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.

Friday, December 1, 2017

December 01, 2017

International Trade


Cargo arrivals:

  • 30,000 tons of yellow corn at Puerto Cabello port, aboard the POLA UGLICH
  • 11,697 tons of food for the government CLAP distribution program, at La Guaira port, aboard the VIKING MERLIN, from Mexico.
More in Spanish: (Bolipuertos,; El Universal;


Logistics & Transport


Venezuelan airline barred from European Union skies

Venezuela's AVIOR Airlines has been banned from European Union skies after a commission determined it no longer meets international safety standards, another blow to troubled nation's already beleaguered flight industry. The European Commission announced Thursday that AVIOR had been added to a list of international airlines prohibited from flying within the union because the European Aviation Safety Agency detected "unaddressed safety deficiencies." The Venezuelan airline is one of a handful still offering international flight destinations as major carriers like United and Delta halt operations in the crisis-ridden nation. Air carriers have cited financial and safety concerns as reasons for suspending service. AVIOR operates flights within Venezuela, throughout Latin America and to Miami, Florida, and lists an office location in Madrid on its website. The airline is certified under U.S. federal aviation regulations and Venezuela remains in good standing with the International Aviation Safety Assessment, the Federal Aviation Administration's program to determine whether foreign countries provide sufficient safety and oversight of airlines that fly to the U.S. (Fox News:


Oil & Energy


New oil czar head blames oil woes on 'sabotage', claims Venezuela can do without sales to US

Venezuela's oil industry is being sabotaged, the general newly installed as the crisis-hit country's oil minister and head of state crude giant PDVSA said Thursday. "We have managed to arrest 20 people involved in a plan to sabotage production," General Manuel Quevedo told reporters at a meeting of OPEC in Vienna that agreed to extend established oil production cuts through all of 2018. "This sabotage plan is aimed at achieving a repeat of 2002-3 when there was an attempted coup against [Hugo] Chavez," the former president, Quevedo said. "This time there is a whole plan to hit [oil] production." Quevedo also floated the possibility that Venezuela would stop selling oil to the United States, echoing comments from President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday. "We want to sell oil to the American people but if their government doesn't want to help its people, then we can easily switch to other markets," Quevedo said. The general also claimed that Venezuela has funds to meet its current obligations and said delays in payments were due to bank “maneuvers” as part of a “conspiracy” to block and delay payments under US orders. (AFP/Jamaica Observer:; and more in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; Agencia Venezolana de Noticias;; El Universal,;


CITGO names new CEO as arrests in Venezuela continue

Houston-based CITGO Petroleum officially named a cousin of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as its new chief executive Thursday as a purge of Venezuela's energy establishment reached the top tiers of government. Asdrubal Chavez, a former oil minister, was installed as the CITGO CEO following the arrests last week of CITGO's previous CEO and five other executives on corruption charges. In announcing the new chief executive, CITGO did not mention last week's arrests nor did it note Chavez's relationship to the late president. As for Chavez, he is a politician and former Venezuelan oil minister. CITGO declined to comment on whether he will live in Houston or lead the company from Venezuela. He's a 1979 chemical engineering graduate from the Universidad de los Andes who started his career at the El Palito Refinery in Venezuela. He worked his way up to vice president of refining at PDVSA, and then to oil minister from 2014 to the beginning of 2016. (The Houston Chronicle:


ExxonMobil helping Guyana pay legal fees in World Court Guyana-Venezuela border case

The United States oil giant has agreed to help pay Guyana’s legal fees, amounting to just over US$ 15 million, for taking of the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy to the World Court, despite a denial earlier Thursday. High-level government sources said that the so-called US$ 20 million signing bonus from Exxon “is to assist with the border process as the UN Secretary General has promised to refer the case to the World Court in about four weeks. Guyana’s Finance Minister, Winston Jordan one week ago denied that government had raked in US$ 20 million from ExxonMobil as a signing bonus. Earlier Thursday, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said: “in the event that the matter goes to the ICJ, the legal fees would be paid by the Government of Guyana.” Sources, however, said that the government is “garnering all the necessary resources” to prepare for the demarcation of the border with Venezuela given numerous threats to the country’s national security. (Demerara Waves:


PDVSA's Amuay refinery halts distillation unit

Venezuela’s 645,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Amuay refinery has halted its distillation unit No. 5 due to an operational problem, union leader and opposition activist Ivan Freites said on Thursday. The 955,000 bpd Paraguana Refining Center, which includes Amuay and the neighboring 310,000 bpd Cardon refinery, is currently producing at 27% of its installed capacity, Freites said, citing an internal report. (Reuters,


Economy & Finance


In Venezuela, the dollar’s gained 10,768% in just the last two years

The speed at which the Venezuelan bolivar is sinking against the dollar is hard to fathom. It’s one of those rare market moves that’s so crazy that analyzing it from the perspective of the declining currency feels inadequate. That’s because the value of a currency, of course, can’t fall more than 99.99%. Gains, on the other hand, are infinite. And so, it’s more illuminating to examine the move from the angle of the dollar’s advance against the bolivar. In the black market -- the place where most Venezuelans acquire dollars in the authoritarian country -- the U.S. currency has risen 135% this month alone. To date this year, it’s up 2,959%. And over the past two years, it’s climbed 10,768%. For some context, bitcoin, the cryptocurrency whose rally has mesmerized investors the world over, is up about 2,500% over that time. (That advance, it should be noted, is against the dollar, meaning bitcoin’s rally versus the bolivar is astronomical.) The bolivar traded at 96,794 per dollar as of late Wednesday. It had started the week at 82,186 per dollar and hovered under 10,000 per dollars as recently as late July. The official government-set exchange rate, a largely irrelevant number at this point, is 10 bolivars per dollar. The situation has become so out of control that some within Maduro’s constituent assembly -- including a former trade and investment minister -- have even begun talking about something that’s long been taboo for them: the idea of re-implementing some free-market policies. (Bloomberg,


Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, has been rendered basically worthless

ATMs here now have a daily limit of 10,000 bolivars, which is just about enough to buy a few cups of coffee. Sometimes, bank tellers will only pay you half of your pension and suggest that you come back later for the rest. State spending in the communist state has been seen as out-of-control and other policies have simply led to hyperinflation. A vicious cycle has occurred where there is now not enough cash in circulation to keep up with the rapidly rising prices. Jean Paul Leidenz, a senior economist at the Caracas think tank ECOANALITICA commenting on the worthless currency said there are about 13 billion banknotes in circulation in Venezuela.  However, around half of these are 100-bolivar notes which equates to a fraction of one pence. The central bank has introduced higher-denomination bill such as the 100,000-bolivar note. These new banknotes are printed in Europe and the government lacks the money to import enough of them to meet demand. Leidenz added: "Prices are doubling around every two months. So, at that rate of price increases you can’t keep up with inflation even if you start importing bills." (The Express:


Maduro’s National Constitutional Assembly approved the 2018 budget for VEB 36 billion

The pro-regime National Constitutional Assembly has approved Venezuela’s budget for fiscal 2018 for VEB 36 billion, which is more than US$ 10 billion at the highest official exchange rate. The budget was presented by Executive Vice President Tareck el Assami, bypassing Venezuela’s elected National Assembly which has been held in contempt and stripped of legislative Powers by the government controlled Supreme Tribunal. (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Universal,;


Venezuela creditors meet with Rotshchild, Cleary in London

Investment bank Rothschild is participating in a Venezuelan creditors' meeting in London to discuss how to handle the country's request to restructure some US$ 60 billion in outstanding bonds. The meeting, organized by UK-based hedge fund MACROSYNERGY Partners, will aim to discuss a likely path forward on debt issued by the government and state-owned oil company PDVSA, as well as whether to form an informal, ad-hoc bondholder committee. Among those in attendance will be lawyers from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, including Lee Buchheit, a partner who specializes in sovereign debt restructurings. Rothschild, the Paris-based global advisory firm whose specialties include debt restructuring, is also participating. The meeting is one of the most concrete signs yet that holders of Venezuelan bonds are meeting with each other to strategize on how to handle the country's deeply distressed bonds. While President Nicolas Maduro has said Venezuela will keep servicing its obligations for now, bondholders ranging from hedge funds to emerging market funds are starting to lay the foundations for what could be a bitter showdown over this nation's debt down the road. (Reuters,


Tea Party Koch brothers sue Venezuela over US$ 400 million expropriation

After years of litigation at the World Bank's International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes arbitration panel (ICSID), the Koch Brothers -- stalwarts of the Tea Party -- have filed suit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., to collect a US$ 409 million ICSID award against Venezuela. The late President Hugo Chavez expropriated the fertilizer and chemical plant FERTINITRO in 2010. Koch had a 25% interest in the venture through its Swiss subsidiary Koch Minerals. Another Koch Swiss entity Koch Nitrogen International had contracts to buy the resulting ammonia and urea at a discount because of the investment as part of the deal and the investment was protected by a bilateral Swiss-Venezuela Investment Treaty. The Koch entities filed suit against Venezuela at ICSID in 2011 after not being compensated for the expropriation and the three judge ICSID arbitration panel awarded Koch US$ 409 million. In addition to the award, the panel also awarded legal fees of US$ 17 million and ICSID fees of US$ 629,000 to Koch, a sign that Venezuela was clearly at fault. Koch is a closely-held corporation owned by the Koch brothers, stalwart funders of the right-wing US Tea-Party. Costing US$ 1.1 billion dollars to build, FERTINITRO ranks as one of the world’s largest nitrogen-based fertilizer plants, with daily production capacity of 3,600 metric tons of ammonia and 4,400 metric tons of urea. Until the Chavez government expropriated it in October of 2010, FERTINITRO was owned 25% by a Koch subsidiary, 35% by Venezuela state petrochemical company PEQUIVEN, 20% by a Snamprogetti subsidiary of Italian oil company ENI, and 10% by Venezuela's private food and beverage giant Polar. (Latin American Herald Tribune:


Some Venezuelan socialists are pushing for free-market reforms

As Venezuela’s economy sinks deeper into depression some ruling socialist party members are raising their voices to call for reforms. A closed-door debate is occurring inside the country’s all-powerful constituent assembly, the body stacked only with pro-government lawmakers created in August to sideline the opposition-controlled congress, on what to do with the economy. Perhaps one of the loudest voices calling for change is Jesus Faria, a former trade and investment minister who’s now a member of the constituent assembly. He has been urging the government to permit a free-floating exchange rate where the forces of the market set the best price for the bolivar. While he believes other stronger and subsidized exchange rates to shield the poor should be kept, it’s an odd public posture for a self-proclaimed Marxist economist who was a young university student in East Berlin when it was still under Soviet rule. Maduro has resisted calls to devalue the official rates or significantly cut subsidies on everything from gasoline to utility rates and has become infamous for saying he’s going to make important economic announcements without following through. While he added denominations of new bills of as large as 100,000 bolivars it’s done nothing to address the problems. The most significant economic adjustment he’s taken to save dwindling cash for debt payments was to curtail imports for everything from food to medicine and capital goods. The government fears that liberalization will lead to the depletion of the foreign reserves. Francisco Rodriguez, chief economist at TORINO Capital who himself has made recommendations to the government on economic reforms in recent years, said that while discussions to loosen currency controls aren’t new, they’ve become louder. (Bloomberg,


