Venezuelan Daily Brief

Published in association with The DVA Group and The Selinger Group, the Venezuelan Daily Brief provides bi-weekly summaries of key news items affecting bulk commodities and the general business environment in Venezuela.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 27, 2017

International Trade

130 containers of food, medicine and personal care products arrived at La Guaira port from Cartagena, Colombia, aboard the MAERK WISMAR. This cargo includes cooking oil, rice, beans, sugar, spaghetti, corn flour, tuna, milk, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, toilet paper, diapers, shampoo, brushes, soap, sanitary napkins and medicine. More in Spanish: (Bolipuertos,; El Mundo,


Logistics & Transport

DHL restores service to Venezuela

DHL Express Venezuela has reestablished its import and export operations here, says DHL Venezuela president César Ramírez, who confirmed the arrival of a special company Boeing 737flight from Panama. More in Spanish: (El Mundo,


Oil & Energy

Venezuela oil price crashes through US$ 40

The price Venezuela receives for its mix of medium and heavy oil fell 4.1% to its lowest point since the coordinated OPEC supply freezes were announced in November. According to figures released by the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, the average price of Venezuelan crude sold by PDVSA during the week ending June 23 fell to US$ 39.23, down US$ 1.66 from the previous week's US$ 40.89. As per Venezuelan government figures, the average price in 2017 for Venezuela's mix of heavy and medium crude fell to US$ 43.77. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Crisis-stricken Venezuela looks to import fuel

Venezuela is seeking more than 13 million barrels of fuel imports by the end of the year, which constitutes about a third of what the nation needs annually. Refineries are operating at less than 50% of their installed capacity—which is 3.1 million bpd—due to insufficient supplies of crude oil and to insufficient maintenance. Refinery maintenance is being overlooked as the state oil company focuses its efforts on producing enough oil to repay debts accumulated over the last few years mainly to China and Russia amid the oil price crash. Venezuela pumped 1.95 million bpd as of this April, according Caracas, production in April averaged 2.19 million bpd. Whatever the actual number, it’s below the average of 2.31 million bpd from April 2016. The decline is not huge, but it is significant in the context of the oil-for-loan deals and the capacity utilization rate of Venezuelan refineries. It is likely that Caracas will seek to import more fuels to satisfy its daily needs of 200,000 bpd. (Baystreet:


Venezuela lost over 200,000 bpd of oil production in 2017

According to opposition Congressman and economist José Guerra, Venezuela is in the worst of the worlds, by losing market and with low prices in a context where the government shut foreign financing. The chair of the Standing Committee of Finance and Economic Development of the Venezuelan National Assembly (AN), José Guerra, warned that in the middle of the political standoff, Venezuelans are not aware that the economic issue is worsening at fast pace. Guerra explained that two elements contribute to exacerbate the economic crisis in Venezuela: “first, the concomitant fall of oil production and prices; second, the pronounced depreciation of the bolivar.” (El Universal,


Portugal investigates fraud linked to PDVSA funds

Portugal is investigating alleged appropriation of funds belonging to Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA that were channeled through now-defunct Portuguese bank Banco Espirito Santo between 2009 and 2014, PDVSA said on Saturday. PDVSA's reputation has been tarnished in recent years by high-profile corruption investigations including guilty pleas by two U.S.-based contractors who authorities said ran a US$ 1 billion corruption scheme associated with PDVSA contracts. Venezuela's opposition-led Congress last year said about US$ 11 billion in funds went missing at PDVSA while Rafael Ramirez, currently Venezuela's U.N. envoy, was at the helm from 2004 to 2014. Ramirez slammed the report as "irresponsible lies." (Reuters,; El Universal,



Venezuelan families now pay 4 times as much for food, reduce intake

According to the prestigious CENDES think tank within the Venezuelan Teachers Federation, families here must now pay 4.3 times as much for the same basic products they were able to purchase last year, as prices rise and their purchasing power shrinks. Last month, families needed 15.2 minimum wages to buy the 58 components of the basic food product basket. This means a minimum wage covers barely 6.6% of the basket. Venezuelan family daily intake has become lower due to scarcity and high prices. They still have lunch, but do without breakfast or dinner on a daily basis. More in Spanish:  (El Nacional;;


