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, December 13, 2016

December 13, 2016

International Trade

Venezuela must renegotiate 5 major infrastructure projects with Brazil’s BNDES

Brazil’s “Lava Jato” anti-corruption drive has forced that country’s National Social and Economic Development Bank (BNDES) to paralyze and renegotiate ongoing infrastructure projects worth US$ 3.6 billion it is financing throughout Latin America, carried out by companies implicated in the corruption scandal. The nation hardest hit by the move is Venezuela, which must renegotiate 5 major projects: including two Metro lines, the Abreu de Lima steel plant, a cleanup project in the Tuy river basin, and the ALBA shipyards. More in Spanish: (El Nacional,


MERCOSUR turns its back on a diminished Venezuela

It couldn’t have come as a total shock when on Dec. 2, four South American nations ruled to suspend Venezuela from the continental trade compact to which it never ought to have been admitted. And yet, for the keepers of the Bolivarian Republic, the ouster from MERCOSUR might have been a diplomatic outrage. President Nicolas Maduro called the move a “coup”; Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez denounced it as “an illegal action” and vowed to appeal. Assorted sympathizers and fringe militants as far away as Uruguay and Paraguay joined the chorus. What’s at stake isn’t the future of regional commerce. Venezuela’s economy is such a shambles that trade in any conventional sense of the word ceased to matter long ago. But the choler in Caracas and the initiative by Venezuela’s once-accommodating neighbors said a good deal about the state of play in Latin American relations, where over a decade of diffidence and indulgence before the region’s stumbling autocracy has given way to umbrage and confrontation. (Bloomberg,; el Universal,


Maduro says he has planned Venezuela’s future course with MERCOSUR with Uruguay’s Vasquez

President Nicolás Maduro says he has agreed with his Uruguayan counterpart, Tabaré Vásquez, on a working plan to resolve Venezuela’s case with MERCOSUR by using the organization’s Olivos Protocol for conflict resolution. More in Spanish: (Agencia Venezolana de Noticias;


Medicine, food and toys have arrived at Maracaibo from Jamaica

213 containers bearing medicine, food, personal care products, tires, and toys have arrived at Maracaibo’s port, consigned to several recipients. More in Spanish: (Bolipuertos,


Oil & Energy

Venezuela oil price jumps up for 3rd week

The price Venezuela receives for its mix of medium and heavy oil rose 8.7% this week as oil prices strengthened in the wake of a November 30 OPEC agreement to cut production to 32.5 million barrels per day. As per 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 December 9 was US$ 44.01, up US$ 3.54 from the previous week's US$ 40.47. Official data shows the average price in 2016 for Venezuela's mix of heavy and medium crude is now US$ 34.52 for the year to date. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Oil production cut agreement comes into force in January 2017

The agreement signed between the Member States of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC independent oil producers to reduce oil output by 1.7 million barrels will come into force in January 2017. Meanwhile, during the first half of 2017, both OPEC members and independent oil producers will be monitoring the oil market to verify compliance with production cuts agreed upon by each of the 25 nations that signed the agreement on Saturday in Vienna, Austria, with a view to recovering oil prices. Non-OPEC nations that agreed to reduce oil production are Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, Republic of Sudan, and Republic of South Sudan. (El Universal,



"Food apartheid" leaves some citizens starving here

The current "food apartheid" in Venezuela means that if you don't support the president, you won't be getting any help from the government. Food is in short supply in Venezuela, where falling oil prices and inflation have caused an unstable state. But reports from the country, which has a population of over 30 million, reveal that the government is selectively handing out subsidized food. Since April 2016, a system called "CLAPs" (Local Committees of Supply and Production) has been going to homes in Venezuela's poorest neighborhoods peddling subsidized groceries. The socialist-affiliated organizations managing the CLAPs program are community groups that don't have much oversight and can do what they want. "Given the way that the country is currently falling apart, [President Maduro] is using this to shut up his opponents by starving them," Monica Baumgarten de Bolle, senior fellow focusing on Latin America at Peterson Institute for International Economics, said. (Food. Mic.


