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, November 22, 2018

November 22, 2018

International Trade

Customs Brokers Chamber reports Christmas season imports are down 98% from 2012 due to exchange restrictions and red tape. It adds that high impact imports are carried out by the government. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Oil & Energy

PDVSA resumes work at Jose oil port's dock

Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA has reopened a dock at the country’s main oil terminal of Jose that had been closed for almost three months due to a tanker collision, a PDVSA source and a shipper said on Tuesday. Dozens of tankers waiting to load Venezuelan oil were diverted to other PDVSA’s terminals since Jose port’s South dock was shut in late August, causing delays in deliveries to customers and cutting export revenue. (Reuters,


Maduro claims US$ 100 is the “fair price” for a barrel of oil

He made his statement at a funeral ceremony honoring for former Oil Minister, PDVSA President and OPEC Secretary General Alí Rodríguez Araque. Year-to-date 218, Venezuela’s oil basket price has averaged US$ 61.74. More in Spanish: (El Universal,



Zulia state governor declares emergency due to drinking water scarcity

Zulia state governor Omar Prieto has declared a state of emergency in the statewide distribution of drinking water and will set “a sales price cap on water casks". More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Economy & Finance

Chavez’s ex-treasurer will give up houses, horses and watches

A former national treasurer of Venezuela who admitted taking bribes from a billionaire television mogul will give up the trappings of his fabulous life in south Florida, including real estate, show horses, luxury watches and foreign bank accounts. Alejandro Andrade Cedeno, the treasurer from 2007 to 2010 under late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, pleaded guilty to a US$ 1 billion money-laundering plot in which wealthy Venezuelans converted bolivars to dollars through a rigged exchange system. They then moved money out of the country, which is suffering a crippling economic crisis. The Justice Department detailed the extent of Andrade’s corrupt wealth in unsealing his case Tuesday and revealing his cooperation with prosecutors. They also announced the indictment of Raul Gorrin Belisario, the billionaire who owns the GLOBOVISION television network and has been charged with paying bribes to Andrade and others as well as helping to launder the payments; and the guilty plea of Gabriel Arturo Jimenez Aray, a Venezuelan who owned BANCO PERAVIA in the Dominican Republic. Andrade, once a bodyguard to the late President Hugo Chavez, admitted he took bribes as treasurer to steer contracts to brokerage houses that conducted bolivar exchanges. Andrade chose which brokerages would sell bonds from the treasurer’s portfolio that were denominated in U.S. dollars. His conspirators could then “obtain substantial profits on the exchange transactions,” according to court documents. Even after Andrade moved in 2012 to Wellington, Florida, the bribes continued until last November, he said in pleading guilty. His plea deal requires him to forfeit the Palm Beach County real estate empire and horses. Andrade will give up a six-acre estate in a gated community and 17 horses with names like Tinker Bell, Bonjovi and Anastasia Du Park. He’ll give over his 2017 Mercedes Benz GLS 550 and nine other cars, as well as three dozen watches from makers like Rolex, Hublot and Franck Muller. He’s forfeiting Swiss accounts at BSI Bank and EFG Bank, and at three large U.S. banks. Andrade, 54, was a close ally of Chavez and helped him in a 1992 coup d’etat. Andrade faces as long as 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced on Nov. 27, but he’s likely to get less time as a cooperator. Prosecutors also relied on Jimenez, 50, who spent three years cooperating in “an international criminal investigation against highly dangerous individuals” that “put him in a dangerous position,” prosecutors said in an Oct. 1 filing unsealed Tuesday. “The government of Venezuela’s complicity in this conspiracy renders victim status inappropriate,” prosecutors said in a July 27 court filing. Gorrin, who also owns insurance firm Seguros La Vitalicia, was charged in an indictment unsealed on Monday with violating U.S. anti-corruption laws in efforts to win contracts to carry out currency exchange operations for the government. Between 2008 and 2017, Gorrin facilitated more than US$ 150 million in bribe payments to officials in Venezuela’s treasury for access to currency deals, with funds wired from Swiss bank accounts to accounts in Florida, U.S. prosecutors said. Gorrin allegedly also bought jets, yachts, “champion horses” and luxury watches in Florida and Texas for a government official as a bribe, according to the indictment. GLOBOVISION, once a virulently anti-government station, overhauled coverage and softened criticism of Chavez's successor, Nicolas Maduro, after Gorrin purchased the channel in 2013, reporters said at the time. (BLOOMBERG:;; REUTERS:;; Latin American Herald Tribune,; Bloomberg,


Politics and International Affairs

Maduro’s poll ratings dropped six points this month.