Economy & Finance

Venezuela in talks with NOMURA to sell fixed-income securities -sources

Venezuela's central bank is seeking to sell fixed-income securities to NOMURA Holdings Inc as a way of raising cash amid an economic crisis, an opposition deputy and a finance industry source said on Thursday, only weeks after a similar deal embroiled the Japanese bank in controversy. Opposition legislators this month publicly chided NOMURA for participating along with GOLDMAN SACHS Group Inc in a US$ 2.9 billion bond operation that helped the government of President Nicolas Maduro bolster the country's flagging foreign currency reserves. The talks revolve around US$ 710 million in securities known as credit-linked notes that were issued by NOMURA to Venezuela in 2008, according to the finance industry source, as a way for the then-prosperous country to invest its plentiful oil revenue. Venezuela, struggling under triple-digit inflation and Soviet-style product shortages as its socialist economy unravels, is willing to sell the notes back to NOMURA at a discount before the notes mature. "NOMURA is buying back notes that are held by the central bank," opposition legislator Angel Alvarado, who is part of a broad effort to pressure global banks not to provide financing to Venezuela, told Reuters. "The government is continuing with its desperate strategy of selling off assets because its cash-flow limitations." Venezuela's Central Bank Governor Ricardo Sanguino denied it was in negotiations with NOMURA, but Venezuela has recently negotiated such deals through intermediaries. Alvarado on Thursday published letters by Congress chief Julio Borges to U.S. regulatory agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asking for a probe into Nomura and Goldman for the May bond operation. "The pricing and spread paid by each institution to Dinosaur (an intermediary) suggest price fixing and above-market commissions," read the letters. "We believe there is enough evidence to open an investigation against GOLDMAN SACHS and NOMURA." Following the uproar over its purchase of PDVSA bonds in May, GOLDMAN issued a statement that cited the presence of an intermediary in the operation, noting that it therefore did not directly do business with the Venezuelan government. Borges' letters describes this argument as "subterfuge" because neither institution has the financial resources for such an operation. (Reuters:


Venezuelan dictator’s Wall St. lifeline

Wall Street continues to trade Venezuelan oil bonds issued in 2014, helping to get the country out of debt, writes Jeff Jacoby for Townhall. The problem: These “hunger bonds” line the pockets of investors while “Maduro’s access to cash and his grip on power remain intact.” Though Jacoby is uneasy with the free world’s role in boosting an oppressive regime, he admits there are no easy answers: “Cutting off Maduro’s access to cash might lead to even worse repression and hunger. Propping up his regime by buying Venezuelan debt could have the same effect.”


Rift at Venezuela broker-dealer TORINO leads to founder's exit

The co-founder of one of the most respected broker-dealers focused on Venezuela left the company amid a disagreement about the firm’s direction. Jorge Piedrahita departed New York-based TORINO Capital on June 13 after he unsuccessfully pushed to expand its businesses in Argentina, Brazil and Central America to colleagues who favored an all-in approach on Venezuela, which has some of the world’s riskiest and highest yielding bonds amid a dearth of official data that makes any insights on the country more valuable. The emerging-market investment bank hired Francisco Rodriguez, a former Bank of America Corp. economist and one-time head of Venezuela’s congressional budget office, last year to beef up its research on the chaotic, oil-rich nation. The firm, which has about a dozen employees in New York, also includes five research assistants in Caracas who assist Rodriguez with his reports on Venezuela’s ever-changing politics, default odds and foreign-exchange systems. (Bloomberg:


Whoops! CITIGROUP's valuation flub leads to a quick rating reversal

First, there were Goldman Sachs’s “hunger bonds.” Now, Venezuela’s giving another Wall Street bank fits. CITIGROUP cut shares of Latin American e-commerce behemoth MERCADOLIBRE to neutral just four days after calling them a buy. Turns out analyst Paola Mello had overestimated its valuation due to a mixup about the outlook for long-term revenue growth in Venezuela. One sympathizes with Mello. It’s incredibly difficult to make forecasts related to Venezuela with any degree of certitude at the moment, given that annual inflation is estimated at 600%, businesses must cope with myriad official and unofficial exchange rates, and the country has been wracked with deadly anti-government protests amid food shortages. (Bloomberg,


