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, May 11, 2017

May 11, 2017

International Trade

781 containers have arrived at La Guaira port from Cartagena, Colombia, bearing 4,000 tons of food; 336.76 tons of personal care products; 685.7 tons of medication and 21,000 tons of other products. According to the Port Authority, arriving products include wheat flour, frozen fish, cooking oil, rice, cereal, lentils, sugar, apples, pears, toilet paper, sanitary napkins, shampoo, brushes, feeding bottles, soap, moist towels, hemodialysis kits, intravenous solution, and supplies for medicine production. Also, metallic structures, construction material, clothing, spare parts for vehicles, appliances and cattle equipment. More in Spanish: (El Universal;; Bolipuertos,;
El Mundo,


Fertilizer and herbicides are offloading at Puerto Cabello
150,000 sacks of fertilizers from Barranquilla, Colombia, aboard the ship “Manuel Gual”, consigned to state agency AGROPATRIA. At the same time, the ship “Lion” was offloading 7 containers of Pendimetaline, a chemical herbicide used to control undergrowth. More in Spanish: (Bolipuertos,; El Universal,


Oil & Energy

Venezuela's main refineries operating at record lows
Three of Venezuela's four refineries are working at record lows due to equipment malfunctioning and lack of crude and spare parts, according to PDVSA internal reports seen by Reuters on Wednesday and workers from the facilities. The Paraguana Refining Center, which includes Venezuela's Cardon and Amuay refineries, was processing 409,000 barrels per day (bpd) as of Monday, or 43% of its installed capacity of 955,000 bpd, according to the data. Venezuela's third largest refinery, the 187,000-barrel-per-day Puerto la Cruz, is operating at minimum levels due to problems at two of its three distillation units, said union leader Jose Bodas and a worker who asked not to be identified. The current processing levels at the main refineries are similar to 2012, when a severe explosion that killed more than 40 people at Amuay significantly reduced operations at PDVSA's main facilities, forcing the company to import fuels. (Reuters,


Venezuelan crude sales to the U.S. bounced in April
Venezuelan crude sales to the United States recovered in April compared to previous months to reach 741,000 barrels per day (bpd), its highest level since November, due to a larger supply of diluted and upgraded oil, according to Thomson Reuters trade flows data. Oil upgrades capable of converting Orinoco Belt's extra heavy crude into exportable grades have increased processing in recent weeks after working partially earlier this year, allowing more exports, sources close to the projects said. Sales of Zuata 30, Venezuela's lightest upgraded crude, to the United States almost doubled to 178,000 bpd in April compared with the previous month, according to the data. Exports of diluted crude oil (DCO) made with extra heavy oil and heavy naphtha increased 17% compared to March. (Reuters,


UN reports sharp drop in Cuban exports of refined oil products
Cuban exports of refined oil products fell about 97% between 2013 and 2016, according to a United Nations trade report released this week, reflecting falling supplies from its political ally Venezuela. The UN COMTRADE annual report put the value of Cuban fuel exports last year at US$ 15.4 million, compared to more than US$ 500 million in 2013. The amounts for 2015 and 2014, when oil prices collapsed, were US$ 163.5 million and US$ 336.8, respectively. The figures were based on import data from reporting countries, which may make them incomplete. Cuba depends on socialist-ruled Venezuela for up to 70% of its energy needs, including re-exports. Havana gets the oil as part of an exchange that sends thousands of Cuban doctors and other professionals to Venezuela. But a severe economic crisis here nation has led to a decline in oil-related supplies since 2014. Cuba began rationing electricity and fuel to state companies a year ago, and has experienced gasoline shortages more recently. Diplomats, suppliers and joint venture partners report the government has fallen behind on some payments. In 2016, Cuba received 87,550 barrels per day (bpd) of Venezuelan oil and fuels, 27% less than in 2015. In 2017, shipments of fuels have declined further, according to internal data, seen by Reuters, from Venezuelan state-run oil firm PDVSA. Cuba, in turn, has looked to Russia and others to try to make up the shortfall. A tanker with 249,000 barrels of refined fuel products from Russia is due to arrive in Cuba on May 10, bringing back memories of when the Soviet Union supplied all the island nation's energy needs. (Reuters:



Amid chaos in Venezuela, infant deaths, malaria cases skyrocket
Infant and maternal deaths and cases of malaria are skyrocketing in Venezuela, which is grappling with severe medical shortages. Confirmed malaria cases in 2016 stood at 240,000, a 76% increase over 2015. Maternal deaths rose 66% to 756. Last year, 11,466 infants died, a 30% increase, according to new records recently released by Venezuela's health ministry. It's the first health data released by the government in nearly two years. The staggering increases illustrate how badly Venezuela lacks basic medicine, equipment and supplies to treat even the simplest of injuries at public hospitals. "If you need to have an operation, nowadays, you must bring your own medicines to the hospital," says Eugenia Morin, a 59-year old the housewife who protested the government last week. "There are no supplies to attend the most basic emergencies." According to statistics released by the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation, by June 2016, the country was already facing a shortage of more than 80% of the medicines doctors need. And it's not just medicine. Patients are responsible for any material needed to treat them: needles, gauze pads, saline solution. When patients can get the money together to purchase these items, they become targets -- hospital rooms are not safe from thieves looking to sell medication on the black market, or fellow patients in desperation. And more than 13,000 doctors -- about 20% of the country's medical workforce, have left the country in recent years due to the collapse of the health sector. The health figures only represent one of many crises in Venezuela, which was once the richest nation in Latin America and is still home to the world's largest oil reserves. (CNN:


Fruit and vegetable transport is paralyzed by protests
200 cities could be hit by shortages of vegetables and fruit in the Andean region due to a halt in transportation because of protests and insecurity. Transport operators at Seboruco, El Cobre and La Grita, who supply fruit and vegetable to 60% of the nation have stopped their trucks due to attacks in protests and road insecurity. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Universal,


Disturbances are hurting beef distribution nationwide
Armando Chacin, president of the Maracaibo Lake Area Cattle Federation, says beef distribution nationwide has hurt beef distribution because transportation operators do not want to put their personnel, cargo and units at risk due to protests. He says cattle processing at slaughterhouses remains “totally normal”. More in Spanish: (El Mundo,


