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, January 22, 2019

January 22, 2019

International Trade

Spain's tank, arms deals with Venezuela prop up Nicolas Maduro

Russia, China and Cuba are not the only ones propping up the leftist regime of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Spain, a NATO ally of the U.S. and important member of the European Union, has been selling military equipment to Caracas despite an EU arms embargo. Much of the international community, including 14 Latin American governments, joined the Trump administration in condemning Maduro’s inauguration for a second six-year term this month after calling his easy election win fraudulent. Spain’s response was muted. Analysts said Madrid’s reaction reflected a web of historical, commercial and political ties that it maintains with the rogue regime. (The Washington Times:


TORINO claims 27.6% increase in Venezuelan exports

TORINO Economics has updated its import and export data, showing a recovery in both fields during October. It shows sales at US$ 2.8 billion in exports, a 7% increase for October, and 27.6% more than last year, indicating that price increases are compensating dropping crude oil production. Exports were 58% lower over the first 10 months of 2018 than in 2012, mainly oil and derivates. More in Spanish: (El Universal;


Oil & Energy

U.S. refiners scramble as White House eyes Venezuela sanctions

U.S. refiners are bidding up prices for scarce types of crude oil needed for their most sophisticated plants as the United States reconsiders harsher sanctions on Venezuela that could further reduce imports of the country’s oil. Trump administration officials in recent days met with U.S. oil company executives to lay out potential actions in response to the Jan. 10 inauguration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in an election it considered illegitimate. Among other steps, U.S. officials have recognized the opposition-run Venezuelan congress as the only legitimately elected authority. But the proposals that would most affect the energy industry involve banning U.S. exports of refined products to Venezuela or limiting oil imports - a move that, until now, the White House has not taken even after sanctioning individuals and barring access to U.S. banks. (Reuters,


Economy & Finance

Venezuela gold holdings in Bank of England soar on Deutsche deal

Venezuela’s gold holdings in the Bank of England have jumped after it closed out a gold swap deal with Deutsche Bank, according to two sources, as Britain remains reluctant to release gold held for the troubled nation. The government of Nicolas Maduro has since last year been seeking to repatriate about US$ 550 million in gold from the Bank of England on fears it could be caught up in international sanctions on the country. Its holdings at the bank more than doubled in December to 31 tons, or around US$ 1.3 billion, after Venezuela returned funds it had borrowed from Deutsche Bank AG through a financing arrangement that uses gold as collateral, known as a swap, one of the sources said. Under the deal struck with Deutsche Bank in 2015, Venezuela put up 17 tons of gold in exchange for a loan, according to one of the sources who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the issue. (Reuters,


US$ 20 billion are needed to recover Venezuela’s industrial capacity

Juan Pablo Olalquiaga, President of Venezuela’s National Council of Industries (CONINDUSTRIA) presented a industrial recovery plan to National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, which calls for an investment of US$ 20 billion to recover the nation’s industrial capacity, including around US$ 12 billion through tax credits to match industry’s debt to foreign suppliers. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Universal,


Venezuela office of Norton Rose taken over by Maduro regime lawyers Dentons

Dentons, the largest law firm in the world, is absorbing Despacho de Abogados miembros de Dentons, S.C. -- formerly the Venezuela practice of Norton Rose Fulbright (and Macleod Dixon before that) as the law firm gears up to defend Venezuela against over US$ 65 billion in defaulted bondholder claims. Despacho de Abogados miembros de Dentons, S.C., is strong in the key practice areas of Energy and Natural Resources, Corporate, Labor and Employment, Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Banking and Finance, Tax and Public Law. It could provide robust synergies with Dentons’ strengths in each of these areas. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Politics and International Affairs

Country on brink as failed military coup sparks riots in Caracas

Venezuela plunged deeper into turmoil Monday as security forces put down a pre-dawn uprising by national guardsmen that triggered violent street protests, and the Maduro Supreme Court moved to undercut the opposition-controlled congress’ defiant new leadership.  Venezuela’s armed forces quelled a brief uprising at a military stockade, authorities said Monday, prompting protests in a poor Caracas enclave and heightening tensions ahead of antigovernment demonstrations planned for later this week. Twenty-seven members of Venezuela's National Guard have been arrested after they allegedly revolted against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, the defense ministry said. Videos posted on social media showed the officers calling for the removal from office of President Maduro. The men reportedly seized weapons from a National Guard command post in the Cotiza area of the capital, Caracas. The ministry of defense said a "small group" of National Guard members had stolen weapons from a security post in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas and taken four officers hostage before making their way to Cotiza in the early hours of Monday. A video sent to an opposition Twitter account shows a man in uniform saying he is acting "on behalf of the Venezuelan people" and encouraging Venezuelans to take to the streets in protest at the government. It is not clear whether they were overpowered or handed themselves in to the authorities. Anti-government protests erupted in the neighborhood where the alleged rebellion took place. Footage shows residents and security forces clashing in the area. The National Guard fired tear gas at residents. When government security forces surrounded the outpost, several dozen residents barricaded streets and set fire to a car and piles of rubbish as they chanted “don’t hand yourself in”. The residents complain about a lack of water and shout "we want Nicolás to go" as the security forces try to disperse them with tear gas. The new leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, has called on those critical of the government to resume their protests once again and has called for anti-government marches to be held on Wednesday.  Ahead of the news of the rebellion, parliament chief Juan Guaido urged the military leaders to break ranks with Maduro. "We are not asking you to mount a coup. We are not asking you to shoot," Guaido said in an online video. "On the contrary, we are asking you not to shoot at us, but rather to defend together with us the right of our people to be heard." The parliament also offered amnesty to the members of the military and state officials if they abandoned Maduro. Guaido tweeted that Monday's events are a reflection "of the generalized feelings within the Armed Forces." "The National Assembly is committed to bring forward all the guarantees for those members of the Armed Forces who actively help restore the Constitution," Guaido tweeted. BBC:; DW:; The Wall Street Journal:; ABC News:;  CNN:; Daily Express:; VOA:; The Star:; Reuters,; Latin American Herald Tribune,; Bloomberg,