A slight gain in President Nicolás Maduro’s popularity registered in October, when he announced some economic initiatives, dropped again in November. The DATANÁLISIS Omnibus poll shows both the government and Maduro himself have again lost popularity. One out of four Venezuelans had rated Maduro favorably in October, probably due to the alleged murder attempt and new economic policy announcements. However, in November only one out of five registered a positive attitude toward the President. He lost 7 percentage points over the past 30 days due to continued hyperinflation and the murder of city councilor Fernando Alban. Overall, 78% of Venezuelans rate Maduro negatively now, although he retains 73.4% support among so-called “chavistas”. The feeling that his economic policy has failed seems to have taken root within the population. More in Spanish: (VENEPRESS:


U.S. weighs sanctions on Cuban officials over role in Venezuela crackdown

The Trump administration is considering imposing sanctions on Cuban military and intelligence officials who it says are helping Venezuela’s socialist government crackdown on dissent, according to a source with knowledge of the deliberations. Such sanctions would be the first time Washington has targeted a bloc of foreign officials allied with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The potential human rights-related sanctions would target Cuban officials, possibly including generals, who Washington accuses of advising Venezuela’s government on how to monitor opponents and put down street protests, the source said. The number and identities of the potential targets was unclear. Asked about possible sanctions on Cuban officials, a senior U.S. government official told Reuters in early November: “We are looking at all the potential avenues to deter those who are really helping the Maduro regime stay afloat and giving them the tools they need for repression.” Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said earlier this month Washington would take a tougher line against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, calling them a “Troika of Tyranny.” (Reuters,; NBC News:


Police, students clash at protest in Venezuela

Hundreds of anti-riot police in Venezuela have clashed with students staging a protest calling for better conditions at universities as the nation’s economic crisis continues to worsen. Students held a rally at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas on Wednesday before trying to march off campus. They were stopped by officers and members of the national guard who launched tear gas at them. A dozen students required medical treatment after exposure to the fumes. The anti-government movement has lost steam in recent months, and the march had drawn an unusually large crowd. The demonstrators were trying to leave the university, but the PNB officials blocked the exits of the institution with police fences. (National Post:; EFE:


NGO has registered over 10,000 protests this year in Venezuela

Human rights activist Marco Antonio Ponce, coordinator of the Social Conflict Observatory (OVCS), reports there is an average of 47 protests daily protests nationwide in Venezuela. He adds that there have been 10,773 protests here year to date in 2018, which he calls a record year.  More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Rodriguez calls on Colombia to comply with agreements with FARC guerrilla

Venezuela’s Communications and Information Minister Jorge Rodríguez has calle don the Colombian government to comply with peace agreements reached by that nation’s government and the FARC guerrilla forces. Rodríguez said he spoke on behalf of President Nicolas Maduro given Venezuela’s role as “guarantor” of such agreements. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Universal,; AVN,


Ali Rodriguez, Venezuela’s ambassador to Cuba and former OPEC official, dies

Venezuelan Ambassador to Cuba Ali Rodriguez Araque, who also served as secretary-general of OPEC and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), died in Havana, President Nicolas Maduro said. He was 81. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in a statement on Tuesday that Rodriguez Araque was a politician “inseparable from Cuba.” (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Legislature rejects unconstitutional appointment of ambassadors abroad

Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly has rejected the appointment of ambassadors abroad by the Maduro regime, and calls them “null” and “unconstitutional”. Francisco Sucre, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, says that the Constitution requires legislative approval for naming ambassadors, and that such appointments usurp legislative authority “and nullify treaties signed illegally”. More in Spanish: (El Universal,


OAS member state delegation visits Colombia – Venezuela border to assess crisis

On November 19-20, 2018, seventeen OAS member states participated in a field visit to assess the humanitarian crisis along the Colombia - Venezuela border: Maicao, in the Rioacha province, and Cucuta in the Norte de Santander province. The visit was organized by the Colombian government and included representation from the governments of Argentina, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Saint Lucia, Uruguay and the United States represented by Ambassador Carlos Trujillo. The OAS Working Group on Venezuela migration also participated with representation from three experts on the situation. The purpose of the visit was to raise member state awareness of the extent of the humanitarian crisis, in anticipation of continued action in the Inter-American system regarding Venezuela and address the root causes of the crisis under the Maduro regime. The OAS Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) is scheduled to meet November 26 to discuss food security and migration impacts and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will convene a health ministerial meeting on Venezuela November 29. (US Mission to the OAS:


Hunger grows in Venezuela

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO); the World Food Program (WFP); and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) – joined forces to create a report on the undernourishment problem affecting Latin America and the Caribbean. This report – recently made public – shows that the number of undernourished people in Venezuela has increased in both absolute and relative terms: the rate of undernourished people in the country reached 9.8% over the three-year period from 2014 to 2016, while the rate increased to 11.7% over the next three-year period from 2015 to 2017. The first percentage corresponds to an absolute amount of 3.1 million undernourished people, while the second percentage corresponds to an amount of 3.7 million people. This represents an increase of 600,000 new Venezuelans within only a year. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