Vegetable production could drop 95%, farmers have not received fertilizers for 6 months
Gerson Pabón, director general of the Agriculture Federation (FEDEAGRO) warns that vegetable production could drop 95% this year because the government has limited fertilizer supplies to cereal production in Barinas, Cojedes and Portuguesa, and abandoned all the other areas. More in Spanish: (Ultima Hora Digital,


Economy & Finance

International reserves drop down to lowest level in 15 years
FOREX held by Venezuela’s Central Bank to fund imports, repay depts., meet contingencies and back up exchange rates were US$ 10.137 billion as of May 5th, a 19% drop over the past year and their lowest level in 15 years, according to official data. The amount offers much less coverage than in 2002 because the nation’s FOREX debt is much higher, it depends much more on imports and currency controls allocated FOREX very inefficiently. Disposable FOREX reserves are now only 10% of the total amount, and were 68% of it in 2002. Two thirds of current reserves are in gold bullion, so there is scant liquidity and a very narrow margin for maneuvering. Analysts estimate the FOREX deficit at US$ 10 billion, which means companies cannot import supplies required for production of food and medicine. The Central Bank itself reports that the National Stabilization Fund is down to US$ 3 million, a meaningless sum as compared to savings in other oil producing nations. Central Bank statistics showed that dollar debt quadrupled between Q3 2004 and Q3 2015, from US$ 27.053 billion up to US$ 120.204 billion. Indebtedness did not improve infrastructure or diversify the economy, and weighs heavily on public finance. Venezuela and PDVSA still must pay up US$ 9.691 billion this year. The next large payment comes due in October-November, for US$ 3.526 billion. Analysts say that the only way the Maduro regime can increase imports, relieve scarcity and pull out of recession is through financing, but investors are looking at a high risk due to scant reserves, low oil prices, political conflict and weak institutions – where the Supreme Tribunal has declared the National Assembly in contempt, and the legislature – in turn – has made it clear to foreign financial institutions that any credit operations that do not have its approval will be considered illegal. More in Spanish: (Notiminuto:


Venezuela's 99.5% Currency Plunge Shows Why Protests Rage: Chart
President Nicolas Maduro has overseen an unprecedented depreciation in his country’s currency since taking office, with the bolivar now down 99.5% to 5,100 per dollar in the black market that everyday Venezuelans use. The sharp decline has wiped out savings and made buying imported goods all but impossible, helping fuel the anger directed at the government in street protests that have turned deadly in recent weeks. While Maduro has raised the minimum wage almost 20 times during his tenure, it’s still the equivalent of just US$ 40 a month. (Bloomberg,


"Economic recovery in Venezuela is not viable without a political solution"
The Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEDECÁMARAS) decided on Tuesday not to attend the meetings called by the Presidential Commission for the Constituent Assembly arguing that this body will be unable to solve the country core problems. “It is not time for a constituent assembly,” said Fedecámaras President Francisco Martínez, accompanied by the members of the expanded board of directors. “The country calls for solutions to the problems that afflict the people and go deeper and deeper day by day (…) The call to a national constituent assembly in the set terms, rather than solving, will deepen the crisis, as it lacks the legitimacy afforded by the support of the sovereign people.” Aquiles Hopkins, incoming President of the nation’s Agriculture Confederation (FEDEAGRO) concurs, saying: “A constituent assembly is not the solution to the nation’s problems which are clearly specified, and will only be solved within the Constitution”. (El Universal,; and more in Spanish: El Mundo,


Politics and International Affairs

Venezuela protesters fling feces at soldiers; unrest takes 2 more lives
Young Venezuelan protesters lobbed bottles and bags of feces at soldiers who fought with tear gas on Wednesday to block the latest march in more than a month of nationwide protests against socialist President Nicolas Maduro. The extraordinary scenes, in what was dubbed the "Shit March" on the main highway through Caracas, came as thousands of opposition supporters again poured onto the streets decrying Venezuela's economic crisis and demanding elections. Many carried stones and so-called "Poopootov cocktails" - feces stuffed into small glass bottles - that they threw when National Guard troops blocked their path, firing gas and turning water cannons on the crowds. Protesters marching in downtown Caracas chanted: "Who are we? Venezuela! What do we want? Freedom!". At that point, militiamen approached, all dressed in dark colors with pieces of cloth covering their faces. One masked militia member fired several shots into the air. The militia later dispersed after officers intervened. Opposition leaders have blamed armed pro-government groups known as "collectives" for a number of protest deaths. At least 93 people were injured in Caracas and demonstrator Miguel Castillo was killed. Authorities also announced that Anderson Dugarte, 32, died from a gunshot wound he suffered Monday at a protest in Merida. The violence pushed the death toll to at least 38 in more than a month of street protests and political turmoil. Castillo had studied communications at Santa Marta University and friends and opposition leaders vowed to march to the site of his death Thursday morning. Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said in comments broadcast by state television that Dugarte was killed by a sniper linked to the opposition's Democratic Unity coalition. The opposition are seeking to vary tactics to keep momentum going and supporters energized. The government accused the opposition of breaking international treaties on biological and chemical weapons by throwing feces. In downtown Caracas, government supporters also rallied, dancing salsa and waving pictures of Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez who remains venerated by many, especially the poor.  Maduro and his allies appear to be hoping the opposition will run out of steam and are banking on a rise in oil prices to help assuage four years of recession. They are seizing on vandalism by young opposition hotheads who burn rubbish in the streets and smash public property, to depict the whole movement as intent on violence. The protests so far have failed to garner massive support from poorer, traditionally pro-Chavez sectors of Venezuela's 30 million people. But a bigger cross-section of society has been apparent at recent marches, some of which drew hundreds of thousands. Looting has been breaking out in some cities, especially at night. (Reuters:; Latin American Herald Tribune,; Al Jazeera:; CNN:; CBS News:; ABC News:; DW:


Opposition leader arrested at pre-march gathering
National Assembly lawmakers on Wednesday denounced that Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Police (PNB) arrested a leader in the Popular Will (VP) party, Sergio Contreras, who was with a group of opposition members in downtown Caracas preparing to stage a march to the Supreme Court building. Opposition lawmaker Gaby Arellano told reporters that Contreras, an assistant to parliamentary First Vice President Freddy Guevara, was arrested in the La Candelaria sector of town. The police took him away “for no reason,” she said. “We were gathering (for the march) and comrade Sergio Contreras ... with a megaphone in his hand, was viciously attacked with tear gas canisters and subdued by more than 15 PNB officers commanded by Officer Duque, upon whom I threw myself to get (Contreras) away from them, and they beat me also,” she said. Arellano said that Contreras was beaten in a “barbaric manner,” and that lawmakers Luis Florido, Jorge Millan and Winston Flores, as well as Arellano herself, were also attacked by the police. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Venezuela hauls protesters before military tribunals to face up to 30 years behind bars
Human rights activists say more than 250 detained protesters have been put before military justice over the last week — a sudden upsurge in use of a practice they say violates the constitution, which limits military courts to "offences of a military nature." Some lawyers and opposition leaders put the number far higher. "The growing use of military tribunals to judge civilians demonstrates the absolute determination of Venezuelan authorities to asphyxiate the growing protests and terrorize any person who contemplates the possibility of expressing opinions," said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director for Amnesty International. President Nicolas Maduro's administration says the courts are part of emergency measures necessary to ensure national security against what they decry as foreign-backed attempts to violently oust the socialist government from power. "Security agencies are deployed in Carabobo to find those responsible for instigating rebellion and crime," wrote General Antonio Jose Benavides Torres, commander of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard, on Twitter. Many rights activists see the increasing reliance on military tribunals to try civilian protesters as an echo of the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s, when military dictatorships in Chile, Brazil and elsewhere bypassed civilian jurisdictions to prosecute political opponents accused of being national security threats tied to international communism. "The governments of Latin America have experienced this in the past, we have fought against impunity and we have said, 'Never again,"' said Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States. "We cannot remain silent in the face of such obvious abuse of the basic human rights of Venezuelans." Some opposition leaders believe the use of the military tribunals reflects Maduro's weakening grip on power and a desire to circumvent someone who's become a surprising irritant: Venezuela's semi-autonomous chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who has shown signs of unusual independence. She was the first official to denounce a March ruling by the loyalist Supreme Court that stripped the opposition congress of its last powers, calling it a "rupture" of the constitutional order, helping prompt the court to back off the ruling. Nearly all of those facing military courts face the same two charges, according to attorneys: Inciting rebelling and vilifying military officials. Most of those cases so far are in the northern state of Carabobo. Military officials have activated an emergency protocol there known as Plan Zamora, few details of which have been made public. Amnesty International said Wednesday more than 250 people have been detained and placed in the hands of military justice. Alfredo Romero, executive director of Foro Penal, a lawyers' co-operative that defends activists, told National Assembly members Tuesday that 118 people in Carabobo alone have been put before military tribunals, where he said nearly a dozen soldiers armed with automatic weapons are posted in the courtroom as cases are heard. (CBC News:; El Universal,


Venezuela’s anti-government protesters show no signs of backing down
The crisis in Venezuela is only getting worse. On Wednesday, just as on every previous day for the past six weeks, anti-government protests hit various parts of the country. We're almost getting inured to the images: smoldering barricades arrayed against riot police, security forces launching fusillades of tear gas, bloodied demonstrators being rushed out by volunteer medics. Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is grimly clinging to power. His opponents seek fresh elections, the release of political prisoners and other concessions. Maduro, the unpopular inheritor of a socialist revolution, shows no sign that he will heed those calls. “Maduro is trapped in an electoral maze of the regime’s own making,” Phil Gunson of the International Crisis Group wrote last month. “After years of using elections as plebiscites, confident that oil revenue and the charisma of the late strongman Hugo Chávez would always ensure victory, the government can now — with Chávez gone — neither muster the electoral support nor find a convincing reason not to hold a vote.” And so, the protests continue. As Maduro extends the crackdown and even hauls civilians before military tribunals, there's a growing sense that external pressure is needed to ease the crisis. All eyes are on a meeting of the Organization of American States, or OAS, expected this month, where Venezuela will be at the forefront of the agenda. Maduro has threatened to pull out of the regional alliance, which is headquartered in Washington. “Venezuela is drowning in an economic, financial, social and humanitarian crisis of gigantic proportions,” said Luis Almagro, the secretary-general of the OAS, in a recent interview with Bloomberg News. “There is a dictatorship in Venezuela, and Venezuela needs elections. The only institutional exit for the country is a general election.” Maduro has seen the erosion of his government's base, with many of Venezuela's poor — once uplifted by “chavista” populism — suffering amid the wreckage of a collapsing state. But he may now fear fractures within the ruling party and the waning support of the security services that guarantee his power.  In the meantime, protesters will keep turning out in the streets of the country's divided cities. (The Washington Post:


IACHR lashes at repression; deplores rising death toll in Venezuela
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) blasted the “repressive measures” adopted in Venezuela, in retaliation to the wave of nationwide protests started last April. The IACHR urged the Venezuelan government to stop such measures and effectively discharge its international obligations in the field of human rights, a notice stated. The IACHR specially condemned and voiced concern over the increasing number of killings, injured people and detentions en masse, in addition to militarization of the way of dealing with the demonstrations. (El Universal,


Maduro regime allies delay OAS vote on Venezuela
The Organization of American States (OAS) has postponed a vote on calling a meeting of the Hemisphere’s Foreign Minister to deal with the Venezuelan crisis until May 15th. A large group of countries wanted to vote on the matter yesterday, but after a heated debate had to agree to postpone the vote due to opposition by some Maduro regime allies within the organization. Venezuela did not attend. The Permanent Council will meet next Monday, to vote on a new date, as per a proposal by Ecuador’s representative. Canada, which had called for the meeting, stressed that what is going on in Venezuela is “not normal”, and the situation is not improving by delays. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro held the Maduro regime responsible for the death of young Miguel Castillo in Caracas the same day, and condemned “arbitrary and indiscriminate arrests by the Venezuelan regime.” He added “there are 38 dead to date due to the brutal repression of the Venezuelan regime against their people” More in Spanish: (Notiminuto:; El Universal,; El Universal,