Government to distribute personal care products starting 2017

Freddy Bernal, head of the regime’s CLAP basic product distribution system, says he will meet with the managers of COLGATE PALMOLIVE and PROCTER & GAMBLE to ensure that 50% of their personal care products are distributed through the official system starting in 2017. More in Spanish: (Agencia Venezolana de Noticias;


Maduro called a 'Grinch' after massive toy seizure by government

Venezuelan officials have confiscated nearly 4 million toys from a toy distributor, accusing the company of planning to sell them at inflated prices during the Christmas season. On Saturday, the government initially said it had confiscated 4.8 million toys. It revised the figure Sunday, putting it at 3.821 million. Critics say the consumer protection agency, which targeted the toy warehouse this week, has become "the Grinch that stole Christmas" because many families won't be able to buy the confiscated toys for the holiday. Agency head William Contreras disputed that, saying executives at toy distributor KREISEL-Venezuela, the largest of its kind in the country, "don't care about our children's right to have a merry Christmas." The government said the 3.821 million toys will now be made available to families in impoverished neighborhoods at lower-than-market prices. Officials also detained at least two people as part of the operation. It's not clear what effect, if any, the confiscation of the millions of toys will have on the toy market in Venezuela just two weeks before Christmas. FEDECÁMARAS President Francisco Martínez says the government is "acting in an irresponsible way," discouraging job creation and endangering private property. "This was plundering of inventory. The government didn't even respect the company's right of due process," Fernández said. (CNN:; Bloomberg,


Venezuela discusses importing medicines with UN agencies

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez met with representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Development Program (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to discuss the creation of mechanisms to streamline medical imports coordinate efforts to guarantee access to key imported medicines here. The left-leaning government has resisted calls by the United States and European Union in recent months to accept “humanitarian aid”, which it considers an attempt to interfere in its internal affairs.  (Venezuela Analysis:


Economy & Finance

Venezuela struggles with hyperinflation

Venezuela’s struggling economy just passed another grim milestone: it’s the seventh country in Latin America to ever experience hyperinflation. The term “hyperinflation” is often bandied about, but it’s quite rare, and only happens when monthly inflation exceeds 50% for more than 30 consecutive days. On Dec. 3, Venezuela did just that, becoming the 57th known case of hyperinflation since France suffered the malaise in 1795.  Venezuela, welcome to the record books,” said researchers at Johns Hopkins University as they added the country to their Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table. “You have now entered the inglorious sphere of hyperinflation. It is a world of economic chaos, wrenching poverty and death. Its purveyors should be incarcerated, and the keys should be thrown away.” While Venezuela’s case is obviously bad, history shows it could be worse. The country’s implied daily inflation rate is 3.96%, meaning it takes 17.8 days for prices to double. That ranks it at No. 23 on the Hanke-Kraus table. The leaders of that list are Hungary (1945), when prices were doubling every 15 hours, and Zimbabwe (2007), when prices doubled every day. “Only seven countries have hyperinflated in Latin America, but Venezuela’s case is still rather mild by hyperinflation standards,” said Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the co-author of the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table. The other countries in the hemisphere that have seen hyperinflation are Argentina (1989), Bolivia (1984), Brazil (1989), Chile (1973), Nicaragua (1986) and Peru (1988 and 1990). On the streets of Venezuela, however, even the “mild” hyperinflation is generating real pain, as people see their purchasing power sapped amid rolling food shortages and massive shopping lines. The Central Bank hasn’t put out inflation data all year, but Hanke and his team say annual inflation as of Dec. 9th, is 375%. Others have said the number could be running twice that high. The country has been trying to tame its inflation for years, but it began spiraling out of control between 2012 and 2013, when it jumped from 20 percent to 56 percent. By 2015, annual inflation hit 181%, according to official figures.  Hanke said there are only two ways for the government to stop hyperinflation: Establish a currency board (like Bulgaria or Estonia) or to dollarize, as Ecuador did in 2000. So far, Venezuela seems to be resisting taking the painful measures. But printing higher-denomination bills is a tacit surrender to market forces, Hanke said. “This is very typical of what happens in hyperinflation; it goes with the territory,” he said of printing bigger bills. “And it does in a way mean that the government has thrown in the towel.” (The Miami Herald:


Government pulls highest-value banknote 'to strike against mafia'

