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, April 14, 2016

April 14, 2016

International Trade

Venezuela-Colombia trade dropped 44% in 2015

The Colombia-Venezuela Integration Chamber (CAVECOL) reports that trade between Venezuela and Colombia contracted 44% during 2015, down to US$ 1.352 from US$ 2.427 billion the year before. It shows Venezuelan exports to Colombia shrank by 34%, and Colombian exports to Venezuela were 47%. The information was supplied by Colombia’s National Statistics Department (DANE). More in Spanish: (Notitarde:


30,000 tons of wheat have arrived from Canada into Zulia state for bakeries, according to Luis Caldera, president of the Bolivarian Mayors Association. He said the wheat was assigned to MONACA and CARGILL for processing. More in Spanish: (Agencia Venezolana de Noticias;; El Mundo,



Oil & Energy

Schlumberger to limit Venezuela operations on payment problems

Oilfield services provider Schlumberger Ltd said it would reduce its operations in Venezuela due to payment problems, a further sign of the cash crunch facing this nation because of weak oil markets. State oil company PDVSA, the exclusive operator of the country's oilfields, has built up billions of dollars in unpaid bills to service providers as a result of cash-flow problems. "Schlumberger appreciates the efforts of its main customer in the country to find alternative payment solutions and remains fully committed to supporting the Venezuelan exploration and production industry," the company said in a statement. "However, Schlumberger is unable to increase its accounts receivable balances beyond their current level." (Reuters,; Bloomberg,; Latin American Herald Tribune,


Drought-hit Venezuela awaits rain at crucial Guri dam

Drought has turned parts of the area behind Venezuela's Guri dam, one of the world's biggest, into a desert, but the government is optimistic of rain within weeks to drive the vast installation that provides the bulk of this nation's power. On a tour of the hydroelectric complex on the Caroni river, Electricity Minister General Luis Motta told Reuters that forecasts showed a 70 to 80% chance of rain toward the end of April or in May to stop the waters behind the dam falling to a critical depth of 240 meters (790 feet). Driving, hiking and rafting round the 4,600 square km (1,780 square miles) area, General Motta, 57, pointed to unprecedented scenes revealed by the receding waters: long-sunken boats now visible; sand-dunes in previously submerged areas; cattle wandering across parched earth. The reservoir in southern Bolivar state, which provides about 60% of the nation's 16,000 megawatt power demand, hit a historic low of 243 meters (797 feet) this week. (Reuters,




Industrialists: shortage of basic food basket hits 83% in Venezuela

At a meeting with the Special Subcommittee of the National Assembly (AN) assessing the Law on Domestic Production, Juan Pablo Olalquiaga, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Industries (CONINDUSTRIA) reported that 83% basic basket products are unavailable in the country. (El Universal,


Venezuelan hospitals make do with barely 5% of supplies needed

Douglas Leon Natera, President of Venezuela’s Medical Association, says that hospitals are operating with 4-5% of all materials and medicines they need due to supply difficulties, and called the government “irresponsible” for abandoning them. “All of the doctors are trying to solve problems in our hospitals with barely 4-5% of supplies and medication needed.” He added that “the government has abandoned hospitals, has automatically closed them down, and doors remain open because the health workers are trying to face” the situation. He also said the government “has been hiding epidemiology information for 17 months”. Natera reported that the Latin America and Caribbean Medical Federation, the World Medical Association, and the World Medical Council are willing to help out with donations if local authorities authorize shipments, The government, however, denies there is a “health crisis”, More in Spanish: (Infolatam:


Kimberley Process starts diamond certification in Venezuela

A delegation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is in Venezuela to continue the certification process of diamond mining, as part of the so-called Mining Engine, one of fourteen areas intended to boost the Venezuelan economy. José Khan, president of the Venezuelan Mining Corporation (CVM) and director of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), reported that the technical delegation consists of representatives from China, Angola, South Africa, Canada and other member countries of the Kimberley Process. He explained that the party will remain in the country until Sunday 17. (El Universal,



Economy & Finance

IMF projects 1600% inflation for Venezuela in 2017

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has adjusted its projections for Latin America, showing that Venezuela’s economy will contract 8% this year and 4.5% in 2017, following a 5.7% contraction in 2015. The IMF projects the drop in oil prices makes existing macroeconomic distortions worse, and will bring 500% inflation in 2016 and 1600% inflation in 2017. More in Spanish: (El Nacional,


Venezuela paid out US$ 199.6 million in 2019 and 2024 bond interst this week

This week Venezuela paid up US$ 199.6 million in interest for its 2019 and 2024 sovereign bonds. In 2016 and 2017 the nation and state oil company PDVSA must still repay US$ 9.6 billion, of which US$ 8.1 billion pertain to PDVSA. President Nicolas Maduro has said Venezuela has paid out “US$ 30 billion in debt, a powerful amount”, and denies any default projections. More in Spanish: (El Mundo,;; Ultimas Noticias,;



Politics and International Affairs

Opposition presses push for Presidential recall

Opposition representatives have gone before Venezuela's electoral board, the CNE, for the fourth time, to ask that a recall referendum process against President Nicolas Maduro be initiated. Jesús Torrealba, head of the Opposition's united political platform MUD, along with several deputies delivered the document to the CNE. The opposition points out that the new document, according to the CNE new instructions, is the proper requirement to request the form that will allow the collection of signatures to activate the process towards the recall referendum. “Now, instead of advocating participative and protagonist democracy, they (CNE authorities) turn to conventions and technicalities to interrupt the people’s involvement (in democratic events). Last week, you (CNE) requested new requirements from us; here they are,” Torrealba twitted. (Latin American Herald Tribune,; El Universal,


