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, March 13, 2018

March 13, 2018

International Trade

Port and airport activity at a low

Reduced port and airport activities are difficult to show in statistics since authorities dealing in this area or managing ports and airports are withholding all information. However, whoever lives in a city where there are ports or airports can testify to lowered traffic, as exposed by regional correspondents in different states around Venezuela, in El Universal daily. More in Spanish: (El Universal;


Oil & Energy

Venezuela's meltdown comes at convenient time for OPEC

The pending collapse of Venezuela poses serious short- and long-term challenges for oil markets, but it also contains a silver lining for the OPEC cartel. Venezuelan oil production has been in decline for the past decade, but output has plunged rapidly in recent months as the OPEC member’s political and economic crisis intensifies bringing state oil company PDVSA to its knees. Venezuela production hit a three-decade low of 1.6 million barrels a day in January, down 20% from the same month a year earlier and off a whopping 600,000 barrels a day from its 2016 average of nearly 2.2 million barrels a day. The country’s situation will only get worse. Venezuela’s woes have been flagged by the International Energy Agency as a major wild card in oil markets this year that have contributed to the recent firming of crude oil prices, which are sitting at comfortable US$ 65 a barrel on the international benchmark. Venezuela’s meltdown comes at a convenient time for OPEC and provides a convenient hole for U.S. shale growth and keep it from crashing the market again. Because of this spare capacity, OPEC and shale could potentially co-exist profitably in a world of US$ 60-to-US$ 70 a barrel. The total collapse of Venezuela could bring about a different set of issues. The ensuing chaos and confusion could see Venezuelan exports drop to zero while buyers try to assess who to trust in Caracas. The bottom line is that there is no quick fix for PDVSA’s state of disrepair. Reviving the country’s oil sector will be a major endeavor, requiring not only massive investment but a bottom-up approach to rebuilding the state oil giant. PDVSA’s US$ 65 billion debt makes Maduro’s promise of recovering 70% of lost oil production volumes in the first half of 2018 simply impossible. It will take substantial time for Venezuela to rebuild trust with international oil companies and service contractors, who are owed substantial sums by PDVSA. Still, under the right fiscal conditions, the oil industry insists that Venezuela’s reserves can be extracted profitably. For that to happen, though, a credible and creditworthy government must emerge in Caracas. (FORBES:; Bloomberg,


Venezuela wants India to buy its oil using rupee, not US dollar

Venezuela wants to trade with India using Indian rupee, its Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Monday. Arreaza said Venezuela wants India to buy its oil using Indian rupee, which the country in turn can use for trading Indian food products and medicines. The arrangement to trade in Indian rupee currently exists between Iran and Bhutan and Venezuela wants a similar arrangement with India. Arreaza said his country has a similar arrangement with Turkey, China and Russia. He said a proposal in this regard was discussed with the finance and the petroleum ministries of India. The reason cited behind the move was the sanctions imposed by the US. India through its oil Public Sector Undertaking has invested substantially in the oil sector of that country. Venezuela is the second largest oil supplier to India. (News18:


Trump Jr. partnered with GOP donor who pushed for curbing sanctions in Venezuela

Donald Trump Jr. has a previously undisclosed business relationship with a longtime hunting buddy who helped raise millions of dollars for his father's 2016 presidential campaign and has had special access to top government officials since the election. The president's eldest son and Texas hedge fund manager Gentry Beach have been involved in business deals together dating back to the mid-2000s and recently formed a company — Future Venture LLC — despite past claims by both men that they were just friends. Beach last year met with top National Security Council officials to push a plan that would curb U.S. sanctions in Venezuela and open up business for U.S. companies here. Career foreign policy experts were instructed to take the meetings, first reported last April by the website, at the direction of the West Wing because Beach and the businessman were friends of Trump Jr., the official said. The official said that inside the NSC lawyers raised red flags about the appropriateness of the meeting. (CNBC:


Oil trading giants GLENCORE, VITOL targeted in PDVSA bribe suit

Oil trading giants including GLENCORE Ltd. and VITOL SA paid millions of dollars to a former PDVSA trader to get the inside track on Venezuelan oil deals, according to a lawsuit filed by a trust for Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.

The alleged conspiracy, which includes more than two dozen companies and individuals, even has a name worthy of a Robert Ludlum thriller: The Helsinge Enterprise. PDVSA alleges firms including Lukoil Pan Americas LLCVitolGlencore and Trafigura AG of funneling bribes through several shell companies that were set up by a pair of Venezuelan nationals including Francisco Morillo. Among the officials accused of coordinating the scheme from within PDVSA is company Vice President Ysmel Serrano, a close friend of Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami dating back to their college days. (Bloomberg,


Swiss arrest 2 in alleged oil corruption case

Prosecutors in Switzerland have made two arrests after opening a criminal investigation into a Geneva-based consulting firm that allegedly served as a conduit for bribes between Venezuela's state oil company and some of its biggest clients. A person familiar with the case said Monday that the Helsinge Inc. executives were arrested in recent days following allegations contained in a complaint filed by PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The Geneva public prosecutor's office confirmed the probe against unspecified Helsinge executives on suspicion of corruption of foreign officials and money-laundering but declined to comment further. According to the civil lawsuit filed last week in a Miami federal court by a trust linked to PDVSA, the scheme to fix prices, rig bids and eliminate competition, as well as steal highly confidential information by cloning the company's computer servers, cheated the socialist-run company of billions in lost revenue since 2004. Those alleged co-conspirators named as defendants in the case include Russia's LUKOIL and Switzerland-based GLENCORE. It alleges they knew of and sanctioned actions by their oil traders and cites alleged communications between the traders and Helsinge discussing wire transfers and ways to alter the terms of future tenders before they were released to the general market. (The Chicago Tribune:


Economy & Finance

Venezuela cut to C by Moody's

Moody's Investors Service has today downgraded the Government of Venezuela's foreign currency and local currency issuer ratings, foreign and local currency senior unsecured ratings, and foreign currency senior secured rating to C from Caa3. Concurrently, the foreign currency senior unsecured medium term note program has also been downgraded to (P)C from (P)Caa3. The outlook has been changed to stable from negative. (Latin American Herald Tribune,; Reuters,; Bloomberg,


Venezuela annual inflation tops 6000% in February

Prices in Venezuela rose 6,147% in the 12 months to the end of February, according to estimates by the country’s opposition-led National Assembly released on Monday, broadly in line with independent economists’ figures. Inflation during the month of February alone was 80%, opposition lawmakers said, amid an economic crisis in which millions of Venezuelans are unable to find or afford basic food and medicine. “If this exponential velocity of price growth continues, prepare for an inflation of 131,985% in 2018,” tweeted opposition lawmaker and economist Angel Alvarado. (Reuters,


Venezuela's Petro will harm 'legitimate' cryptocurrencies, says Brookings

Venezuela's petro is more likely to imperil "legitimate" cryptocurrencies than to save this nation's troubled economy, according to analysts at the Brookings Institute. In an article published on its website last Friday, the century-old think tank cautioned that "there exists a very real danger that the petro will not only fail to cure Venezuela's economic woes but will also weaken the integrity of cryptocurrencies writ-large." Brookings' reasoning is that if the petro proves to be as worthless as the think tank's analysts expect, "such realization and its aftermath may, unfortunately, contribute to the idea that cryptocurrencies facilitate fraud." Just as concerning, in Brookings' view, is that if the petro turns out to be an effective way to thwart international sanctions, other countries may feel emboldened to use the technology to get around such blockades. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed that the petro had garnered more than US$ 5 billion in an ongoing pre-sale. He also declared that there were more than 186,000 offers to purchase the nominally oil-backed cryptocurrency. While Maduro said the petro pre-sale buyers are entrepreneurs and other individuals from 127 countries, the Brookings Institute posits that the petro will provide "no real service for its international holders," and is merely a "form of national illicit debt relief." Of course, Petro’s facts and figures aren’t particularly convincing, given that the announcement was made by Maduro to members of the United Socialist Part of Venezuela — during which time the controversial figure also claimed that all revenue from the sale of the cryptocurrency would go to the service of “everything out country needs.” (Coindesk:; Bitcoinist:


FOREX prices drop for the first time in the government DICOM exchange system

The price of the US dollar and the Euro dropped on Monday for the first time within the tightly controlled DICOM foreign exchange system run by Venezuela’s Central Bank. The bank reports that in the latest auction the price of the Euro dropped from VEB 49656 to VEB 45112. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; AVN;


Central Bank to purchase diamonds as part of Venezuelan reserves

Central Bank director José Khan, who heads the Kimberley Process Office, has announced that Venezuela’s Central Bank will start buying diamonds and incorporate them as assets within the country’s international reserve system. More in Spanish: (Agencia Venezolana de Noticias;


Politics and International Affairs

Venezuela opposition asks U.N. not to send observers to May vote

Venezuela's opposition alliance called on the United Nations on Monday not to send observers to the presidential election on May 20 to avoid legitimizing a poll it says is rigged in favor of Socialist President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro, who is seeking re-election amid an economic collapse that has sent a tide of migrants to neighboring countries, has asked the United Nations to send observers to the vote. The main opposition coalition is boycotting the election on the grounds that the elections council has historically favored the ruling Socialist Party, and because the best-known candidates have been jailed or barred from holding office. A U.N. spokesman contacted via email said the government's request for a mission had been received. "But our position on all such matters is that the sending of electoral observers requires a mandate from one of the UN's Member State bodies" such as the Security Council or General Assembly, wrote spokesman Farhan Aziz Haq. "If the (General Assembly) or the Security Council were to provide a mandate, we would respond accordingly. But neither has done so up until now." Opposition leaders are planning a protest on Saturday to demand better conditions for the upcoming vote. (US News:


Maduro calls U.N. rights chief a U.S.-backed 'tumor'

President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday the United Nations human rights chief was a puppet of the United States who had implanted himself like a “tumor” and had no right to criticize Maduro’s handling of the crisis-stricken nation. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Wednesday that crimes against humanity may have been committed by state forces in Venezuela and voiced alarm at “the erosion of democratic institutions” in the country. Maduro, who says there is a right-wing plot to sabotage his government, deflected the criticism during brief comments to journalists broadcast on state television. (Reuters,


For poor Venezuelans, a box of food may sway vote for Maduro

A bag of rice on a hungry family’s kitchen table could be the key to Nicolas Maduro retaining the support of poor Venezuelans in May’s presidential election. For millions of Venezuelans suffering an unprecedented economic crisis, a monthly handout of a box of heavily-subsidized basic food supplies by Maduro’s unpopular government has offered a tenuous lifeline in their once-prosperous nation. The 55-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez introduced the so-called CLAP boxes in 2016 in a signature policy of his rule, continuing the socialist government’s strategy of seeking public support with cash bonuses and other giveaways. Now, running for re-election on May 20, Maduro says the CLAPs are his “most powerful weapon” to combat an “economic war” being waged by Washington, which brands him a “dictator” and has imposed sanctions. (Reuters,


Unattended health rights crisis is forcing thousands to flee

Severe violations of the right to health, as well as difficulties accessing food and other basic services, are putting thousands of people’s lives at risk in Venezuela and fueling a regional forced migration crisis, Amnesty International said today on the launch of its digital platform Emergency Exit. “People in Venezuela are fleeing an agonizing situation that has transformed treatable health conditions into matters of life and death. Basic health services have collapsed and finding essential medicine is a constant struggle, leaving thousands with no choice but to seek health care abroad,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, director of Amnesty International in the Americas. Local human rights organizations have said that Venezuela is suffering from an 80% to 90% shortage in medicine supplies; half of the nation’s hospitals are not functioning; and there has been a 50% drop in the number of medical staff at the public centers that provide 90% of health services. The Venezuelan government has denied the existence of food and health crises and rejected offers of aid and cooperation from the international community. Amnesty International calls on the Venezuelan State to work with the international community to ensure that financial and technical resources are available to guarantee timely access to necessary and quality health care for all. Colombian health services provided urgent treatment for more than 24,000 Venezuelans in 2017, according to Colombia’s Ministry of Health. Hospitals in the border cities of Maicao and Cúcuta treated two to three times as many patients from Venezuela in 2017 as they did the previous year. (Amnesty International:


As Venezuelans flee collapsing country, UN asks other nations to treat them as refugees

Amid the growing exodus of Venezuelans, the United Nations for the first time is asking the region to treat the population as “refugees” who are unable to go home — rather than mere economic migrants. In a three-page report, the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, also recommends that countries that have received Venezuelans not deport, expel or forcibly return them “in view of the current situation in Venezuela.” In the document+t, titled “Guidance Note on the Outflow of Venezuelans,” the agency asks countries to guarantee Venezuelans residency and the right to work, even if they entered the country illegally or don’t have the proper identification papers. The guidelines would seem to be a rebuke to neighboring Colombia, which has increasingly been deporting Venezuelans and restricting their entry. (The Miami Herald:


UN official warns of humanitarian “catastrophe” in Venezuela

Colombia urgently needs international help as it struggles with a humanitarian “catastrophe” along its border caused by a flood of Venezuelan migrants driven from their homes by hunger, a senior U.N. official said Monday. David Beasley, director of the World Food Program, said the harrowing reports he heard from Venezuelan migrants makes raising awareness of the crisis an urgent priority. “This could turn into an absolute disaster in unprecedented proportions for the Western Hemisphere,” Beasley said in an interview following a two-day visit to talk with migrants in the Colombian border city of Cucuta. “I asked, ‘Why are you here?’, and the answer people gave me was, ‘We don’t have any food.’ And they said, ‘Even if we had money, there’s no food,’” Beasley recounted. “I don’t think people around the world realize how bad the situation is and how much worse it could very well be.” Beasley, who discussed the crisis with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, said the ideal approach would have the United Nations and international agencies attack the problem by working inside Venezuela. But that is not an option for now, because Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly rejected offers of humanitarian aid as a veiled attempt by the U.S. and others to destabilize his socialist government amid calls by the opposition to oust him. Instead, Beasley is urging the U.S. and other nations to provide financial assistance to Colombia, where the bulk of the Venezuelan migrants are arriving. He said Colombia’s government enjoys the confidence of the global community while Maduro’s does not. (The Washington Post:

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, March 6, 2018

March 06, 2018

International Trade

Imports from Colombia down 48% in 2017

Trade between Venezuela and Colombia was US$ 539 million during 2017, a 33% drop from US$ 802 million in 2016, as per data from Colombia’s National Statistics Department reported by the Venezuela-Colombia Economic Integration Chamber (CAVECOL). The report shows imports from Colombia totaled US$ 319 million last year, a 48% drop from US4 612 million in 2016. The three main products that were imported from Colombia were sugar and sweeteners (13.1%), electrical supplies, video and sound equipment (5.2%); and plastic material and products (5%). More in Spanish: (El Nacional,


Logistics & Transport

Air carriers authorized to sell tickets in Petros

Cryptocurrency Supervisor Carlos Vargas has announced that domestic and international tickets may be sold in Petros and other cryptocurrencies. He also said: “all Venezuelan fuel sold at gas stations along the border with Colombia will also be sold in Petros”. More in Spanish: (AVN,


Oil & Energy

Venezuela's oil output running 1.5 million bpd short: Ecuador minister

Venezuela’s oil production is running 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) short of its historic output, but it is something that the country must address itself, Ecuador oil minister Carlos Perez said on Monday. The country should address the shortfall on its own, he said on the sidelines of the CERAWeek energy conference, adding: “It is up to (Venezuela) to decide what to do.” The United Arab Emirates oil minister said on Sunday that OPEC last year discussed member Venezuela’s falling production and offered technical aid to help restore this country’s output.

Venezuela’s oil production fell 13 percent in 2017 to a 28-year low of about 2.072 million bpd. OPEC believes Venezuela will be able to rebuild its production, UAE oil minister Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei said. (Reuters,


Trump administration seizes energy opportunity amid Venezuela collapse

While the White House tightens the grip on Venezuela, the Trump administration is simultaneously drafting contingency plans for the U.S. energy sector to assist Caribbean and Latin American governments that have been reliant on Venezuela oil. The White House is meeting with foreign leaders in the hemisphere to discuss how the U.S. government and energy industry can provide them with fuel and infrastructure needs in the event the Maduro regime collapses and the political crisis in Venezuela chokes off the supply of subsidized oil. “This is a great time for the U.S. to be both promoting the infrastructure work that the U.S. can do, but also be exporting some of the extra energy that is coming out of the shale deposits,” a senior administration official told McClatchy. Caribbean and Latin American nations like Haiti, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Nicaragua receive billions in cheap loans for oil. And in return, they have helped Maduro retain crucial diplomatic support and block hemispheric efforts to punish the regime. What made Venezuelan petroleum so attractive were the discounts that Caribbean governments received. Money saved was supposed to be invested in social programs, but the governments have also come under scrutiny for mismanagement and criticism. One example is Haiti, where a special Haitian Senate commission is accusing former government officials of embezzling and wasting US$ 2 billion in PETROCARIBE funds. The subsidized oil program allowed some countries the luxury of embracing anti-U.S. rhetoric. But now they’ve been forced to reduce their reliance on Venezuela's subsidized oil export program and are looking north for help. The Trump administration sees an opportunity to wedge itself between countries that once depended on Venezuela oil and the Maduro regime. (McClatchy:


Venezuela oil basket starts March on an uptick

The price Venezuela receives for its mix of medium and heavy oil rose going into the first week of March. 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 March 2 rose to US$ 59.08, up 75 cents from the previous week's US$ 58.33.  According to Venezuelan government figures, the average price in 2018 for Venezuela's mix of heavy and medium crude for 2018 is US$ 60.04.(Latin American Herald Tribune,