WHO reports Venezuela registers greatest malaria increase worldwide

The World Health Organization’s yearly report on malaria shows Venezuela as the nation with the greatest increase in malaria worldwide and fears the disease will expand to neighboring countries. The report shows 773,500 confirmed cases in Latin America during 2017, a 72% increase over 2015, and 53% of those cases were registered in Venezuela, which is among 10 countries where malaria cases were over 300,000 in 2017. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Voluntad Popular calls for removal of UNDP representative in Venezuela

The Voluntad Popular opposition party led by imprisoned leader Leopoldo López has asked the United Nations to remove Peter Grohmann, UNDP representative in Venezuela, for “silencing” the serious situation here. The party says: “it is unacceptable that, having a budget and technical personnel, that they have not at least prepared a report on what is going on”.  A party spokesperson, legislator Manuela Bolivar, says the case will be taken to the National Assembly. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


OP-ED: What Options Are Left in Venezuela? by Félix Seijas Rodríguez

Nicolás Maduro is set to start a new term as Venezuela’s president on Jan. 10, and the country’s political, social and economic crisis is only becoming more profound. Far from correcting course, Maduro has taken steps to maintain control despite an imploding economy. His opposition is dispersed and lacking a coherent strategy. A solution through dialogue seems farfetched. How might things change for Venezuela? Here are three possibilities, and a look at the likelihood of any of them coming to fruition. Foreign military intervention: For some time now there has been talk of possible military intervention to depose Maduro’s regime. But there are several reasons why intervention is very unlikely. First, there is no consensus among the largest countries in the region on the need to take an active hand in changing Venezuela’s reality. Mexico, especially under Andrés Manuel López Obrador, would oppose such action. The U.S. could decide to act on its own, but a decision to invade Venezuela would need to be approved by the U.S. Congress and the UN Security Council. At the UN, both China and Russia, countries with important economic interests in Venezuela, would most certainly veto any resolution to intervene. But perhaps even more relevant is the precarious situation of the opposition forces in Venezuela. The political leadership in opposition to Maduro is weak and enjoys little support from civil society. Without an internal structure that can take the reins of the country if Maduro is deposed, the consequences of an intervention would be highly uncertain. Public support for Maduro’s regime is still around 20 percent, while the revolution proposed by his late predecessor Hugo Chávez has 35 percent approval. Military action in this circumstance is not a sensible idea. Recent reports that Trump may add Venezuela to the state sponsors of terrorism list shows that the administration still sees the possibility of adding pressure on Maduro without intervening militarily. Chavismo collapses: For Maduro’s political movement to collapse, external pressure would have to be such as to cause a fracture within its power structure. This could come through an explosion of public protest that exceeds the regime’s containment capacity and is big enough to compromise the loyalty of security forces tasked with putting it down. Another possibility is that international pressure asphyxiates the regime, rendering it incapable of maintaining the web of corruption and complicity it has had for the last 20 years. These two possibilities are not mutually exclusive, but a social explosion of the magnitude needed to cause a revolt in the security services is not likely. If popular pressure again starts building on the streets, there is no political leadership or organization with both the know-how and the credibility to use that energy effectively against the regime.  Once again, the weakness of the Venezuelan opposition is an obstacle to any solution to the crisis. Transition within Chavismo: As mentioned, international pressure could cause the power structures to flounder and there might not be a democratic alternative to take control of the situation. That could already be happening, and the international community should be concerned about where that might lead. If the absence of any possibility of a democratic transition, an intermediate alternative comes into view: a transition that leaves Chavismo in place but gets rid of Maduro and his inner circle. It’s possible that the early stages of such a transition are underway. But it would be a difficult path to follow. If successfully navigated by both the international community and domestic opposition, such a transition might eventually pave the way to a democratic opening. But the risks of further entrenchment are apparent. It would be a risky bet. (Americas Quarterly:


OP-ED: More than 40 countries may cut diplomatic ties with Venezuela. Fine, but would it do any good? by Andres Oppenheimer

