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, September 1, 2016

September 01, 2016


Oil & Energy

Venezuela says it beat Phillips 66 suit at ICSID

State oil company PDVSA says it has won in a US$ 244.3 million lawsuit brought by Phillips 66 at the World Bank ICSID arbitration center, over PDVSA’s failure to supply crude oil to the Phillips Sweeny refinery in Texas under a 1999 contract. Phillips 66 is a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/economia/Venezuela-demanda-filial-estadounidense-ConocoPhillips_0_913108856.html)

 

Commodities

Food production down 24.6%

The Venezuelan National Food Industry Chamber (CAVIDEA) reports that local food production has contracted 24.6% year to date compared to 2015, particularly in oatmeal, ketchup, margarine and powdered milk. Production continues to drop leading to more scarcity and further inflation. More in Spanish: (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/economia/cavidea-cae-246-produccion-alimentos_468307)

 

Economy & Finance

FOREX supply to the private sector shrank 66.5% during the first semester this year.

According to the ECOANALÍTICA think tank, FOREX officially allocated by the government to the private sector here dropped by 66.5% January-July this year, as compared to the same time period in 2015. FOREX allocations this year were an average US$ 16.8 million daily, compared to US$ 50.1 million daily last year, and an average US$ 129.5 million daily in 2014. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/economia/Gobierno-liquido-divisas-enero-julio_0_913109008.html)

 

FEDECAMARAS reports over 7,000 companies closed here in a decade

Francisco Martínez, head of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce (FEDECÁMARAS) reports that 7,000 out of 12,000 companies in Venezuela have been shut down over the past decade. Martínez says this situation can worsen with a recent compulsory minimum wage raise announced by the Maduro regime. “There are many companies that today could pay (their employees), yet within two or three months, which is more or less the range of the salary raise, many enterprises will fall by the wayside”, he added. (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/daily-news/fedecamaras-over-7000-companies-closed-decade-venezuela_477571)

 

Minister claims poverty in Venezuela was down to 18.3% during first half of 2016

Planning Minister Ricardo Menéndez claimed that overall poverty in Venezuela was 18.3% during the first half of 2016, a 1.3% drop from the previous semester in 2015, when he said it hit 19.6%.  (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/daily-news/minister-poverty-venezuela-down-183-during-first-half-2016_468250)

 

Politics and International Affairs

Venezuelan opposition floods Caracas in vast anti-Maduro protest

Dressed in white and chanting "this government will fall," hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters flooded Venezuela's capital on Thursday to press for an end to President Nicolas Maduro's rule. Led by two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, in probably the biggest mass demonstration against the ruling socialists in more than a decade, protesters streamed into Caracas from the Amazon jungle to the western Andes. The opposition Democratic Unity coalition estimated at least 1 million people took part in the rallies to demand a recall referendum against Maduro and decry the deep economic crisis. The opposition hoped the protests would prove they are the majority and heap pressure on Maduro and the national election board to allow a plebiscite on his rule as allowed by the constitution half-way through a presidential term. But with the election board dragging its feet over the process and the government swearing the referendum will not happen this year, the opposition has no way to force it no matter how many people it brings onto the streets.  The timing is all-important because should there be a plebiscite in 2017 and Maduro loses, his handpicked vice president would take over for the ruling Socialist Party, rather than triggering a new presidential election. Maduro claimed the opposition-dubbed "Takeover of Caracas" today was a front for coup plans, akin to a short-lived 2002 putsch against his mentor Chavez, who died of cancer three years ago. Maduro has failed to replicate his charismatic predecessor's popular appeal, and his ratings in opinion polls have halved to just over 20%. "I'm ready for everything ... we will not allow a coup," Maduro told supporters late on Wednesday. Lieutenant Diosdado Cabello, Vice President of the PSUV pro government party, said government supporters would prevent anyone from entering or leaving Caracas and threatened the opposition saying “do not provoke us”.  Swearing loyalty to Chavez's legacy and calling opposition leaders a wealthy elite intent on controlling Venezuela's oil, thousands of red-shirted government supporters gathered for counter-rallies. Maduro joined his supporters in the afternoon, singing on stage and pumping his fist in the air. (Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-idUSKCN1173LS; Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-31/venezuelan-opposition-s-anti-maduro-march-banks-on-big-turnout; and more in Spanish: El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/politica/chavismo-oposicion-concentraran-hoy-caracas_47761; http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/politica/chavismo-mantiene-calle-defensa-paz_477640; http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/politica/personas-todo-pais-asisten-toma-caracas_477639; El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/politica/Cabello-Trancaremos-Caracas-entra-nadie_0_913108999.html)

 

Maduro ratchets up repression ahead of opposition march

Embattled President Nicolas Maduro prepared for the nationwide opposition demonstration today by arresting opposition leaders, blocking accesses to Caracas and grounding all private aircraft (including drones) for nine days. Interior Minister Major General Nestor Reverol -- who was indicted by the U.S. for drug trafficking earlier this month -- said during a televised press conference that “we are taking every action so that peace reigns in the country.” Venezuela's beleaguered opposition sees the government efforts differently. Maduro announced that his regime has arrested several opposition activists accused of plotting violence during the anti-government rally, and opposition leaders slammed the arrests as intimidation. Yon Goicoechea, a former student leader who helped the opposition mount one of the most significant challenges to the late Hugo Chavez, was arrested on charges of possessing detonating cords for explosive devices, the ruling socialist party said Monday. Freddy Guevara, a leader of the opposition Popular Will party, said the charges against Goicoechea were baseless. Goicoechea, who helped organize a wave of protests in 2007, returned to Venezuela in July after completing graduate studies in the U.S. and Spain. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2419739&CategoryId=10717; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/daily-news/minister-reverol-security-rules-should-observed-rally-sept_468261; Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-idUSKCN1152TG; Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-30/venezuela-arrests-activist-ahead-of-national-opposition-protest)