Politics and International Affairs


Venezuelan negotiations resume as financial pressures mount

Venezuela's socialist government and its opposition will seek today to jumpstart negotiations on resolving the country's economic and political crisis, pressured by international sanctions and a looming presidential election. The planned two-day session in the Dominican Republic is to be the first formal talks since anti-government protests collapsed in July with a toll of more than 120 dead and thousands detained. Given the scant results of previous attempts at dialogue, including talks last year mediated by the Vatican, expectations are low. But some analysts expressed optimism a deal could be struck because the cash-strapped administration of President Nicolas Maduro is desperately looking for support as it tries to refinance Venezuela's huge foreign debt. That will give the opposition a foothold to press their demands, analysts said. Just the fact that the two sides agreed to talk is a sign of progress. Still smarting from their belief the government committed fraud to pull off an unexpected victory in recent gubernatorial elections, several opposition parties are boycotting the talks as well as this month's mayoral elections. They say such things legitimize Maduro's "dictatorship." The hardliners have won a sympathetic ear from international critics, including Luis Almagro, the head of the Organization of American States, who this week said that "if I were Venezuelan I wouldn't go to the dialogue." Reflecting those tensions, the opposition delegation led by National Assembly President Julio Borges will for the first time include representatives from civil society groups. He said that would add transparency to the closed-door talks. Borges said they will repeat longstanding demands that the government release dozens of political prisoners recognize the National Assembly's authority and allow humanitarian aid. And the opposition will push for guarantees that next year's the presidential election will be free and fair, he said. "We want Venezuelans, with their vote, to be the ones who change this government," he said earlier this week at a news conference to outline goals for the talks. Lending urgency to the talks is Venezuela's spiraling financial crisis. The U.S. Treasury Department has said that U.S. sanctions could ease if any debt restructuring deal was endorsed by Venezuela's legislature, whose authority has been gutted by a pro-government assembly formed to rewrite the constitution. Also providing an extra nudge will be the presence as observers of foreign ministers from a half dozen Latin American countries, including two of Maduro's staunchest leftist allies, Bolivia and Nicaragua, and two harsh critics, Mexico and Chile. Chilean Foreign Minister Herald Muñoz has confirmed his nation will participate as an observer in these talks, but warned that Chile does not want them to be a “sham”, and that “if this were the case it would clearly make no sense to continue that kind of meeting”. Colombia’s Foreign Minister María Angela Holguín also said her country has reservations about the new negotiations that she called complicated because President Maduro wants to cling to power despite “his people’s suffering”. She added that arriving at decisions will be “very difficult due to radical positions and a divided opposition in the face of a government that is strong despite economic sanctions”. Former Lara state governor Henri Falcón of the Avanzada Progresista party has said they support the talks but will not attend because they were not invited, and complained that four opposition parties are taking the dominant role. Vicente Díaz, a former member of the National Elections Council, who will attend on behalf of the Democratic Unity coalition, has warned that “the government will be the one to blame if these talks deadlock”. (Fox News:; and more in Spanish: (El Universal,;;;


Maduro regime arrests ex-oil bosses for graft in widening purge

Venezuelan authorities on Thursday arrested two once-powerful officials who had run the oil ministry and state energy company PDVSA as part of a deepening industry purge also seen as a power play by leftist President Nicolas Maduro. In the highest-profile arrests to date, engineer Eulogio Del Pino and chemist Nelson Martinez were detained early on Thursday on accusations of graft and seeking to sabotage the nation’s ailing energy industry, prosecutor Tarek Saab said in a televised speech. He accused Del Pino of participating in a US$ 500 million corruption and sabotage scheme at the PETROZAMORA joint venture with Russia’s GAZPROMBANK and said Martinez had allowed a poor refinancing deal for Venezuela’s CITGO Petroleum Corp, a U.S.-based refiner that he used to lead, to go ahead without government approval. Videos during the press conference showed armed guards in balaclavas knocking on the officials’ doors, taking them from their homes in handcuffs and pajamas. The government will seek to seize the assets of corrupt officials abroad, Saab said, including mansions and yachts. Del Pino, in video shot before his detention and published on his Twitter account on Thursday, said he had been a “victim” of an “unjustified attack.” He said he would exercise his right to self-defense but did not elaborate on who ordered his arrest in the early hours of Thursday. Some 65 executives have been detained so far, panicking PDVSA workers, depriving Venezuela’s oil industry of much of its top brass, and stalling decision-making in the company overseeing the world’s biggest crude reserves. The opposition dismisses the probe as a power struggle within Maduro’s inner circle, noting that the industry has been under tight control of the ruling Socialist Party since early in the late President Hugo Chavez’s 14-year rule. They say authorities ridiculed and dismissed a report last year by the opposition-run Congress, which concluded that some US$ 11 billion went missing at PDVSA over a decade when Del Pino and Martinez were both influential officials. They say Maduro is sidelining influential and capable figures within his party who he thinks could become rivals for the presidency. Both Del Pino and Martínez are proteges of former oil czar Rafael Ramirez, who headed PDVSA and served as oil minister for a decade until becoming Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations in 2014. Ramirez is believed to be the ultimate target of the PDVSA housecleaning. “It looks like a political move. On the one hand giving more power to the military that sustain him and putting a loyalist at the helm, on the other eroding a rival’s power. But it would be very costly for the industry,” says Francisco J. Monaldi, a fellow in Latin American energy policy at the Baker Institute in Houston, noting that the “military have overseen other areas in which corruption is rampant.”


… but the top target on Maduro's purge list is holed up in Manhattan

But the one Maduro wants to nab the most remains free: Rafael Ramirez, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations. The two have been intense rivals for years, dating to the days when the firebrand revolutionary Hugo Chavez was alive and rapidly converting Venezuela into a socialist economy. Back then, Ramirez was energy minister, overseeing the world’s largest oil reserves, while Maduro served most of that era as Venezuela’s foreign minister. The vast bulk of the executives imprisoned by Maduro’s forces are considered disciples or allies of Ramirez. The sense from Venezuelan watchers is that having successfully crushed the political opposition, Maduro is turning his attention to his enemies from within Chavismo as he prepares to run for re-election next year. Ramírez, who is thought to have had presidential ambitions, is struggling to survive after being fired from his job by Maduro and summoned back to Caracas from New York. In recent weeks he wrote online opinion articles criticizing PDVSA’s production slump and Maduro’s handling of the economy. According to press accounts, when Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza relayed the news of his firing to Ramírez over the phone Tuesday night, the ambassador retorted that only Maduro himself can fire him. Arreaza flew to New York on Wednesday, ostensibly to attend a Thursday meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, but Caracas outlets reported he came to do the firing in person. While Maduro is Ramirez’s boss and can simply fire him if he so chooses, such a move is fraught with risk. In recent tweets and op-eds in a pro-government policy discussion website, Ramirez has pushed backed at his critics and at claims that he has broken ranks. “I demand respect. I cannot accept being discredited or called names simply because I give my opinion while completing my revolutionary duty,” he wrote. “I’m in complete exercise of my loyalty to Chavez.” By now, “Ramirez has accumulated enough money and influence to become a significant competitor against Maduro,” said Angel Alvarez, a political analyst and former professor at Central University of Venezuela. “Beating Ramirez is a way to end the financing of a possible non-Maduro candidate.” As U.N. ambassador, Ramírez has enjoyed diplomatic immunity—until now. A U.N. spokesperson, Farhan Haq, said the world body was not notified of any personnel changes in the Venezuelan representation; but Ramírez was a no-show at a dinner gathering where he’d previously confirmed attendance, and failed to appear at a General Assembly annual event he never skips. Saab did not mention Ramirez by name, although both Maduro and top officials have recently repeatedly referred to his governance as oil boss as a time when “mafias” were formed and executives came to think of themselves as the owners of Venezuela’s reserves. Authorities appear to be seeking information on Ramirez from Del Pino and Martinez as splits widen in the Socialist Party. Rather than returning to Caracas, Ramirez could instead just walk over to federal prosecutors’ offices as other ex-Chavistas have in recent years to share details of murky business transactions that have raised suspicion in the U.S. A Venezuelan diplomat said Ramírez is trying to use his deep knowledge of the way Venezuela does business as leverage to save his UN position, referring to oil agreements between PDVSA, and companies in Russia, Cuba, Nicaragua and elsewhere. Now, the diplomat added, he’ll lean on those countries to pressure Maduro not to fire him. If he loses the fight, the diplomat said, Ramírez may flee to Havana, Moscow or even Qatar, where he has a lot of contacts. Yet another diplomat cited Caracas sources who intimated Ramírez may already be working a deal with U.S. authorities who have implicated him in illegal activities, to inform on higher-ups and receive asylum in the United States. Ramirez’s next moves were not immediately clear.