Venezuela’s dictator Nicolás Maduro may soon face bad news on the diplomatic front: More than 40 countries are considering cutting diplomatic relations or reducing their ties with Venezuela starting Jan. 10, when he is scheduled to start a new six-year term in office. Venezuelan opposition sources tell me that they expect at least 46 countries — including most members of the Group of Lima and the 28-member European Union — to downgrade or sever diplomatic ties with Venezuela. The big question is whether there will be any practical consequences of a formal decision by these countries to cut ties with Venezuela. Some Venezuelan exile leaders are lobbying the Trump administration and those of other countries to simultaneously cut diplomatic ties with Maduro and recognize a caretaker opposition-led government. Their plan would go like this: Since Maduro and his vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, would no longer be considered legitimate leaders once their current terms expire, there would be a power vacuum. The next in line of succession would be the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Venezuela’s National Assembly was democratically elected in 2015 and is the last remaining democratic institution in Venezuela. Maduro stripped the Assembly of most of its powers and created a new Congress to rubber-stamp his decisions. But the international community could recognize the National Assembly’s president as Venezuela’s legitimate leader while new elections are convened, supporters of that plan say. But many countries would be reluctant to go that route for fear of opening a diplomatic can of worms. In addition, some diplomats note that, unlike last year, when more than 150 people died in Venezuela’s street protests, — there is no sense of urgency in the diplomatic community today that would justify taking such extreme measures. For now, the likely decision by many countries to stop recognizing Maduro as a legitimate president will be a mostly symbolic announcement. But if the opposition takes to the streets in January — as some anti-government parties are planning — to protest Maduro’s inauguration and the country’s humanitarian crisis, things could change. There would be a legal base for the next step — international recognition of a provisional opposition government. (The Miami Herald:


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

November 20, 2018

International Trade

Venezuela, Russia seek to increase bilateral cooperation in agricultural, mining sectors

Venezuela and Russia are seeking to expand bilateral cooperation, including in the agricultural and mining sectors, a Venezuela senior official said Friday. "We've decided to include the areas of agriculture and mining, given the strategic importance of both areas in national development," said Tareck El Aissami, vice president of the economy, at a meeting of the Russia-Venezuela High Level Commission in Caracas. Embracing the agriculture and mining sectors, the core areas of cooperation between the two countries will be expanded to five, which already included the energy, commercial and military technology areas, he said. (Xinhua:


Logistics & Transport

Venezuela: The country with the worst internet connectivity in Latin America

Venezuela, one of the countries with the least amount of freedom in the world, now enjoys yet another dubious distinction: it is among the three nations with the worst internet connection in the entire world. According to the Speedtest Global Index, the country, governed by Nicolás Maduro, was ranked 128th out of 130 countries, ahead of only Algeria (129) and Yemen (130). The study also reveals that Venezuela is the country with the worst internet connection in Latin America. Only in October the global average download speed was 50.88 Mbps (Megabytes per second), and the average upload speed 25,52 Mbps; however, Venezuela had an average of 4.08 Mbps for download, and 1.71 Mbps for upload. And recently, Freedom House’s annual report on internet freedom in 2018 concluded that Cuba and Venezuela continue to lead the list of the least free nations in the region The Institute of Press and Society (Ipys) noted that “the conditions of Venezuelan citizens are precarious, because they exercise their freedom online in the worst digital ecosystem in Latin America, in terms of quality of access to internet.” In this study, the data obtained by the Measurement Lab (MLAB), between January and February of 2018, also reflects the abysmal state of Venezuela in terms of connectivity. The study put Venezuela in last place in an analysis of ten countries, with even Bolivia (1.78 Mbps) and Suriname (2.42mbps) faring better. To date in Venezuela there are more than 2,500 pages that the Nicolás Maduro regime is blocking: these are internet sites to which Venezuelans have restrictions and limitations for entering. (Panam Post:


Oil & Energy

PDV Marina fleet in critical shape, may halt tanker operations as qualified personnel deserts

On November 16th, PDVSA’s security department received a report from PDV Marina-Paraguaná about the situation with the company’s tanker fleet, which is becoming impossible to mobilize due to lack of personnel. The report says the situation has become critical as 48% of the trained staff has walked off the job. This includes sailors and officers. Company personnel complain that the quality of life on board has deteriorated, lacking security equipment, supplies, transportation to load or offload, launches, or lodging. According to PDV Marina the result could be a “possible forced collapse” in tanker operations, which would “seriously hit compliance with maritime transport of the product, and directly hit fuel supply in the local market”. More in Spanish: (Venepress:


Iran and now Venezuela are shaking things up in the tanker market

After the Iranian sanctions, another factor which could shake things up in the tanker market is the fall in Venezuela’s oil production. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Gibson says: “since January Venezuelan crude output has averaged at 1.4 million b/d, down by 0.6 million b/d over the corresponding period last year. The fall in output is reflected in crude exports. ClipperData indicates that this year the country’s total exports have averaged just under 1.2 million b/d, down by 0.37 million b/d year-on-year. The decline has been witnessed both in the long haul and short haul crude trade. Shipments to Asia Pacific, mainly China and India have averaged 0.57 million b/d during the 1st ten months of this year, down by 80,000 b/d versus 2017 figures. There also has been a notable decline in crude trade to the Caribbean where PDVSA owns/leases crude storage facilities for further shipments. Exports to the Caribbean have fallen in 2018 by 170,000 b/d year-on-year. Without a doubt, the seizure of PDVSA’s assets by ConocoPhillips in May this year has been a contributing factor behind the overall decline. However, some progress in their dispute has been made after a payment from PDVSA to Conoco concluded using a combination of cash and commodities. Finally, Venezuela on average has shipped less crude to the US this year than it did over the same period in 2017, although some minor rebound has been seen in recent months. Overall, between January and October 2018, crude trade has averaged 0.43 million b/d, down by 120,000 b/d when compared to the same period last year”. Gibson said that “interestingly, the decline in Venezuela’s total crude shipments this year has been smaller than the fall in production levels as the problems faced by Venezuela’s refining sector intensifies as well. A lack of funds for upgrades and maintenance as well as skilled staff seeking employment elsewhere has been the driving force behind the issues. Venezuela’s biggest refinery, Amuay, is running at under 20% and other key refineries are barely functioning. The ongoing decline in crude refining runs means an increasing need to import products, mostly from the US. It has been reported that large amounts of heavy naphtha have been shipped south to blend with Venezuela’s deteriorating local crude quality. Apart from more product shipments into the country, there are also logistical issues. Media reports suggest that delays have occurred in unloading fuel cargoes since most of their ports are more orientated for exporting rather than importing therefore contributing to shortages. It was reported that one tanker bringing imported gasoline was highly contaminated forcing PDVSA to withdraw the product from distribution. The incident has been allotted to them having to seek fuel from ‘unreliable suppliers’ due to many companies unwilling to do business with a country carrying US sanctions”, the shipbroker noted. “Going forward, the economic turmoil faced by Venezuela shows no signs of abating. As such, there appears little upside to crude production levels, despite the country having one of the world’s largest oil reserves. Many are seeing 1 million b/d as the floor to Venezuela’s production, although others have mooted the idea of output being as low at 0.7 million b/d by the end of 2019. Nonetheless, Venezuela’s oil minister Manuel Quevedo has stated recently that even with all the problems faced production has stabilized and that the government is hopeful that output will increase to 1.6 million b/d by the end of the year. An ambitious target, perhaps, considering the falling rig count, which is usually an indicator of future production”, Gibson concluded. (Hellenic Shipping News:


Refiners get taste of post-IMO world with gasoline/diesel imbalance

Refineries around the world are squeezing out every last drop of diesel while drowning in gasoline, in what could well become the new normal for the next few years. The imbalance is a confluence of major shifts in oil markets - surging production of light U.S. shale oil, plummeting exports of heavier Venezuelan and Iranian crude, weakening gasoline demand and rising diesel consumption. The coming in 2020 of the biggest change in fuel regulations in decades, when the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will start requiring ships to use cleaner fuel, is likely to prolong this reality, oil executives and analysts say. Refineries that distil crude oil into fuel have always had to adapt their output to shifting demand patterns such as high consumption of gasoline in summer and increased demand for heating oil in winter. (Reuters,


Venezuela will preside over Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of Gas Exporting Countries in 2019

In the framework of the XX Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of Gas Exporting Countries (FPEG), held on Wednesday, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela received the presidency of the Ministerial Meeting for the year 2019 of the FPEG. This decision was announced during the celebration of this meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago. (AVN,



Urban ranching: A socialist commune's response to Venezuela's crisis

A socialist commune has drawn the ire of its neighbors in a wealthy area of Caracas with an unusual response to the hyperinflation and food shortages afflicting Venezuela: turning its backyard into an urban cattle pasture. The leaders of the Apacuana commune, devotees of socialist President Nicolas Maduro, drove six hours to purchase 11 450-kilo (992-lb) cows. They set them to graze behind their 2,000-square meter (21,528 square-foot) home, donated by the state-owned telecommunications company two years ago. The government began transferring billions of dollars to a network of more than 70,000 such community groups under the administration of late President Hugo Chavez, who supported the communes as an alternative to a capitalist economic model. Maduro has called communes “the epicenter of solidarity.” (Reuters,


Economy & Finance

576 failed government monopolies

The most serious ailments affecting Venezuela and Venezuelans right now can be traced back to the country having 576 failed or failing state-owned companies, local NGO “Transparencia Venezuela” stated in a report published Friday in Caracas. Transparencia, the local chapter of Transparency International, began researching into Venezuela’s “Empresas Propiedad del Estado” (EPE, the Spanish acronym for “Enterprises Property of the State”) in 2016, it says. The embattled Nicolas Maduro administration now has 576 EPEs to its name, of which only 467 are in operation. Of those companies still in operation, more than half do not make any money and actually lose the cash-strapped Maduro government money. And the vast majority, of them, almost 75%, “have public denunciations for corruption or bad practices”, Transparencia states. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Maduro regime claims "international experts" approve of the Petro

