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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30, 2012

Economics & Finance

By degree, Chavez grants himself unlimited powers to spend and increase debt
Through a decree based on the Enabling Act, President Chavez has reformed the Basic Law on Public Sector Financial Management in order empower the President to create debts above and beyond limits set by the Annual Credit Law. The reform says additional debt can be created in "unforeseen circumstances, not planned or difficult to project", and the amount of these transactions will be added into the debt cap for the next fiscal year. It also authorizes the President to directly approve spending. Article 81 of the new decree says: "It will not be necessary to have authorization from the National Assembly nor take into account the opinion of the Central Bank". More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 03-30-2012;; El Universal;

Expert cites Venezuela as an example of misuse of oil revenue
Venezuela and Argentina are not implementing sound oil policies, cautioned Zimbabwean oil and gas expert Duncan Clarke. Speaking to Efe in Nairobi, where he presented his new book "Africa's future," Clarke said that "Venezuela, and particularly (President Hugo) Chávez is an example of misuse of the cash generated by oil and gas." The expert knows the energy situation in Latin America, where he has been an adviser to governments and companies. He is the chairman of Global Pacific & Partners, a natural resources consultancy group. (El Universal, 03-28-2012;

BARCLAY's says dollar denominated bond issues to increase to U$D 12 billion in 2012
A report by BARCLAYS Capital on Venezuelan government bonds says dollar denominated bond issues will increase over the next few months and projects operations for 2012 at U$D 12 billion. It reports that at least U$D 5 billion  will go to the SITME operation managed by the Central Bank in order to allocate foreign currency to the private sector in order to increase supplies and curb inflation. More in Spanish: (El Universal, 03-29-2012;

Statistics are in chaos in Venezuela, according to a report by TAL CUAL Daily, which reports on the substantial differences between figures supplied by international organizations and those provided by official agencies in Venezuela. More in Spanish: (Tal Cual, 03-30-2012;


Colombia's ECOPETROL to drill for oil In Venezuela
Colombia's largest company, state-controlled energy firm ECOPETROL SA, plans to drill for crude oil in neighboring Venezuela as the two countries continue to improve once-strained relations. Colombian Energy Minister Mauricio Cardenas announced the plans Wednesday after a meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Rafael Ramirez, in the coastal resort city of Cartagena. Cardenas said ECOPETROL will work alongside Venezuela's national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, to revitalize already-developed oil fields in western Venezuela's oil-rich Lake Maracaibo. The joint venture is expected to produce somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 barrels a day of crude oil. (Fox Business, 03-28-2012;; Bloomberg, 03-28-2012;

PDVSA is ending NYNAS partnership
Venezuela is selling its stake in a refinery project with Finland's Neste Oil that operates facilities in Sweden and Britain, according to Energy Minister Rafael Ramírez in comments published on Friday. Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA and Neste Oil are 50-50 partners in Nynas AB, which runs four refineries with a combined capacity of 67,000 barrels per day. The planned sale will leave PDVSA without any downstream refinery assets in Europe. (Diplodemocracia, 03-20-2012;

SIDOR in the red U$D 358 million during 2011
State-run steelmaker Siderúrgica del Orinoco (Sidor) reported U$D 358 million losses in 2011, despite rising production and sales. In 2010, the steel mill had reported profits amounting to U$D 57 million. Venezuela's main steelmaker reported a positive operating income (gross sales and net sales of goods) amounting to VEB 6.43 billion (U$D 1.49 billion), while the cost of sales of goods and services was U$D 1.57 billion translated into a negative balance of U$D 80 million. (El Universal, 03-28-2012;

SMURFIT land takeover endangers supply of packaging for foodstuff
With 42% of SMURFIT owned land taken over by the government, company workers fear lumber supply from 7,000 plus hectares - which produce around 200,000 tons of wood - could severely hit the manufacture of packing materials. SMURFIT says around 53% of its production goes to the food industry, all of which could lead to a deficit in agribusiness. More in Spanish: (El Mundo; 03-13-2012;


Chavez back after radiation therapy, facing elections on October 7th
President Hugo Chavez returned home to Venezuela on Thursday after a first session of radiation treatment in Cuba that he hopes will cure his cancer and allows him to win a new six-year term in October. Very little is known about Chavez's condition - he has had three cancer operations in less than a year - so doubts remain about the future of the man who has dominated politics in South America's biggest oil exporter for the last 13 years. He said he expected to return to Cuba on Saturday to resume the radiation treatment, and to stay there for four more days.  Separately on Thursday, Venezuela's national electoral authority confirmed October 7 as the election date - squashing rumors that the poll might be brought forward, or delayed, due to Chavez's cancer treatment. (Reuters, 03-29-2012;; The Washington Post, 03-29-2012;; AVN, 03-29-2012;

