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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November 29th, 2011

Economics & Finance

Venezuela sees oil claim verdicts this year
Venezuela expects verdicts in high-profile international compensation claims from oil majors Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips later this year, Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said on Monday.
The nation is battling about 20 arbitration cases triggered by nationalizations that were ordered by President Hugo Chavez's socialist administration. The biggest by far are the Exxon and Conoco cases, which stem from the 2007 state takeover of multibillion dollar extra heavy crude projects in Venezuela's Orinoco Belt. Venezuela has proposed paying Exxon $1 billion in compensation, far less than it wants. The two companies originally claimed more than $40 billion in combined compensation, while Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA calculated the assets, after payments to creditors, were worth less than $2 billion. Some analysts say PDVSA might have to sell overseas holdings to meet a big compensation bill. (Reuters, 11-28-2011;

Investment in Q3 is 20% lower
Government authorities recently affirmed that a 4.2% hike in FY2011Q3 shows that an invigorated domestic economy. Nonetheless, investment, a major booster of sectors, has not yet recovered. Based on information from the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), in July-September, fixed gross investment -the flow of funds used for procurement of equipment and facilities to push production- scantly varied, at 0.4%. Compared with 2007 -a booming stage- it is 20% lower. (El Universal, 11-26-2011;

Liquidity soars 38% in a year to U$D 94.19 billion
The average price of Venezuela's oil barrel (over U$D 90 in 2011) allows the government to fuel an expanded public spending policy, thus leading to a higher amount of money in circulation. According to data provided by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), as of November 18, liquidity amounted to U$D 94.19 billion, a nominal increase of 38% year to date. This growth is higher than that reported throughout 2010 (26%). (El Universal, 11-28-2011;

Venezuelan spending could be interpreted as investment, according to IESA professor Silvana Daduk, who explained that although spending here may be seen as irrational as compared to other countries, it may also be understood as a response to the constant threat of inflation. (Veneconomy, 11-28-2011;

Gold shipment arrives in Venezuela as Chavez begins to remove reserves from European, US banks
President Hugo Chavez’s government began repatriating Venezuela’s gold reserves from European banks Friday as the first shipment arrived on a flight from Paris. Troops guarded the shipment in a caravan of at least five armored trucks that carried the gold to the Central Bank in Caracas. (The Washington Post, 11-25-2011;

Plans to install monetary gold processing plant
The president of the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV), Nelson Merentes says that the Government has a plan to install a monetary gold processing plant in Venezuela. He explained that gold technological transformation and certification are currently made only in European factories; and added that since Latin America does not have a convertible currency, it is necessary to own a convertible asset internationally to back imports. (AVN, 11-28-2011;; El Universal,

Chavez again says Government will expropriate all the banks that do not comply with the obligation to grant home loans. He signed a decree that “urges” the Venezuelan banks to participate in the long-term home loan financing. However, he said his intention was not to threaten but to comply with the country’s laws. (Veneconomy, 11-28-2011;

Business predicts scarcities and a black market
Local business is are worried about the Government’s decision to freeze 20 foodstuffs and personal care items, in addition to oversight of major production centers, upon the implementation of the Law on Costs and Fair Prices.
The Venezuelan Federation of Industries (CONINDUSTRIA) believes price controls curb production and result in surcharges and speculation. (El Universal, 11-26-2011;


Russia's Rosneft to pay U$D 2.2 bln for Carabobo
Russia's state-controlled oil giant Rosneft (ROSN.MM) will pay U$D 1.2 billion up front and also give a U$D 1 billion loan to Venezuela's state company PDVSA for access to the Carabobo 2 block. The companies are partnering in the project in the southern Orinoco extra heavy crude belt, which Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said could eventually produce 400,000 barrels per day (bpd). Rosneft is also one of five Russian companies in a consortium working with PDVSA to develop the Junín block 6 of the Orinoco belt."A $1 billion loan for PDVSA and a bonus of $1.2 billion were agreed," Ramirez told reporters, saying a formal deal would be signed at a later date. (Reuters, 11-29-2011;

Chavez accuses Italy's PARMALAT of hoarding
President Hugo Chavez accused the Italian dairy company PARMALAT of hoarding products at a time when Caracas is slapping new price controls on basic goods. Chavez is deepening socialist reforms by implementing a new Law of Fair Prices and Costs intended to break inflation with new price caps and checks on private companies for speculation or hoarding. (Reuters, 11-28-2011;; Bloomberg,; El Universal, 11-28-2011;