The Maduro regime has announced it will remove the country's highest-denomination banknote from circulation within 72 hours to combat contraband. Central bank data suggests there are more than six billion 100-bolivar notes in circulation, making up almost half of all currency. Venezuelans will have 10 days from Wednesday to exchange the notes for coins and new, higher-value bills. President Nicolas Maduro said the move would stop gangs hoarding the notes. In a surprise announcement, Maduro said on Sunday that the 100-bolivar note, worth about 2 US cents on the black market, would be taken out of circulation on Wednesday. The president said the aim was to tackle transnational gangs which hoard the Venezuelan notes abroad, a move he has in the past described as part of the "economic war" being waged against his government. He said the gangs held more than 300 billion bolivars worth of currency, most of it in 100-bolivar notes. President Maduro said there were "entire warehouses full of 100-bolivar notes in the [Colombian cities of] Cucuta, Cartagena, Maicao and Bucaramanga", as well as in Brazil, Germany, the Czech Republic and Ukraine, where criminal organizations are stockpiling Venezuelan currency,. He said part of the plan was to block any of the 100-bolivar notes from being taken back into the country so the gangs would be unable to exchange their hoarded bills, making them worthless. The “operator” behind the plan targeting Venezuela’s currency is a non-governmental organization “hired by the U.S. Treasury Department,” Maduro said. "I have given the orders to close all land, maritime and air possibilities so those bills taken out can't be returned and they're stuck with their fraud abroad," he said speaking on television. Analysts say the move is likely to worsen the cash crunch in Venezuela, where people have already been limited in the amount of cash they can take out at automated teller machines. Critics slammed the move as economically nonsensical, adding there would be no way to swap all the 100-bolivar bills in circulation in the time the president has allotted. Central bank data showed that in November, there were more than six billion 100-bolivar bills in circulation, 48% of all bills and coins. "Ineptitude rules! Who would possibly think of doing something like this in December amid all our problems?" says opposition leader Henrique Capriles. (BBC:; Bloomberg,;; Reuters,


Interior Minister claims NGO involved in capital flight worth VEB 300 billion

Minister of the Interior, Justice, and Peace met on Monday with representatives of the Banking Association of Venezuela to coordinate the collection of VEB 100 banknotes. The minister said an investigation had been launched into the smuggling of VEB 100 bills out of the Venezuelan territory. “Until now, we have found that VEB 300 billion were smuggled out of the country through organizations hired by the US Department of the Treasury in to take the money out of our country, suffocate the local financial system, and leave our country without circulating money,” Minister General Reverol explained. In addition, he claimed that foreign non-governmental organizations (NGO) were linked to organized mafias to smuggle Venezuelan banknotes into Colombia. He added that large amounts of money have been deposited in Switzerland, Poland, Spain, Ukraine, Germany and the Czech Republic. (El Universal,


Politics and International Affairs

Time for a call from the Venezuelan opposition to President-Elect Trump?

President-elect Donald Trump’s conversation with Taiwan’s President has put the People’s Republic of China on notice that his administration will not necessarily self-censor its activities to avoid a conflict. As with China, there is another regime whose advances have been similarly emboldened by the perceived unwillingness of the Obama administration to stand up for U.S. interests. In Venezuela, the country’s “Bolivarian socialist” regime has systematically dismantled democratic institutions and made it a hub for narcotrafficking, Russian and Chinese arms and the activities of Iran, and terrorist groups such as the FARC. There are few regimes more in need, and more deserving, of being put on notice by a phone call and a few well-placed tweets from the incoming U.S. president, than that of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. Although the incoming Trump administration has many demands on its attention, “putting America first” implies putting those on notice who, such as Maduro, are working against U.S. interests, and where the implosion of a failed regime threatens neighboring U.S. friends and allies. A hopeful sign that the integral connection between Latin America and U.S. security interests will be highlighted to President Trump is his selection of retired Marine General John F. Kelly, former head of U.S. Southern Command, to serve as head of the Department of Homeland Security. For the chavistas, the nomination by President-Elect Trump of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State should further dampen their spirits. Tillerson arguably will bring an in-depth understanding of the machinations of the Venezuelan government, which mistreated Exxon in the country for years, expropriated its assets, and violated its contractual rights, for which Exxon was awarded US$ 1.6 billion in damages in 2014. Official negotiations between Venezuela’s chavista regime and the opposition, mediated by the Vatican, are now on hold until the end of the Christmas holiday and scheduled to resume January 13, 2017, just a week before Donald Trump is inaugurated in the United States. The first week of January would be an ideal time for Donald Trump to take a friendly call from Henry Ramos Allup and others in Venezuela’s democratic opposition. The position of democracy in Venezuela will be strengthened if President Maduro (and those who stay out of jail so long as he remains in power) returns to the bargaining table knowing that the incoming Trump administration is paying attention, and not entirely sure what he will do once he takes office. (Latin America Goes Global:


Venezuela oil deal reportedly laundered ‘hundreds of millions’ into Iran

A new report in Bloomberg reveals that U.S. authorities are investigating evidence suggesting that the socialist government of Venezuela paid Iran “hundreds of millions” as part of a money laundering scheme designed to avoid human rights sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic. Bloomberg’s report cites an engineer for the state-owned oil corporation Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), who says documents exist that show the government of Venezuela paying Iran to build housing units at US$ 74,000 an apartment, far more than the construction costs. “The documents appeared to detail the housing deals and payments to Swiss bank accounts through JPMorgan Chase—a potential violation of U.S. law. The investigation is ongoing; PDVSA hasn’t been charged with illegal activity involving Iran,” Bloomberg reports. The scheme may have resulted in a total of US$ 3 billion in revenue for Iran, the leading U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism in the world. While PDVSA officials are not yet facing formal charges for deals with Iran, Bloomberg notes that the corporation is embroiled in a sweeping corruption scandal. Up to US$ 1.9 billion have allegedly gone missing from PDVSA’s internal coffers in recent funding audits. The opposition-controlled National Assembly found US$ 11 billion went missing from PDVSA funds between 2004 and 2014, “more than the budget of five Central American countries.” The PDVSA corruption scandal has spilled over into the United States, where a Houston court is expected to see a criminal investigation into a million-dollar money laundering scheme that, like Petrobras is suspected of doing, overcharged on vast government projects, allowing officials to pocket the change. Venezuela and Iran have enjoyed close diplomatic relations for the past 17 years, since socialist dictator Hugo Chávez took power. Chávez’s government has been accused of illegally purchasing weapons from a sanctioned Iran. The two governments routinely support each other’s interests on the global stage. Iran and Venezuela’s ties are far from merely economic, however. Venezuela has long tolerated the presence of Iranian “cultural centers” national security officials have accused of helping spread the influence of Iran’s terrorist proxy organization Hezbollah in the region. Multiple reports — including a confession from a former diplomat at the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad — have alleged that Venezuela has used its embassies to issue false national documents to members of Hezbollah. Armed with Venezuelan passports, birth certificates, and other identifying documents, these individuals can travel more freely through Latin America and the United States. One report estimates that up to 300 Hezbollah operatives have acquired false Venezuelan government documents. (Breitbart:; Bloomberg:


Ramos Allup says failed talks defined key policy matters, will lead to further confrontation

National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup says that for the MUD Democratic Unity coalition talks with the government sector, international organizations and the Vatican were no waste of time, even though no solutions were found to the country’s ongoing crisis. Ramos Allup says that “the agreements defined in the dialogue table are those specified by Cardinal Pietro Parolin (a Vatican’s envoy) in a letter he sent the government representatives as a formal request.” As per the document, the agreements achieved by the talks include humanitarian crisis, setting of the electoral schedule, respect for the National Assembly, and release of political prisoners. He added that the government’s non-compliance with agreements reached will lead to renewed confrontation between the regime and the democratic opposition. (El Universal,


Chilean government concerned about detained Chilean-Venezuelan Braulio Jatar

Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz stated that Chile was “constantly worried” about the detention of Chilean-Venezuelan journalist Braulio Jatar, and that it has undertaken efforts to achieve his release. Jatar’s sister, Ana Julia Jatar, travelled to Chile this weekend to denounce human rights abuses against his brother. Braulio Jatar was born in Chile, but his parents are Venezuelan. He was charged with “legitimation of capital” after he was arrested in September, as the police found large amounts of cash in his vehicle when he was heading to work in an internet radio station. (El Universal,


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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