Chavez threatens banks, private business for supporting his opponents
President Hugo Chávez says he has information on alleged opposition plans to destabilize the country and threatened some banks and private companies with nationalization if they support his opponents. He said he is drawing up a list of actions to take in case the opposition takes it upon itself to "attach the people". More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 03-30-2012;

Latin America Security: Venezuela Worse, Panama Safer
Venezuela, along with Haiti and three Central American countries, is getting more dangerous for foreign multinational executives, according to the sixth annual Latin Security Index developed by FTI Consulting Ibero America for Latin Business Chronicle. Meanwhile, Panama has seen an improvement. Overall, security for multinational executives in Latin America has worsened slightly the past year, the index shows. The Latin Security Index takes into account how each country in the region is doing related to public insecurity, with a special focus on the business community. (Latin Business Chronicle, 03-28-2012;

Caracas: “A War Zone”
In Venezuela these days, no one is safe, especially local and foreign business people. “Caracas is the most dangerous capital city in the world, more dangerous than Baghdad,” says Roberto Briceño Leon, who heads the Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia, a non-government watchdog that monitors crime in the country. (Latin Business Chronicle, 03-28-2012;

Chavez objects to US government statement to travelers about crime in Venezuela
President Hugo Chavez is taking issue with the U.S. State Department for posting a statement advising travelers to beware of rampant violent crime in his country. Chavez said that the South American country’s security situation ought to be compared to that of the United States. “Where would there be greater lack of public security on the streets? In Venezuela or in the United States?” Chavez said. “Let’s look at the figures.” (The Washington Post, 03-27-2012;

Chávez, 44%; Capriles Radonsky, 31%
President Hugo Chávez has a 13-pecentage point lead over his challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski, the candidate of Venezuelan opposition umbrella group Unified Democratic Panel (MUD), according to the latest opinion poll released by polling firm DATANÁLISIS. As per the poll conducted in March, 44% of voters favor Chávez compared to 31% for Capriles, amid a war of figures that broke out in the media following opposition primary election held in February. According to DATANALISIS Director Luis Vicente León, although Chavez's cancer impacts his image and creates uncertainty among his supporters, it also overshadowed the "political impact of opposition primaries". (El Universal, 03-27-2012; and more in Spanish: El Universal, 03-30-2012;

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 27, 2012

Economics & Finance

CADIVI reduces allocation of foreign exchange for imports by 14%
During the first two months of this year the Currency Board (CADIVI), an agency in charge of allocating foreign currency for imports, has cut its allocations by 14% compared to the same period of 2011. Cuts have been uneven as approvals increased by 64% for the food sector and 40% for commerce, while the auto industry suffered a 39% cut and allocations to the health sector fell by 37%. (El Universal, 03-26-2012;

Industries down from 14,000 to 7,000 during the current regime, despite Chavez´s recent announced steps towards "a necessary industrialization". Additionally, price controls, expropriations, more taxes and special duties and legal uncertainties plague the economy, further endangering private sector development. (El Universal, 03-26-2012;

Banks purchase more government bonds to absorb excess liquidity
In the light of increased government spending on the way to elections, banks have increased their portfolios of bonds issued by the Ministry of Finance. The Bank Superintendent's office has issues statistics for the first two months of 2012 which show securities portfolios have jumped 16% to VEB 119 billion, even as the government is issuing an additional VEB 10 billion to create additional resources for agriculture. (El Universal, 03-26-2012;


Venezuela to pay U$D 420 million to Williams and Exterran
Oil and Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez says Venezuela will pay Williams Cos Inc and Exterran U$D 420 million for the 2009 nationalization of assets including a major gas injection project. He told reporters the deal meant the two companies would drop an arbitration case that is pending against Venezuela before a World Bank tribunal."We reached an agreement of U$D 420 million. They will drop the arbitration. They had been asking for U$D 1.2 billion," he said. (The Baltimore Sun, 03-24-2012;,0,1125392.story)

Government announces gas project will start production in December
The Oil and Energy Minister has announced that the Mariscal Sucre offshore gas project will begin production in December after years of delays and difficulties in attracting foreign partners. The government wants to develop natural gas production to meet growing domestic demand that has forced Venezuela to import from Colombia, despite sitting on some of the world's largest gas reserves. (Reuters, 03-24-2012;