Agribusiness productivity lower due to controls
Local production of foodstuff, both raw materials and finished products, is lower due to price controls and has increased dependency on imports. In order to supply both industry and the market, the Government has to import basic staples where Venezuela used to be self sufficient. It currently imports 43% of corn; 50% of rice; 30% of coffee and 40% of sugar required to meet local demand. More in Spanish: (El Universal, 11-29-2011;

International Trade

Colombian President Santos and President Chavez sign broad tariff, energy agreements
Meeting in Caracas on Monday, both Presidents signed a broad tariff agreement to replace rules set by the Andean Community. The new agreement reportedly removes all customs duties on over 3,500 items. In all 13 agreements were signed during the meeting of both Presidents, including plans to extend the bi national oil pipeline to Ecuador and Panama, and additional exploration rights for Colombia’s ECOPETROL in Venezuela. President Santos says the new agreement “has the same objectives” as the treaty signed by both nations 20 years ago “to eliminate tariff and non tariff barriers”; and adds that all of the objectives in his visit have been reached. More in Spanish: (El Universal, 11-29-2011;; Agencia Venezolana de Noticias;ón-productos; El Nacional,

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.

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 25th, 2011

Economics & Finance

Chavez defends China ties as officials sign deals for U$D 6 billion in loans
Chinese officials signed U$D 6 billion in new loans to Venezuela on Thursday aiming to boost the country’s oil industry. After the loans were signed, President Hugo Chavez defended his country’s growing ties with China as vital to his country’s development. He also dismissed criticisms by opponents who question the mounting loans, which are to be paid back in oil shipments. China has swiftly become Venezuela’s biggest foreign lender in recent years, and had previously agreed to more than U$D 32 billion in loans. Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez had said that the new loans would increase oil production involving Chinese and Venezuelan companies from about 100,000 barrels a day to about 330,000 barrels a day. The new loans include U$D 4 billion to increase oil production, as well as U$D 1.5 billion for refinery projects and U$D 500 million for buying oil drills and other equipment, officials said. Chavez accused opposition politicians of siding with U.S. “imperialism” in criticizing his ties with China. The U.S. government, however, hasn’t publicly objected to Venezuela’s growing trade relationship with Beijing. (Washington Post, 11-24-2011;

Government claims it gets better terms from China
According to Asdrúbal Chávez, Vice President of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) a key reason Venezuela sought credit from the China Development Bank is to obtain a lower financing cost than what is required by bond issues or private financing loans. A report by official to President Chávez indicates financing from the China Fund is repaid with oil sales calculated at LIBOR rates in the London marker, plus a 2.85% bonus which comes to a rate around 3.35%, which is about 8 percentage points lower than 11.95% currently paid for sovereign bonds at a longer accrual rate. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 11-25-2011;

Chavez activates Price Law to end “capitalist speculation
President Hugo Chavez stepped up his control of the Venezuelan economy today as a new price regulation law came into effect that allows his government to set price caps on as many as 15,000 goods. The cost of 18 products will immediately be frozen, including soap, toothpaste and diapers, Vice President Elias Jaua said. Transnational corporations such as Colgate-Palmolive Co. (CL), the world’s largest toothpaste maker, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), HJ Heinz Co (HNZ) and Unilever Plc, will have to report their production costs to enable the government to set prices. (Bloomberg, 11-22-2011;

Price controls to accept only costs based on the CADIVI official FOREX rate of BF 4.30 to the U$D
In announcing details in applying the new price control law, Vice President Elías Jaua said: “In Venezuela there is only one way to import which is through CADIVI. There is only one dollar rate, one price, and it is for official use”. More in Spanish:  (El Universal, 11-25-2011;

Venezuela agrees to pay U$D 250 million nationalized FertiNitro Bonds to avoid default
Petroquimica de Venezuela, S.A. (PEQUIVEN) announced that it has entered into a Lock-Up Agreement with the holders of approximately 79% in aggregate principal amount of the U$D 250 million of 8.29% Secured Bonds due 2020 issued by FertiNitro Finance Inc. in connection with the FertiNitro fertilizer project, providing for PEQUIVEN (or an affiliate) to launch a tender offer for the Bonds no later than 30 November 2011. (Latin American Herald Tribune, 11-23-2011;

ICSID registers new arbitration proceeding against Venezuela
The International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the arbitration body of the World Bank based in Washington, has registered new complaint against Venezuela by an individual, in this case by Hortensia Margarita Shortt, a Venezuelan citizen. (El Universal, 11-23-2011;