US State Department calls on Venezuela to "tend humanitarian needs," respect Constitution & National Assembly
Francisco Palmieri, Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, at the U.S. Department of State, says: “The people of Venezuela are suffering due to their government’s authoritarian repression and poor economic management Three-quarters of Venezuelans have lost weight in the past year because of food scarcity.
We are concerned that the government of President Maduro is violating Venezuela’s own constitution and is not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard, nor allowing them to organize in a way that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people. Our hemisphere has come together, particularly through the Organization of American States in defense of democracy and human rights in the region. We have taken formal steps to address the situation in Venezuela by calling a minister-level meeting
.” (Latin American Herald Tribune,


The armed forces will decide the fate of Venezuela’s regime
Before Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s president, delivered his second May Day address, spelling out plans for a new constitution, he paused to acknowledge a dozen generals, in full ceremonial uniform, were in the audience. He asked them to stand and be applauded. It was a telling moment. His future will be decided by the armed forces, not directly by the people. If they withdraw support from his beleaguered regime, change will come soon. If not, hunger and repression will continue. So far, there is little sign of dissent in the top ranks. General Vladimir Padrino López, the head of the armed forces and minister of defense, hailed Maduro’s call for a new constitution as “a clear demonstration of democratic will”. The opposition is increasingly directing its appeals to the armed forces, or to factions within them. Julio Borges, the legislature’s president, says it is time for the men in green to “break their silence”. Henrique Capriles, a potential challenger to Maduro who has been banned from seeking office for 15 years, asked ordinary soldiers to consider whether they want to “share the fate” of the doomed ruling party. The army is not the regime’s only prop. The National Guard fires tear-gas at and wield truncheons against demonstrators; informal gangs called “collectives” enforce submission to the regime in neighborhoods and are responsible for many of the 33 deaths in protests over the past month. But the armed forces, though constitutionally required to be apolitical, are the final arbiters of power. Chavismo, the movement that guides the regime, has been military-led since its inception. Officers or former officers run 11 of the 32 ministries; 11 of the 23 state governors are retired officers. Maduro has been a prolific producer of generals. On one day, last year he promoted 195 officers to that rank, bringing their number to more than 2,000. The United States somehow gets by with no more than 900 generals. The Venezuelan top brass is not a monolithic group. There are “diverse” factions, both between and within branches of the armed forces, says Rocio San Miguel, a lawyer and defense specialist. A group of “originals” fought alongside Chávez in 1992. An overlapping clique helps drug-trafficking gangs through its control of ports and airports. A bigger group of non-ideological “opportunists” dabbles in that and other businesses. These divisions matter less than the generals’ shared interest in the regime’s survival. Most profit handsomely from Maduro’s chaotic rule. Some have access to dollars at the ridiculously cheap price in bolivars set by the government. The army oversees the lucrative business of food distribution, a recipe for abuse. The lower ranks are less happy, though they are better housed than most Venezuelans and some profit from sidelines such as smuggling.  DCI, an agency that snoops on the barracks, reportedly has been hearing of “deepening disaffection”, especially in the army’s middle ranks, since February, before the latest protests began. Much of this appears linked “with mid-ranking officers barely bothering to suppress their contempt for a general staff it perceives as corrupt”. In April three lieutenants posted a video saying they rejected Maduro as commander-in-chief. They sought asylum in Colombia. General Raúl Baduel, a jailed former defense minister, has become an icon for dissenters. They share a 14-second recording in which he says he is in prison because he spurned “the scoundrels and criminals …who give you orders”. Junior soldiers, and their families, share the privations that drive Venezuelans onto the streets in protest. They are angry. But that does not mean that they will stop following orders. (The Economist:


Former Venezuelan general: Venezuela is on the verge of civil war
Retired Gen. Miguel Rodríguez Torres, 53, who served as Maduro’s interior minister in 2013 and 2014, said that large riots and protests have cropped up in every major city, including the working-class neighborhoods that once firmly supported Maduro’s government. When serving as Maduro’s interior minister, Torres’s government forces quashed anti-government protests in 2014, resulting in 43 dead including protesters and police officers. The protests died out without any concessions from the government, demoralizing Maduro’s opposition for years. Torres said things have gotten much worse since his time as interior minister, leading more protesters to take to the streets. He said that without the government getting to the economic roots of the crisis, repression will not work. Torres said Maduro fired him in 2014 after he had criticized the president’s handling of the economy, particularly his control over the currency. Today, Torres is considering running for president of Venezuela as an independent.  He also founded the Wide Movement political group which focuses on ridding itself of chavismo, the political movement of Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s socialist predecessor. “We can’t be thinking about saving chavismo now, we have to save the country,” Torres said. (The Blaze:


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, May 9, 2017

May 09, 2017

Logistics & Transport

CONVIASA flights reportedly have been suspended

Journalist Elyangelica Gonzalez has reported that Venezuelan airline CONVIASA has suspended national and international flights due to “a matter involving the payment of aircraft insurance”. More in Spanish: (NOTIMINUTO:


Oil & Energy

Venezuela braces for double whammy if U.S. imposes oil sanctions

Venezuela would be hit from two directions if the U.S. were ever to impose oil-related sanctions against this nation where at least 30 have died in anti-government protests in the past month. American drivers may pay more at the pump as well. Speculation about possible new U.S. sanctions has increased because of President Nicolas Maduro’s announced plan to rewrite the constitution. America is the biggest buyer of Venezuelan crude, and CITGO Petroleum Corp., the U.S.-based refiner controlled by Petroleos de Venezuela SA, takes the largest share of those imports, according to analysis of U.S. government data compiled by Bloomberg. If CITGO can’t buy from its parent company because of sanctions, it would be forced to pay more on the spot market, said Mara Roberts, a New York-based analyst for BMI Research. “PDVSA’s reliance on the U.S. market has put it in an extraordinarily difficult position,” Roberts said. “An embargo would cripple its revenues to an even greater extent, which would be terrible news in the run-up to another large debt payment in the fourth quarter.” (Bloomberg,


Venezuela oil price falls for 2nd consecutive week
The price Venezuela receives for its mix of medium and heavy oil fell as U.S. production continued increasing among supply builds in the U.S. 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 May 5 fell to US$ 41.27, down US$ 1.19 from the previous week's US$ 42.46. According to Venezuelan government figures, the average price in 2017 for Venezuela's mix of heavy and medium crude has fallen to US$ 44.46.(Latin American Herald Tribune,