Venezuela has over 30 million hectares available for production, according to President Chavez, who also says that to make it ready it will be necessary to supply funding, machinery, training, scientific and technical support. Chavez made is remarks in a phone call from Havana, Cuba. (AVN, 03-26-2012;


Chavez said he will return on Thursday, and that he will undergo five radiotherapy sessions in Cuba. He made his announcement in a telephone conversation on Sunday at noon. (El Universal, 03-26-2012;

Washington issues travel advisory related to Venezuela
The US government recommends its citizens, tourists or government personnel to take common-sense precautions when traveling to Venezuela to avoid being victims of murders, express kidnappings, extortion, robbery and drug trafficking activities. In an advisory issue by the US Embassy in Caracas citizens are warned to be careful in the Maiquetía Airport, the international airport serving Caracas, which is known to be "dangerous". They warn against complicity by airport officials wearing official uniforms or other official credentials but are part of criminal groups. (El Universal, 03-26-2012;

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23, 2012

Economics & Finance

Industries required to register
The Ministry of Industries has now established an operation aimed at recording all individuals and companies involved with manufacturing. The information will then be a part of the Industry and Commerce Integrated Authority (SIGESIC), which in turn will establish requirements and procedures to be met in registering all persons or corporations, public or private, that carry out any activity that involves adding value, sale of goods, services, including not for profit institutions. It has been announced that this will provide reliable information for establishing procedures and policies aimed at promoting industrial development. More in Spanish: (Tal Cual, 03-22-2012;

New Labor Law will eliminate outsourcing
The new Labor Law (LOT) aims at eliminating outsourcing and protecting the social rights of workers, according to Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, who also coordinates the presidential commission that is working on the project. The commission met with workers and members of the National Assembly and reviewed key issues such as the new system of social benefits, salaries and wages, working hours and new working relationships. More in Spanish: (AVN, 03-22-2012;

61.07% of food sold by the Government was imported
A report by the Ministry for Nutrition shows purchases for the basic basket at 4,004,867, of which 3,484,367 tons were distributed directly to the MERCAL network and third parties, mainly the private sector and 520,500 tons went to the strategic reserve. The report noted that of the 3,484,367 tons of food distributed through official networks and private trading, 61.07% was purchased abroad by CASA. Another 461,323 tons were negotiated under oil compensation agreements with other countries, exchanging oil for food. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 03-21-2012;

BANDES debt to China is 8.6 times equity
2011 results for the Economic and Social Development Bank, published by the Ministry for Planning and Finance, show that total debt with banks abroad, basically with BDCarrojan, is now 8.6 times equity, which is above the limits set by the law that establishes the bank. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 03-21-2012;

Ricardo Hausmann: "Venezuela is prostrated and trying to provide artificial oxygen for the economy"
The economist and professor at Harvard University criticizes the disregard for private property, high inflation, lack of interest in children not attending school, lack of teachers, the collapse of PDVSA and the heavy indebtedness of an economy whose mismanagement "is unforgivable." More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 03-21-2012;

Devaluation expected for 2013
Asdrúbal Oliveros,  the director of ECOANALÍTICA, says a "wait and see" mode is in place because the next 3 years will be very complex, particularly for the private sector which must be prepared to operate in a difficult and changing environment. He says the private sector must take advantage of the increase in spending and consumption, and should take special care of inventories, particularly those for which it is more difficult to obtain foreign currency, such as food and medicines. More in Spanish: (Tal Cual;; El Universal,


Government claims oil output rose to 2.99 mln bpd in 2011
Venezuela's efforts to boost oil production have apparently gained traction as the country's energy ministry reported 2011 production at 2.99 million barrels per day, up 5% from the year before. The socialist administration of President Hugo Chavez wants to increase production to 3.50 million bpd by the end of this year, with much of the new output coming from the huge Orinoco extra heavy crude belt. While production from the country's traditional western oil heartland around the city of Maracaibo has continued to decline, output from fields in the east and in the central Orinoco region has been growing. The ministry's report said crude exports averaged 2.47 million bpd in 2011, up from 2.42 million the year before. (Reuters, 03-21-2012;

