations Faculty of Rosario University. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2444521&CategoryId=10717)

 

Opposition magistrates holed up in Chile residence flee Venezuela: source

Five magistrates named by the opposition-run congress who had been holed up in the Chilean ambassador’s residence to avoid arrest fled in the early hours of Monday and escaped over the border to Colombia, a source said on Tuesday. The Chilean Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Elenis Rodriguez, Luis Marcano, Jose Nunez, Beatriz Ruiz, and Zuleima Del Valle had left the premises on Monday, but did not offer further details. “Relatives came to get them at 5 a.m. yesterday. They escaped via (the Colombian border city of) Cucuta,” said the source close to the five, who have been granted asylum by the Chilean government. (Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics/opposition-magistrates-holed-up-in-chile-residence-flee-venezuela-source-idUSKBN1CF2XB)

 

Venezuelans are told their expired passports will be valid for another two years
Venezuelans have been told expired passports are valid for another two years because they have run out of paper and ink to print new ones. President Maduro has signed an emergency decree to extend their validity because of chronic shortages at the national passport agency. At least a million Venezuelans have been waiting months for new documents and cannot travel in the interim. Demand for travel documents is at a record high as Venezuelans seek to escape from political crisis and deep recession. (The Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4972088/Venezuela-runs-paper-ink-print-new-passports.html#ixzz4vIrZvYCP)

 
Thousands are fleeing Venezuela by two-lane border bridge
For weeks, Venezuelans have been flocking by the busload to San Antonio del Táchira, a border town of some 62,000 residents, fleeing as President Nicolas Maduro consolidates autocratic power. The Simon Bolivar International Bridge is the avenue for an outpouring unprecedented in the history of this oil-rich nation. Crowds stream toward the bridge, attended by street hawkers selling juice, fried pastries and bus tickets and men who ferry their meager possessions to a new life. According to Colombia’s migration authority, the number of foreigners entering Cucuta, the first major city across the bridge, more than doubled this summer. Over 50,000 came in August, up from 22,700 in June. The numbers don’t reflect dual nationals returning to their homeland, or thousands simply crossing into Colombia without passing official checkpoints. Named after the South American hero who freed both nations from Spanish rule, the Simon Bolivar International Bridge was a once major commercial artery. Now, lanes once filled with trucks bearing potatoes, onions and lettuce are reserved for pedestrians trundling handcarts, laden with shopping bags and even walking their dogs along with them. As almost a dozen airlines have pulled out of the country, the bridge has become a concrete bottleneck for the masses fleeing this crisis-torn land. Most Venezuelans stay in Cucuta only long enough to have their passport stamped and catch a ride. Those who arrive late have taken to sleeping in parks or bus stations. Church groups have been doling out food to weary travelers or those who simply cross for the promise of a free meal. Border security has been reinforced, temporary visas are being issued, but the growing exodus has the Colombian government contemplating “refugee camps” if Venezuela’s crisis spirals completely out of control. Few predict an end to Venezuela’s exodus soon. The United Nations has urged governments across Latin America to issue temporary protections to Venezuelans, yet many who are leaving seem unconcerned about permission. (Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-10-12/thousands-are-fleeing-venezuela-by-two-lane-border-bridge)

 

No visas, bad jobs: Venezuelan emigrants reluctantly return home

Early last year, Leandro Colmenares sold his car and his apartment and fled Venezuela’s profound economic crisis, joining a wave of emigration to other Latin American countries. Colmenares, a medical equipment repairman, first set up in Panama with US$ 7,000 in hand. When he could not get a visa and struggled to find work, he ended up with odd jobs like painting houses and doing electrical wiring for US$ 25 a day. He then tried his luck in Colombia, where he again took odd jobs, mostly cooking. He opened a small cafe with other Venezuelans but it failed.And once again, he could not get a visa. Crushed and having run out of money, Colmenares decided in February he had no choice but return to Venezuela empty-handed and by bus - one of an apparently growing number of Venezuelan emigrants forced to go home after failing to start a new life elsewhere in Latin America. (Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-migration/no-visas-bad-jobs-venezuelan-emigrants-reluctantly-return-home-idUSKBN1CH1XA)

 

The following brief is a synthesis of the news as reported by a variety of media sources. As such, the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Duarte Vivas & Asociados and The Selinger Group.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September 12, 2017


International Trade

Recent cargo arrivals:

  • 30,000 tons of white corn aboard the DL MARIGOLD, at Puerto Cabello, for state agency CUSPAL
  • 30,000 tons of sugar aboard the MV POLA PACIFIC, at Puerto Cabello, for state agency CUSPAL
  • 1052 head of cattle aboard MV GLAMAR, at Puerto Cabello, for state agencies.
  • 330 containers aboard MV SAN ANTONIO from Cartagena-Colombia, at Guanta port, bearing food, basic products and medical supplies, for the GMAS government program. The same vessel reportedly offloaded 3048 tons of food, 544 tons of medicine and 21 tons of personal care products at La Guaira port,
  • 677 tons of basic products, 297 tons of medical products, and 95 tons of personal care products, aboard the CONTSHIP PRO, at La Guaira port
More in Spanish: (Bolipuertos, http://www.bolipuertos.gob.ve/noticia.aspx?id=37616;  http://www.bolipuertos.gob.ve/noticia.aspx?id=37623;  http://www.bolipuertos.gob.ve/noticia.aspx?id=37618; El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/economia/llegan-puerto-guanta-2369-toneladas-alimentos_202933; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/economia/maiz-blanco-bovino-pie-arribaron-puerto-cabello_669113;  Noticiero Venevisión, http://www.noticierovenevision.net/noticias/economia/treinta-mil-toneladas-de-maiz-blanco-arribaron-al-puerto-de-puerto-cabello; Notitarde, http://www.notitarde.com/llegaron-a-puerto-cabello-30-mil-toneladas-de-azucar/la-costa/2017/09/11/1075433/)

 

Oil & Energy

Saudi’s Al Falih discusses oil supply cuts extension with Venezuela, Kazakhstan

A further extension for at least three more months beyond March is now being discussed before OPEC meets again in November. The deal to curb output propelled crude prices above US$ 58 a barrel in January but they have since slipped back to a US$ 50 to US$ 54 range as the effort to drain global inventories has taken longer than expected. “Both countries agreed that the option to extend the voluntary market rebalancing effort, beyond the first quarter of 2018, would be considered in due course as market fundamentals may dictate,” the ministry said in a statement on Al Falih’s meeting with Kazakh Energy Minister Kanat Bozumbayev. Al Falih, who has held his meetings in Astana, also met Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino and both ministers “agreed on the importance of leaving all options open” including the possible extension of the oil output cuts beyond the first quarter of 2018, if needed, according to a separate statement. Del Pino on Friday said global oil inventories remain too high and urged producers to look at exemptions granted to countries such as Libya and Nigeria and the effect of those exemptions on the market. Both ministers discussed oil market developments and how the OPEC-led pact “is improving market stability, contributing to the rebalancing of supply and demand, and drawing down excessive inventories,” the Saudi ministry said. “They both shared an optimistic outlook on market fundamentals in 2018.” (Gulf News: http://gulfnews.com/business/sectors/energy/saudi-s-al-falih-discusses-oil-supply-cuts-extension-with-venezuela-kazakhstan-1.2088370; Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-10/saudi-arabia-venezuela-agree-to-leave-rebalancing-options-open; AVN, http://www.avn.info.ve/contenido/venezuela-attends-kazenergy-eurasian-forum-kazakhstan)

 

Congressman Mike Coffman targets oil imports to slow Maduro regime in Venezuela

A House Republican introduced legislation last week to bar the U.S. from importing petroleum products from Venezuela in a push to cripple the growing authoritarian regime here. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., introduced the Protecting Against Tyranny and Responsible Imports Act, or the PATRIA Act, that would target Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after he stripped the countries democratically elected national assembly of its power and authority. According to the bill, the proposed ban on imports would last until the assembly's power is fully restored. "The goal is to change the conduct, the character of the Venezuelan government under Maduro. I think the window is closing," Coffman told the Washington Examiner. "They are dependent upon the export of oil really to fund their government, and without that, they can't pay their security forces." The Colorado Republican said passage of his bill is time sensitive given the actions taken by the Maduro regime and the suffering within the country, which he warns could become the next Cuban-style dictatorship. Coffman said he has not discussed the bill with either the White House or congressional leadership yet, but plans to do so soon. He estimates that a ban on importing oil from Venezuela would have a US$ 10 billion impact in lost income on the Venezuelan government. Despite criticisms of the ban and how it could hurt affected Venezuelans, Coffman believes the ban would be much preferred to the continued growth of the Maduro regime. All in all, Coffman is optimistic the PATRIA Act ("patria" is Spanish for "nation") could take hold and harm the regime, but he reiterates that time is of the essence. (The Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/mike-coffman-targets-oil-imports-to-slow-maduro-regime-in-venezuela/article/2633691)

