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, August 30, 2016

August 30, 2016


International Trade

Customs agents report 98% drop in private imports

Rusvel Gutiérrez, President of the Vargas State Chamber of Merchants and Customs Brokers (CADUAINCO) reports a 98% drop in private imports. He adds that “the government is the only importer in the last four years”. He adds that the situation is hurting some 4,500 customs agents nationwide that have had to cut payrolls, and that out of 1200 agents in Vargas state only 50 are working sporadically; and that approximately only 100 out of 3000 cargo vehicles in state are have work. Eduardo Quintana, President of the Vargas State Chamber of Commerce, says the drop is due to difficulties in obtaining FOREX, and that imports into all the major ports in Venezuela “are very limited, there are very few ships arriving” He adds that there are barely any exports, saying “there are no exports going from here anywhere. Just go to the ports and check the situation, not even agricultural products to Caribbean islands, we are exporting nothing”. More in Spanish: (El Mundo: http://www.elmundo.com.ve/noticias/economia/gremios/aduaneros-reportan-caida-en-las-importaciones-priv.aspx#ixzz4IQpW4NLx)

 

Bilateral trade with Colombia is down 34%

The Venezuela-Colombia Economic Integration Chamber (CAVECOL) reports that bilateral trade shrank 34% in the first half of 2016, for a total US$ 510 million, down from US$ 770 million last year. The information is based on data published by Colombia’s National Statistics Department (DANE). Trade has averaged US$ 85 million per month. More in Spanish: (Notitarde, http://www.notitarde.com/El-comercio-entre-Venezuela-y-Colombia-se-redujo-34-/Economia/2016/08/30/1019802/; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/economia/comercio-entre-colombia-venezuela-contrajo_459320)

 

National port authority reports 3-fold increase in monthly average 5-6 ships arriving in Venezuela

General Efrain Velasco, President of Venezuela’s Port Authority, reports 210 tons of food are being offloaded at several ports throughout the nation. He says 18 ships from different countries have arrived this month, and added “there is a monthly average of 5-6 ships entering the nation, which means this we have tripled the number this month, bearing basic products” imported by the government. More in Spanish: (Agencia Venezolana de Noticias; http://www.avn.info.ve/contenido/210-mil-toneladas-alimentos-proceso-descarga-puertos-ser%C3%A1n-distribuidas-pa%C3%ADs)

 

14,900 tons of corn and soy were offloaded at Maracaibo port, according to regional port authority head General José Noguera, who reports the cargo is aboard the SKAWA, and consigned to Alimentos Balaceados del Zulia, Agropecuaria Nivar, Balanceados Lamar, Procesadora Industrial C.A, and others. More in Spanish: (Bolipuertos, http://www.bolipuertos.gob.ve/noticia.aspx?id=34498; El Mundo, http://www.elmundo.com.ve/noticias/economia/empresas/arribaron-al-puerto-de-maracaibo-14-900-toneladas.aspx)

 

Three ships bearing food, medicine and personal care products arrived at La Guaira port in 193 containers, according to local port authority head Admiral Carlos Martin. More in Spanish: (Bolipuertos, http://www.bolipuertos.gob.ve/noticia.aspx?id=34496)

 

Logistics & Transport

Government bans private aircraft and drones from flying through September 5th

Venezuela’s National Civil Aeronautics Institute (INAC) has issued a communiqué barring private aircraft, helicopters and even drones¿ from flying nationwide through September 5th. Transportation and Public Works Minister says the order is intended to “safeguard our population”. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevision: http://www.noticierovenevision.net/nacionales/2016/agosto/27/167185=inac-prohibe-el-vuelo-de-aviones-privados-desde-este-sabado-hasta-el-5-de-septiembre; Agencia Venezolana de Noticias; http://www.avn.info.ve/contenido/emiten-resoluci%C3%B3n-para-garantizar-seguridad-del-espacio-a%C3%A9reo)

 

Oil & Energy

Venezuela renews drilling tender after earlier collapse

Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, has relaunched a large tender for the drilling of 600 oil wells in the world's largest crude reserves, sources with knowledge of the tender said this week, after a similar project collapsed last year amid concerns about transparency and political favoritism. Reuters reported last month that tiny Colombian trucking firm TRENACO, whose management was close to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, won a multibillion-dollar contract to carry out similar work despite having no relevant experience. In a rare rebellion, foreign oil companies protested to PDVSA that TRENACO was vastly underqualified, leading to the cancellation of the US$ 4.5 billion deal. (Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-pdvsa-contract-exclusive-idUSKCN1112D7)

 