PDVSA's receivable accounts up 44% in 2011
Crude oil sales via international agreements, as well as sales of fuel to governmental bodies, have had an impact on Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA's finances. Preliminary numbers on the management of the oil industry -published in PDVSA's 2011 Report - show that accounts receivable rose 44% in a year, from U$D 20 billion in 2010 to U$D 28.9 billion in 2011. In the report, PDVSA explains that "this increase in accounts receivable was influenced by the increase in the price of the Venezuelan oil basket, and the debts contracted by CORPOELEC, PEQUIVEN and CVG on sale of liquid and gaseous fuels." (El Universal, 03-22-2012;

Government negotiating asset compensation with Canada-based miner
The government is negotiating a deal to compensate Canada-based RUSORO Mining for the takeover of its gold-mine assets, Oil and Mines Minister Rafael Ramirez said. “We’re in talks with the RUSORO company ... which, as in all the nationalization processes, happens because the government compensates companies for their assets ... but we have to reach agreement on the price,” said Ramirez. (Latin American Herald Tribune, 03-21-2012;


Presidential elections have been confirmed for October 7, according to an announcement by National Election Board Chair Tibisay Lucena. Regional elections will be held on December 16th. More in Spanish: Tal Cual, 03-23-2012;

Chavez, Capriles tied ahead of election, poll shows
President Hugo Chavez is locked in a statistical tie with his rival Henrique Capriles Radonski seven months before presidential elections, according to a poll by Consultores 21. Chavez was favored by 46% of those surveyed compared with 45% for Capriles, said Saul Cabrera, vice president of the Caracas-based pollster. Another 9% of the 2,000 people polled between March 3 and 13 were undecided, Cabrera said today in an interview. Chavez, who is battling cancer, had 47.3% support in a December poll by Consultores 21. That was before Capriles won a primary to select a single opposition candidate to oppose Chavez in the October vote and before the president underwent a third cancer operation in less than a year. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points, Cabrera said. Should Chavez be unfit to run in the October elections, Capriles would beat all four of the government officials best positioned to succeed the president, the poll shows. (Bloomberg, 03-22-2012;

Chavez denounces plot to kill rival in repeat of 2006 vote
President Hugo Chavez said he had evidence of a plot to kill the opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, without giving details. Before the 2006 election, Chavez also said security forces had broken up a plot by “radical fascists” to assassinate opposition candidate Manuel Rosales.  In a television interview Capriles replied: “Yesterday someone on television was saying that they had information that someone was preparing an assassination attempt against me,” “Quite honestly, I’ll tell you one doesn’t know if that’s a warning or a threat.” On his Twitter account, Capriles added; “When you’re in an important position such as leading a country, you need to speak the language of peace,” Capriles said. “It’s not about offering security to me, you need to offer security to all the people you serve.” (Bloomberg, 03-20-2012;

The White House wishes President Chávez "good health"
"We have no details about his health, except that he is back in Venezuela, but we wish him well," said US State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Mike Hammer, when asked about unofficial reports published in various countries regarding the health condition of Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez. (El Universal, 03-22-2012;

Petitions from 4 countries affect Venezuelan atlantic coast
The Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf of the United Nations (CLCS for its acronym in English) will evaluate applications for marine extension affecting the Atlantic coast from Venezuelan Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Furthermore, having delivered its recommendation in the case of Suriname.
Of these four applications, Venezuela has established its position only if the presentations of Barbados and Guyana recently. More in Spanish: (El Universal, 03-21-2012;

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20, 2012

Economics & Finance

Ministry of Trade says the investment environment in Venezuela are discouraging
Conditions for investing in Venezuela are uncertain. The 2011 Report by the Ministry of Trade, mentions uncertainty as one of the "hurdles" in its chapter referring to the Foreign Investment Superintendence (SIEX). "Uncertainty regarding existing investment opportunities," according to the report, which adds: "Regulations are anachronistic and run counter to the new socio-productive framework." (El Universal, 03-19-2012;

Public debt rose from 18.45% to 25.2% of GDP in one year
The annual report submitted by the Central Bank (BCV) to the National Assembly, shows that the size of the total public debt (not including PDVSA’s) went from 18.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010 to 25.2% at the end of last year. Venezuelan officials insist public indebtedness is perfectly manageable. (Veneconomy, 03-19-2012;

Finance Ministry charges that the private sector is not committed to socialism
Planning and Finance Ministry Report for 2011 says the private sector is not following the socialist model, which is being promoted since 2007, adding that an obstacle to its plans was "lack of commitment from the private sector to take the initiative taken by the Executive for implementation socialist productive model." It also says that in 2012 it will be necessary to "promote the companies implementing the socialist system, which would optimize fiscal policy actions implemented by the Ministry of Finance". More in Spanish: (El Universal, 03-19-2012;