Although much of the world has refused to do business in the Petro, Caracas claims it has the backing of political and business leaders in Colombia, Brazil, Japan, China, Palestine, Spain and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines. The government of Venezuela claims it has held an international blockchain technology and cryptocurrency consultancy seminar in Caracas, with overseas experts attending to give their take on the state-backed Petro cryptocurrency. State media outlet TELESUR and government tweets claimed that experts from China, Russia, Luxembourg, Spain and Mexico were in attendance. The president’s office quotes Lluís Mas Luque, head of the Spanish Blockchain Institute & Technology, as stating that the Petro “represents a triumph over” conventional financial systems. The president’s offices claimed other speakers at the event included Sri Lanka-based CRYPTO GENESIS managing partner Nilhan de Mel and Spanish peer-to-peer energy market platform Shasta founder Alex Sicart Ramos. Meanwhile, the coin itself has been deemed a scam by various rating sites. Venezuela’s crypto-drive appears to be continuing apace, with department store TRAKI, dubbed by some as the Walmart of Venezuela, recently announcing that it will accept payment in a wide range of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin and Dash. (Cryptonews:


Politics and International Affairs

U.S. considers adding Venezuela to terrorism sponsors list

United States is considering adding Venezuela to its list of state sponsors of terrorism, but no final decision has been made, a person familiar with the deliberations said on Monday. Discussions on the issue have moved forward in recent days with strong lobbying from Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has long pressed the administration to take a tougher stand against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the source said. A time frame for a decision on whether to add Venezuela to the terrorism list had not yet been determined, the source said. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it would be a challenge for the Trump administration to provide concrete proof linking the Maduro government to terrorism if it decides to put Venezuela on the list. The four countries currently on the list - North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Syria - have been found to “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Rubio and two other Republican senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in September urging him to name Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism and accusing it of links to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, but they offered no proof. The Washington Post, which first reported that the Trump administration was considering the designation, said the U.S. State Department had been asking for feedback on the proposed move from various agencies in recent days. A State Department spokesperson said it “consistently and on an ongoing basis reviews available information and intelligence, from many sources, on possible state-level involvement in terrorism, evaluating all credible, verified, and corroborated information in its entirety.” The White House declined to comment. A senior U.S. official told Reuters earlier this month that the Trump administration was “looking at all potential avenues” to pressure Maduro’s government. “We believe his presidency to be illegitimate,” the official said, reiterating Washington’s rejection of the outcome of Venezuela’s elections earlier this year. Maduro won a new six-year term in May, but his main rivals disavowed the election and alleged massive irregularities. “The regime really understands that the world is getting smaller for them. And that’s the kind of pressure that is needed to really change minds in the regime. The sanctions are having an effect,” the official said. The designation would ban financial transactions with the country. (The Washington Post:; The Hill:; Reuters:; Fox News:


National Assembly president charges that guerrillas control the border with Colombia

Omar Barboza, President of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, has charged that a “great part” of Venezuela’s border with Colombia is controlled by guerrillas from the neighboring country, “with the acquiescence of military and civilian authorities” here. Barboza made the statement when asked about conditions in his home border state of Zulia. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Top North Korean official to tour Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico

A delegation from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), led by the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Yong Nam, will make official visits to Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico, confirmed the North Korea Central News Agency (KCNA). In Mexico, the senior DPRK official will attend the inauguration of President-elect Manuel Lopez Obrador, scheduled for December 1, according to KCNA. (Cuban News Agency,


Former Intelligence director reportedly arrested

General Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez, who headed the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) until his recent replacement, has been taken to the headquarters of the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence, according to an unconfirmed Nov. 16 report from NOTICIERO DIGITAL. If confirmed, the report indicates that Gonzalez Lopez is being further sidelined from Venezuela's political system as the country's politicians work to consolidate power behind the scenes. President Nicolas Maduro's decision to replace Gonzalez Lopez, who is an ally of influential Venezuelan political figure Diosdado Cabello, may be intended to undermine Cabello's power within the country's security services. Gonzalez Lopez controlled the Venezuelan Interior Ministry and SEBIN from 2014 to 2016. According to an intelligence report STRATFOR Received in 2017, Venezuelan Industries and National Production Minister Tareck El Aissami is Cabello's primary competitor for political power and intends to slowly erode his influence within the country's security services. (Stratfor,