Economy & Finance

Hidden numbers reveal scale of Venezuela’s economic crisis

Most statistics tracking Venezuela’s economy are either unreliable or have been discontinued, after national account data were suspended in 2015. Even the IMF has only partial information, as its latest interaction with Venezuela’s authorities dates back to 2004. But figures relating to Venezuela’s relations with the rest of the world offer clear insights into the scale of its problems. Venezuelans are leaving the country, heading mostly for Spain and the US. Foreign investment has dried up. es. US data show that in 2016 US net foreign direct investment in Venezuela turned negative for the first time since the series began in the early 1990s. Last year, Venezuela was the only country with which the US had negative net income flow among the 58 countries for which data are available. Overall foreign investment and acquisitions have stalled, and there have been no deals to date this year. Venezuela’s oil exports — which account for about 90% of its total exports in value terms — have collapsed, not just because of the drop in prices but also in volume terms as production has folded. The country is running out of cash to fund bond repayments Venezuela has been raiding its foreign reserves, which have dropped to about US$ 10billion, from US$ 30 billion before Maduro was elected in 2013. Economic contraction is coupled with hyperinflation. Venezuelans are seeing the value of their money shrink at the fastest pace in the world. The IMF estimates an inflation rate of 720% for this year, skyrocketing even further in the coming years. “Price controls, limitations on access to foreign currency and the collapse of the private sector in the provision of basic goods, have cumulatively led to one of the world’s highest inflation rates,” the World Bank wrote in a recent report. This means that Venezuelans see the value of their money and the ability to buy goods and services massively shrink day by day. According to IMF data, Venezuela’s GDP will contract by 7.4% in 2017, meaning the economy will have shrunk about 30% since 2013 — one of the largest peacetime economic contractions since the second world war. (Financial Times:


Politics and International Affairs

Venezuela opposition boycotts meeting on Maduro assembly, as civilians subjected to military courts

Venezuela's opposition boycotted a meeting on Monday to discuss President Nicolas Maduro's plan for a new popular assembly, preferring to protest in the streets where they were again blocked by security forces firing tear gas. Opposition Governor Henrique Capriles said that Maduro’s constitutional assembly goes against the Venezuela’s charter, which requires approval of the nation’s voters to alter the constitution. Capriles said that if the government “continues with this madness,” Venezuela will be ungovernable, he said. In familiar scenes from five weeks of unrest, youths with gas masks and makeshift shields faced off with police and National Guard troops in Caracas, after hundreds of demonstrators were stopped from reaching government offices. Venezuela's opposition is demanding elections to resolve the country's grave political crisis. The 54-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez is setting up a "constituent assembly" super body with power to rewrite the constitution and shake up public powers. But no representatives of the opposition Democratic Unity coalition went to the Miraflores presidential palace on Monday despite an invitation from Education Minister Elias Jaua who is leading the constituent assembly process.  "It's a trick to keep themselves in power," said Julio Borges, leader of the National Assembly legislature where the opposition won a majority in 2015. "The only way to resolve this crisis is with a free vote." The unrest has killed at least 37 people since early April, including protesters, government sympathizers, bystanders, and security forces. Hundreds have also been hurt and arrested.  Local rights group Penal Forum said 1,845 people had been detained since April 1 over the protests, with 591 still behind bars. Opposition leaders said 200 of those were being processed by military tribunals in Carabobo state. Perhaps to justify the use of those military tribunals, officials say they are now facing an "armed insurrection". Red-shirted Maduro supporters also rallied in Caracas on Monday. (Reuters:; Bloomberg,; Latin American Herald Tribune,; (NBC News:


Hundreds evacuated in Maracaibo as tear gas seeps into homes

Hundreds of people were evacuated from buildings in Maracaibo, the nation’s second largest city, after security forces fired tear gas during a clash with protesters and the gas spilled into homes, schools and a hospital. The protest turned violent when demonstrators were blocked by national guardsmen while trying to deliver a letter expressing their disdain for socialist President Nicolas Maduro's push to rewrite the nation's constitution. Protesters tried to get around the officers by finding another route but were pushed back by heavy clouds of tear gas in a raucous exchange that continued for more than an hour, witnesses said. Juan Diego Amado, an anti-government activist, said he entered one building housing a foundation housing about 300 children and elderly residents and found many coughing and in tears after inhaling the fumes. Volunteers rushed children still in diapers, others in strollers and the elderly in wheelchairs out of the building to hospitals for treatment. Continued protests in Venezuela's capital Monday resulted in 60 people being injured, said Ramon Muchacho, a Caracas-area mayor. (ABC News:


Hugo Chávez statue torn down as death toll rises in Venezuela protests

The demonstration began with a group of schoolboys, who gathered – still dressed in their school uniforms – in the palm-lined square outside the town hall of the prairie town of Villa del Rosario in western Venezuela. Before long, some kind of flammable liquid was thrown at a life-sized statue of the late president Hugo Chávez and set alight. And then, to cheers from onlookers, the figurine itself – which appeared to be made of fiberglass or plastic – was pulled down and dragged into the street. In terms of historical significance, the incident is unlikely to rank alongside the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s 12-meter statue in Baghdad, shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But the destruction of the statue last Friday did not go unnoticed in a country where many public buildings are still adorned with images of Chávez, four years after his death. Over the weekend, cellphone pictures and footage of the incident went viral in Venezuela, where amid widespread discontent with president Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s handpicked successor, has erupted into near-daily protests. Since then, the gesture has been repeated elsewhere: in Ureña, a town in western Venezuela, a bust of Chávez disappeared from a public square, and in the late leader’s home state of Barinas, a mural with the leader’s face reproduced in the style of Warhol was defaced. Some argue that such incidents demonstrate that after years of economic chaos, food shortages and government repression, Venezuelans have finally reached the breaking point.  But others warn that, as Maduro moves forward with plans to rewrite the country’s constitution despite six weeks of anti-government protests – talk of a tipping point still seems premature. According to Luís Vicente Leon, a leading pollster, the collapse of authoritarian regimes is more often caused by internal splits than outside pressure.  Although pressure on Maduro may be mounting, it is still not coming from two key areas, Leon said. “The electoral authorities validated the constituent assembly, and perhaps most important, we haven’t seen the military express dissent,” he said. For now, the war of attrition between government and opposition looks set to continue, and the death toll seems certain to rise. Monica Pérez, who lives close to the square where the Chávez monument once stood said that the toppling of the statue had galvanized the opposition in the town. “It was the first time I saw this happen here,” she said. “We all feel the moment is now, and we must continue in the streets until the end”. (The Guardian:


Roses in hand, Venezuelan women protesters face security forces

Dressed in white and chanting "Liberty!", tens of thousands of women opposed to Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro marched on Saturday, proffering roses to security forces who blocked their way. The women's marches took place in most major cities around the nation. In Caracas, marchers sang the national anthem and shouted: "We want elections!" They were halted at various points by lines of policewomen and National Guard troops with armored cars. (Reuters,; Latin American Herald Tribune,


Press union reports over 200 acts of aggression against journalists

Marco Ruiz, Secretary General of the National Press Workers Union, has asked the Attorney General’s office to investigate over 200 acts of aggression against journalists and media workers to date this year. He reports “most” of the attacks were by government security forces, and victims say their equipment was either stolen or destroyed. He said there are 18 arrests registered. More in Spanish: (Notiminuto:


Venezuela crisis: What is behind the turmoil?

Venezuela is split into Chavistas, the name given to the followers of the socialist policies of the late President Hugo Chavez, and those who cannot wait to see an end to the 18 years in power of his United Socialist Party (PSUV). After the socialist leader died in 2013, Maduro has not been able to inspire Chavistas in the same way his predecessor did. His government has furthermore been hampered by falling oil prices. The lack of oil revenue has forced the government to curtail its social programs, leading to an erosion of support among its core backers. A series of events has further heightened tensions between the government and the opposition and led to renewed street protests. Key was the surprise announcement by the Supreme Court on 29 March that it was taking over the powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. The opposition said that the ruling undermined the country's separation of powers and took Venezuela a step closer to one-man rule under Nicolas Maduro. The court argued that the National Assembly had disregarded previous Supreme Court rulings and was therefore in contempt. While the Supreme Court reversed its ruling just three days later, distrust of the court did not subside. Anti-government protesters have been calling for fresh general elections. They have four key demands: Removal from office of the Supreme Court justices who issued the 29 March ruling; general elections in 2017; creation of a "humanitarian channel" to allow medication to be imported to counter the severe shortages in Venezuela; release of all the "political prisoners". Faced with almost daily protests, Maduro probably felt he needed to make a move. Not willing to give in to the opposition's demand for early presidential elections, he chose to announce the creation of a constituent assembly. Opposition leaders have denounced the move as an attempt by President Maduro to maximize his power and cling on to it for longer. They argue that the process of setting up a constituent assembly and drawing up a new constitution would almost certainly mean that regional elections due to be held this year and presidential polls scheduled for December 2018 would be delayed. (BBC News:


In Venezuela’s chaos, elites play a high-stakes game for survival

Even as Venezuela sinks into chaos, with clashes between protesters and the police escalating, why have its powerful political and military elites stuck by President Nicolás Maduro? The country would seem to be a prime candidate for something scholars call an “elite fracture,” in which enough powerful officials break away to force a change in leadership. Still, splits are beginning to emerge, as a few figures in major institutions signal opposition to Maduro, hinting at growing dissatisfaction and the government’s inability to silence it. Recent actions by both elites and the government suggest they take the possibility of fracture seriously — maneuvering in a high-stakes contest that is potentially decisive but whose outcome remains uncertain. Elite fracture operates as a kind of game in which each player tries to figure out what the others are about to do. Stay loyal to a failing government too long and you risk going down with it. But if you break with the government and others don’t, you’ll pay a high price for disloyalty. Members of the elite, in this game, try to test one another over where they stand, as well as the government’s strength, to decide whether to remain loyal. If enough believe they have achieved critical mass to force a leadership change, they will all push at once. Luisa Ortega, the attorney general, conducted such a test, whether she intended to or not, in late March. When the pro-Maduro Supreme Court moved to seize many of the legislature’s powers, Ortega condemned the ruling as a “rupture of the constitutional order.” The government faced a dilemma. Tolerating Ortega’s dissent would signal that elites could more freely break with Maduro, making action against him easier. But punishing her would risk backlash from any elites who shared her view. Ortega went unpunished, and the ruling was reversed. Rapid policy changes can open such fissures by forcing elites to decide whether to go along. This is why periods of crisis can heighten risks of elite fracture, as governments make rapid changes to keep up. The deciding vote in these situations is often cast by the military, which has the power to break a deadlock among elites and, often, the popular legitimacy to lead a transition. In Venezuela, some are already calling on the military to step in. By conferring pre-emptive legitimacy, they signal to potential coup leaders that they would enjoy at least some elite support. Even a loyal military, when forced to resolve a political crisis, might decide against the leader who called it in. The impossibility of fully predicting how the military might decide in another crisis, along with growing unrest that could again test it, has left the government nervous. Loyalty was once purchased with oil revenue, but as the economy worsens, elites compete over a smaller pie. Venezuela is also growing internationally isolated, forcing elites to fear they could face foreign sanctions or even criminal charges if they remain loyal and the government falls. This is part of what makes the lack of widespread defection, amid Venezuela’s economic collapse, so unusual. Chavez’s hyper-charged populism succeeded in so dividing society that crossing over remains, for many, unthinkable. And so ideological dedication remains widespread, including among elites. That same fervor could create an opportunity for dissidents, however. Venezuela’s few defecting elites have tended to portray themselves as the true guardians of Chávez’s cause and Maduro as the traitor. And younger, second-tier Chávistas may worry about Maduro’s damage to the cause and its longevity. This is why coups are often led by colonels or civilians of equivalent rank, who also enjoy fewer fruits of patronage and so face less downside in defecting. But movement can come only when elites, junior or senior, are sure they have the numbers to win. And any contest over ideological loyalty will tilt toward the status quo. The rules of the game still favor Maduro, even if the state of play does not. (The New York Times:


Venezuela's ex-spy chief promotes possible presidential bid

Nationwide protests are spreading beyond President Nicolás Maduro’s control and risk morphing into civil war, said the retired Venezuelan general in charge of suppressing the last wave of unrest three years ago. “We’re seeing much larger masses protesting across all major cities, including the working-class neighborhoods” once firmly supporting the government, said Major Gen. (Ret.) Miguel Rodríguez Torres, who adds that the government is losing control amid growing protests nationwide and should move now to call elections. A former spy chief under the late Hugo Chavez, Rodríguez Torres is emerging as a political player in turbulent Venezuela, mistrusted by the opposition and despised by the government as he travels the country in a possible bid for the presidency. He is a longshot who hopes to offer a third way for Venezuelans weary of the country's violence and economic woes. Reviled among President Nicolas Maduro's opponents for leading a crackdown on anti-government protesters in 2014, Rodriguez Torres has also alienated government loyalists with his sharp criticism of the socialist administration. But he nevertheless is finding an audience among Venezuelans who have abandoned support for a government that has failed to resolve the economic crisis but still distrust the opposition. In a recent interview, the 53-year-old Rodriguez Torres blamed Maduro for destroying Venezuela's oil-rich economy, failing to rein in violence from pro-government militias and silencing critics. He said he is wary of the street protests launched by the president's foes and instead preaches a message of reconciliation grounded in his evangelical Christian faith. Pollsters haven't included Rodriguez Torres in their surveys yet, but his criticism of Maduro hasn't gone unnoticed. High-ranking officials in recent weeks have accused him of treason or playing into the opposition's hands. His aides say Venezuelan media are under pressure not to interview him and social media is filled with speculation he could be jailed for speaking out like other once loyal military bigwigs. Others trying to occupy Venezuela's almost invisible middle ground include another Chavez army acolyte, Lara state Gov. Henri Falcon, and chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who shocked the nation by saying constitutional order had been violated when the Supreme Court briefly gutted the opposition-controlled congress of its powers a few weeks ago. Rodriguez Torres' close ties to Chavismo's military wing are what distinguish him from a growing cadre of administration critics on the left. While outwardly loyal to Maduro, many in the armed forces are believed to be unhappy with the government but fearful that if the opposition takes power they'll lose privileges and influence accumulated during 17 years of socialist rule. Rodriguez Torres' proposals seem taken straight from the opposition's playbook. He sees Venezuela's economic problems rooted in decade-old foreign currency controls and says he would go to the International Monetary Fund, which Chavez railed against, for help it if put food on Venezuelans' table. He said he'd also like to patch up relations with Chavez's old nemesis, the United States. (The Times Colonist:; The Wall Street Journal:


Defense Minister says no armed groups outside the military are acceptable

Defense Minister General Vladimir Padrino López has said the term “colectivos” (pro government paramilitary) has been misused. “Any armed group, that are not the Armed Forces, police organizations, security organizations, that are operating out there, whatever they call themselves, are outside the law and must be treated as such. We accept no armed group outside the Armed Forces, the only armed institution here are the Armed Forces”. He added: “The Venezuelan people are being told that we are training civilians, that we support ‘colectivos’, and there is something we reject whatever name they take: guerrilla, paramilitary, criminal bands, whatever they call themselves, outside the law, they will receive a Constitutional response”. He denied there were any military officers under detention for “discontent” – a charge made by opposition leader Henrique Capriles; but added that 3 officers that deserted and sought asylum in Colombia are under investigation. In another statement the following day, Padrino said that out of 37 dead in demonstrations, 22 were murdered with firearms, which he says that current protests “are in line with subversion and armed insurrection”. He defended actions by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) during the demonstrations, and claimed they have “contained” violence, adding that this new wave of protests is “far more violent” than those held 3 years ago, and blamed opposition leaders based on what he called “very serious” investigations. Padrino concluded by saying the Armed Forces unconditionally support a Constitutional assembly process through “universal, direct, secret and free” voting; and added that it is “premature” to talk of the way representatives would be selected. Padrino called the recent Supreme Tribunal ruling against the Legislature an “excess” that “cannot be termed a coup d’etat”. He says the Armed Forces will conduct “a great internal debate, at all levels”, to determine the military institution they envision for the next years. He referred to the so-called Bolivarian Militia, which became the center of attention after Maduro increased their number 50 500,000 and allocated resources to provide them with rifles. He said the militia is currently around 400,000 and should not be viewed simply as armed civilians because “they are trained in all senses, not just combat”. He added that although there are weapons available for all, all weapons are controlled by the Armed Forces and are only given to them when the task assigned requires. More in Spanish: (Notiminuto:;


Maduro to convene a military constitutional assembly

President Nicolas Maduro now says he will call for a military constitutional assembly to strengthen all branches of Venezuela’s armed forces. He also called on the business community to select representatives. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Jaua says no vote can be called to call for a Constitutional Assembly

Educations Minister Elías Jaua, who heads the Constitutional Presidential Committee, has told opposition leaders within the Democratic Unity coalition that there is no part of the Constitution that requires a vote to call for a Constitutional Assembly. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Universal,


Wife says Venezuela's jailed Lopez is well, urges more protests

Jailed opposition Venezuelan politician Leopoldo Lopez is well and is urging street demonstrators to keep up massive anti-government protests, his wife said on Sunday after her first visit with the former presidential hopeful in over a month, putting to rest rumors of his ill health. With tension already high after over a month of street action, many Venezuelans were shocked on Wednesday when a journalist tweeted that Lopez had been taken to hospital without vital signs. The government accused the Lopez clan of whipping up a media frenzy to gain attention. Lopez is indeed alive and well, Tintori told reporters after a visit at the Ramo Verde military prison with Lopez's mother and two children. (Reuters,; Latin American Herald Tribune,


Almagro says Venezuela needs a new leader, blasts use of military courts for civilians

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro says Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has gone too far to bring the country back from the brink, and that the crisis-ridden nation needs elections and a peaceful transition of power -- not the new constitution that Maduro has promised. “Venezuela is drowning in an economic, financial, social and humanitarian crisis of gigantic proportions,” he said, adding that: “There is a dictatorship in Venezuela, and Venezuela needs elections. The only institutional exit for the country is a general election.” (Bloomberg,


Pope urges Venezuelans to "build bridges"

The Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference (CEV) has released a letter to them from Pope Francis, expressing “awareness of the challenges you face” and thanking bishops for their “continued appeal to prevent any form of violence, observe citizens’ rights and foster human dignity and fundamental rights and liberties”. Pope Francis encouraged Venezuelan bishops to work on the building of bridges between the government and the opposition to resolve the domestic predicament. He said he was following “with concern the situation of the Venezuelan people in view of the serious problems they suffer,” and expressed “deep sorrow for clashes and violence these days,” in the middle of a wave of protests resulting so far in at least 37 killings and over 700 injured people. (El Universal,


U.S. National Security head McMaster meets with Venezuela opposition leader Borges

National Security Advisor McMaster met with Venezuela's National Assembly President Julio Borges at the White House. They discussed the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and the need for the government to adhere to the Venezuelan Constitution, release political prisoners, respect the National Assembly, and hold free and democratic elections.  They agreed that there is a strong need to bring the crisis to a quick and peaceful conclusion. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


…and Borges met with OAS Secretary General Almagro, who condemns use of military tribunals against civilians.