On the anniversary of a coup, desperate Venezuelans demand change

If Venezuela’s opposition was looking for a provocative day to hold a protest, they couldn’t have done much better than Wednesday. Jan. 23 marks the 61st anniversary of the military uprising that toppled dictator Gen. Marcos Pérez Jiménez. And while history might not repeat itself this week, there are those who believe that Wednesday’s protests could be a turning point for the presidency of Nicolás Maduro. Since assuming the head of the National Assembly this month, 35-year-old opposition leader Juan Guaidó has been leading rallies nationwide to build support for Wednesday’s march. And the country has been responding. Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, has been holding rallies across the country to build support for the national march on Jan. 23. Maduro is intensely aware of the threat posed by the National Assembly and its new leader. On Jan. 13 Guaidó was detained on his way to a rally, only to be released — with handcuff welts still on his wrists — an hour later. And on Monday the Supreme Court, packed with Maduro cronies, ruled that Guaidó and the rest of the congressional leadership were occupying their positions illegally and that all the decisions congress had taken since Jan. 5 were null. Guaidó brushed off the ruling, but the decision could set the stage for a showdown. But the government will also have to tread carefully in dealing with the march: The street protests that broke out in support of the soldiers that rebelled on Monday should worry the government – and are likely to embolden those in the military who are unhappy. The Observatory for Social Conflict, which tracks protests, said there were at least 30 demonstrations Monday night in the capital alone, many in areas considered government strongholds. The National Assembly has also been trying to drive a wedge between Maduro and his commanders. Earlier this month, it passed a bill granting amnesty to military officials who help restore the constitutional order.  (The Miami Herald:


Pence officially backs Venezuelan opposition, condemns President Maduro

US Vice President Mike Pence has issued a message to Venezuelans, condemning their “dictator” leader Nicolas Maduro and declaring official U.S. support for the country's legislature and its opposition leader, Juan Guaido. “On behalf of President Donald Trump and all the American people, let me express the unwavering support of the United States as you, the people of Venezuela, raise your voices in a call for freedom,” Pence said in a recorded video message. “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power. He has never won the presidency in a free and fair election and has maintained his grip on power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him.” Maduro was sworn into another term as Venezuelan president this month, although his government is considered largely “illegitimate” by much of the international community, who deem the elections held last year to be a sham. Pence instead declared U.S backing for National Assembly leader Guaido, who he called the “last vestige of democracy.” “As you make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say to all the good people of Venezuela: estamos con ustedes,” Pence continued in the message, peppered with Spanish phrases. “We are with you, we stand with you, and we will stay with you until democracy is restored and you reclaim your birthright of libertad.” (Fox News:


European Union representatives ask Maduro for new “free” elections in Venezuela

European Union chiefs of mission in Venezuela have called for “new and free elections” here, “in line with international standards”. They stated the EU’s position during a meeting with Nicolas Maduro in the presidential palace here last Friday, and with the leaders of the National Assembly, on Saturday. They stressed the EU’s position of “respect for democracy, the rule of law and basic freedoms”; and called for “recognition and respect for the authority and rights of the National Assembly, including immunity for its members”, as well as “freeing all political prisoners” and “urgently facing the pressing needs of the population”. The announcement was made through the office of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Commissioner Federica Mogherini. For his part, Maduro proposed to the European Union to establish a cooperation agenda aimed at consolidating relations effectively and strengthening political, economic and social ties; and urged the European authorities to maintain a position of greater respect and balance on the political, economic and social reality of Venezuela. (AVN,; and more in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; El Universal,


National Assembly officially asks UN for humanitarian aid

Venezuela’s legislature has officially asked the United Nations for assistance in facing this nation’s health and food crisis. Congressman José Trujillo, who heads the National Assembly’s Social Development Committee made the announcement, blaming the communist system for the crisis. He added that they have also written to UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, asking her to come to Venezuela and witness the humanitarian crisis. More in Spanish: (El Universal,