CAF reports Venezuela shows lowest access to personal and small business credit in Latin America
According to a study by the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), Venezuela has the lowest level of access to financing by individuals and small business: Only 2% report using a credit instrument from any financial institution, The survey was based on 17 Latin American cities, including Caracas and Maracaibo. More in Spanish: (El Universal;


FEDECAMARAS asks Government to import 600,000 tons of steel
Jorge Roig, Vice President of the nation’s largest business association says that lowered steel production is hitting domestic industrial production very hard: “We are lacking the basic commodities, specifically for producing steel plates for public housing”; and added that – for the first time – the national Metal and Mining Industry Association is asking the government to import steel for the next few months. Roig points out that from a production peak of 4.3 million tons of liquid steel production went down to 1.8 million tons in 2010 and will barely reach 2.5 million tons this year. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión, 11-24-2011;

International Trade

Port and customs delays raise product prices and production costs in Venezuela
Ana María D’Andrea, Chairperson of the Foreign Trade Committee at the Carabobo Industrial Chamber reports delays in port and product procedures in Venezuela mean higher prices for products sold in the country. She says we refer to “additional unjustified costs”, and explains that at Puerto Cabello the entire process takes 14 days for normal imports, but for consolidated cargo it can take 21 days and added storage costs. More in Spanish: (El Universal, 11-24-2011; and El Mundo;

Balance of trade with China totals U$D 17 billion
The balance of trade with China will reach U$D 17 billion in 2011, according to Minister of Planning and Finance Jorge Giordani. The official said the balance of trade in 2001 came to U$D 300 million. Today, China is among Venezuela's major trading partners. (El Universal, 11-23-2011;

Uruguay could pay its debt to Venezuela with food
Uruguay is to pay with food a portion of a huge debt owed to Venezuela on account of oil shipments under an agreement to be signed next week during the visit of Uruguayan President José Mujica to Caracas, official sources confirmed on Thursday. Daily newspaper La Republica mentioned that the agreement would allow for exports to Venezuela of about 100,000 tons of wheat, a similar amount of rice and 500,000 tons of chicken. The sale is to be paid with the oil bill: Venezuela has credits on its behalf for the oil sent to Uruguay since 2005. (El Universal, 11-24-2011;

U$D 929 million paid to Colombian business
According to the President of the Colombia-Venezuela Chamber of Commerce, Luis Alberto Russian, Venezuelan importers have paid U$D 929 million to Colombian suppliers for purchased made before 2009 which had not been admitted by CADIVI. The Exchange Board has totaled debts up to U$D 1.4 billion, over the U$D 800 which the Venezuelan Government has admitted to. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 11-24-2011;

US sanctions against Iran endanger Venezuelan interests
New sanctions approved by the United States and other countries against Iran undermine Venezuelan businesses and investments with the Islamic republic, as sanctions are targeting oil, petrochemicals and the banking sector.
Venezuela and Iran have strengthened their links, as they have entered into more than 200 agreements in areas such as agriculture, finance, housing, oil, and industry. Through the third quarter of 2011, bilateral trade between Venezuela and Iran increased by 182%, according to data provided by the National Statistics Institute (INE). (El Universal, 11-23-2011;


Opposition won't rush oil policy change
Venezuela's opposition coalition plans to keep most of Hugo Chavez's oil policies in the short term if the socialist president loses his reelection bid in 2012, according to their economic advisors. A loss for Chavez, who faces his toughest election yet as he recovers from cancer, could open new opportunities for oil companies seeking access to vast heavy crude reserves and help boost the OPEC nation's flagging oil production. Advisors to the Democratic Unity coalition told Reuters that although there would be long-term major changes, they will at first maintain state-focused oil laws created by Chavez, respect investment deals signed under his government, and keep Venezuela's membership in the global producer group. (Reuters, 11-23-2011;

The Economist reports: Latin American integration - Peaks and troughs
The inaugural get-together of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, a 33-country outfit known as CELAC from its initials in Spanish, to be held in Caracas on December 2nd and 3rd, reveals how Latin America is changing. For a start the influence of the United States is declining in a region it once called its “backyard”. The new body includes all the countries of the Americas except the United States and Canada. The clout of Spain, once seen as a model by Latin America’s restored democracies, is also receding: only half the heads of state bothered to turn up last month at an Ibero-American summit, a Spanish-inspired annual event. Yet, the proliferation of regional bodies does not necessarily mean that Latin America is any more united.  On paper CELAC will try to co-ordinate among trade blocks, such as MERCOSUR and the Andean Community (but UNASUR is also supposed to do that). It will also try to stimulate regional trade and speak with one voice in international forums. If only. The lesson of ALBA is that regional clubs based on political ideology rather than national interests do not get very far. (The Economist,