Borges also met with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and consigned with him a letter to the organization’s Permanent Council designed to halt Venezuela’s withdrawal from the OAS, which requires legislative approval. He also sent a video deploring actions by military prosecutors against civilians. He compared the Maduro regime to past Latin American military dictatorships. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Mundo,; (El Universal,


US Congressmen ask Trump to take Venezuela’s case to the UN

A group of 15 US Congressmen have asked President Trump to take the case of Venezuela to the UN Security Council, seeking support in providing humanitarian aid to Venezuela. They also asked the President to sanction Venezuelan officials and paramilitary that are responsible for violating human rights during ongoing protests. More in Spanish: (El Universal,

8 nations deplore “worsened” violence here.

Eight Latin American nations have issued a statement deploring “worsening violence” in Venezuela. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Paraguay signed the declaration saying: “We condemn the excessive use of force by Venezuelan authorities against civilians marching to protest government actions that hurt democratic stability, polarize Venezuelan society even further, and lead to the loss of lives, most of them young”. (El Universal,


Colombia’s Santos calls for release of political prisoners, slams Constitutional Assembly

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says a Constitutional Assembly is not an “adequate way out” for Venezuela. He says: “what is necessary first is an elections timetable, respect for the National Assembly, return its power to it, comply with the Constitution, and within that spirit to start releasing political prisoners”.  More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Samper: Casualties are all Venezuelans

Ernesto Samper, former Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Ernesto Samper has advised the political shareholders in Venezuela to resume talks. In his opinion, it is the only way to solve the current state of affairs in Venezuela. “Violence leads nowhere,” he warned.  Dead people are neither from the opposition nor from the government, they are simply Venezuelans, victims of violence; it is time to stop,” added the mediator in the government-opposition talks commenced last year in an effort to settle the standoff in Venezuela. (El Universal,


Costa Rica seeks political dialogue and democratic solution to Venezuelan crisis

Costa Rica’s President Luis Guillermo Solís says “the only way out that one should expect is political”, and a “self-coup would be a tragedy” and could be the “prelude to a civil war”. Costa Rica recently called back its Ambassador to Venezuela for consultations. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Universal,;


CARICOM urged to send fact finding mission to Venezuela

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have been urged to send a fact-finding mission to Venezuela to make an informed analysis of the situation in that country. Saint Lucia’s External Affairs Minister, Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, said last month that there is legitimate concern about the situation in Venezuela both in terms of loss of life, human rights and the hardships that the people there endure. (Saint Lucia Times:


Uruguayan legislators seek investigation of Mujica era deals with Venezuela

Two legislators from Uruguay’s National Party and an independent member of the nation’s congress, have brought criminal charges over irregular business transactions between Uruguay and Venezuela during the government of President Jose Mujica (2010-2015). They charge the use of private middlemen that were arbitrarily appointed to carry out business in several fields, through the National Development Fund. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Universal,


Dudamel dedicates concert to a slain student in Venezuela

Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, walked on stage, looked at the orchestra for a moment and then turned to the audience. He mentioned the killing, two days earlier in an antigovernment protest, of a 17-year-old violist in Venezuela’s El Sistema music education program. Dudamel said the violence in Venezuela is unacceptable, and he dedicated the concert to the slain student and to all the victims of violence. “We play for all our children,” he concluded, “to build a better future for them with peace and love.” The audience rose to give him a standing ovation. A group in the orchestra benches behind the stage unfurled a large Venezuelan flag, and shouts of “viva Venezuela” came from the balcony. Dudamel then proceeded to conduct Schubert’s inconsequential first symphony — written when the composer was a 16-year-old student taking his cues (and stealing themes) from Beethoven — as though every measure mattered momentously. With ferocious attention to detail, and with plain ferocity, he revealed a teen’s potential for greatness. Dudamel’s rise to this occasion, at a time when he is being involuntarily drawn into Venezuela’s current turmoil, is a startling new chapter. After long being constrained by the Venezuelan government’s control of El Sistema, Dudamel has begun to speak out. Much of the violence he condemns is being perpetrated by pro-government forces. But many in Venezuela are not placated, calling Dudamel’s actions too little, too late. Some have gone so far as to accuse the conductor of being complicit in the violence, for not biting the autocratic hand that feeds the hundreds of thousands of El Sistema students for whom Dudamel feels responsibility. (The Los Angeles Times:


Maduro talks to cows during official ceremony

An official act meant to show how Venezuela is working to put an end to the severe food crisis in the country showed instead a side of President Nicolas Maduro that, while not new, doesn’t cease to amaze. In a video shot last week during a visit to an agricultural fair in Caracas, the 54-year-old former bus driver is seen talking to a group of cows … about politics. "I want representatives, leaders and producers of the farming sector to be members of the Constituent Assembly. Are you going to accompany me?" he asks, speaking directly to the animals. "Are you going to support me in the Constituent Assembly or do you want guarimba [a term used by the government to define opposition protests]?” "Do you want violence? Do you want death? Those of us who want peace and life go to the Constituent Assembly," he then says. The video has caused quite a stir in social media, where Maduro has been accused of not being right in the head. But Maduro's main aim may be to get people talking about something besides the five weeks of anti-government protests that have left 38 people dead, including protesters, government sympathizers, bystanders, and security forces. (Fox News:


Venezuela indigenous group flees crisis for Brazil

Around 400 indigenous Warao people from the Orinoco Delta in Venezuela have arrived in the Brazilian city of Manaus in the Amazon. The authorities have declared a social emergency to seek government funds to help with the influx. The Warao say they travelled around 2,000 km (1,250 miles) and are fleeing hunger and Venezuela's worsening economic and political crisis. (BBC 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.