National Assembly names special representative to the OAS

Venezuela’s National Assembly has named its own representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) to coordinate efforts to reestablish democracy and constitutional rule with the international community. It named an experienced former legislator and constitutional lawyer, Gustavo Tarre, as its representative to the Hemispheric organization. The legislature also annulled Nicolás Maduro’s decision to withdraw from the OAS. More in Spanish: (El Nuevo Herald:


Curacao seeks aid from the Netherlands in dealing with Venezuelan migration

The government of Curacao has asked for help from The Netherlands in dealing with the impact of migrants who arrive by sea from Venezuela. More in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Ecuador to tighten controls on Venezuelan immigrants after murder

Ecuador is setting up new units to check Venezuelan immigrants’ legal status and may tighten entry requirements after a Venezuelan man murdered his pregnant Ecuadorian girlfriend, President Lenin Moreno said on Sunday. The killing in the northern city of Ibarra is the first reported murder perpetrated by a Venezuelan immigrant in Ecuador since hundreds of thousands have arrived there after fleeing an economic crisis in Venezuela. “I have ordered the immediate setting up of units to control Venezuelan immigrants’ legal status in the streets, in the workplace, and at the border,” Moreno said on Twitter. The government, he added, may create a new “special permit” for Venezuelans to enter the country. He did not give further details about the units or how they will operate. The Venezuelan man held his victim hostage on a busy street for about an hour on Saturday evening before stabbing her to death. He was then arrested by police. “Without generalizing, but with a firm hand, today we must differentiate between Venezuelans who are fleeing Maduro’s government and others who take advantage of the situation to commit crimes,” Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner said, referring to Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro. The Maduro regime has demanded that Ecuador’s government “respect the human rights of Venezuelans living in this country and that stop the incitement to xenophobia and persecution”. (Reuters,;; AVN,


OP-ED: Could the Socialists United of Venezuela finally be falling apart?

Juan Guaido’ s National Assembly is the equivalent of the U.S. Congress. Only that body of government was stripped of its powers by PSUV roughly two years ago to form a so-called Constituent Assembly of leftist PSUV yes men and yes women who continue to run Venezuela into the ground. Recent events provide further evidence of internal frictions within the armed forces and of the fragility of the PSUV government. There is an increasing possibility of regime change, although who will replace Maduro remains unclear. It could be another member of PSUV, trying to preserve the legacy of the party created by the late Hugo Chavez. There’s been a qualitative change in the antigovernment protests. The protests are not being led by some middle-class bourgeoisie with summer homes on Margarita Island and in Miami. It’s happening in the low-income neighborhoods of Caracas where most people survive on government jobs—like those in the security forces—or on some form of social welfare program. The poor are PSUV’s base. They are starting to see the light. Meanwhile, serious crackdowns on opposition leaders leading to jail time, or the police busting heads at tomorrow’s scheduled protest, will only embolden Washington against PSUV. His vocal opposition against Maduro has led to more participation at town halls and other events across the country, which suggests tomorrow’s protest could be the biggest one since the anti-Maduro protests from September 2016 to April 2017. (FORBES:


OP-ED: Amid mounting coup threats in Venezuela, Maduro begs Trump for dialog

In the face of threats from sections of the military, upon which his government depends, sanctions and ever-escalating pressure from Washington and its Latin American allies, on the one hand, and a threat of social upheaval from the Venezuela working class, on the other, President Maduro has directed a call to Donald Trump to reach some form of accommodation. Maduro used an interview with a Fox News reporter to deliver the message, which appealed to Trump for a “frank, direct, face-to-face dialog.” Such a meeting, he insisted, would show Trump that “we are people with whom you can talk, negotiate, understand and agree.” This pathetic plea only underscores the character of the Maduro government, which for all its “Bolivarian” and “21st Century Socialist” rhetoric is a capitalist regime that ruthlessly defends private property and the profit interests of the financiers, corrupt government officials and military commanders that are its most important constituencies. The only way out of Venezuela’s desperate crisis lies in the independent mobilization of the Venezuelan working class in opposition to the government, the ruling PSUV and their trade union stooges, as well as to the right-wing opposition, whose rise to power through a military coup would signal a bloodbath against the country’s workers and impoverished masses. (World Socialist Web Site:


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.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

January 15, 2019

International Trade

Venezuela goes to WTO to contest Colombia fuel import rules

Venezuela has launched a complaint at the World Trade Organization to challenge Colombia’s restrictions on the distribution of liquid fuels imported from Venezuela, a filing published by the WTO showed on Monday. Venezuela said Colombia was illegally discriminating against its fuel exports by imposing “a series of distribution and licensing measures, and product surcharges, market access measures and pricing policies” on Venezuelan fuel. Colombia has 60 days to settle the dispute or Venezuela could ask the WTO to adjudicate, although the ability of the Geneva-based body to keep refereeing such disputes is in doubt due to a U.S. block on judicial appointments. (Reuters,