Economy & Finance

Venezuelan economy tanked 13.2% in 2017

Venezuela’s crumbling economy shrank 13.2% in 2017, the fourth year of a crippling recession in the OPEC nation, the opposition-led congress said on Monday. The opposition has been calculating inflation and GDP in the absence of up-to-date official data for the socialist-run economy that has been contracting since early 2014. “The economy is being destroyed,” said opposition lawmaker and economist Jose Guerra at a presentation of the figures at the opposition-controlled National Assembly. (Reuters,


Venezuelans are paying a 100% premium for cash

It’s yet another frustration of living in an imploding economy. There are few places as chaotic or dangerous as Venezuela. “Life in Caracas” is a new series of short stories that seeks to capture the surreal quality of living in a land in total disarray. Amid widespread cash shortages, paper money is much sought after in poorer neighborhoods, where people often have no other way to make payments. Traders there are everywhere, charging up to 100% interest on cash for people desperate for it, including taxi drivers, restaurant owners, product salesmen, anyone in a hurry. (Bloomberg,


US Federal Court registers US$1.2 billion judgment for RUSORO against Venezuela

U.S. Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Leon has ordered RUSORO's US$1.2 billion ICSID Expropriation award against Venezuela registered in the U.S. RUSORO took the ICSID judgment to U.S. Federal Court in Washington, D.C. on October 10, 2016 to register the award so that they could begin to collect on the judgment in the U.S. against Venezuela assets. RUSORO, a company with Russian capital that is based in Vancouver, Canada, had two mines in production in Venezuela: the Choco 10 mine (previously operated by Goldfields) and the Isidora mine, both near the southeastern town of El Callao. President Hugo Chavez expropriated Rusoro's gold mining interests on August 23, 2011. (Latin American Herald Tribune:


Regime tightens controls on private sector

During Nicolas Maduro’s 59-month rule, he has found that 2 enabling laws and repeated economic emergency degrees not enough to fence in private initiative, and he is now calling on his “National Constitutional Assembly” to create more barriers for a business community that has been hit with 15 years of regulations. He has sent 8 new laws and proposals to the Assembly that would impose further restrictions, pressure and threaten private economic activity. More in Spanish: (El Nacional,


Maduro again raises minimum wage

President Nicolas Maduro went on Facebook Live to announce he is decreeing yet another minimum wage increase, following the recent 58% increase. Food stamps are also to be increased by 67%. In addition, he said he would give 5 million women a 700,000 VEB bonus through the “Fatherland License”, on March 8th, “Women’s Day”. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Universal,; AVN,


OP-ED: Venezuela's cryptocurrency is one of the worst investments ever

There are two types of countries, just as there are two types of companies: ones that are doing well, and ones that are pivoting to blockchain. And now it's Venezuela's turn to try to cash in on the crypto craze to save itself from its own long list of mistakes. It's hard to think of a government that, absent a war, revolution or Stalinist-style purge, has done a worse job running its economy than Venezuela's. Which is why Venezuela's government has just launched the Petro, its own cryptocurrency backed by oil. Well, at least that's what the regime is saying. In reality, the Petro isn't a crypto, it isn't a currency, and it isn't backed by oil in any meaningful sense. It's just a way for Caracas to try to get around the sanctions against it while raising money from the only people more clueless than itself. It isn't an exaggeration to say that the Petro might be the most obviously horrible investment ever. There are two things to understand here. The first is that you can only buy Petros with dollars, not bolivars. The second is that you can only use Petros to pay your taxes in Venezuela. They aren't good for anything else. And that sets up a very deliberate catch-22: The only people who can buy Petros can't use them, and the only people who can use them can't buy them. Venezuela's government says it will value your Petros at whatever price it calculates oil is at when you use them to pay taxes. What it won't do, though, is give you oil itself in return for them. So, if you're looking for a way to bet on the price of oil that only works as long as you owe taxes in Venezuela and believe one of the least trustworthy governments in the world will keep its promises, well, the Petro is for you. For everybody else, you can just buy oil instead. The Petro is about creating something useless - that's why only foreigners can buy them, but only Venezuelans can spend them - that, through the magic of techno-utopian jargon, is able to persuade enough people it's the future for them to fork over US$ 735 million for it. That's how much money the Chavista regime says it's raised so far. Maybe that's a lie ... but maybe it's not. Cryptocurrency investors, after all, aren't always the most discerning bunch. It was only a few months ago that they pushed the price of dogecoin, a bitcoin parody featuring dogs saying ungrammatical things, up to as much as US$ 2 billion. Is buying a bond that will never pay you back from a government that's already defaulting on its debt any worse a decision? Arguably not! At this rate, it won't be long until every person, company and country in the world is focusing on blockchain. If Venezuela can make money off it, there isn't anyone who can't. (The Chicago Tribune:


Politics and International Affairs

19 Army officers reportedly arrested for “conspiracy

19 Army officers have reportedly been arrested over the weekend; among them the commander of the key armored Ayala Battalion, Iber Marín Chaparro, who was an aide to the late President Hugo Chavez, who once said he had his “entire trust”. Those arrested are part of the most important units in the Fort Tiuna garrison in Caracas. The Ayala Battalion is the largest in the country, including 300 US-made Dragon tanks and 45 Russian-made units with very high firepower. Military sources report this battalion is down to 245 men, from 350, due to desertions. Another group arrested belong to the Bolívar Armored Battalion, which also operates out of Fort Tiuna, which used MBP-3 tanks. Marín Chaparro, who is a nephew of the Apure State Governor and former Vice President, General Ramón Carrizales, is reported to have been interrogated by Defense Minister Major General Vladimir Maduro before being taken to Military Counter-Intelligence headquarters. Army Lieutenant Colonel Eric Peña Romero, a former aide to Major General Miguel Rodríguez Torres at the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), was also arrested. More in Spanish: (Venepress:


Maduro demotes, expels 13 military officers

President Nicolas Maduro demoted, expelled or separated from the Armed Forces 13 current and/or former military officers, including men currently in jail and retired personnel. Raul Isaias Baduel, the Army General in Chief who rescued Maduro’s mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez, after a failed coup d’etat in 2001 and who is already in jail (for asking that Maduro leave office last year) and who retired when Chavez was still alive and in power (both men had a falling out after Baduel came out against eternal re-election) was the first officer mentioned in the decree. Maduro is accusing Baduel and the other 13 officers of crimes against the integrity, independence and freedom of the nation, including treason to the fatherland. Local military and security affairs NGO “Control Ciudadano” said the total number of military officers demoted recently, including the recent batch of 13 expurgated personnel, is now 24. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Venezuela presidential election postponed to May 20th

The snap presidential election in Venezuela scheduled for 22 April has been pushed back by a month, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has announced. The CNE said the poll would now be held on 20 May. The move came after an agreement was reached between the government and a small number of opposition parties. CNE chief Tibisay Lucena also announced the government had agreed on "electoral guarantees" for the forthcoming elections with a few minor opposition parties. UN chief Antonio Guterres would also be invited to send an observer mission to monitor "all phases of the process". The decision was widely interpreted by critics of the government as an attempt to steamroll the deeply divided opposition coalition and throw it into disarray. It also triggered international criticism, with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru all rejecting the early election and some countries warning that they would not recognize the result. The US has said it would consider imposing further sanctions against the government if it went ahead with the presidential vote under what it called fraudulent conditions. The main opposition Democratic Unity coalition announced it would boycott the 22 April election and refused to put up any candidates to oppose President Maduro. In response to the latest announcement the coalition said it would be maintaining its boycott, saying the elections would still be fraudulent. The organization tweeted that none of its members had signed the agreement with the Electoral Council. But former state governor Henri Falcón decided to run in the presidential election. The most high-profile opposition candidates, such as Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo López, are barred from running. Others have left the country for fear of arrest. It is also not clear whether the delay will ease pressure on the Venezuelan government. An unnamed US government official quoted by news agency Reuters said a delay "likely would not prompt the US administration to hold back on sanctions". (BBC News:


Venezuelan Parliament calls on UN not to “legitimize” snap presidential elections

Luis Florido, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Commission, has called on the United Nations to withhold recognition from snap presidential elections now rescheduled to May 20th. He says: “The terms for election competitiveness do not exist in Venezuela since this is a fake elections charade”. He wrote that the UN should become an international observer “only in competitive and truly free elections”. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Nacional,


Poll shows 77.6% of Venezuelans want to take part in presidential vote

A recent poll by DATANALISIS shows that 77.6% of 1000 Venezuelans asked said they want to vote, and 12.3% say they will abstain. Pro-regime voters intend to vote by 96.7%, along with 65.9% of opponents, and 80.1% of independents. 9.1% of those polled are totally unwilling to vote, 13.3% not very disposed; 34% willing to vote, 39.1% very willing; and 4.1% would not respond. The most popular leader is Leopoldo López, who is disqualified and under house arrest, which makes Henri Falcón the main choice, even above Henrique Capriles Radonski, who has also been disqualified. The poll shows a majority of opponent would vote for López, while a large segment of independents would choose Falcón. When López and Capriles are withdrawn from the list, President Nicolás Maduro leads with 19.7%. If all opposition choices were joined they would amply surpass all pro-regime groups. More in Spanish: (Venepress:


Maduro sings lewd version of ‘Despacito’ as he announces re-election bid

On Tuesday, President Nicolás Maduro told a group of red shirt-clad followers that he will officially run for re-election in April’s snap presidential vote—and he did so to the rhythm of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s smash hit “Despacito” by changing the song lyrics for a more salacious version. In reference to former National Assembly president and opposition leader Henry Ramos Allup—Maduro’s political foe—the left-leaning leader said he would “despacito [Spanish for “slowly”] shove it up [to Allup], 10 million votes down his gut, slowly.” This is not the first time Maduro used Fonsi’s song for political reasons. Last summer, the Venezuelan strongman told opponents that his Constituent Assembly project was going to happen by altering the song lyrics. In response, the Puerto Rican singer issued a statement in Spanish via Instagram, saying: “At no time I’ve been consulted, nor I’ve authorized the use or change of Despacito’s lyrics for political purposes, much less in the deplorable situation that a country that I love as much as Venezuela is in.” (Newsweek:


Pragmatic candidate livens up Venezuela’s presidential race

In another year, Henri Falcon might be just another middle-of-the-pack presidential candidate in Venezuela. He’s not the most popular opposition leader. He’s a dull speechmaker. The parties that back him are small. He’s managed to irritate both the left and the right. But a boycott of the race by Venezuela’s biggest parties means Falcon is by far the most prominent option on the May 20 ballot for those who want to unseat socialist President Nicolas Maduro — and polls indicate that is the majority in a country with spreading hunger and an almost worthless currency. Some of the same polls even have the former governor as the front-runner, with a double-digit lead over Maduro. The big question is whether that will matter. Most of Venezuela’s opposition, joined by the U.S. and much of the international community, is convinced it won’t — that the fix is in. Falcon, 56, lacks the flair of many Venezuelan political figures. He comes across as a cerebral, competent manager driven more by pragmatism than ideology. Even while in the ruling socialist movement, he kept lines open to the business community that was being pummeled by much of the government. Now as an opponent, he calls for preserving generous social programs and subsidies started under Chavez. He has urged seeking help from the International Monetary Fund, and his most noted economic adviser, Wall Street analyst Francisco Rodriguez, has called for adopting the dollar as the national currency to halt the hyperinflation that has devastated the economy. In a 2010 secret cable made public through Wikileaks, then U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy described Falcon as a “Chavista Lite.” But his Chavista heritage led to lingering suspicion among anti-government rivals. He was banished from the opposition coalition after announcing his candidacy, with some hardliners suggesting he should be sanctioned by the U.S., which has backed the decision to boycott the vote. That mistrust, combined with anger at his decision to buck the election boycott and a widespread loss of hope among the opposition, could depress turnout, undermining his chances if the vote turns out to be fair. Partly for the same reason, he lost a re-election bid in October against a government loyalist by a landslide. Still, a recent survey by local pollster DATANALISIS said most people identifying themselves as opposition supporters indicated a willingness to vote even under current conditions that they view as rigged. The Feb. 1-14 poll had Falcon, before he announced his candidacy, leading Maduro by more than 12 points. It had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points; and some see Falcon’s politics as the most feasible way forward for Venezuela, allowing a soft landing for Maduro should he decide to cede power. (AP:


OP-ED: Why I am running for President of Venezuela, by Henri Falcón

Last week, I registered as a candidate for the presidency of Venezuela. I am running for president because I think Venezuelans should have a choice of whether to continue with the disastrous rule of President Nicolás Maduro, or to support a route of inclusion, progress and justice. Some of my fellow members in the opposition coalition have called for boycotting the election, claiming that misconduct by the regime makes a free and fair vote impossible. They are right in denouncing the abuses of the government: Maduro has persecuted opposition leaders, banned political parties, filled electoral institutions with his loyalists and blatantly used government resources in his campaign. Venezuela’s presidential election will be played on an uneven playing field. Those who want to sit out the election argue that participating lends legitimacy to a rigged process. They also worry that the international support that the opposition has been able to muster could wane as a result of our decision. These concerns are legitimate. But we can’t give up and let Maduro get away with six more years in power. Choosing to fight under unfair rules does not legitimize the rules: it affirms our willingness to defend our rights. And if the government decides to steal this election, it can count on finding me in the streets, by the sides of the brave Venezuelan people, fighting for our right to be respected. My difference is one of strategy. Electoral boycotts almost never work. When resistance movements decided instead to confront authoritarian regimes at the polls — authoritarians from Pinochet to Milosevic — they had a much greater chance of producing regime change. Governments do not win elections during periods of hyperinflation — except when, as in Zimbabwe in 2008, the opposition makes the fatal mistake of boycotting the vote. Opinion surveys consistently show that Venezuelans want to vote in the coming elections. I agree that divisions in the opposition are harmful to our cause. Still, since the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans want to vote, my responsibility is to stand by our people, even if it means breaking with the minority that wants to sit out the election. The overriding priority of my administration will be to make sure that not one Venezuelan child goes to bed without having eaten. I will seek international assistance — including from bilateral and multilateral agencies — to replenish stocks of food and medicines. I will create a program of conditional cash transfers with the objective of eradicating hunger. I will also immediately free all the country’s political prisoners, thrown in the government’s dungeons for the sole crime of thinking differently. My plea to Venezuelans who oppose Maduro’s despotic rule is to reach across our divisions and reunite around the common project of a better country. But reconciliation begins with justice, and those responsible for human rights violations and corruption must be held accountable. (The New York Times:


SPECIAL REPORT: Can Venezuela be saved?

The New York Times magazine has recently published a lengthy special report on Leopoldo López, the leader of Venezuela’s Voluntad Popular party. López was arrested in February 2014 after leading a public protest that turned violent. Prosecutors acknowledged in court that López was technically peaceful, but they accused him of inciting others to hatred and violence. At trial, he was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison. Since then, he has become the most prominent political prisoner in Latin America, if not the world. López has become a kind of symbol but there’s widespread disagreement on precisely what he represents. For three and a half years in prison, López refused to let anyone speak for him. Though he was prohibited from granting interviews or issuing public statements and was often denied access to books, paper, pens and pencils, he managed to scribble messages on scraps of paper for his family to smuggle out, and he recorded a handful of covert audio and video messages denouncing the Maduro government. From time to time, he could even be heard screaming political slogans through the bars of the concrete tower in the military prison where he was kept in isolation. López was released to house arrest last July on the condition that he fall silent. He promptly climbed the fence behind his house to rally a gathering crowd, then issued a video message asking his followers to resist the government. Three weeks later, he was back in prison; after four days, he was released again. Ever since, he has vanished from public view.  Almost nobody is allowed to enter the López house, for one thing, being surrounded all day and night by the Venezuelan secret police. Using an obscure video service, he spoke to a New York Times reporter. Asked if he ever thought about trying to escape. “Most people tell me that I should,” he said. “But I believe a commitment to the cause means that I need to take the risk.” The word “radical” is often used about López in a misleading way. Where you can describe López as a radical is the way he approaches political activity. He believes that a relentless campaign of street demonstrations and civil disobedience is essential to challenge an authoritarian government. He now says: “In the past, I was in confrontation with different views,” he told me. “Now I understand that everybody is needed to reach a way out of this disaster … A lot of people in the opposition have resentment, and I understand that,” he told me. “But I think our responsibility is to move beyond the personal resentment. Four years in prison have given me the possibility of seeing things a different way, of putting rage in its perspectiveIt’s not easy, but I have the responsibility to speak my mind. I’ve been in prison four years now because of speaking my mind, and if I self-censor, I’m beaten by the dictatorship.” López said he still believed that with the right leadership, Venezuela could rebound. He knew that stabilizing the Bolívar could be accomplished by attaching its value to a foreign currency, and that under a new government, the private sector would return. He believed the country’s oil production would recover under good management, and he had been working for nearly a decade on a plan to convert the national oil company into a kind of Social Security trust, with investment shares assigned to the public for retirement, education and emergencies. Unable to speak publicly, he developed a network of private channels — reconnecting with leaders of the political parties from which he’d split, making inroads with members of the Maduro government and with foreign ministers and heads of state. López was also flexible in his thinking about transition. An unwelcome mechanism can bring welcome change. “In 1958, there was a military coup that began the transition to democracy,” he said. “And in other Latin American countries, there have been coups that called elections. So, I don’t want to rule anything out, because the electoral window has been closed. We need to go forward on many different levels. One is street demonstrations; a second is coordination with the international community. But this is how I’m thinking now: We need to increase all forms of pressure. Anything, anything that needs to happen to produce a free and fair election.” Since the publication of this article, armed guards from the Venezuelan intelligence service have raided and occupied the residence of Leopoldo López. Members of the Venezuelan National Assembly gathered in front of the house, along with local media and citizens, to protest the invasion and threats by the Venezuelan government that López will be returned to military prison. (The New York Times:


Almagro denounces  secret police raid into Lopez’ home as “illegal

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has denounced the “illegal and intimidating” nighttime entry by Venezuelan secret pólice (SEBIN) into the home of Leopoldo López, who remains under house arrest in Caracas. More in Spanish:  (Noticiero Venevisión,


OP-ED by Sen. Marco Rubio: Venezuelan military could help restore democracy

No one should be fooled when Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro holds a fraudulent presidential election and seeks to force illegitimate legislative elections to replace the country’s democratically elected National Assembly on April 22. While the Castro-backed Maduro regime and his cronies cynically seek to use a sham vote to restore their international legitimacy, these “elections” will be unfree, unfair and completely rigged. Maduro has banned virtually every opponent — including his strongest political rivals, Leopoldo López, María Corina Machado, Henrique Capriles and Antonio Ledezma — from running against him. The regime will monitor how government workers and recipients of subsidized food vote, with the clear threat of losing their jobs or their food if they don’t vote for Maduro. And the regime will not allow credible and transparent international monitors to observe the vote, allowing it to alter unfavorable polling outcomes, just like it did in the illegitimate Constituent Assembly elections of July 2017 and regional elections of October 2017. In short, their sham “elections” will not be free, fair or transparent — Maduro would lose if they were. The Venezuelan people and the rank and file members of its embattled military can be the ultimate instrument for ending the dictatorship and restoring Venezuela’s constitutional democracy. History reminds us that despots rarely give up dictatorial power voluntarily. The most stable and peaceful path forward for Venezuela is for a united front of disaffected government insiders and military personnel, with popular support from the Venezuelan people, to remove Maduro and his inner circle from power. But the Venezuelan military, with the popular support of their citizenry, can end this dictatorship and restore their people’s freedom, dignity, and right to govern themselves. If, and when, they choose to, I believe they will enjoy overwhelming support from the United States and other free nations of the world. (The Miami Herald:


ALBA Summit in Venezuela agrees to promote Maduro’s entry into Summit of the Americas

At around 5:00 pm Monday in Caracas the summit of representatives of countries belonging to the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA) convened to discuss Venezuela's general elections, to be held next May 20. The host country's head of state, Nicolas Maduro, led the meeting, in which Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and Presidents Evo Morales or Bolivia, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Raul Castro of Cuba also took part. It is reported they will pressure for Maduro to be included in the upcoming Summit of the Americas. Bolivia’s former foreign minister and ALBA Secretary General David Choquehuanca called the decision by the Lima Group to leave Maduro out was “interference into Venezuela’s internal affairs”, while Dominica’s Roosevelt Skerrit called the decision to exclude Maduro “disrespectful of the Venezuelan people” and a flagrant violation of international law. The group said they would take unspecified “diplomatic and political measures” to ensure Venezuela’s participation at the meeting. (EFE:, and more in Spanish: El Nuevo Diario:


Venezuela opens backchannel over jailed American, Maduro ally travels to Washington

President Nicolas Maduro welcomed a visit by a top-ranking Republican congressional staffer last month to discuss the possible release of a Utah man jailed for more than 20 months in this volatile nation, six U.S. congressional and administration aides told The Associated Press. It's not known if there has been any progress in the backchannel talks to secure Joshua Holt's freedom, but the mere fact that Maduro met with the staffer, and in turn sent an envoy of his own this week to Washington, may be a sign of movement in a case that has become a major irritant as tensions between the two countries rise. The unannounced discussions began when Caleb McCarry, a Republican aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, traveled to Caracas in February and met with Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores to discuss Holt's imprisonment, said the aides, who agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name because the talks are sensitive. The behind-the-scenes dialogue prompted a surprise visit this week to Washington by a trusted ally of Maduro, Gov. Rafael Lacava of Carabobo state, to discuss Holt, three congressional aides familiar with the visit said. The visit by Lacava, who traveled to Washington on Sunday after being granted a U.S. visa, has been met with hostility by Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who is a harsh critic of Maduro and has President Donald Trump's ear on policy toward Venezuela. One congressional aide said that Lacava had only requested meetings on Capitol Hill and that the sole purpose of those meetings is to urge the release of Holt and not negotiate anything in exchange. Any discussion of sanctions relief that may be on Lacava's agenda is unlikely to come up, since that is a matter for the administration to decide, the aide added. (Fox News:


OP-ED: How Venezuela tests Latin America’s commitment to democracy

When Bill Clinton called the first Summit of the Americas in Miami in 1994 he wanted to celebrate the shared commitment of all 34 countries in the hemisphere to democracy and free trade—all, that is, except Cuba, the 35th, which was not invited. At the seventh summit in Panama in 2015, regional solidarity prevailed. At Latin America’s insistence, Cuba was invited and Raúl Castro sat down with Barack Obama, setting the seal on their diplomatic détente. So, it was a big diplomatic step when last month Peru’s government, the host of the eighth summit, scheduled for April 13th-14th, announced that it was withdrawing Venezuela’s invitation and that Nicolás Maduro, its president, would be denied entry. Peru acted for the 14-nation ad hoc “Lima group”, which includes most Latin American countries. They rejected Maduro’s decision to hold a sham presidential election on April 22nd. Latin America is once again giving priority to the defense of democracy. What chance is there that action by Venezuela’s neighbors can achieve results? Ostracism is a start. Latin American countries should follow the United States and the EU in barring the regime’s leaders from visiting, and in seizing their looted assets. It should also demand that the faction-ridden opposition unite behind a single leadership. Latin America has plenty of disagreements with Donald Trump, but anti-imperialism should not, as Venezuela argues, override the defense of democracy and human rights. Neither should the tradition of non-intervention, nor an insistence on unattainable regional unanimity. That means the OAS might not be the right diplomatic vehicle. Rather, the Group of Lima should turn itself into an open-ended coalition of the willing to take whatever political action is necessary to return Venezuela to democracy and stave off a humanitarian disaster. (The Economist:


Four in 10 Venezuelans would leave Venezuela behind

Venezuelans are fleeing their country in droves amid the chaos in their government and their streets. More than four in 10 residents (41%) in 2017 said they would like to move to another country permanently if they could. This desire is higher than any figure Gallup has measured since 2008 for the country. Up until 2014, no more than 15% of Venezuelans expressed a desire to leave their country and live elsewhere. Meanwhile, a small majority of Venezuelans say they would like to remain in their country. These data were collected in the latter half of 2017, between August and November, as violence and hunger overcame the country. During this period, anti-government protesters raided a military base, taking weapons. GALLUP has tracked Venezuela's descent on a host of measures in recent years. Now, many Venezuelans would like to leave the crisis behind them. Of the residents who say they would like to move away, one in five (20%) say they would like to go to neighboring Colombia. By the end of 2017, Colombian immigration officials have counted more than a half million Venezuelan refugees who crossed the border. Nearly as many, 17%, say they would like to move to the U.S. The current figure is a somewhat muted level of desire to move to the U.S. compared with the past few years. Among Venezuelans who would like to move, about two in three (64%) name another Latin American country as a desired destination, including Colombia, Chile (12%), Panama (8%) and Ecuador (8%). Many of these countries have made accommodations for Venezuelans entering their country. 6% of those who would like to leave Venezuela say they would like to go to Spain. With President Nicolas Maduro running for re-election this spring, a change in leadership could cause many Venezuelans to reconsider a potential move. (GALLUP:


Venezuela’s collapse causes humanitarian and security crisis for Colombia

The massive migratory flow from a collapsing Venezuela can be measured by the 91,000 people estimated to have crossed Colombia’s border on a single day in mid-February. Three statistics from Migración Colombia convey the magnitude of the exodus. In 2012, 2,000 Venezuelans sought to travel through Colombia to Ecuador. In January, according to Migracion Colombia, that number was 56,147 — a rate that would reach about 674,000 by year’s end. Many of those fleeing Venezuela go on to Peru and Chile — and from the words of the migrants, anywhere but a return to Maduro-run Venezuela. In the last six months of 2017, 68,739 applied for Migracion Colombia’s Special Permanent Permission (PEP). In the first 37 days of 2018, 86,833 applied. Migracion Colombia already has issued 1.6 million short-term visa-like permits for those who say they will go back to Venezuela after working a few days or getting emergency medical care or just eating a decent meal. Fortunately, President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, having traveled to Cúcuta three weeks ago, has called for a major international response — and the magnitude of the humanitarian and security challenges clearly require speed, generosity and wisdom. While the licit and illicit commerce across that almost 1,400-mile border is traditional. With no passport formally required between the sister cities of Cúcuta and San Antonio, fewer migrants are returning to Venezuela. Leaving Venezuela, migrants use seven formal monitored crossings like the Simon Bolivar Bridge into Cucuta, or more than 200 smuggling paths, with now 1,000 to 3000 staying in Colombia daily, according to Colombian officials. Having walked along one of those paths with Colombian police to the mostly dry riverbed separating the two countries, it was clear that not only pedestrians, but motorcycles and trucks also can be used to smuggle cattle, gasoline and anything else into Colombia, plus and narcotics or stolen minerals into Venezuela. Colombia already had the task of implementing a complicated peace accord that ended a five-decade conflict with the FARC guerrillas, while battling other illegal armed groups all financed by cocaine and human trafficking, kidnapping and extortion. The complicity of many at the highest levels of the Maduro administration’s largely military-controlled trafficking has been documented by the United States. The Colombia military just denounced Venezuela’s providing sanctuary to ELN leaders and alleged involvement of two Venezuelan troops in the latest ELN bombing in Barranquilla that resulted in the deaths of six police and some 20 wounded. Colombia’s initial extra military deployment of 3,000 troops and border police undoubtedly will serve to monitor the illegal crossings more closely. However, with easily traversed scrub brush, river and mountain borders, a halt to migration and to security threats from Venezuela cannot be stopped by Colombia, only change in Venezuela can end those pressures. (The Miami Herald:


Venezuela mass exodus taking toll on nation's patrimony

About 4 million Venezuelans have left the country since 1999, trying to escape hyperinflation, a worthless currency, starvation and high crime after 19 years of Communist mis-rule, but as the pace of the exodus picks up, some are also trying to take an iconic piece of their country with them: small tiles from the large Carlos Cruz-Diez monumental mosaic on the floor of the lobby of the departure section of the Simon Bolivar International Airport, the oil-rich nation’s largest. Travelers and visitors started noticing pieces of Op Art’s pioneer Cruz-Diez’s “Cromo interferencia de color aditivo” – installed in 1974-1978 and taking up more than 2,600 square meters- missing. The trend began in earnest five years ago, at about the same time Maduro took over. National Assembly opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano took issue with the damaging of Cruz-Diez’s work Monday in a series of tweets, asking travelers not to take that special part of Venezuela with them, and reminding readers that maintenance is not precisely the forte of Maduro’s administration. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Abandoned minors roam the streets of Venezuela after parents leave country

An increasing number of Venezuelans are crossing the border into Colombia due to the unprecedented economic and social crisis scourging their homeland, leaving their children in the care of relatives who cannot afford to support them. Shelters for abandoned or orphaned children have reported being overcrowded but they still receive requests to house more kids from relatives and people under whose care the children have been placed. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Venezuelans, Go Home: Xenophobia Haunts Refugees

For decades, the oil-rich citizens of a great nation were stereotyped by their poorer neighbors as haughty. Now comes the payback. (Bloomberg,


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.