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, March 25, 2014

March 25, 2014

International Trade

Inbound cargo at Puerto Cabello:
  • 14.250 tons of wheat from Terra World Trade, Texas, USA for Molinos Carabobo
  • 10.000 tons of degummed crude oil soy bean from Rosario, Argentina for CARGILL de Venezuela.
  • 555 tons of frozen boneless beef from Brazil, in 17 containers, for CASA
  • 24,000 tons of soy, from Georgia, USA, for Agrolucha, Granja Alconca and Avícola La Guásima.
  • 15,998 tons of paper products, ceramics, aerosol and plastics, from Kingston, Jamaica, for several private and public companies.
  • 50 tons of fructose molasses, also from Kingston, for Productora y Distribuidora Venezuela.
Exports:
  • 224 tons of coaxial electric cable from Transworld 2000 for J.D Senese & Associates, New Orleans, USA
  • 623 tons of bovine and equine hides and skins for Cartagena, Colombia.
Thirteen ships remain at bay, including 4 grain ships carrying 117,000 tons of basic foods - including 20,000 tons of corn, 77,000 tons of soy, and 20,000 tons of rice; another vessel is carrying 11,500 tons of barley.More in Spanish: (Notitarde; http://www.notitarde.com/La-Costa/Llegaron-al-puerto-mas-de-14-mil-toneladas-de-trigo-2128321/2014/03/23/316770; http://www.notitarde.com/La-Costa/Llegaron-555-toneladas-de-carne-desde-Brasil-2129429/2014/03/24/316990; and El Carabobeño, http://www.el-carabobeno.com/impreso/articulo/97317/117-mil-toneladas-de-alimentos-primarios-a-granel-en-espera-de-muelles)

Imports from PETROCARIBE nations grew 394% over five years
Venezuela's political and economic alliance with 17 partners in PETROCARIBE has meant a significant dependence on Venezuelan oil by Caribbean and Central American countries within the group, as well growing exports from these nations to Venezuela. Data released by the National Statistics Institute (INE) shows that over the past 5 years, imports from PETROCARIBE nations increased 394%, from U$D 95.45 million in 2008 to U$D 583.2 million in 2013, up 511% in food purchases. Increased imports are mostly food items from countries like Nicaragua, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, including livestock and animal products; vegetal products, animal fat and oil; as well as food industry products. (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/economia/140324/imports-from-petrocaribe-grow-394-over-five-years)

Oil & Energy

Weatherford is cutting back Venezuela operations
Oilfield services provider Weatherford International Ltd says it is reducing operations in Venezuela. The Swiss-based company, which competes with Schlumberger and Halliburton, said the "serious liquidity situation in Venezuela" is causing it to pare back services it provides here, according to CEO Bernard Duroc-Danner. Weatherford provides drilling and exploration services to the national oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), but Venezuela's currency devaluation and economic instability have caused payment delays, according to Weatherford's annual filing with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission. (Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/24/weatherford-howardweil-idUSL1N0ML16U20140324)

Venezuela oil price continues to fall
Venezuela's weekly oil basket stayed below the country's desired U$D 100 per barrel, and continued to slip in the wake of the announced US plans to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to cool off world oil prices that were rising over concerns caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to figures released by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the average price of Venezuelan crude sold by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) during the week ending March 21 was U$D 95.01, down U$D 0.64 from the previous week's U$D 95.65. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=1820090&CategoryId=10717)

PETROBRAS relinquishes compensation from oil giant PDVSA
Brazilian newspaper "O Estado de Sao Paulo reports Brazil's national oil company PETROBRAS will not claim any millionaire compensation from Venezuela's oil giant PDVSA arising out of the Abreu e Lima refinery joint venture. According to the newspaper, the original deal included sanctions in the event PDVSA failed to provide 40% of construction costs, yet this would only be effective if the parties had signed a final agreement, which never happened. (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/economia/140324/petrobras-relinquishes-compensation-from-oil-giant-pdvsa)