… and Maduro´s reelection plans are confirmed

Vice President Tareck El Aissami said on Wednesday that he hoped that Maduro will be re-elected in 2018, the clearest sign yet that the former bus driver will seek another term despite the deepening economic crisis. Amid chants of “Maduro, Maduro” from the crowd at a rally in the central state of Aragua ahead of the Dec. 10 municipal elections, the vice president lashed out at the opposition. “They embody individualism, hatred, intolerance, sectarianism, treason, corruption, looting, and black-marketeering,” he said, describing all opposition leaders as being cut from the same cloth and as “puppets of Trump” who take orders from the US Embassy. Speculation has been rising that Maduro may call elections for as early as March to take advantage of disarray within the opposition, which has been struggling to come up with a strategy to confront the president’s increasingly authoritarian rule. Experts say it’s a high-risk strategy for Maduro, who is under increasing international pressure as well as U.S. financial sanctions. Should Ramirez decide to turn to U.S. authorities for protection, as many expect, he could likely provide incriminating testimony on corruption at the highest levels of the system.

(Reuters,;;; Bloomberg,;; The Daily Beast:; BBC News:; The Washington Post:; The Wall Street Journal:; Oil Price:; The New York Times:; Latin American Herald Tribune,


Ledezma asks Trump to double down on sanctions

Antonio Ledezma who fled to Spain and was recently ousted as mayor of Caracas following two years of house arrest on charges of conspiracy against the government is now on a tour of Washington, D.C.’s political corridors. Now free to travel, Ledezma visited the head of the Organization of American States, gave speeches at think tanks, and made media appearances in a bid to call attention to the plight of a nation he said is being held hostage. Ledezma’s presence in D.C.’s power-adjacent circles signals a growing interest in what’s happening in Venezuela, a nation Florida Senator Marco Rubio has referred to as a “lost democracy”. Ledezma says Venezuela’s economic woes will never be adequately addressed if Maduro remains in the highest office. He says any potential wealth the nation has due to oil production is immediately siphoned off to Cuba, and has called on US President Donald Trump to double down on sanctions on members of the Maduro regime. (Red State:; and more in Spanish: (El Universal,


Venezuela and Russia teamed up to push pro-Catalan fake news

At the height of the Catalan separatist crisis, analysis of more than 5 million messages about Catalonia posted on social networks between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5, shows that only 3% come from real profiles outside the Russian and Venezuelan cybernetworks. These are the conclusions of a report prepared by Javier Lesaca, visiting scholar at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. And there’s more: 32% of the messages investigated came from Venezuela—accounts linked to the regime of Nicolás Maduro. 30% were born from anonymous accounts exclusively dedicated to contents of the Russian state media RT and Sputnik; 25% came from bots; and 10% from the official accounts of the two Russian media mentioned. On the same dates, the geolocation data offered by social networks such as Twitter or Facebook show similar results: Excluding Spain, 13% of those who shared RT’s information about the illegal referendum in Catalonia were in Venezuela. Based on these data, the newspaper El País concluded on Nov. 11 that, the “Russian network used Venezuelan accounts to deepen the Catalan crisis.” Hours later the government of Spain claimed that it has well-founded information that confirms many messages with a Catalan secessionist bias in social networks comes from “Russian territory.” The evident purpose: to undermine European as well as Spanish unity. The possibility of Venezuelan involvement was left open. (The Daily Beast:


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.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November 07, 2017

International Trade

130 containers of food and medicine offloaded at Puerto Cabello

130 containers bearing food and medicine have been offloaded at Puerto Cabello from the vessel NIKOLAS, from Cartagena, in Colombia. The shipment includes 50 containers of semolina pasta, 20 of milk, 15 of black beans, 10 of red beans, and 3 of beef, as well as chemicals for the pharmaceutical industry. All cargo was consigned to state agency CUSPALCA. More in Spanish: (Bolipuertos,


Oil & Energy

U.S. oil service firms face hit from Venezuela debt restructuring

U.S. oil service companies face hard decisions in the coming weeks on whether to continue working for Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA, and the prospect of hundreds of millions of dollars in write-offs for overdue bills. The companies’ services are critical for Venezuela, which is struggling with a deep economic crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine. Oil accounts for over 90% of the nation’s export revenues. Socialist President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday said the country plans to potentially restructure some US$ 60 billion in bonds, widely seen as signaling a possible default that could affect other debt. New York-based investment firm Torino Capital estimates that, in addition to the bonds, Venezuela owes some US$ 26 billion to creditors and US$ 24 billion in commercial loans. (Reuters,


Commerce Secretary appears to have links to PDVSA, despite U.S. sanctions

Despite U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s bond transactions in international markets and other restrictions against top officials, the Paradise Papers show that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has an important stake in multi-million-dollar businesses related with state-oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). Ross still retains interest in Navigator Holdings, a shipping company incorporated in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific that maintains a close relationship with Russia’s energy company SIBUR, which is run by President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law Kirill Shamalov and other individuals who have been sanctioned by the U.S. Navigator Holdings has received millions of dollars every year in earnings due to coastal shipping services provided to PDVSA, which is no small client of Navigator Holdings. The state-oil company contributed to 10.7% of Navigator’s earnings during fiscal year 2014 and 11.7% in fiscal year 2015. (Newsweek:


Brother of former PDVSA head implicated in money laundering

Fidel Ramírez Carreño, brother of Rafael Ramírez Carreño, former President of PDVSA and Venezuela’s current Ambassador to the United Nations, has been listed among the beneficiaries of a money laundering scheme that provided fake consulting bills to send millions of dollars to the United States through a Doral, Florida, company called Miami Equipment & Export Co. The company is under investigation for selling Venezuela overpriced electric plants. A Venezuelan consortium called KCT Cumaná II International sent millions of dollars to the Doral company, which in turn transferred the funds to the private accounts of Venezuelan government officials and former officials. Luis and Luis Javier Díaz, owners of the Doral based firm, are being charged by the US government for operating an unlicensed bank and money laundering. The transactions, involving a PDVSA affiliate, took place while Ambassador Ramírez was the company’s CEO. His brother, Fidel, has held several government positions under the current regime. The money-laundering case is being filed by NY Southern District DA Joon A. Kim. More in Spanish: (Venepress:


Venezuela oil basket hits 2 year high

The price Venezuela receives for its mix of medium and heavy oil rose for a third straight week, hitting its highest level since July of 2015.  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 November 3 rose to US$ 52.90, up US$ 2.16 from the previous week's US$ 50.74.  According to Venezuelan government figures, the average price in 2017 for Venezuela's mix of heavy and medium crude is now US$ 44.96. (Latin America Herald Tribune:



Pets on the menu as Venezuelans starve

In a country that once was rich, but where people are beginning to starve, few animals are safe. One morning in August at the metropolitan zoo in the torrid city of Maracaibo, workers were shocked to find the bones of a buffalo and some wild pigs inside their cages with clear signs of mutilation. Thieves allegedly stole the meat to eat what they could and sell the rest on the local market. In west Caracas, at the zoo of Caricuao district, the same sort of thing happened. Watchmen found the bones and offal of a black horse inside its enclosure. Apparently the perpetrators only took the edible parts of the animal. Venezuela’s increasingly authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro knows people are going hungry in his country, but he doesn’t know what to do about it. He keeps announcing new stopgap measures, but his words don’t carry a lot of nutritional weight. One of the latest programs was the so-called rabbit plan, a failed attempt to start rabbit farms all over the capital to substitute the proteins that come from unaffordable chicken and even more unaffordable beef. But, indeed, Venezuelans traditionally do see rabbits as pets and not food, so in areas where the government brought rabbits to start farms people started adopting them, giving them funny nicknames, and even embellishing their long ears with colorful bows. No question of eating the little dears after that. (Barron ’s:


Economy & Finance

Venezuela’s debt struggle poses more questions for investors

Analysts and investors say there are more questions than answers surrounding Venezuela’s plans to “refinance and restructure” its financial liabilities. Venezuela has about US$ 63 billion of foreign bonds outstanding, according to TORINO Capital, while the central bank estimates the country’s overall foreign debts at about US$90 billion. The real number say most analysts is much higher.  PDVSA, the state oil company, has sold US$ 28.6 billion of bonds and owes billions of dollars more in “promissory notes”. Venezuela owes another US$ 4billion or so to creditors that have taken it to the World Bank’s ICSID court. Stuart Culverhouse, chief economist at EXOTIX, thinks total public sector external debts range between US$100 billion and US$ 150 billion. Even this is uncertain. A refinancing usually implies something voluntary while a restructuring means forcibly “haircutting” creditors. Crucially, US sanctions imposed this summer in practice means both options are off the table. That Maduro named vice-president Tareck El Aissami as the lead negotiator with bondholders complicates matters further. Aissami has himself been sanctioned by the US as an alleged narcotics trafficker, which means US investment groups — the biggest holders of Venezuelan debt — cannot enter talks with him.  “The logistics seem almost impossible,” notes Siobhan Morden, head of Latin American fixed income strategy at Nomura. “The cynical interpretation is that the impossible deadline for negotiations conveniently shifts the blame of default to bondholders for their unwillingness (inability) to negotiate.” Worries that a default would trigger creditor lawsuits that could imperil its vital oil export revenues have spurred Venezuela to stay current much longer than many expected. It has managed this largely through largesse from China and Russia and pushing the hardship on to ordinary Venezuelans by sharply limiting imports. The country’s options appear limited. Venezuela is overdue on the interest payments on bonds that mature in 2019, 2024, 2025 and 2026, demonstrating the “significant fiscal strain” the country is facing, S&P notes. Foreign currency reserves are below US$ 10 billion — and much of this is in gold that will be hard to liquidate. China is wary of deepening its financial exposure to Venezuela while the country has already restructured some of its bilateral loans from Russia. The markets have reacted badly. The price of Venezuela’s bond maturing in August next year has tumbled from 72 cents on the dollar to about 34 cents this week, as investors panicked after the restructuring announcement and bank traders pulled out of the market, causing prices to “gap” lower.  S&P last week downgraded Venezuela’s rating to the second-lowest rung possible without actually being in default, arguing there was an even chance of a full default within the next three months. That dour view is reflected in the spiraling cost of Venezuelan credit-default swaps. The most likely outcome, investors and analysts say, is a protracted period of financial limbo, with a restructuring precluded by US sanctions and Venezuela facing a barrage of lawsuits that will tie it up for years to come. (Financial Times:; Bloomberg:;; Dealbreaker:; FORBES:; Oilprice:; Barron’s: Latin American Herald Tribune,;; El Universal,


Venezuela bonds tumble, PDVSA bonds rise on partial default speculation

Venezuelan bond prices tumbled on Monday while those of state oil company PDVSA were mixed, affected by speculation that the government of President Nicolas Maduro could halt payments on sovereign bonds while maintaining payment on PDVSA debt. The country’s cash-strapped government invited creditors to a Nov. 13 meeting in Caracas on Friday, after announcing plans to potentially restructure some US$ 60 billion in bonds. Venezuela’s 2018N bond, the country’s next sovereign maturity, was down 31.125 points to a bid price of 34. Meanwhile, several PDVSA bonds were rising, with the benchmark 2022 rising 2.000 points to a bid price of 32. Investors remain confused by Maduro’s announcement that his government will continue to pay but that it will also refinance and restructure debts. The latter options are all but impossible given U.S. sanctions against Caracas that block U.S. citizens from acquiring newly-issued Venezuelan debt. Many believe Maduro’s announcement was meant to pave the way for default, because the country’s debt burden has left it desperately short of basic goods such as food and medicines - spurring malnutrition and preventable diseases. Next year service is close to US$ 9 billion, of which US$ 6 billion must be paid by Venezuela. Investors are still waiting for a US$ 1.2 billion payment on PDVSA’s 2017N bond that came due last week. Officials last week said they had initiated the payment. Such payments have been increasingly slowed, as banks worry about doing business with PDVSA following the U.S. sanctions. (Reuters:


National Assembly accuses Maduro of sinking bond prices in secret buy-back plan

Venezuela’s Parliament today accused President Nicolás Maduro, of announcing a foreign debt restructuring to sink the price of Venezuelan bonds, to allow them to be repurchased by funds willing to offer better payment terms. The charge was made today by the congressman Rafael Guzmán, on behalf of the Finance Committee’s opposition majority. He accused the government for providing "inside information" to "friendly funds." (Latin American Herald Tribune,


OP-ED: A debt restructuring that’s really a giant money laundering operation

Nicolás Maduro has announced Venezuela couldn’t keep paying its debts, and needed to restructure.  But “restructuring” - a negotiated outcome agreed with bond holders — is totally impossible in current circumstances. Even if sanctions didn’t rule restructuring out, it’d still be unrealistic without major, sweeping policy reforms, which Maduro certainly isn’t promising. Without them, you’d end up having to offer 30% yields or some similarly high number. And even if Maduro did promise sweeping neoliberal policy reforms, restructuring would still not be feasible, because PDVSA bonds have no collective action clauses, so it’s practically impossible for the government to deal with holdout bondholders.  Long story short, this talk of “restructuring” is just noise. They can’t restructure. One way to see it is that this is about the political marketing of an already expected default: an attempt to soften public opinion ahead of the inevitable. But if so, why would you exempt the 2017N maturity due today? Why would you pay that bond even after you’ve announced default? One possibility is that this is all a bit of high-stakes market manipulation designed to send the price of all Venezuelan bonds plummeting. The CITGO-backed PDVSA 2020s could be a buyback target in such a scenario. Last week, trading in 2017Ns saw unprecedented volume. The kind of volume you’d expect if a few very rich, very well-connected people had reliable information that the 2017Ns were the last bond Maduro was planning to pay. That’s the kind of volume that could be interpreted as a massive money laundering operation, with tons of dirty money rushing in to buy-up a sure-thing bond. (Caracas Chronicles:


Standard & Poor's downgrades Venezuela's credit rating

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's reported on Friday that it has downgraded Venezuela’s debt notes with an outlook of probable default after the announcement made by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro about restructuring and refinancing. The decision followed a similar step taken earlier on Friday by credit rating agency Fitch, AFP reported. Rating lowered from CCC- to CC. In other words, the agency considers Venezuela’s debt in foreign currency as it were in default, with some possibility of recovery. (El Universal,


Venezuela bonds now yield a record 40 points over U.S. Treasuries

Venezuelan debt is teetering toward default with average prices near 30 cents on the dollar. As investors ponder an invite from the government to come to Caracas next week to discuss a restructuring (or renegotiation or refinancing, depending on which official is speaking), they now demand a record 40.8 percentage points of extra yield over U.S. Treasury bills to hold the country’s bonds. No one really expects those yields to pay out as Venezuela seeks debt relief, but they do give an idea as to just how distressed the securities have become. The spread implies that if the government were to issue new notes it would either have to pay a coupon near that figure or sell them at an extreme discount from the face price. In a normal sovereign restructuring, negotiations would probably lead to a haircut for bondholders around current prices. (Bloomberg, 


Goldman Sachs asset arm faces large paper loss on Venezuelan bond

Goldman Sachs’ asset management division is likely to be nursing a multimillion-dollar paper loss on a controversial Venezuelan bond purchase it made this summer after the country abruptly announced that it was seeking to restructure its foreign debts. Ricardo Penfold, a senior portfolio manager at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, earlier this year swooped on a big slice of a bond issued by PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, people familiar with the matter say. Mr. Penfold paid US$ 865 million for bonds with a face value of US$2.8 billion — a price of just under 31 cents on the dollar — reflecting the elevated risks of a default even at the time. While GSAM has since sold off chunks of the bond, it was still listed as the single biggest overall owner of the PDVSA bond maturing in 2022, with a face value holding of US$ 1.3 billion at the end of the third quarter. But with Thursday’s announcement that Venezuela would seek to restructure all its foreign bonds, the bond is now trading at 25 cents on the dollar, down from 29 cents at the start of last week. That would translate into a paper loss of US$ 54 million in just five days if GSAM has not reduced its stake since the end of the third quarter. “The opposition has already said they won’t honor that bond, so you’re taking a big risk trading those,” said Russ Dallen of Caracas Capital, an investment bank boutique that follows Venezuela. (Financial Times:


Venezuela's debt restructuring is probably just a political gambit by Maduro, experts say

President Nicolas Maduro may be trying to shore up support for next year's presidential election with the announcement of a massive foreign debt restructuring. Last week, Maduro unveiled plans to restructure Venezuela's US$ 120 billion debt. The restructuring effort will be led by Vice President Tareck El Aissami, who will also start "the fight against the financial persecution of our country," Maduro said. But a successful debt restructuring seems unlikely now, given a series of sanctions imposed by the U.S. earlier this year. The announcement also raises concern that the oil-rich country could default on its debt. "There's a political angle to this," said Risa Grais-Targow, director of risk consultancy Eurasia Group's Latin America practice. "I think their eye is on the presidential election next year." By unveiling this restructuring, Maduro can score political points and help secure his place as the most powerful person in the country, said Reggie Thompson, Latin America analyst at STRATFOR, a geopolitical analysis platform. (CNBC:


Maduro chooses food over bondholders as Venezuela goes hungry

With foreign reserves at a 15-year low after years of ruinous economic stewardship, Maduro is caught between satisfying creditors and voters who struggle to afford basics like beef, chicken and milk. When Maduro said last week that he would renegotiate the nation’s crushing $140 billion-plus debt, he chose butter over bonds. Obtaining fresh financing is a tall order, given the authoritarian government’s increasingly toxic reputation and U.S. sanctions that prohibit Americans from receiving new bonds as part of a restructuring. But rather than simply declaring default, Maduro has summoned creditors to Caracas on Nov. 13 to discuss new terms. By staving off a final reckoning, the nation can keep control of oil-producing assets, use its       US$ 9.7 billion in reserves to purchase goods from abroad -- and keep food and other social aid flowing. Through food distribution programs like the CLAPs, or Local Committees for Supply and Production, Maduro has tried to hold sway over Venezuela’s urban poor and countryside -- long considered the bedrock of the socialists’ support. Rather than sending scarce subsidized goods to supermarkets or state food stores, the government since last year has supplied food to loyal neighborhood groups, which distributes it directly to their neighbors to head off reselling and long lines. As Maduro and his allies promise to improve shaky services and increase deliveries, critics say the program only extorts a hungry electorate. The government says it shelled out almost US$ 72 billion to pay principal and interest on bonds and loans since Maduro took office four years ago, but after making a final payment last week, the president suggested such funds would be better spent in social programs. “It could have been spent in schools, clinics, housing, a prosperous economy,’’ he said. Luis Vicente Leon, head of DATANALISIS, said that whether bondholders turn up for the meeting, the government will lay blame on the U.S., which Maduro has described as indulging in “financial persecution.” (Bloomberg:


Unversed in debt details, Venezuelans desperate for any relief

Venezuelans heaving under an unprecedented economic meltdown know little about the finer points of foreign debt negotiations, but long for anything that would put more food on their plate and slow the world’s highest inflation. Few on the streets of capital Caracas really understood unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro’s announcement this week that he would seek to refinance the oil-rich nation’s heavy bond burden of US$ 60 billion - or about US$ 2,000 per person. But those interviewed by Reuters said they were hoping any deals between the government and its multiple foreign creditors would free up foreign currency to increase imports of scarce food, medicine, and basic products. (Reuters,


IMF gives Venezuela six months to supply economic data

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave Venezuela on Friday six months to produce statistics on the domestic economy, following the government failure to meet the deadline stipulated in the IMF regulations. Should Venezuela fail to supply the requested information, the IMF could end up expelling it. The board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) found that Venezuela did not deliver data on time on the operations of the Social Security Institute and total exports and imports of commodities, expressing their value in local currency, per country of destination and country of origin, AP quoted. The organization explained in a release that the meeting of the executive board of directors had been slated well in advance and it is not related at all with the announcement made on the eve by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on the beginning of restructuring of the Venezuelan foreign debt for U$D 120 billion. (El Universal,


OP-ED: How Long Can Venezuela Count on Russia and China? by Geoff Ramsey

Venezuela has found in Russia a source of quick loans and oil deals that have been essential to the government’s efforts to stay afloat. In the near term, it appears that Russia is willing to accept the high risks associated with lending to Venezuela in exchange for an increasing role in the country’s oil industry. This has been a major point of concern U.S. policymakers. The Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act—which passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on September 28 and is awaiting consideration by the full House—specifically tasks the State Department and intelligence community with providing a report on Russia’s activities in Venezuela. Much of the discussion on Venezuela’s international backers have tended to lump Russia and China in the same boat, with some painting them both as “enablers” of the Maduro government. However, these arguments obscure more than they reveal. For one thing, Russia’s economic support has clear limits. Russia’s economy has been degraded by declining oil prices and sanctions. Russia has a GDP smaller than that of New York state, and its capacity to project power abroad is somewhat exaggerated. While the Russian government has been willing to accept higher risks in backing Maduro, they do not appear to have the resources to provide an indefinite lifeline. China’s government, on the other hand, has a far greater capacity to do so, but appears to have more interest in looking beyond the Maduro government than its Russian counterparts. Unlike Russia, though, China moved to stop issuing new loans to the country in 2016, and has held unofficial meetings with individual members of the opposition to seek assurances that debt would be honored by a potential opposition government in the future. More recently, PETROCHINA announced that its U.S. affiliate would respect the U.S. debt sanctions announced by the White House in August, and China has reportedly grown impatient with increasing delays in shipments of Venezuelan crude. International relations analysts have pointed to two other clear incentives for China to support a resolution to the Venezuelan crisis. The first of these reasons, put plainly, is that serving as a lifeline to the Maduro government is bad for China’s “brand” in Latin America. The second reason for a Chinese interest in backing away from Maduro and supporting transition is China’s own evolving approach to relations with other developing nations. In recent years, analysts suggest that China has been cautiously reevaluating its long-held policy of non-intervention in other states’ internal affairs. Now, China is calculating that the benefits of having Maduro in power outweigh the risks of his government’s economic mismanagement. However, the differences between the Chinese and Russian approach to the Venezuelan crisis suggest that China’s support for Venezuela cannot be taken for granted. Moving forward, it is unlikely that the Chinese government will be an entirely inflexible ally to Maduro. (WOLA:


Politics and International Affairs

Maduro's allies strip leading legislator of immunity, launch trial

Prominent Venezuelan lawmaker Freddy Guevara has sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador’s residence in Caracas amid fears he could be jailed, a development that leaves the ailing opposition with even fewer leaders to take on leftist President Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela's pro-government constitutional assembly (ANC) stripped Guevara of his immunity from prosecution in a case that is fueling fears of another crackdown on President Nicolas Maduro's opponents. Guevara released a video saying he doesn't regret his call for civil obedience after the unanimous vote Monday. Guevara was one of the leaders of this year's deadly protests against Maduro and the second highest-ranking member of the opposition-controlled congress. The opposition and local media said that SEBIN intelligence agents had surrounded Guevara’s house over the weekend. The vote by the constitutional assembly was widely expected after the supreme tribunal Friday barred Guevara from leaving the country and accused him of instigating unrest and other crimes. By law only congress can determine whether a legislator's immunity should be lifted. The Venezuelan Supreme Court (TSJ), which is packed with government loyalists, ordered on Friday that Guevara be stripped of his immunity and prosecuted for crimes of "association, persistent public instigation and the use of an adolescent to commit crimes." Twelve governments — including those of Mexico, Brazil and Canada — issued a joint statement on Saturday calling the Supreme Court's accusations against Guevara a "new blow to the rule of law and separation of powers in Venezuela." The 31-year-old lawmaker is the vice president in the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Chile is willing to grant political asylum to Venezuelan opposition politician Freddy Guevara, Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said on Monday. The Maduro regime’s Foreign Ministry demanded other countries cease their “aggressions” against this country. The head of the opposition-controlled Venezuelan Parliament, Julio Borges, called the Supreme Court’s ruling “absolutely political ... arbitrary ... outside the law”. Borges said that the move by the TSJ is “one more attempt” to try and “destroy the Parliament,” adding that since the opposition took control of the chamber after the 2015 legislative election, the government has sought to divest it of its functions. The National Assembly will take this new instance of political persecution to the World Parliamentary Union and other international organizations. Guevara could become the highest-profile Venezuelan politician to seek exile in recent years. (The New York Times:; DW:; Fox News:; The Chicago Tribune:; Reuters,; Latin American Herald Tribune,;; and more in Spanish: El Universal,; Noticiero Venevisión,;