Venezuela oil price rises above US$ 40

The price Venezuela receives for its mix of medium and heavy oil continued rising off of its early August low of US$ 33.36 for a third straight week, making it over the US$ 40 a barrel threshold. According to figures released by the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, the average price of Venezuelan crude sold by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) during the week ending August 26 was US$ 40.44, up US$ 1.04 from the previous week's US$ 39.40.
According to Venezuelan government figures, the average price in 2016 for Venezuela's mix of heavy and medium crude is now US$ 32.61 for the year to date. Venezuela's average oil price for 2015 was US$ 44.65, down from 2014's US$ 88.42, below 2013's US$ 98.08, 2012's US$ 103.42. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2419682&CategoryId=10717)

 

Commodities

Maduro claims Barrick signs on to Venezuela gold push as oil sinks economy

President Nicolas Maduro says Barrick Gold Corp. has agreed to form a joint venture in Venezuela, in the hope that mining can boost one of the fastest-shrinking economies in the world. He said the world’s biggest producer of the precious metal was among several companies to sign letters of commitment for gold-mining ventures in Caracas last Friday. The government would take a 55% stake in the proposed Barrick venture, Maduro said. Andy Lloyd, a spokesman for Toronto-based Barrick, simply says “at the invitation of the government, we intend to review information pertaining to mining opportunities in the country”. Maduro claims Venezuela has signed over US$ 5.5 billion in mining deals with companies including Canada's Barrick Gold Corp and China's Shandong Gold. "Today we are signing investments and letters of commitment for projects for over $5.5 billion," said Maduro in a televised meeting with foreign mining executives. (Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-26/barrick-signs-on-to-venezuela-mining-push-as-oil-pummels-economy; Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-mining-idUSKCN1112BR)

 

Minister says it was a mistake to increase personnel at the SIDOR steel complex

Basic Industries Minister Juan Arias says the country needs to replace the policy of exporting raw material with finished product exports, including industrial components so that Venezuela can obtain “added value” from those transactions. He noted that “the rent-seeking model has to be uprooted”, and added that Venezuela should replace bauxite or alumina exports with exports of finished products such as aluminum and iron-derived products. He admitted that increasing personnel – currently some 17,400 workers – at state-run Orinoco Iron and the SIDOR steel complex— was mistaken, since less than half of the staff actually works. “There is an erroneous view of what workers control really means; management by workers,” he pointed out. (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/daily-news/minister-increasing-staff-steel-company-sidor-was-wrong-policy_450025)

 

FAO forecasts reduced cereal production in Venezuela this year

Cereal production will fall to 2.8 million tons this year in Venezuela, below the average of 3.2 million in the previous four years due to drought associated with El Niño and economic crisis, says to the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO). Sources at the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System say that El Niño has affected the country from February 2015 to June this year, causing a prolonged drought and less rainfall, thus significantly reducing the availability of irrigation water. "This has had an adverse impact on crops during the harvest of 2015 and reduced yields. El Niño also decreased crop harvest in the first season of 2016 in Venezuela, mainly rice, which was sown until late last year,” the sources said. (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/daily-news/fao-forecasts-reduced-cereal-production-venezuela-this-year_450005)

 

Economy & Finance

CITIBANK serves notice that it will no longer process payment of PDVSA bonds

CITIBANK has sent notice to PDVSA bond holders that it will no longer process that company’s bond payments, and says the state oil company must “name a new main agent as soon as possible”, at which time CITIBANK’s says its obligation will have ended. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/economia/Citibank-agente-pagador-bonos-Pdvsa_0_911909112.html)

 