Economy & Finance

Venezuela new FOREX system sells dollars at 8 times official price
The cash-strapped Maduro regime allowed the Bolivar to weaken 89% on an additional currency market after loosening controls, a move to increase dollar supplies needed to alleviate a record shortage of imports including medicine, food and toilet paper. The Bolivar was sold for 55 Bolivars per dollar, eight times the official price, in the first transaction on the new trading platform, according to three traders including Paul Leiva, from Banctrust & Co. in Caracas. Private bank operators said the price for dollars on the inaugural day of the SICAD 2 system varied between 50 and 55 bolivars, with demand high but offers thin. The government’s official exchange rate used to import medicine and food is 6.3 bolivars per dollar and a second dollar auction system last sold greenbacks at 10.8 bolivars. “This is a devaluation any way you look at it,” says Tamara Herrera, chief economist at financial research firm SINTESIS FINANCIERA. “The government is trying to bring down the black market rate with this new market, with the consensus that the dollar should be trading for about 50 bolivars.” The government is counting on the new exchange mechanism to alleviate pressure on a black market Venezuelans turn to when they can’t purchase hard currency from the government at the official 6.3 bolivars per dollar rate. "Without doubt, it's the biggest monetary adjustment in Venezuela's history," said Henkel Garcia, of private think-tank ECONOMETRICA. Opposition leader Gov. Henrique Capriles said the so-called SICAD 2 exchange system is akin to a massive devaluation and will eat away at the savings of poor families. (Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-24/venezuela-to-start-trading-dollars-for-first-time-in-four-years.html; The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/venezuela-unveils-new-currency-market/2014/03/24/dcb848e4-b390-11e3-bab2-b9602293021d_story.html; Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/03/24/venezuela-unveils-new-currency-market-opponents-call-it-devaluation/; Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/24/venezuela-currency-idUSL1N0ML0QB20140324; http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/24/venezuela-currency-rates-idUSL1N0ML0OY20140324; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/economia/140324/capriles-mega-devaluation-is-a-hard-blow-on-venezuelans-income, and http://www.eluniversal.com/economia/140324/central-bank-of-venezuela-endorses-operations-in-sicad-2)

Politics

Venezuela death toll rises to 34 as troops and protesters clash
Three more have died from gunshot wounds during protests against socialist President Nicolas Maduro, pushing the death toll from almost two months of anti-government demonstrations to 34. Troops briefly clashed with a small group of protesters who attempted to block a highway in Caracas after thousands of opposition sympathizers marched to demand the release of students imprisoned during the unrest. (Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/23/us-venezuela-protests-idUSBREA2L0LK20140323; Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=1820388&CategoryId=10718; The New York Times; More in Spanish: CNN, http://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2014/03/22/nueva-jornada-de-protestas-en-venezuela/?iref=allsearch)

Interior Minister: Military actions will be taken to stop street protests
Minister of the Interior, General Miguel Rodríguez Torres has announced "special military and public order operations aimed at eradicating street protests. Following "a meeting with high ranking military officers to once again launch our security plans. We are taking actions in those municipalities still seized by violence so we can restore law and order". Rodriguez Torres called on Táchira and Mérida residents in southwest Venezuela to condemn protests. (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140324/minister-military-actions-will-be-taken-to-stop-street-protests)

Regime claims opposition lawmaker has lost seat
The head of Venezuela’s congress claims leading opposition politician Maria Corina Machado has lost her seat in the legislature and is no longer immune from prosecution for her alleged role fomenting violence in anti-government protests. Captain Diosdado Cabello says Machado violated the constitution by addressing the Organization of American States last week at the invitation of Panama, which ceded its seat at the Washington-based group so she could provide regional diplomats with a firsthand account of the unrest. President Nicolas Maduro referred to Machado as “ex-congresswoman” on Saturday, a few days after arresting two opposition mayors for allegedly conspiring with the U.S. to topple his 11-month old administration. Cabello made the announcement before complying with the five steps the Constitution set out for removing a legislator. He also said Machado would not be allowed to enter the Assembly, saying she "automatically" lost her seat, and said the charge of "treason" would be added against her. According to the Constitution the full Assembly must first remove Machado's parliamentary immunity; if and when that happens it is only the Supreme Court that can decide whether she is divested of her legislative role. Machado responded in a Twitter message Monday, writing, “Landing in Lima. Mr. Cabello: I am a congresswoman as long the people of Venezuela want me to be.” According to the Constitution the full Assembly must first remove Machado's parliamentary immunity; if and when that happens it is only the Supreme Court - not the President of the National Assembly - that can decide whether she is divested of her legislative role. (The Washington Post; and more in Spanish: El Nacional; http://www.el-nacional.com/; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/protestas-en-venezuela/140324/machado-volvera-lo-antes-posible-y-seguira-ejerciendo-como-diputada)

US Embassy in Caracas halts new visas
In a public announcement, the US Embassy in Caracas says that "as a result of the expulsion of several consular officials and Venezuelan government delays in issuing visas for incoming officers, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas does not have sufficient consular staff at present to continue to schedule appointments for first-time tourist (B-1/B-2) visa applicants. Until further notice, we are able to offer such appointments only in emergency situations. If you already have an appointment, please appear at the appointed date and time, because it is unlikely under current staffing conditions that we will be able to re-schedule your interview in a timely manner." (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=1825105&CategoryId=10717; More in Spanish: CNN, http://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2014/03/23/embajada-de-ee-uu-en-caracas-suspende-citas-para-visas-de-turista/?iref=allsearch; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140324/us-embassy-decision-on-visa-termed-retaliation-by-parliament-speaker)

Kennedy Center condemns Venezuela government abuses
Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), and Santiago A. Canton, Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, condemn the ongoing violations against the freedom of expression and assembly in Venezuela. The RFK Center staff is monitoring the human rights situation in Venezuela and is deeply concerned about the deaths during protests, censorship and intimidation against members of the press, and arrests of students and opposition leaders. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=1824992&CategoryId=10717)


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.

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