Venezuela frees two anti-Maduro activists; scores still jailed

Venezuelan authorities overnight freed two activists who were in jail for more than a year after being accused of plotting against socialist President Nicolas Maduro, the opposition said on Saturday. Delson Guarate, who had been a mayor in central Aragua state, and former student leader Yon Goicoechea were among nearly 400 jailed anti-Maduro activists who rights campaigners say are political prisoners but whom the government calls coup-plotters. “I‘m with my family today,” tweeted Goicoechea, displaying a photo of himself against the backdrop of Caracas’ Avila mountain. “Tomorrow I’ll address the country. God is with us.” (Reuters,


Canada imposes sanctions on Maduro and 18 government officers

Canada imposed sanctions on 52 government officers of Venezuela, Sudan and the Russian Federation on charges of human rights abuses and corruption. The Canadian government renewed on Friday sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, in addition to 18 government authorities for “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights or acts of significant corruption.” Under the new Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, announced targeted sanctions against 52 individuals. In addition to Maduro, other officials include Executive Vice-President Tareck el Aissami; Adán Chávez and Argenis Chávez, brothers of late President Hugo Chávez, and multiple ex ministers and pro-government deputies. (El Universal,


Venezuela's hate crime law seeks to silence political opposition, bishops warn

The president of the Venezuelan bishops' justice and peace commission has criticized a hate crimes law passed on Thursday, charging that its aim is to silence those opposed to the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro. The Law Against Hatred and Fascism, the Nov. 2 legislation passed by the Constituent Assembly, will be used by Maduro's government against the opposition “so we can't even speak or protest,” said the Emeritus Archbishop of Coro Roberto Lückert Leon. The Constituent Assembly's president, Delcy Rodriguez, has said the law targets media that “promote hatred and racism.” Lückert stated that news media critical of the government have been undercut by Maduro's government. “Right now, they've hamstrung the news media. They're using the supply of newsprint to undermine us. The oldest newspaper in Coro is called La Mañana. The can't print it because they're not giving them any newsprint; on the other hand, they gave to the paper that they founded a building, machinery, and newsprint, and it comes out every day. That's freedom of the speech? No.” Archbishop Lückert stated that “as a Venezuelan, the only solution for the country that I have is elections; but elections that are transparent and fair.”  However, he said that now the Venezuelan people are profoundly upset by the National Electoral Council, which “is completely sold out to the government” and which manipulated recent elections, so Maduro's party would win. The prelate also said the Constituent Assembly “is an invention Maduro brought in from Cuba,” where there are no political parties or independent news media”. Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas called the Constituent Assembly “fraudulent and illegitimate” in a recent interview. “It's made up of political activists at the service of the government and it's not going to resolve the problems with the economy. What's needed here is to change the Marxist, totalitarian, and statist ideology that has brought the country to ruin,” he charged. Cardinal Urosa said Maduro wants to “decapitate the opposition so there's just one political party.” (EWTN:


OP-ED: Is Venezuela's Maduro regime on its way out the door? by Michael Rowan

The reported hope that Venezuela’s dictatorial regime may collapse in the face of its tardiness in paying bond bills is wildly exaggerated. What may be happening is the new normal for Venezuela: just more lying. Consequently, a whole lot more killing, disease and starvation may be in store for the population. Sorry to say it, but relief from oppression and social collapse may not be on the horizon. Hugo Chavez built a very powerful machine to unravel Venezuela’s democracy and free market, and it is not going to be easy to set it right. It might never happen. But as they say, the bigger they are the harder they fall. The strength – and weakness -- of the current gang in power is their connection to the US$300 billion missing from public accounts since 2000. Where is that money? Without control of the state, that gang is toast. The game of the world’s outlaws is to ultimately escape from dependence on law and the dollar. Venezuela, Iran and Russia have exerted ferocious effort to destroy the dollar and failed. China is cleverly on both sides of that game, which is a big game, the world game. Chavez went “all in” with Venezuela’s chips in that game and lost big time. Yet while Venezuela is only a pawn in that game, and easily sacrificed, it still has oil and other assets – official corruption, for example – which have great value to outlaws. Maduro should look on the bright side: he’s worth a lot more alive than gone and forgotten by the bad guys. (Latin American Herald Tribune:


OP-ED: If the Trump doesn't do something, Venezuela will collapse, by Roger Noriega

The Trump administration’s targeted sanctions have taken a toll on the regime and its corrupt leaders, and the U.S. president has pressed regional and European partners to back an urgent democratic transition. However, without stronger internal opposition and tougher international efforts, Maduro will either consolidate a dictatorship or collapse the country altogether. After more than a decade of beleaguered opposition to the regimes of Hugo Chávez and his acolyte Maduro, most Venezuelans prefer fundamental change and are seeking new ways to obtain it. Creating a much more coherent and resolute opposition—which earns the confidence of the people and the international community—is a key to avoiding a catastrophic meltdown or dictatorship in Venezuela. Much tougher, clear-headed U.S. leadership is indispensable to that outcome. What is lacking is a strategy to focus these pro-democracy efforts in a more decisive, coordinated way. This should be the task of the State Department. It is not too late for the White House to empower a coordinator to lead a whole-of-government effort on Venezuela and work with global partners to promote democracy and adopt targeted sanctions. (Newsweek:


Guyana has been outfoxed by Venezuela

Guyana has bungled its handling of the territorial controversy with Venezuela. The talks which were held recently in New York between the foreign Ministers of Guyana and Venezuela suggest strongly that Guyana will not achieve its objective of having the matter placed before the International Court of Justice. Venezuela launched a diplomatic blitz when Guyana tried to isolate it within CARICOM, and Guyana had no response to that blitz, because it did not have the resources or the know-how to respond. CARICOM was always going to call for talks and negotiations as a condition of its support for Guyana’s position. One mistake that Guyana made was to place all its eggs in one basket. It decided to go for a juridical settlement of the dispute without carefully contemplating how realistic were the chances of success. The matter is never likely to end up before the ICJ, because Venezuela is not a member of the ICJ and it requires the approval of both parties to a controversy for a matter to go in front of the ICJ. So, Guyana is misdirecting its diplomatic efforts – in a direction in which there is little hope. Even if the matter does go to the ICJ eventually, this is a drawn-out process. Guyana is now locked into a good offices process, which can drag on for another 10 years. (Kaietur News:



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