 

Economy & Finance

Maduro announces 40% increase in minimum wages, which have shrunk 38% this year

President Nicolas Maduro has announced another 40% increase in minimum wages here, the second such increase in two months. This will bring the minimum wage to slightly above US$ 40, if estimated at the highest official foreign exchange rate. However, a report from TORINO Capital indicates that the real minimum wage here has shrunk 38% so far, this year, and says the recent increase remains below its projected 717% inflation scenario for this year. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión, http://www.noticierovenevision.net/noticias/nacional/presidente-maduro-anuncio-aumento-de-40-del-salario-minimo; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/economia/gobierno-aumento-salario-minimo-integral-325544-bolivares_669170; El Mundo, http://www.elmundo.com.ve/noticias/economia/politicas-publicas/torino-capital-afirma-que-salario-minimo-ha-caido-.aspx#ixzz4sSaamCQO)

 

Maduro regime radicalizes price controls

Claiming that “all prices used today are over 1000% inflated”, President Nicolas Maduro has proposed to again set price controls on over 50 basic products, including powdered and liquid pasteurized milk, margarine, mayonnaise, mortadella, baking wheat, pasta, some fish species, chicken, butter, canned sardines, hard white cheese, ham, soap, and oils. The new regulation incorporates a system of “vigilantes” from local distribution committees. Economist Luis Oliveros says: “The government is radicalizing price controls, that´s the difference from previous experiences.” More in Spanish: (El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/economia/gobierno-radicaliza-control-precios-con-fiscales-los-clap_202976)

 

New economic measures by Maduro only benefit importers, 'bachaqueros

The economic measures announced by Nicolás Maduro on Thursday night are only aimed at favoring the different mafia organizations controlling various "businesses" being conducted in Venezuela. Among them are food importers and the so-called "bachaqueros," or resellers of foodstuff and other consumer staples at higher prices than those regulated by the Government or previously sold by retailers. Controlling prices is the same recipe they have been using for years without any positive results, because Venezuela’s "socialist" inflation is the highest in the world. Price controls have resulted in shortages. Such shortages are because domestic producers have decided to go out of business for not being cost-effective. Those still in business are struggling to survive trying to meet domestic demand, since they cannot make new investments. This increases the dependency on imports of what the country needs, while shortages is the best way to foster "bachaqueo" activities. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2442991&CategoryId=10717)

 

Venezuela has asked Russia for debt restructuring

Russian Finance Minister Antón Siluánov has announced that Venezuela’s debt with his country is being renegotiated both bilaterally and within the framework of the Paris Club. Last August, Russian opposition leader Alexéi Navalni reported that the Kremlin is financing the Maduro regime and has no intention of recovering US$ 8.8 billion credits it has granted Venezuela. Also, in August Russian state oil giant ROSNEFT advanced US$ 6 billion to Venezuela for oil supplies through 2019. More in Spanish: (El Universal: http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/politica/rusia-negocia-reestructuracion-deuda-con-venezuela_669206)

 

Venezuela bond bull says sanctions may keep Maduro paying

One of the largest holders of Venezuelan bonds says U.S. sanctions are giving Nicolas Maduro’s government greater incentive to pay its debts. The penalties imposed late last month restrict the country’s ability to restructure its obligations, meaning the president’s only option is to keep scraping up enough cash to keep current on overseas notes. Maduro will put off default if possible because it would be catastrophic for the oil industry and ultimately lead to a government collapse, according to Bent Lystbaek, who oversees US$ 3.4 billion in emerging-market debt at Danske Capital. “The willingness to pay is extremely high and now they have further impetus to keep the boat afloat,” Lystbaek said from Lyngby, Denmark. "Default would be the death sentence of Maduro’s administration." Danske Capital is the 19th-largest holder of Venezuelan bonds and 21st-largest holder of PDVSA debt as of June 30, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Here’s what else Lystbaek had to say about Venezuelan politics and investment opportunities: “I don’t think Maduro could survive a default. It would be very, very hard to export oil. Oil cargoes could be seized. Import compression is already substantial and they couldn’t import anything then. Social unrest would increase dramatically and I think that would be the end game.” “Now, they will turn to the Chinese and Russians to muddle through. I don’t think they even consider the alternative. The consequences of a default are devastating.” That said, “I don’t think they have a long-term chance. The Chavistas are just living from one day to the next. It cannot go on forever and the end day is moving closer and closer.” How would regime change impact bondholders? “If there was a regime shift, the opposition would go for a restructuring and they could be successful and strike a deal. There’d be a radical shift in policy: they’d invite the IMF and it would all be very, very positiveWe could envisage a benign debt restructuring characterized by high recovery rates substantially above the levels where low coupon, longer-dated PDVSA bonds are trading today at 30 cents per dollar In the case of a default, there will be a relatively swift transition of power and a pretty swift debt restructuring along the lines of what we saw in Ukraine in 2015.” Still, “there’s a risk that at a later stage when free elections have been held and the opposition regains power, they’ll say the loans weren’t legal and we annul all deals done with the Russians and Chinese.” (Bloomberg:  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-11/venezuela-bond-bull-says-sanctions-may-keep-maduro-paying-debt)