Maduro regime continues military purge as arrests reach record high

Politically motivated arrests of soldiers and military personnel in Venezuela reached an all-time high in 2018. According to the latest figures, 197 members of the military are facing charges on crimes such as incitement to rebellion, treason to the fatherland, and breach of military etiquette, charges meant to target any dissent within the ranks of dictator Nicolás Maduro’s military. The number now surpasses that arrested former Venezuelan dictators Hugo Chávez and Marcos Pérez Jiménez. As part of their effort to guarantee loyalty, the regime recently began purging high-rankings members of the military who they suspect of disloyalty. In March, Maduro issued a presidential decree announcing that 24 soldiers had been demoted or dismissed from the military over their supposed attempts “to damage the Republic by violent means.” Yet there is growing evidence of widespread discontent among lower military ranks, as thousands of soldiers choose to jump ship amid devastatingly low morale caused in large part by a drastic fall in wages that has left many of them unable to access enough food or living essentials. The higher echelons of the Venezuelan military remain relatively loyal to the government, as the regime continues to subsidize their expensive lifestyles and appoint military leaders to powerful government positions. (Breitbart,


Venezuela's exiled Supreme Court calls on INTERPOL to arrest president Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela’s exiles Supreme Court has requested an international warrant for the country's president, Nicolas Maduro -- but the beleaguered leader isn't getting ready to don a prison jumpsuit any time soon. In a letter to INTERPOL secretary-general Jurgen Stock, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice accused Maduro of corruption. The officials, which call themselves the legitimate TSJ, were exiled to Florida amid Venezuela’s constitutional crisis. They accuse Maduro of accepting money from illegal activity and want the Venezuelan president to serve about 18 years in prison. (Fox News,


Venezuelan TV mogul with U.S. real estate fortune charged in South Florida

A Venezuelan TV network mogul has been charged in South Florida with siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars from Venezuela’s government and laundering the illicit money through U.S. banks and luxury real estate investments, according to an indictment unsealed Monday. The indictment charges Raúl Gorrín, a politically connected Caracas businessman and owner of the GLOBOVISION network, with conspiring to bribe Venezuelan officials and commit money laundering by hiding the embezzled government funds in South Florida and other parts of the United States over the past decade. Federal authorities plan to seize Gorrín’s Cocoplum estate in Coral Gables, which has been on the market for US$ 8 million. The waterfront home is among dozens of his properties in South Florida and New York that are tainted by criminal activity, authorities said. The U.S. investigation of Gorrín initially focused on Alejandro Andrade, a former high-ranking Venezuelan treasury official who had worked as a bodyguard for the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Andrade, who served as national treasurer between 2007 and 2010, was charged with money laundering in late 2017 and pleaded guilty earlier this year to a conspiracy offense. Andrade was staying at his equestrian ranch in the affluent Wellington community of Palm Beach County while assisting federal authorities in the massive foreign corruption and money-laundering probe. But federal agents eventually seized his property, including prized thoroughbred horses, last week as part of a forfeiture action. Andrade, Gorrín and the other associates in Venezuela’s government, banking and business sectors are accused of enriching themselves by capitalizing on favorable foreign currency exchanges and concealing their huge profits in European and U.S. bank accounts and investments, according to the indictment. (The Miami Herald,


Venezuelan 'tyrant' must be isolated, says Colombia's Duque

Colombian President Ivan Duque, who took office in August, has granted an exclusive interview to FRANCE 24 and RFI. He focused on the situation in neighboring Venezuela. Venezuelans are fleeing a severe economic and political crisis at home, creating a migrant crisis in the wider region. "It is important for the international community to understand why we need to isolate the tyrant [Nicolas Maduro] and carry out a democratic transition in Venezuela," he said. (France 24,


Guyana pleased with new US position regarding border dispute with Venezuela

Guyana has welcomed the new position by the United States regarding its border dispute with Venezuela, with Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greendige saying Washington's position “is an extremely important statement”. Speaking at a farewell reception in honor of the outgoing United States ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, on Friday night, the deputy chief of mission of the US Embassy here, Terry Steers-Gonzalez, said previously Washington had “simply supported the timely resolution of the Venezuelan-Guyana border controversy. In large measure because of Ambassador Holloway, the US government now calls on all parties to respect the 1899 arbitration decision,” Steers-Gonzalez said. “While some might discount this seemingly simple addition, most of us present tonight understand how truly big it was and is. Well done, Sir!” the diplomat added. Steers-Gonzalez said it was while Holloway had been waiting in Washington for confirmation by the US Senate that a decision was taken to shift from “support the timely resolution” to calling on the two countries to “respect” the boundary award. The Government of Guyana, through the Foreign Affairs Ministry, today announced that Guyana has submitted its Memorial of Jurisdiction to the International Court of Justice in the case brought against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Guyana wants the Court to confirm, in a final and binding judgment, the full legal validity of the arbitral award that established the international boundary between Guyana and Venezuela more than a century ago. The Foreign Affairs Ministry noted that Guyana has no doubt that the Court has jurisdiction to resolve the controversy that has plagued its relations with Venezuela and undermined its ability to develop its sovereign territory and natural resources. (Jamaica Observer:; News Source,