Oil & Energy

U.S. considers harshest Venezuela sanctions yet, on oil

The U.S. is evaluating whether to impose tougher sanctions against Venezuela’s military and vital oil industry, a senior Trump administration official said Monday, as it seeks to ratchet up pressure on authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro to hold free and fair elections. The Trump administration is considering a range of measures including curtailing the flow of Venezuelan oil to the U.S., the official said, in what could be the harshest blow to the country's money supply. No final decision has been made. (The Wall Street Journal:


Dominican Republic moving to take back Venezuela shares in refinery

The Dominican Today news site reported that the Dominican government has initiated negotiations to buy the 49% stake held by PDV Caribe, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s State-owned PDVSA, in the Dominican Petroleum Refinery (REFIDOMSA PDV). PDV Caribe has reportedly yet to agree to sell its stake and, "if the Venezuelan company doesn’t agree to the sale, the Dominican State would be forced into litigation declaring the country’s only refinery eminent domain and a matter of national security", REFIDOMSA PDV CEO Felix Jimenez is reported to have said. Jimenez reportedly does not expect the process - initiated last December - to be affected by Santo Domingo’s decision not to recognize the legitimacy of Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro. (Loop Jamaica:


Venezuela’s crisis threatens U.S. control over oil prices

The Russian bear is on the prowl once again as President Putin seeks to expand Moscow’s influence and bolster the one-time superpower’s global influence while proving to constituents he can restore Russia’s superpower mantle. As demonstrated by his policy in Ukraine in 2014, Moscow seeks to take advantage of regional conflicts to extend its authority and geopolitical power base while bolstering its economy. One country benefitting from Putin’s largesse is crisis-ridden and cash strapped Venezuela which has the world’s largest crude oil reserves. Moscow has been using Venezuela’s deepening economic and political crisis to strengthen its relationship with the highly unpopular socialist regime of President Maduro. That has included providing a financial lifeline to cash strapped Caracas and especially state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. known by its initials as PDVSA. With few friends elsewhere, Russia has become a key ally for the strife-torn nation causing Maduro to leap at the opportunity provided by Moscow. Russia has shown itself willing to be a creditor of last resort for Maduro. In exchange for moderate loans, cash advances, bail outs and arms over the last five years since Maduro came to power, Moscow has secured significant interests in five of Venezuela’s largest oil fields. The Maduro regime has also signed over almost half of its downstream, refinery and infrastructure business CITGO to Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft for US$ 1.5 billion in urgently needed funds. That includes giving Moscow indirect interests in CITGO’s U.S. refining assets. This is quite a prize for Moscow. It not only bolsters its oil reserves, infrastructure and assets in a country which hold the world’s largest oil reserves, but it gives Russia a strategic presence in a region long considered to be exclusively under U.S. hegemony. It appears that Russia is not interested in the survival of the Maduro regime but rather to evade existing sanctions, apply political pressure to the U.S. and boost its oil reserves, refining capacity and production. (Oil Price:



Venezuela to refine tons of gold in Turkey amid US sanctions

Venezuela and Turkey are working on a deal to ship tons of gold to refine and certify in the Turkish city of Corum this year. Facing sanctions and international pressure, Venezuela is increasingly turning to Turkey as a partner in the Middle East. Ankara will provide a host of services to Caracas, including building hospital and schools and providing humanitarian aid as a part of the gold refining deal. Venezuelan Minister of Industries and National Production Tareck El Aissami will finalize a deal on the gold trade during a visit to Turkey on Wednesday. He will also tour an industrial complex in Corum, where Ahlatci Metal company has a refinery with an annual capacity of 365 tons, according to a spokesperson from the Turkish precious metals company. Aissami is visiting Turkey amid US sanctions against Venezuelan gold imports, which are further debilitating the country's failing economy that is in need of fresh capital. Aissami himself is targeted by a set of sanctions by the European Union and the US due to allegations of corruption and drug trafficking. The new deal has been in the making since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Venezuela in December. Erdogan had personally introduced businessman Ahmet Ahlatci to president Nicolas Maduro as a likely candidate to refine the gold. Mehmet Ozkan, a former Turkish official who worked on bilateral relations with Venezuela until last year, said that the main objective was to refine the raw metal and create a capital inflow to Venezuela, likely in the form of services because of US sanctions that prohibit financial institutions from dealing with Venezuela in dollars. (Middle East Eye:


Maduro opponent says Hezbollah is exploiting Venezuela gold mines

An MP opposed to President Nicolas Maduro revealed that the Lebanese Hezbollah group was exploiting gold mines in his country in order to finance its “destabilizing terrorist activity in the Middle East.” MP Americo De Grazia said that the armed group owns two mines in the Orinoco Mining Arc project that is supported by Maduro. He said that cooperation between the Venezuelan government and Hezbollah is mutually beneficial for both parties. The government, he explained, was generating a lot of revenues from the partnership, while the group was making economic profits and avoiding international sanctions. (Asharq-Al-Awsat:


Economy & Finance

Venezuela congress seeks freeze on Maduro government foreign accounts

Venezuela’s opposition-run congress is considering a measure that would ask dozens of foreign governments to seek a freeze on bank accounts controlled by the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Congress will formally request that governments instruct regulatory agencies to “prohibit any movement of liquid assets by the Venezuelan state in local bank accounts” due to the Maduro government’s lack of legitimacy, according to one of the documents. The governments include those in the United States, European Union, and Latin American neighbors such as Chile and Brazil. (Reuters:


Maduro increases minimum wage by 300% as inflation approaches 2 million per cent

Nicolás Maduro has raised the country’s minimum wage by 300% as part of routine wage increases as his government battles hyperinflation. Maduro increased the minimum wage to 18,000 bolivars, around £5.20, per month amid an economy suffering from annual inflation nearing two million per cent. He announced his economic plans at the start of his second, disputed, term on Monday, as calls increased for him to surrender power. (The Independent:; Reuters,;


Russia offers Venezuela plan on revitalizing economy

Russia has proposed Venezuela an informal plan to revive the country's economy and is waiting for a response from Caracas, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak told Sputnik on Tuesday. "We have made a proposal [to Venezuela]. An informal one. Traditionally, a project is devised after consultations and partners provide a response to this project", the official said on the sidelines of the Gaidar Forum. He also addressed the deal on restructuring Venezuela's debt to Russia. "Agreements have already been reached. They are making payments in line with a new schedule", Storchak added. (Sputnik News:


Politics and International Affairs

Venezuelan parliament declares Maduro illegitimate, and urges defections

Leaders of Venezuela’s opposition on Tuesday set in motion a plan to try to oust President Nicolas Maduro and create a caretaker government until new elections can be held. The National Assembly, the opposition-controlled legislative body, declared Maduro illegitimate, hoping to trigger a Constitutional mechanism that would allow the head of the National Assembly to take over the leadership. It was not immediately clear what effect the move would have or how Maduro’s government would react. The National Assembly has been largely powerless since Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which is packed by Maduro loyalists, attempted to dissolve it in March 2017. But pressure has been growing on Maduro both domestically and abroad since the president was sworn in for his second term last week. Not long after the ceremony, an opposition leader who is head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, said he would be ready to take over as president and call fair elections if Venezuelans and the armed forces backed him. He quickly received support from Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, who began calling Mr. Guaidó the country’s “interim president,” and from Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Pence said in a message posted on Twitter Sunday that the United States “strongly supports the courageous decision by Juan Guaidó” to “declare the country’s presidency vacant.” Mr. Guaidó was briefly taken into custody by members of Venezuelan intelligence service on Sunday, then released. In an interview, he said he had been able to convince the officers that the opposition’s plan to remove Mr. Maduro was constitutional and would help the country.  The fact that Mr. Guaidó was released may indicate cracks in the security apparatus that has kept Mr. Maduro in power until now. Mr. Guaidó said on Monday that opposition leaders believed they stood a good chance of seizing power from Mr. Maduro and convening a new election. The key would be to persuade those who remain loyal to the government that they can switch allegiances and help rebuild a country devastated by an economic meltdown, acute food and medicine shortages and rampant violence. (The New York Times:


Trump considering recognizing opposition leader as legitimate President of Venezuela

President Donald Trump is considering recognizing Venezuela's opposition leader as the legitimate president of the country, three sources familiar with the matter told CNN, a significant move that would increase pressure on President Nicolas Maduro. The Venezuelan opposition, the United States and dozens of other countries have decried Maduro's presidency illegitimate and the country's constitution says a presidential vacancy can be filled by the president of the National Assembly. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis declined to confirm that Trump is weighing this step, but said the US has "expressed its support for Juan Guaido, who as President of the democratically-elected National Assembly has courageously declared his constitutional authority to invoke Article 233 and call for free and fair elections." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls Nicolas Maduro government in Venezuela 'illegitimate' The Trump administration is also considering leveling its harshest set of sanctions yet against Venezuela's oil industry, weighing actions as severe as a full-fledged embargo of Venezuelan oil, two sources briefed on the matter said. A full oil embargo would cause gas prices to rise by 15 cents a gallon for about six months, a former senior administration official said of the analysis. The Organization of American States said last week that its member nations voted 19-6, with eight abstentions, to not recognize the legitimacy of Maduro's government. One of those nations, Paraguay, announced Thursday it was breaking diplomatic relations with Venezuela and closing its embassy there. And Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday said he asked Trump to recognize Guaido as "the legitimate transitional President of Venezuela if the National Assembly invokes Article 233 of the constitution." In a statement on Friday, National Security Adviser John Bolton expressed US support for "the courageous decision of the National Assembly President, Juan Guaido, to invoke protections under Venezuela's constitution and declare that Maduro does not legitimately hold the country's presidency." And after Guaido was briefly detained Sunday by Venezuelan government operatives, Pence lambasted Maduro as a "dictator with no legitimate claim to power" and reiterated Bolton's support for Guaido. As the US weighs recognizing Guaido, it must also contend with whether the Venezuelan opposition -- which has been divided on whether Guaido should be sworn in as president while Maduro remains in office -- is ready to take the step. (CNN:; McClatchy:


Venezuela's opposition stirs with lawmaker's emergence

Rallying around a little-known lawmaker, Venezuela’s opposition is stirring for the first time since President Nicolas Maduro crushed mass protests more than a year ago. For months, citizens ravaged by hunger have ignored calls to protest what the U.S. and many other countries have called a rigged election. Now, a trickle of supporters comes to hear Juan Guaido, 35, the new head of the defanged National Assembly, explain how an abstract constitutional provision could make him acting president. But whether Guaido can threaten the two-decade socialist autocracy that has driven the nation to ruin is far from clear. To do that, Guaido faces a Herculean task. In his two-week tenure as head of the assembly, he’s become recognized at home and abroad as Maduro’s top rival. But the largely untested protege of political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez must channel international pressure, unite a fractious opposition and motivate a beaten-down populace. In a Monday speech, Maduro scoffed at the idea of handing Guaido the reins of power. “I’m going to give you the sash, big boy, to see what you do with the country,” Maduro said, referring to the president’s tricolor ceremonial garment. Guaido, a former student leader, entered the assembly just four years ago and became its chief after peers were arrested or forced into exile. How long his platform lasts remains to be seen. Last week, the Constituent Assembly passed a measure that could be the first step toward the legislature’s disappearance. It also threatened treason investigations against lawmakers who back demands by Venezuela’s neighbors that Maduro hand over power. In the meantime, Guaido is convening town-hall meetings to discuss a constitutional provision that, in the absence of a legitimate president, would give the assembly’s head presidential powers to call new elections. So far, he has stopped short of declaring himself acting president, telling Venezuelans he needs the backing of the military and international community. An industrial engineer by training, Guaido more than a decade ago began organizing demonstrations against Chavez after the late leader silenced critics by refusing to renew the broadcast license of Venezuela’s most popular television channel. He formed a close relationship with Lopez, then a Caracas mayor, and later helped him form the Popular Will party. Even with Lopez under house arrest, they talk several times a day. In his short career, Guaido has been applauded for building unity among fellow legislators. His present challenge is to channel the desperate desire for change within the limits of an authoritarian state. (Bloomberg:


Venezuela opposition plans incentives for officers who disavow Maduro

Venezuela’s opposition-led congress is considering offering legal incentives to military officers who disavow President Nicolas Maduro and help lead a transition to a new government, according to four legislators and a draft document seen by Reuters. The proposal, which comes in part at the request of high-ranking officers on active duty, seeks to ensure that defectors from the armed forces would not be persecuted by a future government if they abandon Maduro, according to the legislators, who asked not to be identified. It would apply to officers who “do not obey the orders of the man who has usurped the Presidency of the Republic ... and collaborate with the tradition and re-establishment of constitutional order,” the draft says. (Reuters,


Opposition-controlled Venezuela legislature calls for protest to oust Maduro

Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature is calling for a mass protest against President Nicolas Maduro in a bid to oust the socialist leader in favor of "a transitional government." The president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, said Friday that the constitution gives the legislature the right to assume transitional power after declaring Maduro a "usurper," but said it would need military backing and for people to take to the streets to demand change. "Is it enough to lean on the constitution in a dictatorship? No. It needs to be the people, the military and the international community that lead us to take over," said the 35-year-old Guaido. In response, prisons minister Iris Varela threatened Guaido on Twitter, saying she had a cell ready for him. "I hope you quickly name your cabinet to know who is going to accompany you," Varela said. Guaido called for a mass protest on January 23 -- the day in 1958 on which the military dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez fell. Mass protests demanding Maduro's exit also erupted in 2014 and 2017, leaving around 200 dead and hundreds arrested. (France 24:


Leader of Venezuela Congress says he is prepared to assume presidency

The leader of Venezuela’s opposition-led congress said on Friday he was prepared to assume the country’s presidency on an interim basis and call elections, just one day after leftist President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a disputed second term. Juan Guaido, said he would only take office with support of the armed forces. “It should be the people of Venezuela, the armed forces, and the international community that give us a clear mandate to assume” the presidency, Guaido said in a speech to supporters outside the United Nations (U.N.) program office in Caracas. (Reuters,