Politics and International Affairs

Venezuelans mobilize for vote to recall President Nicolas Maduro

A wave of thousands of Venezuelans is descending on Caracas as part of a last-gasp effort by the country’s opposition to try to force President Nicolas Maduro to hold a referendum on his rule—a vote he is fiercely resisting, with polls saying it would lead to his removal. The mobilization will culminate on Thursday in a mass rally the opposition hopes will draw hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to the streets of the capital, making a show of strength against a government overseeing the country’s worst economic collapse since its independence in 1811. This week’s protest may be the last, best chance to force a referendum that would almost certainly end a deeply unpopular government. The opposition has been trying to hold the plebiscite, as set out in the country’s constitution, since March, but election officials have delayed giving the green light. “This is a huge event. It’s the biggest test of the opposition’s strength and the government’s tolerance of dissent in years,” said Javier Corrales, professor of Latin American studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts. “The opposition is really running out of time to achieve their goal of the referendum this year.” The government wants to put off the vote until next year. If the vote takes place after Jan. 10 and Maduro is ousted, a vice president of his choosing would serve out the term ending in 2019. A referendum held before that date wouldn’t only remove the president but also trigger new elections, which polls show would end 17 years of Socialist government. The national electoral council earlier this month gave a preliminary schedule for the referendum that suggested the vote might take place in February. Maduro’s control of courts, prosecutors and electoral officials has left street protests as the only means to pressure the government to comply with the laws, said Jesus Torrealba, head of the Democratic Unity opposition alliance.  Maduro, who has Venezuela’s lowest presidential approval ratings in almost two decades, isn't taking any chances. He has called supporters to hold a separate march in downtown Caracas on the same day and has banned all private planes and drones this week, a move the opposition says is meant to prevent images of antigovernment crowds from circulating around the world. Meanwhile, Caracas has taken on the feel of a city bracing for war. In recent weeks, the military built sandbag emplacements with armored vehicles outside key tunnels connecting parts of the capital. The opposition says the soldiers will try to prevent busloads of supporters from reaching the capital on Thursday, a strategy the government has employed in provincial rallies in the past. In the town of Villa de Cura, shop assistant Eloy Durán vowed not to let authorities prevent him from joining the rally. “If the soldiers stop us, we will get out of the buses and start walking,” he said, and added that he has lost 44 pounds this year because of food shortages, in what he and other Venezuelans jokingly call “the Nicolás Maduro Diet.” “The recall referendum is the only peaceful exit from this government,” he said. (The Wall Street Journal: http://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuelans-mobilize-for-vote-to-recall-president-nicolas-maduro-1472504412)

 

Venezuela on the brink, large protest seeks to pressure President recall

The stakes are high for the September 1 protests, says Siobhan Morden, a managing director for Latin America at NOMURA Securities in New York. She says the S1 protest could influence intervention for a recall vote this year. If the protest fails, then it’s an uncertain path towards political transition in a post-Maduro world. “The worsening economic and social crisis should eventually force military intervention with (PSUV) probably more receptive for a transition next year that forces the departure of President Maduro without the risk of new elections,” Morden says. New elections would oust PSUV from Venezuela’s government. But a handover to others in Maduro’s coalition may be able to stop some of the bloodletting in the party of Hugo Chavez. Any political transition depends not only on the moderate turnover from the current radical leadership (who all equally poll low approval ratings similar to Maduro) but also the inclusion of the opposition. According to pollsters at DATANALISIS, Maduro’s approval rating is 21.2%. Some 50% of those polled want anyone but PSUV. And another 75% want elections this year. Another survey, this one by VENEBAROMETRO in July, shows that 34.4% support Maduro’s immediate resignation, but 27.9% support waiting for the general election in 2018. The September 1 “taking of Caracas” is yet another chapter in the final act of Venezuela’s socialist experiment. It also serves as a potential leverage from the opposition to pressure the government for a recall referendum this year or resignation of Maduro. “The premise is that hardcore supporters from the countryside converge on Caracas to reach much higher participation than previous protest marches with higher visibility ... that encourages intervention from the international diplomatic community,” Morden says. “The stakes are now much higher with growing frustration that voters cannot express their discontent at the polls. The streets are the next — and possibly only — recourse.” (Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2016/08/19/venezuela-on-the-brink-large-protest-seeks-to-pressure-president-to-resign/#2a70e386f4c1)

 

Maduro charges that the opposition and the US government are plotting destabilization on Sep. 1st.

President Nicolas Maduro has again claimed that the United States government is trying to stage a coup d’etat here. He said “we are taking to the streets to tell the world that there is a fascist coup underway that is directed by the United States in order to plague Venezuela with violence”, and added that the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition “has decided to break the rules of the game”, and that starting September 1st and through the end of the year the government will engage in a “revolutionary counter offensive”. Executive Vice President Aristobulo Istúriz also called the scheduled September 1st opposition demonstration “a destabilizing, coup plan to overthrow President Maduro.” Daniel Aponte, the government-appointed governor of Caracas, says the opposition march scheduled for September 1st will not enter Caracas. And Venezuela’s Interior Minister General Nestor Reverol claims to have uncovered an alleged opposition destabilization plan scheduled for September 1st and says he will provide more details in the next few days.  (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2419600&CategoryId=10717); and more in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevision: http://www.noticierovenevision.net/politica/2016/agosto/27/167188=maduro-aseguro-que-la-oposicion-junto-al-gobierno-de-eeuu-intentan-dar-un-golpe-de-estado-; http://www.noticierovenevision.net/politica/2016/agosto/28/167263=aristobulo-isturiz-denuncio-que-la-oposicion-intenta-derrocar-al-presidente-nicolas-maduro-;  http://www.noticierovenevision.net/nacionales/2016/agosto/29/167322=ministro-reverol-alerta-sobre-supuesto-plan-desestabilizador-de-la-oposicion-para-el-1-s)