Oil reserves total 2.1 billion barrels
The Ministry of Petroleum and Mining reports that 2.1 billion barrels to oil proven reserves have been added as of December 31, 2011. Most of the reserves, 1.2 billion barrels, are located in the country traditional areas, and in existent offshore condensates Cardón IV, Campo Perla in Falcón state, and Marshal Sucre Project. The remaining 984,000 barrels are located at Orinoco Oil Belt. (El Universal, 03-19-2012;

Domestic oil basket rises to U$D 116.53
The average price of the Venezuelan oil basket gained U$D 71 cents during the week from March 12 to 16, to U$D 116.53, according to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining (Menpet), which added that the average price of Venezuela's oil basket amounts to U$D 111.15 year to date. (El Universal, 03-16-2012;

ALCASA expects to begin exporting aluminum again
ALCASA expects to recover exporting capacity this year thanks to a credit from China, says company president Angel Marcano. More in Spanish: (El Mundo, 03-20-2012;

Government agencies supply a 62.6% market share of basic foods
The Government has become the main distributor and supplier of basic foodstuff such as rice, coffee, cooking oil, cornmeal, powdered milk, sugar, beans, tuna, beef and others, through agencies such as MERCAL, PDVAL and the Bicentenario supermarket chain. It has also become the key supplier of imported staples for the private sector since for the past three years it is the only authorized buyer abroad for rice, white corn, coffee, crude sugar, certain oils, chicken, cattle and frozen beef. According to the annual report of the Nourishment Ministry the total national demand for food is estimated at 6 million tons, and the Government supplies over 3.75 million tons. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 03-20-2012;


Chavez home in a week facing more cancer therapy
President Hugo Chavez sang, danced with his daughter and vowed on Saturday to win a presidential election this year, a day after returning from what he said was a successful operation to remove a second tumor. "The beating we're going to give the Venezuelan right will be memorable ... not just in the history of Venezuela but in almost all the world," he told thousands of red-clad, ecstatic supporters gathered outside the presidential palace. But so little is known about his health - even what type of cancer he is suffering from has not been revealed - that big doubts remain over whether the normally energetic Chavez will be able to campaign ahead of the October 7 vote. Chavez said on Saturday he will undergo radiation therapy in the coming days, but it is unclear whether that will take place in Caracas or back in Havana. (Reuters, 03-17-2012;

Chile slams the murder of consul's daughter
The Chilean government "strenuously" condemned on Sunday the killing last Saturday of Karen Berendique, the daughter of the ad-honorem Chilean consul to Maracaibo, the capital city of western Zulia state, presumably by police agents. In a press release the Chilean Foreign Ministry requested "clarification of the events as soon as possible" and expressed its sympathy to the family, Efe quoted. The Chilean Foreign Office fingered members of the Scientific, Criminal and Forensic Investigation Agency (CICPC) as suspects for the shooting. The Interior Ministry confirmed the capture of 12 CICPC agents "involved in this irregular practice." (El Universal, 03-19-2012;

UN starts Guyana assessment application
The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has begun its 29th session, scheduled to run through to April 27, during which it will discuss the application by Guyana to extend the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. Venezuela has argued against the request which - according to experts - should lead to the resumption of negotiations between the two countries under the UN good offices, to find "a solution satisfactory for the practical settlement of the dispute, "according to the Geneva Agreement of February 1966. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 03-19-2012;

Venezuela is the largest arms buyer in Latin America - Purchases rose 555% from 2007 to 2011.
According to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute the Venezuelan government purchased 555% more weapons from 2007 to 2011 more than the period covered from 2002 to 2006. The increase is comparable to the 580% increase of weapons purchases made by Syria from Russia during the same time frame. By making these arms purchases, mainly from Russia, Venezuela has risen from 46 to 15 globally among nations with the most weapons purchases. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 03-20-2012;

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16, 2012

Economics & Finance

Moody's ratifies Venezuela's debt ratings
Moody’s credit rating agency confirmed Venezuela's debt rating last Tuesday, but warned that if the government's financial position further deteriorates because of higher spending or a sudden decline in oil prices, downward pressure would be placed on ratings. Moody's said in a statement that it confirmed Venezuela's "B2" foreign currency government bond rating. The outlook for the rating is stable, Reuters reported. The credit rating agency also confirmed Venezuela's "B1" local currency government bond rating. Moody's said that the outlook of the rating is stable, the news agency added. (El Universal, 03-14-2012;; Reuters,