 

For Venezuela’s true believers, the ultimate risky bet beckons

For years, investors in Venezuela and its state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, took comfort knowing that in the event of a default, there’d be assets they could potentially seize to recoup some of their losses. But for bond buyers with an even bigger appetite for risk, those willing to throw themselves at the mercy of President Nicolas Maduro’s survival and track record of making good on debt payments, there’s another option: Electricidad de Caracas, the state-run electric utility. The company’s US$ 650 million of bonds coming due in April trade at just 67 cents on the dollar with a whopping 96% yield, making them the riskiest notes maturing over the next year in the world’s riskiest nation. And with good reason. In the event of default, PDVSA bondholders, and possibly even owners of Venezuela’s sovereign debt, could lay claim to the crude producer’s oil, tankers and U.S. refining unit. But ELECAR, which PDVSA bought a decade ago, has nothing for overseas investors to seize. (Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-08/for-venezuela-s-true-believers-the-ultimate-risky-bet-beckons)

 

Venezuela crisis raises talk of ‘odious debt’ doctrine

An archaic, often-mentioned but never-invoked legal doctrine called “odious debt” could get tested for the first time in history in Venezuela should the current regime be ousted from power. The concept of ‘odious debt’ has gained in prominence and been called a doctrine despite never being enshrined in any sovereign or international law, or having been in practice invoked by any country restructuring its debts after the previous regime has been ousted. But some legal experts think that the move by Venezuela’s government led by Nicolás Maduro to scrap its National Assembly for a more supine Constituent Assembly this summer, followed by the US government unveiling sanctions on the country, could open an unusually fertile environment for the legal gambit. If the current regime is ousted, a new government could invoke odious debt as an excuse to refuse to recognize any new loans incurred by the Constituent Assembly. Given Venezuela’s lack of market access that would probably primarily affect any new loans extended by the likes of China or Russia, not existing bondholders. (Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/fa6850cc-96c3-11e7-b83c-9588e51488a0)

 

OP-ED: Venezuela is about to ditch the dollar

President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday that Venezuela will be looking to “free” itself from the U.S. dollar next week. He will look to use the weakest of two official foreign exchange regimes (essentially the way Venezuela will manage its currency in relation to other currencies and the foreign exchange market), along with a basket of currencies. Maduro was referring to Venezuela’s current official exchange rate, known as DICOM, in which the dollar can be exchanged for 3,345 bolivars. At the strongest official rate, one dollar buys only 10 bolivars, which may be one of the reasons why Maduro wants to opt for some of the weaker exchange rates. He hinted that the country would look to using the yuan instead, among other currencies. “If they persecute us with the dollar, we’ll use the Russian ruble, the yuan, yen, the Indian rupee, the euro,” Maduro also said. (Lew Rockwell: https://www.lewrockwell.com/2017/09/no_author/venezuela-ditch-dollar/)

 