Venezuela assumes presidency of GAFIC
Venezuelan Internal Affairs and Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami opened the Caribbean Financial Action Group Ministers’ Council Summit (GAFIC) in Margarita and ratified official will to fight against drug trafficking, terrorism and human traffic. Twenty-nine member countries attend the event which will go on for five days. (Veneconomy, 11-23-2011;

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, November 22, 2011

November 22th, 2011

Economics & Finance

Public sector imports skyrocket 51%
Imports by the Venezuelan government January-September 2011 skyrocketed 51% to U$D 8 billion, thus showing the government’s increasing role as a provider. Data from the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) shows that imports by state-run entities climbed 51% in the first nine months this year compared to 2010. Last year, the Venezuelan government imported items amounting to U$D 5.3 billion; and in 2009 government imports were U$D 3.9 billion. (El Universal, 11-21-2011;

DATANALISIS reports increased food scarcity
The DATANALISIS polling firm says that during the week of November 15 scarcity of regulated foodstuff increased to 22%, the highest since March 2008. According to its estimation edible oil was missing in 43.7% of stores audited. More in Spanish: (El Universal, 11-22-2011;

Central Bank President says drop in food production is due to failures in beef and milk products
Central Bank President Nelson Merentes admitted problems in food processing during the 3Q 2011, which was 9.1% under results for the same period in 2010. He admitted problems in wheat, milk and beef production. More in Spanish: (El Universal, 11-22-2011;;  Tal Cual;

Price controls to start in five areas, communes in charge of enforcement
The new Superintendent of Costs and Prices, Karlin Granadillo, says inspectors will go to work this week on five key sectors: regulated foodstuff, personal care products, vehicle spare parts, medicines and health services. She said communes would be charged with supervising the application of price regulations in stores.

Businesses brace for more price controls
New rules aimed at curbing Venezuela's high inflation by broadening government price controls will scare off investors and hurt consumers, the president of the country's largest business chamber predicted Monday. Jorge Botti, president of FEDECAMARAS, said the Law for Fair Costs and Prices will spook investors looking for wider profit margins and cause shortages of basic goods because makers of numerous products will likely scale back production. "It's going to create more doubts and uncertainty," Botti said. The opening paragraphs of the new law state that unscrupulous businesses must be stopped from raising prices. It calls for government controls to limit the profits, giving that task to a panel of government authorities to be called the "Superintendence of Costs and Prices." (Boston Globe, 11-21-2011;

Economy grows due to public spending
Former BCV chief economist José Guerra says economic recovery is not yet as that recorded in 2008. He adds that economic activity is recovering thanks to larger outlays from the public sector. However, this growth has not come back to the levels of 2008, one of the booming years. President Hugo Chávez has announced that in the third quarter of 2011, the economy surged 3.5%. Two days later, he said it was 4%, based on the information supplied by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV). (El Universal, 11-19-2011;


Venezuela oil breaks U$D100 average for the year as weekly price hits 3 year record of U$D 111.24
Venezuela's weekly oil basket climbed to a 3 year high of U$D 111.24 as oil prices continued to grind higher in international markets amidst higher hopes for a resolution of the debt crisis rocking Europe and world markets.
According to figures released by the Venezuela Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the average price of Venezuelan crude sold by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) during the week ending November 18 rose to U$D 111.24 from the previous week's U$D 109.40. (Latin American Herald Tribune, 11-18-2011;; El Universal, 11-18-2011;

Oil revenues rise 55% as oil production drops 0.3%
Local oil production does not mirror skyrocketing oil prices and higher oil revenues. The country's oil output declined 0.3% in the third quarter of the year, according to the by the Central Bank of Venezuela. Minister of Finance and Planning Jorge Giordani claims the sector's poor performance is due to the fact that the oil engine "is just starting (to warm up)." (El Universal, 11-18-2011;

Non-oil exports slow down
Almost two years after the government promised in January 2010 to strengthen non-oil exports, such exports remain low.  (El Universal, 11-21-2011;

International Trade

Government will finish paying a U$D 4 billion loan from China in February only to negotiate another renewal for the same amount, according to Planning and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani. With the new loan, China will have injected some U$D 32 billion to the local economy, which Venezuela repays with oil shipments. (Veneconomy, 11-18-2011;