Opposition leader Guaido 'not afraid' after detention

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Sunday said that President Nicolas Maduro’s adversaries were “not afraid” even though he was briefly detained by intelligence agents, days after announcing he would be willing to replace the increasingly isolated president. Intelligence agents on Sunday pulled him from his car on the way from the capital, Caracas, to the coastal town of Caraballeda, his wife and opposition legislators said. He was released shortly thereafter, they said. “I want to send a message to Miraflores - the game has changed,” said Guaido, 35, the head of the opposition-run congress, referring to the presidential palace, from a stage surrounded by cheering opposition sympathizers. He said that his recent detention shows the “desperation” of the regime of Nicolas Maduro. “They are desperate at Miraflores (the presidential residence). They don’t know who is giving orders,” the Popular Will (VP) lawmaker told hundreds of people at a public assembly in his home state of Vargas, near Caracas. Guaido arrived at the event two hours behind schedule. Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said that the incident was an irregular and unilateral procedure, whereby the agents involved were fired and an investigation opened to determine responsibilities. Guaido told reporters that the official version of events shows that Maduro “no longer controls the armed forces,” which reveals – he said – the “serious problem” within the military. (Reuters,; Latin American Herald Tribune,; Bloomberg,


Defense minister recognizes Nicolás Maduro as its commander in chief for the period 2019-2025

Venezuela’s Minister of Defense, General Vladimir Padrino López, says the Armed Forces recognize Nicolás Maduro, as their commander-in-chief, as established by the Constitution. He said: “the Bolivarian National Armed Forces reiterates its Bolivarian, anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic character for the troops of the Armed Forces, the Army, the Aviation, the Guard and the Bolivarian National Militia (...) we recognize as our commander-in-chief - Nicolás Maduro ". Padrino stressed that in this new 2019-2025 presidential term, the FANB with absolute loyalty, will continue to fight for the ideals of independence and sovereignty. He swore, along with the military, “to honor and obey the mandate expressed on May 20th, by the people in free elections”. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


'Bolsonaro is Hitler!' Venezuela's Maduro exclaims amid Brazil spat

President Nicolas Maduro on Monday called Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro a modern Adolf Hitler, days after Brazil on Saturday said it recognized Juan Guaido, head of Venezuela’s opposition-run Congress, as legitimate president. “Over there we’ve got Brazil in the hands of a fascist - Bolsonaro is a Hitler of the modern era!” Maduro said during a state of the nation speech. Brazil’s government on Saturday issued a statement saying it recognized Venezuela’s Congressional leader, who opposes President Nicolas Maduro, as the rightful president of Venezuela. (Reuters:;


South America creating regional bloc to counter Venezuela

South American countries are developing a new diplomatic group to replace the UNASUR regional bloc that is heavily influenced by increasingly isolated Venezuela, Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Monday. The new group, called PROSUR, would seek to counteract the influence of what countries in the region call a dictatorship in Venezuela. “We’ve been advancing toward the end of UNASUR and the creation of PROSUR ... a South American platform for the coordination of public policies, the defense of democracy, independent institutions, and market economies,” Duque said in a radio interview. “It is very important that (UNASUR), which has been a supporter of the dictatorship of Venezuela, be shut down,” Duque said. (Reuters:


UN expresses concern over political situation in Venezuela

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric says UN Secretary General António Guterres "is concerned with what he is seeing” in Venezuela, and “is following events closely”. He called on all sides to abstain from “any action or rhetoric” that increases tension. He described Sunday’s detention of the National Assembly president as proof of “polarization” here. More in Spanish: (El Universal,


Pompeo says Venezuela's Maduro government is 'illegitimate'

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Venezuela’s government under President Nicolas Maduro as illegitimate on Saturday and said the United States would work with like-minded countries in Latin America to restore democracy there. “The Maduro regime is illegitimate, and the United States will work diligently to restore a real democracy to that country,” Pompeo told reporters in Abu Dhabi, where he is on a tour of Middle East countries. “We are very hopeful we can be a force for good to allow the region to come together to deliver that.” (Reuters,


Venezuela claims win in Latin American diplomatic dispute, ignores criticism of Maduro

Venezuela’s government claimed victory on Saturday in a diplomatic quarrel with Latin American countries over a border dispute with Guyana, while ignoring an avalanche of criticism over President Nicolas Maduro’s second term in office. Maduro had warned members of the so-called Lima Group of “diplomatic measures” after they said on Jan. 4 that they would not recognize his second term because Venezuela’s 2018 election was not free or fair. The statement, signed by nations including Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, also expressed concern that Venezuela had violated Guyana’s sovereignty by stopping a ship doing offshore oil exploration on behalf of Exxon Mobil Corp. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said at a news conference on Saturday that 10 of the 12 governments that signed the statement had since clarified their position on the Guyana dispute. (Reuters,


Venezuela proposes summit for reconciliation with countries of the region

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza proposed on Saturday a summit of Latin American countries for a session of reconciliation that would do away with political intolerance which, he said, is being applied in the region against the Nicolas Maduro government, whose legitimacy is not accepted by many in the international community.
We insist on President Nicolas Maduro’s proposal to hold a summit of presidents... and also of a group of countries in the region, which will help achieve an end to this ideological intolerance that has grown in recent years,” the official told reporters this Saturday.Arreaza said the meeting could take place during a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), whose presidency is currently held by the Salvadoran president and Maduro ally, Salvador Sanchez Ceren. (Latin American Herald Tribune,