Politics and International Affairs

France says Venezuela talks to take place Wednesday, warns of sanctions

Venezuela’s government and opposition will hold a round of talks in the Dominican Republic tomorrow, France’s foreign minister said today, warning Caracas’s leadership that it risked EU sanctions if it failed to engage in negotiations. “I was happy to learn that dialogue with the opposition would restart tomorrow in the Dominican Republic,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement after meeting his Venezuelan opposite number, Jorge Arreaza Montserrat in Paris. He said the meeting would be under the auspices of Dominican President Danilo Medina and former Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Maduro routinely calls for dialogue with the opposition, but his adversaries see dialogue as a stalling mechanism that burnishes the government’s image without producing concrete results. A dialogue process backed by the Vatican in 2016 did little to advance opposition demands, which include release of political prisoners and respect for the opposition-run congress. Many Maduro critics believe opposition leaders were duped in that dialogue process, and have grown suspicious of former Zapatero as an intermediary. “This (dialogue) is good news and I hope that it will rapidly lead to concrete steps on the ground.” Le Drian said. Like fellow-EU member Spain a few days earlier, Le Drian also warned that if the situation continued there would be consequences. “I reminded him of the risk of European sanctions and the need to rapidly see evidence from Venezuela that it is ready to relaunch negotiations with the opposition and engage in a sincere and credible process.” (Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-sanctions-treasury/treasurys-mnuchin-china-may-face-new-sanctions-on-north-korea-idUSKCN1BN1P1; The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2017/09/12/world/europe/12reuters-venezuela-politics-france.html)

                                         

Venezuela sets Oct. 15 for regional vote favoring opposition

Venezuela’s government has set a date for long-delayed gubernatorial elections that the opposition is heavily favored to win. Electoral authorities say voting in all 23 states will take place Oct. 15. Monday’s announcement came a day after the main opposition alliance held primaries to select candidates to run against some of socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s closest allies. Francisco Castro, chairman of the Primaries Commission within the Democratic Unity opposition alliance said the primaries were “massively” attended “by hundreds of thousands of citizens”. Legislator Henry Ramos Allup said that participation in the primaries being to select single candidates for the gubernatorial elections next month is “above expectations.” The decision to participate in the elections had sparked tensions within the opposition since the government seated a special assembly to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution amid allegations that the elections to choose delegates were marked by fraud. The gubernatorial elections were supposed to have taken place last year but were scrapped as the country’s economic problems mounted and polls indicated Venezuelans heavily favored removing Maduro before the end of his term. (The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/venezuela-sets-oct-15-for-regional-vote-favoring-opposition/2017/09/11/42f958a4-9764-11e7-af6a-6555caaeb8dc_story.html; Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2443067&CategoryId=10717; and more in Spanish: Noticiero Venevisión, http://www.noticierovenevision.net/noticias/politica/elecciones-de-gobernadores-se-realizaran-el-15-de-octubre; http://www.noticierovenevision.net/noticias/politica/oposicion-venezolana-voto-en-primarias-sin-incidentes-ni-aglomeraciones; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/politica/cne-fija-elecciones-gobernadores-para-octubre_669719; http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/politica/oposicion-anuncia-candidatos-entidades_669550; Agencia Venezolana de Noticias; http://www.avn.info.ve/contenido/comicios-regionales-ser%C3%A1n-15-octubre; El Mundo, http://www.elmundo.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/politica/elecciones-de-gobernadores-se-realizaran-el-15-de-.aspx; El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/oposicion/mud-anuncio-los-nombres-los-candidatos-las-regionales_203013)

 

U.N. rights boss sees possible "crimes against humanity" in Venezuela

The United Nations human rights chief said on Monday that Venezuelan security forces may have committed crimes against humanity against protesters and called for an international investigation. “My investigation suggests the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed, which can only be confirmed by a subsequent criminal investigation,” Zeid Ra‘ad al Hussein told the U.N. Human Rights Council. He said the government was using criminal proceedings against opposition leaders, arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force and ill-treatment of detainees, in some cases amounting to torture. However, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza dismissed the allegations as "baseless" and demanded that Mr Zeid "cease his aggression against Venezuela". He also said that the report by the UN Office for Human Rights was "riddled with lies". He accused protesters of using firearms and “home-made weapons” against security forces, but noted that the last death was on July 30. “Our country is now at peace,” he added. Diego Arria, who was Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York from 1991 to 1994, told a separate Geneva event organized by activists and action group UN Watch that Venezuela should be referred to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. “I am convinced that the killing in the streets equates to crimes against humanity,” he said. The Hague-based court defines such crimes as including torture, murder, deprivation of liberty, sexual violence and persecution, he said. (Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-un/u-n-rights-boss-sees-possible-crimes-against-humanity-in-venezuela-idUSKCN1BM0UI; BBC News: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-41227441; Al Jazeera: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/venezuela-warns-crimes-humanity-170911210836001.html)

 