Colombia's Santos highlights upcoming meeting with Venezuela's Chavez
During a visit to London, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has highlighted the significance of a meeting he will hold with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez on November 28th. He said the meeting will reactivate a road map undertaken when the bilateral diplomatic and commercial relationship was resumed. “We delayed it due to the health condition of President Chavez, but it is very significant for Colombia and Venezuela to move on in that encounter," Santos said. (AVN, 11-20-2011;

Government wants to maintain a constructive relationship with Spain
The Government of Venezuela has expressed its wish to maintain a constructive bilateral relationship with the new Government in Spain, based on mutual respect, through a statement by the Foreign Ministry in which President Chavez congratulated the Spanish people for the democratic exercise during the general elections held last Sunday. (AVN, 11-21-2011;

..but does not foresee normal relations with the US
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro says there are no normal diplomatic relations in sight with the United States in the short term, due to “the impositions of the reactionary right” in Washington. He says that on instructions from President Chavez they have been willing to move on with respectful communications to normalize relations, but that there is no short term possibility of change. More in Spanish: (Tal Cual, 11-22-2011;; El Universal;

Diego Arria files crimes against humanity complaint against President Chavez at The Hague
Diego Arria, a former Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations and a pre-candidate to opposition presidential primary election has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, Netherlands accusing Hugo Chavez and some of his top aides of crimes against humanity. (El Universal, 11-21-2011;

Chavez says his 2013-2019 term will deepen socialism
In a recent speech, President Chavez announced that the upcoming 2013-2019 term of office will serve to “deepen” the socialist revolution. More in Spanish: (Agencia Venezolana de Noticias;ávez-adelanta-que-período-2013-2019-será-para-profundizar-socialismo)

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.

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 18th, 2011

Economics & Finance

Central Bank: says economy grew 3.5%+ in Q3; agribusiness down 9.1%, Guayana industry falls by 2.1%
Venezuela's economy grew more than 3.5% during the third quarter of 2011 compared with the same period a year ago, according to the head of the Central Bank. Its economy expanded 2.5% in the second quarter and 4.8% in the first quarter versus the same periods in 2010, boosting the government's confidence in sustained growth following an 18-month recession that ended late last year. However, agribusiness dropped by 9.1%, and basic industries in Guayana fell by 2.1%. President Hugo Chavez is seeking to spur the economy ahead of an election next October. (Reuters, 11-15-2011;; AVN, 11-15-2011; More in Spanish: (Tal Cual, 11-18-2011;; El Mundo,; Agencia Venezolana de Noticias;ía-entró-en-nueva-fase-de-expansión-al-crecer-38-entre-enero-y-septiembre;ía-entró-en-nueva-fase-de-expansiía-en-lo-que-va-de-año-se-acerca-4; El Universal,

Reserves down U$D $3,6 billion in 45 days
Central Bank statistics show that by November 15 reserves stood at U$D 27.4 billion, down from U$D 31.1 billion on September 30, despite crude oil prices averaging U$D 100 PB. More in Spanish: (El Universal;

Current economic climate is unfavorable in Venezuela, according to the Latin American Economic Climate Index (ECI) published by German Ifo and Brazilian Fundación Getulio Vargas (FGV). (Veneconomy, 11-16-2011;

Barclays says ‘very strong’ PDVSA earnings support credit
Very strong” earnings for state- oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., reported earlier this week by Fitch Ratings, are good for the South American company’s credit, Barclays Capital said today in a note to clients.
Fitch Ratings said Nov. 15 in a statement that PDVSA, as the Caracas-based company is called, reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, known as Ebitda, of U$D 32.1 billion for the 12-month period that ended June 30. (Bloomberg, 11-16-2011;

Only 7 Chinese companies benefit from Chinese Fund operations
Financial reports from the China Development Bank (CDB) for 2008, 2009 and 2010 show that its infrastructure loans to Venezuela have benefited 7 Chinese companies in the fields of hydrocarbons, electricity, mining and construction: PETROCHINA, SINOPEC, State Grid, CITIC Pacific, Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group, Goldwind A and Xi’an Electric Engineering. CDB loans are tied to contracts with Chinese companies. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 11-18-2011;


Oil sector slows down; debt soars
The steady increase in revenues of state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) has failed to spur oil activity in Venezuela, according to data provided by the Executive Office on the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter of 2011. President Hugo Chavez, accompanied by Nelson Merentes, president of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), announced GDP's results from July to September 2011. During this period, oil activity climbed 0.2% only, which is a slowdown compared to the second quarter of the year, when the oil sector GDP grew 0.8%. (El Universal, 11-16-2011;