Politics and International Affairs

Pressure mounts on Maduro

On Monday, citizens, students, politicians and activists shut down the streets of Caracas and several cities around Venezuela, following a call by the Democratic Unity opposition coalition to interrupt all traffic for 4 hours to protest government repression and the call for what they call a “fraudulent” and unconstitutional National Constituent Assembly. National Guard and Police tried to curtail their activities by gassing protesters, who quickly reassembled. A group of workers were arrested as they tried to block the main thoroughfare in Caracas, the Francisco Fajardo thruway. During the evening violence, burning and looting broke out at several locations, particularly in the city of Maracay, a military bastion around 70 miles West of Caracas, which was formerly a pro-Chavez stronghold. Demonstrators are holding rallies on an almost daily basis to demand Maduro’s resignation and new elections. Thousands of anti-government protesters once again took to the streets on Saturday in opposition organized marches to military bases around the country to demonstrate against the killing of an unarmed 22-year-old activist who was shot dead by a military police sergeant on Thursday. David Vallenilla, 22, was shot at close range by a military police sergeant, apparently with rubber bullets, as youths tried to pull down the fence around an air force base in Caracas and threw rocks at officials who had fired tear gas from inside. His father, describing himself as a former boss and friend of President Nicolas Maduro on Friday urged an investigation into the killing. Demonstrators rallied outside La Carlota air base where the protester was shot dead – and were greeted with tear gas and rubber bullets, sending protesters running. Though most of the demonstrators protested with banners and slogans, another small group entered the air base throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails after breaking through the railings around it. Maduro warned on Saturday, during a speech marking Independence Day, that some of those detained would face a military trial and would be “severely” punished. “Desperation, hatred, and fury thrive among the enemies of the fatherland,” said Maduro, describing the OAS’s inability to produce a statement on Venezuela as a victory for the country. Seventy-five people have died in the protests over the past three months. (Euro News:;; Latin American Herald Tribune,; Reuters,; The Atlanta Black Star:; MSN:; and more in Spanish: Notiminuto:


Heroes or agitators? Young lawmakers on Venezuela's front line

A group of young Venezuelan lawmakers has risen to prominence on the violent front line of anti-government marches that have shaken this country for three months, bringing 75 deaths. One was knocked off his feet by a water cannon. Another was pushed into a drain. Most have been pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, beaten and hit by pellet shots. On the streets daily leading demonstrators, pushing at security barricades and sometimes picking up teargas canisters to hurl back at police and soldiers, the energetic National Assembly members are heroes to many opposition supporters. The dozen or so legislators, all in their late 20s or early 30s, belong mainly to the Justice First and Popular Will parties, which are promoting civil disobedience against a president they term a dictator. They march largely without protective gear - unlike the masked and shield-bearing youths around them - though supporters and aides sometimes form circles to guard them. They do not receive salaries since funds to the National Assembly were squeezed, living instead off gifts from relatives and friends. And some still reside at home with parents. Some have dubbed the band of lawmakers "the class of 2007" for their roots in a student movement a decade ago that helped the opposition to a rare victory against Maduro's popular predecessor Hugo Chavez in a referendum. State airlines refuse to sell them tickets, and private carriers are under pressure to do the same, meaning they cannot fly around the country. Some have also had passports confiscated or annulled, blocking foreign travel. Their mantra is peaceful protest, and indeed when marches have not been blocked - such as to a state TV office and the Catholic Church headquarters - there has been no trouble. But some admit to tossing back gas canisters or throwing the odd stone, and there has been criticism the legislators have not done enough to restrain violence within opposition ranks, from burning property to lynching someone. But to President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government, they are the chief "terrorists" in a U.S.-backed coup plot aimed at controlling the vast oil wealth of the nation. Officials accuse the lawmakers of paying youths and even children as young as 12 to attack security forces, block roads and burn property. They have threatened to jail them. The lawmakers scoff at that, saying they now carry the nation's dreams for change while an ever-more desperate Maduro is clinging to power against the majority's will. (Reuters,