OAS begins hearings this week on crimes against humanity in Venezuela

The OAS will begin hearings this week to determine whether the Venezuelan regime has committed “crimes against humanity”, and whether there is any basis to take the case to the International Criminal Court. The hearings will be run by former ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, who has been specially appointed by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, Hearings have been scheduled with NGO and Armed Forces representatives.  More in Spanish. (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/politica/oea-inicia-jueves-audiencias-por-crimenes-lesa-humanidad-venezuela_669711)

 

Pope Francis: United Nations must help in Venezuela crisis

Aboard his overnight flight from Colombia to Rome Sunday, Pope Francis touched on the dire political and human rights crisis that continues to unfold in Venezuela, stating that the U.N. needs to be involved in reaching a solution. “It seems that it's a very hard thing, and the most painful is the humanitarian problem, the many people who escape or suffer...we must help to resolve it in any way (possible). I think the U.N. must also make itself felt there to help,” the Pope said Sept. 10. “I think that the Holy See has spoken strongly and clearly,” he said, also mentioning the many times he has spoken about the situation in Venezuela during his Angelus addresses. Journalists also asked Pope Francis about President Nicolás Maduro’s conflicting rhetoric, in particular his claim to be “with” Pope Francis, while at the same time speaking out violently against the bishops. About this, Francis replied: “What President Maduro says, he can explain. I don't know what he has in his mind…” The Pope also mentioned the extensive work of the Holy See to promote dialogue in the country, including the agreement to send a group of four ex-presidents as facilitators in a meeting between the Venezuelan government and the opposition Oct. 30, 2016.  The group was made up of former Colombian president Ernesto Samper Pizano, the secretary general of UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations); José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain; Martín Torrijos of Panama; and Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic. The Vatican also sent Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli to participate as a nuncio of the Holy See. Pope Francis said that after “speaking with the people,” the Holy See has also spoken to Venezuela in a private manner, possibly referring to a private meeting that occurred between him and President Maduro at the Vatican last October. The country was on Pope Francis' mind throughout his visit to Colombia, beginning with the flight over the nation. As his plane took off for Bogota, he greeted journalists, telling them they were going to fly over Venezuela and asking them “to pray so there can be dialogue, that there will be stability, with dialogue with everyone.” He also met briefly with five bishops from Venezuela present in Colombia for his visit, welcoming them to the sacristy after celebrating Mass in Bogota Sept. 7. Among the prelates Francis met were Cardenal Jorge Urosa, Archbishop of Caracas; Cardenal Baltazar Porras, Archbishop of Mérida; Jesús González de Zárate, Auxiliary Bishop of Caracas; Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristóbal; and Bishop José Luis Azuaje of Barinas, who is also President of the Latin American branch of CÁRITAS. (Angelus News: http://angelusnews.com/articles/pope-francis-united-nations-must-help-in-venezuela-crisis)

 

The Economist Intelligence Unit Country Report: Venezuela, August 2017

The results of the July 30th election and the events in the subsequent days have prompted a revision to our baseline forecast scenario. We had previously expected the government to hold the December 2018 presidential election as scheduled, under growing pressure from the international community, with the opposition well-placed to win power. However, we no longer believe that this will occur. Maduro seems little concerned about the ever more damning criticism from the international community, with even the veiled threat of US economic sanctions proving no deterrent to the president's plans for constitutional reform and consolidation of power. We no longer believe that he will feel pressured into holding an election that he risks losing. However, we do not expect that he will manage to cling to power for our entire 2017-21 forecast period, on the basis that international oil prices are not expected to rise to such a level to provide the funds to ease chronic consumer goods shortages. We therefore believe that a transition involving the opposition is likely. Given the highly volatile political situation, accurately forecasting when and how this will occur is challenging. We believe that there are two main ways in which a transition of power might play out. The most likely scenario (to which we attach a 60% probability) involves Maduro muddling through for the remainder of 2017 and much of 2018, running down reserves to pay external debt repayments, but being unable to avoid a debt default later in 2018 or in 2019. This would be likely to bring about Maduro's demise, as his allies in government and the military would be hit financially, and remaining popular support from his constituents (chiefly the poor and public-sector workers) would fade owing to heightened economic hardship. At the same time, Maduro's ability to muddle through until 2019 will be limited, and we view the main risk to our newly revised, baseline forecast to be a military coup at some point during the remainder of 2017 or in 2018, prompted by a worsening of the economic and humanitarian crisis. We believe that there is a 40% risk of this occurring. (FULL REPORT ATTACHED)