Maduro says no opposition action is politically viable

President Nicolas Maduro has once again emphasized that no initiative coming from the National Assembly is politically viable or has a future in Venezuela. “None of the options and actions announced by the right, the oligarchy and the coup mongers in Venezuela is politically viable or has a future in our country. The revolution will continue to rule here in this year 2016, 2017, 2018 and all that remains of this decade and the next”, he said. More in Spanish: (El Nacional:


Legislator charges that the regime promotes chaos because it knows it will lose any election

The National Assembly’s First Vice President, opposition legislator Enrique Marquez, says “the government is promoting anarchy, violence and chaos because it knows it will lose any election”. He added: “There will be a recall referendum this year and we will be able to tell the government we are tired of scarcity, violence and crisis. There is no way they can block the recall initiative”. More in Spanish: (El Universal,


Maduro, UNASUR install a so-called Truth Commission

President Nicolas Maduro urged the political opposition to engage in the Presidential Commission of Truth, Justice and Reparation of Victims installed on Tuesday. Maduro said: “I hope the opposition may take a step forward. I know it is difficult. A coup d’ètat is being planned again in Venezuela. I believe we can neutralize it, for most people advocate peace, coexistence and respect, beyond differences,” While attending the ceremony, Ernesto Samper, Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) said that the main goal of the Truth Commission is “to give Venezuelans the possibility of a sincere path for dialogue” and claims it is a group where “any question may be raised. This is essentially a commission for peace, not war”. Samper also announced that he, along with former presidents Martin Torrijos of Panama, Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic and Spain’s former Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will accompany the truth commission looking into the political violence in Venezuela in recent years. (El Universal,;;; (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Opposition denies it is taking part in so-called “Truth Commission”, seeks to meet with Samper

Julio Borges, leader of the opposition caucus in the National Assembly denied that any opposition representatives will participate in the newly installed Presidential “Truth Committee”, and requested an official meeting with UNASUR Secretary General Ernesto Samper, who is in Venezuela to set it up. “We deny (a report) that for members of the Unity coalition will take part in an alleged Truth Commission”, he said, and added “we will not attend a meeting we were summoned to on television and have no idea what it is all about”. More in Spanish: (El Universal:


Ramos tells Maduro: “refrain from making fraudulent offers on prisoner exchanges

National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup told President Maduro: “We will not enter any barter agreement”, in response to an offer by the regime to Parliament on freeing 3 jailed elected legislators in exchange for the opposition taking part in the so-called “Truth Committee”. Accompanied by lawyers and relatives of the jailed legislators, Ramos said: “We are not about to leave some political prisoners behind bars to free others. The goal of freeing all political prisoners and having exiles return is a common cause. We are not seeking any barter. The government must abstain from making such fraudulent offers that seek to divide the opposition”. More in Spanish: (El Nacional:


US decries the absence of an independent judiciary in Venezuela

The US State Department has issued its annual 2015 human rights report pointing to partisanship and lack of judicial independence in Venezuela. The report charges that the judiciary in Venezuela is used “to intimidate and selectively judge government critics”. It also denounces “indiscriminate police action against civilians” and “arbitrary mass detentions”. More in Spanish: (El Universal,


THE WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: Venezuela is in desperate need of a political intervention.

An opposition victory in parliamentary elections in December gave Venezuela a fragile opportunity to arrest what has been an accelerating spiral toward an economic and political crash. Had it chosen to accommodate and negotiate with opposition leaders, the deeply unpopular government of Nicolas Maduro might have been able to ease mounting political tensions and build consensus around desperately needed economic stabilization measures. It was urged to pursue this course by the Obama administration and most Latin American governments, with the notable exception of its closest ally, Cuba. Unfortunately, the regime has pursued scorched-earth warfare with the National Assembly, even as the hardships suffered by ordinary Venezuelans mount. Having been illegally packed with government supporters before the legislature took office, the Supreme Court has proceeded to strip the opposition majority of its constitutional powers and reject every measure it has passed. The latest was an amnesty bill that would have freed76 opposition activists, including three senior figures whose release is the essential starting point for political reconciliation. Like every other ruling it has issued, the court’s rejection of the prisoner release was ludicrous in its lack of legal sense. The justices claimed that the prisoners’ release would be unfair to victims of violence in anti-government demonstrations two years ago. But as human rights groups have extensively documented, most of that bloodshed, including 43 deaths, was committed by the regime’s security forces; far from engaging in violence, opposition leaders made speeches against it. Apart from the crude violation of the rule of law, Maduro’s commitment to confrontation matters because Venezuela, a country of 30 million people with some of the world’s largest oil reserves, is approaching a calamitous breakdown. Shops are empty of basic foods and medicines, and the government is within months of a foreign debt default. Severe water and electricity shortages have spread in recent weeks; inflation is in triple digits, and violent crime is soaring. The government’s only response has been nonsensical measures, such as decreeing a four-day workweek for all public employees. Opposition leaders are now pursuing the strategy of trying to legally unseat the government by collecting signatures for a recall referendum or passing a law shortening Mr. Maduro’s term. Almost certainly the regime’s minions on the Supreme Court and electoral authority will declare the initiatives void, regardless of their legality. Considering the people’s extreme privation, the chances of mass disorder are high. Venezuela is desperately in need of political intervention by its neighbors, which have a ready mechanism in the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Democratic Charter, a treaty that provides for collective action when a regime violates constitutional norms. But the region’s leaders are distracted: Brazil is suffering its own political crisis, while the Obama administration is preoccupied with its outreach to Cuba. While the White House courts the Castros, they are using their control over Venezuela’s intelligence and security forces, and longtime acolyte Maduro, to foment his kamikaze tactics. An explosion is probably not far off.” (The Washington Post:


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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