 

Maduro threatens to abolish legislative immunity

President Nicolas Maduro has threatened to ask the nation’s Supreme Tribunal to authorize taking away immunity that protects Venezuela’s legislators “if it were necessary”. He also accused National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup of inciting political violence here, and said he was consulting experts whether to try him. “I have asked the State Attorney to prepare a decree under the economic emergency and state of siege powers, to consult with the Supreme Tribunal about taking away immunity from all public offices, starting with parliamentary immunity in Venezuela, if necessary.” More in Spanish: Reuters: http://lta.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idLTAKCN11739W)

 

Foreign correspondents detained and expelled from Venezuela in advance of protest rally

Jim Wyss, Miami Herald Andean bureau chief, was detained last night in Venezuela where he had gone to report on today’s massive protest rally.  Wyss was detained by Venezuelan immigration authorities as he entered the country with a journalist visa valid through October. After not hearing from him for four hours, his editor received an email from him Wednesday night saying he was well and being put on a plane to Panama. He said he had been detained because he wasn’t registered to be a journalist in Venezuela. He said he had filed all the required paperwork, but he was being expelled from the country. Two journalists from Al Jazeera and other news organizations had been turned away when they tried to enter the country. The Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday that Venezuela has denied entry to at least six journalists who wanted to cover today´s protest to demand a recall referendum on President Nicolas Maduro. The CPJ has called for the Venezuelan government to allow foreign journalists to freely work in the country. CPJ said that among the journalists who were denied entry were its own Andes correspondent, John Otis, and reporters from Le Monde, Caracol Radio in Colombia, Caracol TV and the two journalists from Al Jazeera. (The Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/venezuela/article99168072.html#storylink=cpy)

 

OAS warned Venezuelan government against violence during rally on Sept 1

The Organization of American States General Secretariat (OAS) denounced what it terms the “worsening of repression and human rights violations” here ahead of the rally convened by the Democratic Unity (MUD) opposition coalition today. The regional organization warned that any abuse on the part of the government would be “unacceptable.” In a communiqué, the OAS General Secretariat, led by Uruguayan diplomat Luis Almagro, voiced concern over events taking place days before a rally, and warned that the Maduro regime would be responsible for casualties today. (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/daily-news/oas-warns-venezuelan-govt-against-violence-during-rally-sept_477580)

 

UNASUR and former presidents called for peaceful demonstration today

Ernesto Samper, Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), along with former Presidents José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain, Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, and Martín Torrijos of Panama, called for a peaceful demonstration today. In a communiqué, they made “a strong call so that the different political and social actors are allowed to exercise peacefully their right to demonstrate during rallies convened.” (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/daily-news/unasur-ex-presidents-advocate-peaceful-demonstration-sept_477593)

 

Rodríguez Zapatero in Venezuela

Spain’s former President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero visited here two days ahead of the rally called by the country’s opposition political forces to put pressure on the government to accept a recall vote against the mandate of President Nicolas Maduro. Jesús Torrealba, Secretary General of the Democratic Unity opposition coalition, says the visit may be due to concerns on the part of the international community over today’s march in Caracas. (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/daily-news/rodriguez-zapatero-venezuela_477544)

 

National Labor Federation (CTV) charges regime is trying to fire 19,000 government workers

Venezuela’s Labor Federation has charged that the regime is trying to fire 19,000 public servants because of their support for the recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro. Elias Torres, a member of the CTV board, says the government has lists of government employees culled from voter signature lists turned over by the National Elections Council (CNE) to the pro-regime PSUV party. More in Spanish: (El Nacional, http://www.el-nacional.com/economia/CTV-oficialismo-pretende-despedir-empleados_0_912508996.html)

 

Venezuela withdraws its ambassador and freezes relations with Brazil due to Rousseff removal

Venezuela's leftist government said it was removing its ambassador from Brazil and freezing relations with the neighboring country after the removal of President Dilma Rousseff, which it condemned as a "coup." Brazil called its own representative in Caracas back for consultation and demanded respect from “bolivarian” countries that have questioned the political transition there.  Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba also called the impeachment of Rousseff a “parliamentary coup d’etat”. (Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-impeachment-venezuela-idUSKCN1162Q2, and more in Spanish: El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/internacional/venezuela-retira-embajador-brasil-respaldo-rousseff_477589; http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/internacional/brasil-llama-consultas-embajador-caracas-pide-respeto_477642; El Mundo, http://www.elmundo.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/internacional/venezuela-retira-embajador--y-congela-relaciones-c.aspx)

 

Ultra-violent gangs thrive in chaotic Venezuela despite crackdown

Venezuela's socialist economy is suffering triple-digit inflation, severe shortages and a third year of recession, but gangs like this have found strength and profit in the chaos. They are teaming up with former rivals and buying heavier weapons to control ever-larger territory in the capital and beyond, the criminals, the government and criminologists say. "The majority of the other slums are our friends. It's not only us anymore, now we do business with each other," said the leader, sat at a desk with his face hidden by a black ski mask. He said rampant inflation is forcing the gang to be even more active as it seeks to cover sky-rocketing costs for weapons, drugs and even food. (Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-gangs-idUSKCN1162AJ)

 

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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