 

OP-ED: China, Russia increase leverage in Venezuela amid crisis, by Evan Ellis

The most important question regarding the unfolding crisis in Venezuela is not whether U.S. sanctions and international pressures will force its populist regime to restore democracy. That will not happen anytime soon. Rather, it is whether the Venezuelan regime will be able to successfully transition power to a more rationally managed authoritarian government, backed by Russian and Chinese resources, that protects those who have systematically looted the country, while providing a sufficient façade of democratic process and compromise that a weary and distracted international community lends it legitimacy. As the crisis in Venezuela has deepened, Russia and China have leveraged the Maduro regime’s growing international isolation, financial needs, and political receptivity, to increasingly control the country’s finances, oil, and markets. While Russian and Chinese companies in fact compete in Venezuela in these areas, their strategic and business interests arguably coincide in the survival of an anti-U.S. regime near the U.S., granting its benefactors privileged access to the country and its petroleum and mineral wealth. Of the two extra-hemispheric actors, it is the PRC which holds the greatest leverage over the fate of the Venezuelan regime, particularly as its access to conventional financial markets and oil sales are reduced by U.S. sanctions. The PRC has the money to lend, and indeed has already lent an estimated US$ 60.2 billion to the regime during the past decade. In addition, the PRC controls the financial instruments in Venezuela key to the regime’s survival. China’s CITIC bank currently manages PDVSA’s current accounts for its oil transactions, after the latter moved them from Portugal’s Banco Espiritu Santo (BES), probably to protect those accounts from claimants in lawsuits against the company. More importantly, China Development Bank manages the principal lines of credit for Venezuela’s “loans-for-oil” contracts, and thus controls the regime’s main vehicle for obtaining consumer goods for its supporters, and resources for building the petroleum, electricity, and transport infrastructure that the regime requires to bring the considerable deposits of heavy oil in the Orinoco tar belt and bring it to market, to pay its bills. During a recent meeting of the China-Venezuela High-Level Mixed Commission, the two nations signed 22 agreements involving US$ 2.7 billion in projects, including construction of the Jienyang refinery to process Venezuelan heavy oil in the PRC. While the PRC has been in talks with individual members of the Venezuelan opposition, China neither needs to turn against the current Venezuelan regime, and indeed, it is strongly in its interest not to do so. Because most Chinese loans to Venezuela over the past decade have been short-term and repaid on time, and because China has become stingier with credit as the Venezuelan crisis has deepened, its outstanding debt exposure in Venezuela may be as little as US$ 10-20 billion, hardly worth risking its relationship with a strategically useful regime sitting on top of 300 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Moreover, the recent successful seating of the Venezuelan constituent assembly raises the possibility that the regime could reform the constitution, permitting it to hand over even greater portions of Venezuela’s oilfields and other assets, in return for needed cash. Like China, Russia will also continue to support the Maduro regime or its replacement, for the same reasons as the PRC will, albeit with more limited resources and fewer financial and commercial instruments for doing so. In the oil sector, while the more commercially-oriented Russian oil firms such as LUKOIL have long-since pulled out of Venezuela, the state-owned firm ROSNEFT, led by former Russian senior intelligence operative and sometimes Putin ally Igor Sechin, has sunk an estimated US$ 6 billion into the country since 2010, including over US$ 1 billion in 2017 alone. As other companies have pulled out of Venezuela, ROSNEFT has negotiated to leverage Venezuela’s need for cash to gain expanded stakes in oil joint ventures such as PETROMONOGAS, PETROVICTORIA, and PETROMIRANDA. As the situation in Venezuela deteriorates, both Russia and China both have a strong interest in providing resources to ensure the continuation of a friendly, anti-U.S. regime in Caracas, but their resources are not infinite. In addition, each must move cautiously to avoid that the United States perceive hostile intent in their maneuverings in Venezuela, and attempt to block them. Moreover, both extra-hemispheric actors must use their leverage to advance a transition of power in the country toward a leadership at least minimally capable of managing the Venezuelan economy and oil sector in a sustainable fashion. Yet they must not pressure the regime so hard that it collapses, and the transition must give a sufficient appearance of legitimacy and legality so that the U.S. and international community accepts the domination over Venezuelan assets that Russia and China achieve. The U.S. is right to impose escalating sanctions on Venezuela, yet as they do so, they must also deny Russia and China from leveraging their position as an alternative source of capital and support, to expand their own positions in the country. One of the few worse problems than a hostile, unstable Venezuelan regime flirting with Russia and China, is a hostile, stable one economically and politically dominated by them. (NEWSMAX: https://www.newsmax.com/EvanEllis/venezuela-crisis-china-russia/2017/09/07/id/812212/)