Venezuela’s maritime claims also include territory of some CARICOM states

Venezuela is seeking to expand its maritime space not only in Guyana’s territory but also in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other states, including Colombia, Barbados and Suriname, which must all be vigilant as a result. This warning was issued last Thursday by Guyanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Rashleigh Jackson, who both pointed out that regular aggression against Guyana by Caracas including the recent interception of an ExxonMobil-contracted vessel in Guyana’s maritime space, has implications not only for Guyana but for the rest of the Caribbean as well. Greenidge and Jackson cautioned against Venezuela’s expansionist approach to increasing its maritime space and enforcing its actions through domestic laws which are not recognized internationally. (Stabroek News:


Vatican, Venezuela bishops play ‘good cop/bad cop’ with Maduro

A day after the bishops of Venezuela declared the new presidency of Nicolas Maduro “illegitimate,” Pope Francis sent a Vatican representative to his inauguration. Maduro thanked Monsignor George Koovakod for his “bravery” for coming. Many observers say the apparent contrast isn’t a matter of the Vatican and the bishops being at odds, but rather a classic “good cop, bad cop” diplomatic maneuver. Concerns over legitimacy have led the United States, along with most nations of Latin America and the European Union, to break diplomatic relations with Venezuela. Visible among the few representatives from other countries was Koovakod, a Polish monsignor who was appointed as Chargé d’affaires at the Vatican’s Secretary of State last year.

The Venezuelan crisis is not one the Holy See’s diplomatic team looks at from afar: the substitute, often referred to as the second most important person in the secretariat, comes from this Latin American country, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra. The secretary of state, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was handpicked by Francis for the job while he was serving as papal representative in Venezuela. When the Venezuelan bishops were in Rome last September for their ad-limina visit, the matter of the Holy See acknowledging Maduro as the rightful, democratically elected president was brought up by many in the Vatican, including Francis. The situation is complex, and no clear decision was reached during the week-long visit. According to Elisabetta Pique, a long-time Vatican watcher who writes for one of Argentina’s major newspapers, La Nación, the Venezuelan bishops had the green light from the Holy See to declare Maduro’s regime to be illegitimate and the local episcopacy had been consulted about the pros and cons of sending a representative to Maduro’s swearing in. This information suggests that despite Maduro’s attempts to put the bishops and Francis on opposite sides, at the end of the day, it’s no more than another case of the Vatican’s realpolitik at play, confirming the Holy See’s intentions never to break diplomatic relations with a country. The Church’s long-standing tradition of leaving the doors of dialogue and diplomacy open whenever it’s possible does not mean actual support of the local ruling class. In 2016 Francis tried, unsuccessfully, to mediate dialogue efforts between Maduro and the opposition. Despite this, the Vatican’s attention to the Venezuelan situation has remained steady, as seen during the pope’s Christmas speech and his address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. On both occasions he referred to the situation of Venezuela, and also that of Nicaragua, facing a similar situation and one that could devolve even more rapidly, as the Central American nation is not sitting on top of one of the world’s largest oil reserves. Expressing “hope for beloved Venezuela,” Francis told the diplomats that “peaceful institutional means can be found to provide solutions to the ongoing political, social and economic crisis; means that can make it possible to help all those suffering from the tensions of recent years, and to offer all the Venezuelan people a horizon of hope and peace.” In that speech he said that “the Holy See has no intention of interfering in the life of states; it seeks instead to be an attentive listener, sensitive to issues involving humanity, out of a sincere and humble desire to be at the service of every man and woman.” Many observers saw this as a response from the pope to a letter signed by 20 Latin American former presidents criticizing the pope’s remarks on Christmas Day, when he said he wished this time of “blessing,” referring to the holiday season, would bring “concord” to Venezuela. (The Crux:


Venezuela blocks Wikipedia after Maduro ‘ousted’ from article, internet watchdog says

Venezuela has blocked access to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, becoming only the second country after Turkey to do so, an internet watchdog claimed Sunday. According to NetBlocks, a digital rights group that tracks restrictions to the internet, as of 12 January, Venezuela largest telecommunications provider CANTV has prevented access to Wikipedia in all languages. The internet observatory told Haaretz the ban was discovered by attempting "to access Wikipedia and other services 60,000 times from 150 different points in the country using multiple providers." Wikipedia receives on average 60 million views from the country every month.  According to NetBlocks, the ban was likely imposed after a Wikipedia article listed newly-appointed National Assembly president Juan Guaidó as “president number 51 of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” ousting Maduro from his presidential status on Wikipedia.  Alp Toker, the head of NetBlocks, explained that the block followed a string of controversial edits on the Spanish-language article for Guaido as well as other related articles.  (Haaretz:


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.