International Trade

Exports up 53.4% in 3Q 2011, oil sales grew 47.8% due to price increases and volume was up 5%
Central Bank figures show exports rose to U$D 23,812 billion from August to October, an increase of U$D 15,520 billion over the same period last year, which is a 53.4% growth in exports led by petroleum sales which rose 478% due to price increases and a 5% growth in sales volume. More in Spanish: (El Mundo, 11-18-2011;,4--en-el-tercer-trimestre-2.aspx)

CADIVI has authorized over U$D 5.2 billion for food imports YTD
The National Currency Board (CADIVI) has authorized U$D 5.224 billion for food imports over the first 10 months this year, an increase of 12% over the same period last year. Key imports include wheat, corn, soya oil, powdered milk, malt, animal and vegetable oils. More in Spanish (Tal Cual, 11-18-2011;

Imports from Brazil increase by 104%
Brazil's agricultural exports grew 22.6% in October 2011 compared to the same month in 2010, despite the effects of the global crisis, according to the Brazilian Government. The Ministry of Agriculture says exports of agricultural products amounted to U$D 8.58 billion in October 2011 compared to U$D 7 billion in the same month last year. (El Universal, 11-16-2011;

Venezuela imports 850,000 tons of corn from the US
The United States has become one of the main providers of the corn to Venezuela, which is now the eighth largest client for corn produced in the US. According to data provided by the National Agriculture Statistics Service, US Department of Agriculture, Venezuela imported 850,000 tons of corn grain from the United States between January and October 2010. This year, purchases of the grain, which is a raw material for the production of concentrate feed for animals, declined 24% compared to 2010, when Venezuela purchased 1,120,995 tons from the United States. Despite the decline, imports represent a significant volume in the domestic market. (El Universal, 11-16-2011;


Chavez opponents vie for 2012 presidential ticket
Opposition leaders faced off in a rare live debate this week during campaigning for a primary in February where they are vying for the right to challenge President Hugo Chavez in a presidential vote. Echoing Venezuelans' top concerns, the candidates have all stressed beating crime and cutting unemployment as their priorities. Chavez mocked the opposition figures this week as the "horses of the Apocalypse."  The candidates are:
          Henrique Capriles-Radonski, youthful governor of Venezuela's second-most populous state leads polls ahead of the Feb. 12 primary contest. He wants to copy Brazil's "modern left" model of economic and social policies and has sought to appeal to traditional Chavez supporters by stressing inclusiveness
          Leopoldo López, a Harvard graduate and former mayor of the Chacao district in Caracas, who is the most-recognized abroad of the opposition candidates because of his long and highly publicized legal fight after being disqualified from politics in 2008.
          Pablo Pérez, governor of the oil-rich western state of Zulia, is running a close second in the polls and has the important endorsement of two heavyweight parties from the pre-Chavez era: Democratic Action and COPEI.
          María Corina Machado, recently elected as a legislator and an industrial engineer by training, was widely praised for her performance in this week's debate where she reeled off far more data and details than her rivals.
          Diego Arria, a former governor, minister and envoy to the United Nations in the early 1990s, appears to be positioning himself as something of an elder statesman for the opposition movement; and impressed viewers with deeper, different and more historically nuanced answers to most of the questions in this week's debate. (Reuters, 11-16-2011;

Chavez deploys troops to fight Venezuela crime wave
President Hugo Chavez has ordered thousands of National Guard troops onto the streets to tackle widespread violent crime. The troops have been placed under a new command known as the People's Guard. They will operate in the capital Caracas and two neighboring states - Vargas and Miranda. The new body will eventually comprise 3,650 troops, officials said. Rising levels of murder, kidnap and robbery in recent years have made Venezuela one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America. Rising crime has become a major source of public dissatisfaction, and a key campaign issue for opposition leaders seeking to challenge Mr Chavez in presidential elections in October 2012. (BBC, 11-18-2011;

Government forces sale of rental properties
President Hugo Chavez has signed a new rental law into effect over the weekend that obliges landlords to sell their property to tenants of more than 20 years at state-mandated discounts based on how long the space has been rented. (The Wall Street Journal, 11-15-2011;

President Chavez and Colombian President Santos will meet November 28 in Caracas, ahead of a meeting scheduled to launch the Community of Latin American and Caribbean nations, according to Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 11-18-2011;

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.