 

Former mayor Ceballos sent back to prison from house arrest; US slams move, seeks his release

Intelligence agents on Saturday took Daniel Ceballos, a former opposition mayor accused of fomenting opposition protests, to prison from house arrest in the capital of Caracas, according to his wife and the country's interior ministry. Ceballos had been released from prison last year and placed under house arrest for health reasons.  In a statement, the interior ministry said he was planning to escape this month.  It said Ceballos had planned to coordinate acts of violence at an opposition demonstration planned for 1 September. Ceballos was arrested in 2014 on accusations he helped lead violent unrest in the tumultuous western city of San Cristobal, where he was mayor. He denies the accusations. Opposition leaders called his arrest an effort to quash dissent and describe Ceballos as a political prisoner. President Nicolas Maduro calls him a criminal who sought to destabilize the country, and denies Venezuela holds political prisoners. Patricia de Ceballos said agents from the SEBIN intelligence service arrived at their residence at around 3 a.m. saying they were going to conduct a medical exam for her husband, who was granted house arrest in 2015 for health reasons. The US State Department said “this transfer is an attempt to intimidate and block the Venezuelan people’s right to peacefully express their opinion on September 1st. We condemn it and ask for his immediate release”. Department spokesman John Kirby added that “the most basic underpinnings of the rule of law in Venezuela have been degraded to an alarming level”. (Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-idUSKCN1120MJ; BBC News: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-37206563; Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2419673&CategoryId=10717); and more in Spanish: (El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/politica/EE-UU-Venezuela-Daniel-Ceballos_0_911308941.html

 

Another opposition leader detained

The Voluntad Popular party’s national coordinator, Congressman Freddy Guevara, has confirmed that one of its leaders, Yon Goicoechea, has been taken without a warrant by a group of armed officials and is in the custody of the SEBIN intelligence agency. He called the detention “illegal and arbitrary” and called the move a ruse to scare the opposition in advance of demonstrations scheduled in Caracas on September 1st. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/politica/Yon-Goicoechea-llevado-Sebin_0_911909064.html)

 

Public officials to be reprimanded they do not attend pro-government demonstration

Marlene Sifontes, a leader in the National Parks Institute Union says an order is out to dock one day’s pay and reprimand any government employee that does not attend a pro-government demonstration scheduled for September 1st. Servando Carbone, a leader in the National Public Sector Workers Federation says the government is also trying to bribe its employees, but says they are too irate over abuse”. More in Spanish:  (El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/economia/Denuncian-amonestaran-funcionarios-marcha-oficialista_0_910109259.html)

 

Ecuador asks Venezuela to explain expelling Ecuadorian legislators

Ecuador’s government has asked the regime here to provide more information on an incident that took place last week in Caracas. Ecuadorian legislators Cynthia Viteri – who is a presidential candidate - and Henry Cucalón were forced to leave the country when they tried to visit imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry expressed “concern over the incident” and asked Venezuela to “guarantee the constitutional rights” of Ecuadorian citizens. Viteri reports their experience in Venezuela was “terrifying”. The Venezuelan Embassy in Quito retorted that what was applied was the cancellation of their authorization to remain in Venezuela territory, saying they “engaged in proselytism and destabilizing activities” and “flagrantly interfered in the domestic affairs of Venezuela”. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevision: http://www.noticierovenevision.net/internacionales/2016/agosto/27/167159=ecuador-pide-a-venezuela-ampliar-informacion-sobre-incidente-con-legisladores

 

Venezuela names new Ambassador to Iran, announces fresh dynamism in relations

President Nicolas Maduro named General Jesus Gonzalez as the country’s new ambassador to Iran on Saturday, while announcing the beginning of a new dynamic era in Caracas-Tehran bilateral relations. Maduro made these announcements at a Caracas meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who arrived in the country sooner than expected on the final leg of his South American tour, after having visited Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2419683&CategoryId=10717)

 

Colombians living in Venezuela flock home to escape crisis

At least 700 people from Venezuela exhausted by shortages of food, medicines and more in that country, have descended on the small Colombian village of Bayunca north of Cartagena looking for a better life. “Natives and non-natives who left many years ago and, due to everything they have to put up with (in Venezuela), are coming to Bayunca, but empty-handed,” the head of the village’s Afro-Colombian community council, Juana Frasual Matute, told EFE. (Latin American Herald Tribune,  http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2419637&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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