Switch in military leadership seen as bolstering PSUV faction

President Nicolas Maduro has appointed Admiral Remigio Ceballos Ichaso to replace Defense Minister General Vladimir Padrino Lopez as head the country's Strategic Operational Command, a position that gives Ichaso operational control of the Venezuelan armed forces. A Stratfor source has said that Diosdado Cabello, an influential powerbroker in the country, influenced Maduro's decision. The move made June 20 could be an attempt by Cabello to shield himself and his allies in the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) from pressure by members of the armed forces. In his new position, Ichaso gains the power to issue orders directly to the country's eight lower-level regional defense zone commanders. Padrino Lopez remains defense minister. The PSUV has been riven into opposing factions that disagree on a constitutional rewrite ordered by Maduro. A core of ruling party elites allied with the president intends to rewrite parts of the constitution to cement their hold over the country's institutions amid Venezuela's deepening economic crisis. The country's political opposition, along with the dissident Chavistas, perceives the involvement of the armed forces, whether through political pressure or a coup, as vital to ending the constitutional redo. Therefore, it's not surprising that, faced with a dissident movement within his own party and an increasingly disloyal military, that Cabello would try to shield himself through his influence with the military. It's customary for the Venezuelan armed forces to reshuffle its commanders at this time of year, and Cabello appears to have used his influence in this process to protect himself. Still, Venezuela's economic crisis is set to grow more intense, and political confrontation by the opposition and dissident Chavista faction against the government will only increase. As the constitutional rewrite process proceeds, it will trigger additional protests, and the armed forces' loyalty will remain in doubt despite the PSUV's influence in appointing its leadership. (Stratfor:


Maduro invites 5 nations to facilitate talks with opposition

President Nicolas Maduro has announced that representatives of Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Saint Vincent & Grenadines will be arriving within the next few weeks, to help create a communications thread between his regime and the opposition so that they can return to a dialogue. At the same time, he said Venezuela could return to the Organization of American States (OAS) if Secretary General Luis Almagro resigns. In referring to international rejection of his National Constituent Assembly, Maduro said “only we Venezuelans decide our affairs”. More in Spanish: (Notiminuto:


OAS head offers to quit if Maduro holds free elections, frees political prisoners

After President Nicolas Maduro suggested this week Venezuela could return to the Organization of American States (OAS) if its Secretary General Luis Almagro stepped down, Almagro hit back: “Here is my response: I will resign from the General Secretariat the day that free, fair and transparent national elections are held without impediments,” Almagro said in a video message posted on Twitter. Almagro conditioned his resignation offer on a long list of demands, including free elections, the release of hundreds of political prisoners, respect for the National Assembly, a guarantee of Supreme Court independence and the opening of a humanitarian aid channel into the country. Almagro recognizes that the list is long. “Regrettably, there are many things that are necessary for the freedom of Venezuela. In exchange for the freedom of Venezuela, I offer my post. Because we will never resign, we will not resign, until we have in our hands the freedom of Venezuela,” he says near the end of the video. Maduro offered no immediate response to Almagro’s offer. But he has labeled the OAS a puppet of Washington, and he accuses opposition activists of sowing chaos to plot a coup against him. (Latin American Herald Tribune,; Reuters,; Euro News:


Attorney General says Venezuela has become a “police state

Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz says that the judiciary’s subservience to the secret police has made this country into a “police state”, not one where citizen rights are upheld. “They have put the cart before the horses here, the SEBIN (Bolivarian Intelligence Service) dictates guidelines to the judiciary, and they obey. This is not the rule of law, this is a police state”, she says. Ortega adds that the Supreme Tribunal (TSJ) here violated the National Assembly through a set of rulings that disrupt constitutional order, and that “if the Constituent Assembly consolidates itself, Venezuelans will undergo the darkest times of all our republic’s history. If this project goes through, democracy will be definitely undone.”  More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Maduro’s son, wife, and closest supporters nominated to National Constituent Assembly

Nicolás Ernesto Maduro Guerra, the 27-year-old only son of President Nicolás Maduro, expects to become one of the 545 members of the National Constituent Assembly that Maduro proposes to elect on July 30th, to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution. Maduro Guerra, who has held several public positions in his father’s administration since 2013, joins First Lady Cilia Flores, former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez, legislator Captain Diosdado Cabello, and several other Maduro confidants in the roster of pro-regime nominees for the proposed Assembly. The Democratic Unity opposition coalition has refused to take part in the process, calling it a “fraud”. More in Spanish: (Notiminuto:


Venezuela risks becoming Caribbean 'North Korea,' former leaders say

Two former Latin American presidents said the world is running out of time to find a solution to the crisis in Venezuela as President Nicolas Maduro aims to consolidate power over the country. Despite widespread protests, Maduro’s push to “put a group of his friends in what is called a ‘constituent assembly,would be the end of democracy and the annihilation of the Republic of Venezuela,” said Jorge Quiroga, former president of Bolivia. That election “will install a Soviet state in Venezuela, liquidate democracy, end the Congress, cancel elections and turn Venezuela into a sort of Caribbean ‘North Korea’,” he said. Joined by former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, Quiroga spoke to journalists at the Vatican on 23rd June on the deteriorating situation in Venezuela and attempts to diffuse the crisis following their meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. (The Catholic Universe:


Ecuador ex-President claims Venezuela leader is non-violent

Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa claims Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro is a good person who is non-violent. Asked about violence stemming from a political and economic crisis in Venezuela and nearly daily street protests against Maduro’s leftist government, he replied: “Oftentimes the violence comes from the right. There are groups there that want to create chaos and violence, but what you read in the newspapers is that the repression and violence comes from the security forces, from the government. And that’s not the case”. He claimed Venezuela is under permanent attack from foreign powers, saying the assault was media-driven and economic in nature and was doing that country a great deal of harm. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


US urges global action on "tragic situation" in Venezuela

The United States mission at the United Nations (UN) demanded on Thursday “action” in view of the “tragic situation” in Venezuela. Venezuelan "people are starving while their government tramples their democracy," said US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, in a statement. Her appeal was made shortly after the end of the meeting in Cancún, Mexico, of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly, without any resolution intended to cancel a national constituent assembly attempted by the Venezuelan government to re-write the constitution. (El Universal,


The Netherlands prepare to evacuate citizens in Venezuela

The Netherlands government is preparing to evacuate Dutch citizens living in Venezuela due to social unrest here. Foreign Minister Bert Koenders and Kingdom Affairs Minister Ronald Plasterk have sent a joint letter to the Dutch Parliament expressing their deep concern and have for some time advised Dutch citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to Venezuela. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Historian claims Venezuela's government hopes for international sanctions

Historian Agustin Blanco Munoz of the Central University of Venezuela says it is unlikely that international pressure can make the Maduro regime restore the rule of law. He compares the Venezuelan government to Fidel Castro's communist regime in Cuba, which was effectively expelled from the OAS in 1962 and hit with an expanded trade embargo. "The OAS helped them stay in power another 55 years," he said. "Had the US bombarded Cuba with food and medication, would it be different today? Did the supply shortage actually harm Castro?" That is why Blanco Munoz does not believe that Maduro and his supporters would be upset about sanctions. In fact, Venezuelan vice-president Diosdado Cabello had announced before the OAS meeting: "They would do us a favor." Blanco Munoz doubts that the OAS would impose sanctions against Venezuela, although he adds: "But if they do, PSUV leaders will throw a party." (DW:


His country in turmoil, Royals’ Escobar balances baseball with thoughts of Venezuela

Alcides Escobar has never endured a season like this. He has never performed this poorly at the plate, even after years of declining offense. Never felt the mental weight of a slump this deep. Never felt the pressure of looming free agency, either. And yet, when Escobar discusses the challenges of 2017, he is not just talking about the batting average that finally surpassed .200. On most nights, when the game is over and the at-bats are done, Escobar returns to the clubhouse and grabs his phone, scouring the latest news from back home. “It’s hard,” Escobar said in a recent interview in Spanish. “When you get to the stadium you have to focus on your job. But when it’s done, you start looking at Twitter and Instagram and reading the news and your mind just goes back to Venezuela. It’s where I was born and raised, I always offer support to my people. I know something better will come.” Escobar, of course, is not alone. On opening day, there were 77 Venezuelan players on major-league rosters, more than 10% of the league. Many of them are among the game’s greatest stars, from Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera to Houston’s Jose Altuve to Salvador Perez, Escobar’s friend and teammate. Across baseball, more and more Venezuelan players have begun speaking out against the violence against protesters. Yet many remain reluctant to publicly criticize the government. Escobar has sought to occupy a space in the middle. Every day, he retweets articles about the protests. In May, Escobar spoke about his country in a video for La Vida, a branch of the Hall of Fame that celebrates Latin baseball. “I hope it doesn’t become worse,” he said, looking toward the camera. “I hope that we don’t see more deaths, that we don’t have more violence.” The message came a month after Perez addressed the situation in an Instagram post, stating that he was neither a “Chavista” — a supporter of former president Chavez — nor in opposition. (The Kansas City Star:


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.