 

Maduro makes whirlwind visit to the Middle East

President Nicolas Maduro arrived Saturday night in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana, to attend an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit, trying to end to his regime’s diplomatic isolation, strengthen its financial independence and avoid Venezuela’s possible economic collapse due to a new round of US sanctions targeting his government-issued bonds. He met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On Sunday night, he stopped in Algiers for a 24-hour visit on his way back from Astana, but it was not clear whether he met with his 80-year old counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and has now been reported to be back in Caracas. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2443064&CategoryId=10717); and more in Spanish:  (Noticiero Venevisión, http://www.noticierovenevision.net/noticias/internacional/presidente-maduro-y-lideres-turcos-evaluaron-relaciones-bilaterales;  El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/politica/nicolas-maduro-llega-argelia-para-visita-horas_669549; Agencia Venezolana de Noticias; http://www.avn.info.ve/contenido/presidente-maduro-regresa-venezuela-luego-gira-internacional-diplomacia-paz; El Mundo, http://www.elmundo.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/noticias/presidente-maduro-finalizo-visita-oficial-en-argel.aspx)

 

Britain’s Theresa May meets with Venezuelan democratic leaders

British Prime Minister Theresa May has met with the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Julio Borges, who is on a tour of Europe to present this nation’s political and humanitarian crisis.

May welcomed Borges and expressed “firm support for democracy and human rights in Venezuela”, the legislator reported. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión, http://www.noticierovenevision.net/noticias/politica/primera-ministra-de-inglaterra-se-reunio-con-julio-borges)

 

Venezuela is aiding Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda after hurricane Irma

President Nicolas Maduro has ordered his government to prepare an assistance plan for Cuba following damages caused by hurricane Irma. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza also announced that Venezuela is sending humanitarian aid, supplies and medication to Antigua and Barbuda. He said two Venezuelan aircraft would participate, and seek material from other nations. 34 rescue specialist will be sent, with medical and paramedical teams. More in Spanish:  (Noticiero Venevisión, http://www.noticierovenevision.net/noticias/internacional/venezuela-envia-ayuda-humanitaria-a-antigua-y-barbuda-tras-paso-de-irma; Agencia Venezolana de Noticias; http://www.avn.info.ve/contenido/venezuela-env%C3%ADa-ayuda-humanitaria-antigua-y-barbuda; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/politica/venezuela-envio-ayuda-humanitaria-antigua-barbuda_669135; El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/gobierno/gobierno-venezolano-prepara-plan-apoyo-para-cuba-tras-paso-irma_202987)

 

ODEBRECHT denies paying Venezuela politician US$ 100 million

Scandal-hit Brazilian construction company ODEBRECHT denied accusations it paid US$ 100 million to Venezuelan Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello, as alleged by the country’s fugitive chief prosecutor. In a statement, the company said: "After conducting a comprehensive search of its legacy systems and of the statements given by its former team members who collaborated in (investigations), Odebrecht denies the accusations that it made a $100 million payment to ... Cabello." Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega had said the payment was made through Spanish company TSE ARIETIS. ODEBRECHT denied payments to the company. (Reu https://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL2N1LO0UPters)

 

11 died in shootout with soldiers in Venezuela's southeast

Eleven people died in an exchange of gunfire with soldiers in Venezuela's southeast, where criminal gangs dispute control of gold mines, the national prosecutor's office said on Monday. The gunfight occurred on Sunday in the town of Tumeremo when a patrol following up reports of an "armed organization" in the area were "surprised by a group of unidentified individuals," the office said in a statement. The violence followed a similar confrontation on August 14 between a suspected gang and a mixed patrol of soldiers and police, in the nearby town of El Callao. Eight people died in that incident. The region has a reputation for lawlessness and violence, fueled by the mining and trading in gold. (AFP: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/11-die-shootout-soldiers-venezuelas-southeast-234116466.html)

 

The following brief is a synthesis of the news as reported by a variety of media sources. As such, the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Duarte Vivas & Asociados and The Selinger Group.