‘Fair’ Costs and Prices Law is simply a sophistication of controls that are not new and have been in force here for the last nine years, says DATANÁLISIS CEO Luis Vicente León. He points out controls in Venezuela have historically only made problems worse and have fed inflation. (Veneconomy, 03-14-2012;

CADIVI and banks evaluate new procedures for imports
Currency Board (CADIVI) authorities and representatives of the public and private authorized exchange operators have been meeting to analyze new procedures that are coming in place for renewing or withdrawing applications for foreign exchange for import of goods. The procedures seek to simplify procedures and shorten response times, according to CADIVI information. More in Spanish: (AVN, 03-14-2012;

Paralyzed plant provides MERCAL and PDVAL
1,200 workers at the DEMASECA plant, a key provider of cornmeal to PDVAL and MERCAL, have stopped activities in search of a new collective bargaining agreement after waiting 8 months to begin wage discussions after the Government expropriated the company – which processes and stores wheat flour, cornmeal, oil, pasta, rice and oats. Actual Government occupation has not taken place and plant owners do not want to sign a new contract because of the expropriation decree. The plant produces 18 tons per day of corn flour. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, 03-14-2012;


RUSORO expects Venezuela gold takeover as talks fail
RUSORO Mining Ltd., the last remaining publicly traded gold miner in Venezuela, expects its gold assets in the South American country to be taken over after a deadline to negotiate with the government lapsed, Chief Executive Officer Andre Agapov said. The stock slid 12%. RUSORO is preparing to seek international arbitration to obtain compensation for the assets as the Venezuelan government’s joint venture offers undervalue the company’s gold resources, Agapov said today in a phone interview from New York.“As of today, all the assets will be nationalized and they will take control of operations,” Agapov said. RUSORO would be the fifth mining company seeking compensation from Venezuela through the World Bank’s arbitration court following nationalizations. (Business Week, 03-15-2012;


Rumors in Venezuela as Chavez returns
When President Hugo Chavez returns to Venezuela this week after an operation in Cuba to remove a cancerous lesion, he will find a country swirling with rumors. With less than seven months to go before presidential elections, few know the true state of the socialist leader’s health. It is unclear whether he will even be able to stand, let alone campaign effectively, as he faces several weeks of radiotherapy and perhaps other treatment following his return from Havana. The uncertainty has focused attention on who could replace the founder of the “Bolivarian revolution”, who has attempted to keep himself in the limelight with Twitter messages, telephone calls and cabinet meetings on state television, as well as releasing occasional photographs. (Financial Times,

Venezuela rebuts Guyana's application at the UN
Venezuela has rejected an application submitted by Guyana to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf, which seeks to extend its continental shelf. It has reminded the UN that the territory west of the Essequibo River is the subject of a territorial sovereignty dispute "inherited from colonialism" and subject to the Geneva Agreement of 1966 and, as such, to the Good Offices of the UN Secretary-General, "to which Venezuela is fully committed." (El Universal, 03-14-2012;

Government refuses access to the UN and the Inter American Human Rights Commission
Representatives from the UN and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will find closed doors in Venezuela, unless the Government "deems it appropriate" to invite them in”. The Government made its position clear in a final report sent to the Human Rights Council United Nations in response to the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights which the country underwent in October. More in Spanish: (El Universal, 03-15-2012;

PDVSA oil spill exposes fissures in Chavez’s Socialist Party
An oil spill at a facility operated by Venezuela’s state oil company has sparked the first public spat in the ruling party since President Hugo Chavez was diagnosed with cancer in June. While PDVSA President Rafael Ramirez told reporters Feb. 29 that 5,000 to 6,000 barrels of oil had been spilled and that the water supply was fit for drinking. Jose Gregorio Briceño, a government loyalist and governor of Monagas state, an oil producing region in the east of the country, said the government is trying to restart a water treatment plant that has been off line for more than a month when there are still traces of oil in the river that supplies the state capital Maturin. He also said that PSUV party officials, including the party’s vice president, Diosdado Cabello, are taking advantage of Chavez’s absence while he recovers from an operation in Cuba, to attack him. (Bloomberg, 03-13-2012;

Improved US-Venezuela relations need to be based on “specific progress, according to US Deputy Chief of Mission James Derham, who spoke at an Inter American Dialogue event in Washington this week. He said the US is interested in improving its “very complicated” relations with Venezuela but that it has to go beyond rhetoric. More in Spanish: (El Universal;