Venezuelans flee to Trinidad and risk jail

Trinidad and Tobago is now home to more than 40,000 Venezuelans, many of whom entered the country out of desperation and without documents. While more than 7,000 have applied for asylum or refugee status, they’ve found that the designation doesn’t make them legal residents. They still risk being jailed for working without permission or not having the proper documents. Last week, 78 Cuban migrants — many of them asylum seekers — were detained on charges of blocking the sidewalk as they protested for better conditions outside of the United Nations building in Port of Spain. In September, the government reported that there were 118 people at the Immigration Detention Center west of Port of Spain — about 75% of them there for entering the country illegally — and almost all of them Venezuelan. But activists say they really don’t know how many people are detained at any given time. Living Water Community, a local nonprofit that works with the U.N. to register asylum seekers, says it hasn’t been given unfettered access to the Immigration Detention Center since 2014. While migrants are sometimes offered temporary work permits in Colombia, Peru and Chile, some small nations and territories of the Caribbean have been much less welcoming. On the Dutch island of Curacao, island officials took over the process of registering asylum seekers and refugees in July 2017. Since then, an Amnesty International report found the government had virtually quit approving asylum requests and had stepped up deportations. In 2017, the government repatriated 1,203 Venezuelans, and an additional 386 were deported during the first four months of 2018 — often without the right to seek protection. The backlash comes as some small islands fear being flooded by Venezuelans. In Curacao, 16% of the population is now Venezuelan. In Aruba, Venezuelans represent 15%, and in Trinidad and Tobago, they make up 3% of the population, according to the latest U.N. figures. In the meantime, Venezuelans living in Trinidad and Tobago say they feel stuck in a place where they may have the right to exist but not the right to truly live. And they fear detention and deportation every time they leave home. Facing these hardships, many of the Venezuelans blame the UNHCR — the U.N.’s refugee agency — and other nonprofits for processing their asylum claim but not helping guarantee their rights. But the agencies point out that they’re entirely dependent on the host country. (The Miami Herald,


Venezuelan rape-survivor-turned-lawyer finally gets justice

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found Venezuela responsible on Friday for failing to prevent, investigate or punish extreme violence against a young woman who was kidnaped, raped and tortured in 2001. The ruling sets a much-anticipated legal precedent and could have implications for victims and survivors worldwide. The case centers on the abduction, rape and torture of Linda Loaiza Lopez Soto, who was 18 years old at the time. After being rescued three months after the kidnapping, Lopez had to undergo multiple surgeries for her injuries and disfigurement. She then faced a David-and-Goliath-like quest for justice against her well-connected abductor. In its decision on Friday, the court held Venezuela responsible, "because of its gross omissions", for the torture and the sexual slavery Lopez suffered, as well as for preventing her access to justice. The court ordered Venezuela to revisit the criminal case, pay Lopez and her family compensation, and provide for her lifelong medical and psychological care. The ruling also asked Venezuela to finance any further post-secondary studies for Linda and her siblings, whether in Venezuela or abroad. (Al Jazeera,


Murder rate soars in Venezuela, forcing population to take extreme precautions

As if coping with constant food and medicine shortages were not enough for crisis-weary Venezuelans, many live in constant fear in a country where three people die violently every hour. The nation registered 26,000 homicides last year, 89 per 100,000 inhabitants and a figure 15 times the global average, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a non-governmental group. Almost everyone in Venezuela uses an older cellphone in public, keeping their smartphone out of sight. An application called 'Pana' - a slang word for friend - was created to help ensure people could feel more secure on the road. Recently, bikers with high-visibility vests, dark glasses and radios sped to the rescue of a young medical student in distress on the highway. Thugs often target vehicles with stones, sticks or bottles to force drivers to stop, intent on robbery or even kidnap. In the streets of Venezuela, it's rare to see a car without tinted, reinforced glass. Sundown brings challenges for the citizens of Caracas. Once filled with light and bustle, economic crisis and accompanying crime means the capital now switches off at night. Most people now gather in private homes, being safer and cheaper, and prefer to wait until the light of dawn before they venture home. Most foreign airlines prohibit their crews from staying overnight in Venezuela. (Daily Mail,