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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

March 26, 2019

Oil & Energy

As new blackout hits, Venezuelans brace for more hardship

Much of Venezuela remained without electricity Tuesday as a new power outage spread across the country in what many feared will be a repeat of the chaos during the nation's largest-ever blackout earlier this month. The Maduro regime canceled work and school again as the second major blackout this month left streets mostly empty in Caracas and residents of the capital wondering how long power would be out amid a deepening economic and political crisis. The outage began around midday Monday and appeared to have affected most of Venezuela's 23 states. While the lights flickered back on in many parts after officials declared service would be restored within hours, the grid collapsed again in the late evening, knocking out communications and leaving much of the country bracing for the worst. As with the previous outage, Nicolas Maduro's regime blamed U.S.-backed opponents, accusing them of sabotaging the Guri dam, which supplies the bulk of Venezuela's electricity. Officials said the "attack" had been controlled, but their assurances, similar to ones the last time around, did little to calm the anger of residents in Caracas who filled traffic-clogged streets as they walked home after subway service in the capital was suspended on Monday. Their patience grew increasingly thin when a second outage struck late into the night, with residents in some neighborhoods banging on pots and pans in pitch black to express their growing frustration. On Tuesday morning, banks, shops and other businesses in Caracas were closed. Lights were out in the Maiquetia airport near Caracas, a Reuters witness said, though flights were not canceled. A worker checked passengers’ passports with a hand lamp, while the belt carrying checked luggage was running with power from a backup generator. NETBLOCKS, a non-government group based in Europe that monitors internet censorship, said the late evening outage had knocked offline nearly 90% of Venezuela's telecommunications infrastructure. Even the powerful state TV apparatus was down. The Trump administration, which is campaigning to remove Maduro, has denied any role in the outages. Meanwhile, electricity experts and opposition leader Juan Guaidó fault years of state graft and incompetence.  Guaidó, who the U.S. and dozens of other countries recognize as Venezuela's rightful leader, said he was meeting with aides to determine actions "to express the indignation of the entire population." The government seeks to discredit Guaidó, presenting what it claims to be evidence purporting to show opposition plans to hire mercenaries from Central America to carry out targeted killings and acts of sabotage. During a news conference in the middle of the blackout Monday, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez showed screenshots of what are purportedly private text messages between Guaidó, his mentor Leopoldo Lopez and other opposition insiders discussing payment details to the hired guns through banks in Europe and Panama. Late Monday, Lilian Tintori, the wife of Lopez, said a group of government loyalists on motorcycles besieged her home in eastern Caracas, shouting epithets against her husband and warning he would soon be thrown back in jail. Lopez has been under house arrest following his conviction for stirring anti-government unrest in 2014 in a case marred by irregularities. (The Miami Herald:; Reuters:;; Fox News:; Bloomberg:


Oil rebounds as growth angst eases and Venezuela tensions mount

Oil rebounded along with global markets as pessimism over the global growth outlook eased a little, while rising tension in Venezuela revived fears of supply losses. Futures rose as much as 1.4% in New York after falling about 2% over the previous two sessions. Crude futures have rallied about 30% in New York and London this year as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies implement production cuts to stave off a global surplus. American sanctions on Iran and Venezuela have further squeezed supplies, but the demand outlook remains clouded by a slowing world economy and uncertainty over whether the U.S.-China trade war will be resolved. West Texas Intermediate for May delivery rose 717cents, or 1.3%, to US$ 59.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 11:12 a.m. in London. It closed 0.4% lower on Monday after swinging between a 1.5% loss and an 0.5% gain earlier in the day. Brent for May settlement advanced 0.9% to US$ 67.79 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, rising for a second day. The global benchmark crude was at a premium of U$ 8.18 to WTI. (The Houston Chronicle:


America imported no oil from Venezuela last week. Here's why that's a big deal

America's once-robust imports of crude oil from Venezuela have ground to a halt because of Trump administration sanctions and chaos gripping this nation. The United States imported exactly zero barrels of crude from Venezuela last week, according to government statistics. That's never happened since the US Energy Information Administration began tracking this weekly metric in 2010.It marks a sharp decline from the prior week, when the United States imported 112,000 barrels per day from Venezuela. The plunge in oil shipments from Venezuela helped lift US oil prices above US$60 a barrel this week for the first time since November. The United States has never gone a full month without importing oil from Venezuela since the EIA started measuring this monthly data in 1973.Getting cut off from the United States adds to the misery for Venezuela. Before the sanctions, the United States was Venezuela's No. 1 oil customer. And the Venezuelan government relied on oil exports for 90% of its revenue. The good news for the United States is that it's pumping tons of oil at home. Powered by the shale revolution, US output has soared to record highs. In fact, the United States is now the world's leading oil producer. The bad news is that US refineries can't rely on American shale oil alone. That's because not every barrel of crude is created equally. While US shale oil is a high-quality light grade, the decades-old Gulf Coast refinery system is configured to run on a healthy dose of lower quality heavy crude, the likes of which is abundant in Venezuela. The situation has caused a strange phenomenon, where heavy crude is trading on par or even at a premium to light crude.(CNN:


Economy & Finance

IADB cancels China meeting after Beijing bars Venezuela representative

The Inter-American Development Bank on Friday called off next week’s meeting of its 48 member countries in China after Beijing refused to allow a representative of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó to attend, two sources with knowledge of the decision said. The sources said the decision was made in Washington on Friday at a meeting of the executive board of the IADB, Latin America’s largest development lender, after China refused to change its position. The sources said the board would vote within 30 days to reschedule the annual meeting for another date and location. On Thursday, the United States threatened to derail the March 26-31 meeting unless Beijing granted a visa to Guaidó’s representative, Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann.The meeting, slated to bring together finance and development ministers from the lender’s members, was meant to mark the bank’s 60th anniversary. One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Thursday that China had proposed that no representative from either Maduro’s or Guaidó’s camps attend the meeting to “depoliticize” the gathering. In a statement posted later on its website, the IADB confirmed that the meeting would not take place on March 28-30 in the city of Chengdu as planned, but it did not give a reason. China’s foreign ministry said in its own statement it regretted the decision but bore no responsibility. Spokesman Geng Shuang said China “had difficulty allowing” Guaidó’s representative to attend because Guaidó himself lacked legal standing.“ Changing Venezuela’s representative at the IADB won’t help solve Venezuela’s problems and (the proposal) damaged the atmosphere of the IADB annual meeting and disturbed preparations for the meeting,” he said. The Washington-based IADB was the first multilateral lender to replace a Maduro-selected representative with one backed by Guaidó. The move would eventually open lines of credit to Venezuela should Maduro step down. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have so far not made a decision on whether to recognize Guaidó officially as head of state. (Reuters:


U.S. blacklists Venezuelan state banks after arrest of Guaidó aide

The United States imposed sanctions on Friday on Venezuela’s development bank, BANDES, a day after the Trump administration warned there would be consequences for the arrest by Venezuelan authorities of opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s top aide. The U.S. Treasury said it was slapping the sanctions on Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, including its subsidiaries in Uruguay and Bolivia. It also imposed sanctions on state-owned Venezuelan commercial banks, including Banco de Venezuela and Banco Bicentenario. “The United States will not tolerate the arrest of peaceful democratic actors, including members of the democratically-elected Venezuelan National Assembly and those Venezuelans working with interim President Juan Guaidó,” the White House said in a statement. The U.S. Treasury said Maduro tried to move US$1 billion out of Venezuela through Banco BANDES Uruguay in early 2019 as he came under increasing pressure from the United States and other countries in the region to step down. BANDES has received billions of dollars over the past decade from the China Development Bank, in exchange for oil, which the Venezuelan government used to fund infrastructure projects. Uruguay has stayed neutral on Venezuela’s political crisis and has called for dialogue, while China, Russia and regional ally Cuba have backed Maduro. But the sanctions on BANDES could test Beijing’s ties with Caracas, since it would impede Venezuela from restructuring its US$20 billion debt with China, opposition lawmaker Angel Alvarado said on Friday. The sanctions freeze assets belonging to the banks and subsidiaries, and prevent U.S. citizens from any dealings with them. They follow a raft of other sanctions imposed by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump in recent months against Maduro, top government officials, and state oil firm PDVSA. Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton tweeted earlier on Friday: “BANDES bank is to Venezuela’s financial sector what PDVSA is to its oil sector. This action will severely affect any attempted currency movements by Maduro and his cronies moving forward. Do not test the resolve of this Administration.” (ó-aide-idUSKCN1R32FQ)


Politics and International Affairs

2 Russian military planes land in Venezuela, exacerbating political tension

A visit to Venezuela by two military airplanes from Russia, which landed in broad daylight at the international airport in Caracas, has set off alarms that the Kremlin might be acting more brazenly to protect President Nicolás Maduro from the uprising against him. Russian and Venezuelan officials have not disputed the arrival of the airplanes, which were first seen at the airport on Saturday. Such flights ordinarily would be sent to a protected military air base beyond the sight of the public. The planes brought supplies and technical advisers to Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, according to a Russian state news agency and a Russian diplomat. The visit was related to military cooperation contracts signed years ago between Russia and Venezuela, said the news agency, Ria Novosti, suggesting it was routine. A Russian diplomat in Caracas, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the diplomat was not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed the Ria Novosti account and said there was nothing unusual. But opposition members said the visibility of the military planes was unusual and had been meant to send a message. The timing showed that both Russian and Venezuelan officials wanted to convert a routine technical stop into a show of strength, said Rocio San Miguel, a Venezuelan security analyst. Russia has maintenance contracts for weapons sold to Venezuela under late President Hugo Chávez, including air defense systems, fighter jets and tanks, that are worth billions of dollars. Flight tracking websites showed an Ilyushin IL-62 jet and an Antonov AN-124 cargo plane flew from Moscow’s military airport to Caracas’s international airport via Syria. The cargo plane flew back to Syria on Monday, according to flight tracking website The arrival of the advisers came as Venezuela activated Russian-made S300 air defense systems last week, according to satellite imagery analysis firm IMAGESAT Intl. Russia has also recently deployed the S300 in Syria. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday and called on Russia "to cease its unconstructive behavior" in Venezuela, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. The United States "will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela," the statement said. "The continued insertion of Russian military personnel to support the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people who overwhelmingly support interim President Juan Guaidó," the statement said. The United States on Monday accused Russia of "reckless escalation" of the situation in Venezuela. (The New York Times:; Military Times:; Haaretz:; CNN:; The Wall Street Journal:; McClatchy: 


Guaidó accused of plotting 'terrorist acts'

Jorge Rodriguez, the nation's minister of communication, spoke on national television Saturday to accuse opposition leaders, including National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, of plotting "terrorist acts" in the country. Rodriguez said some of the evidence was collected from the personal phone of Roberto Marrero, Guaidó's chief of staff, who was detained in Caracas on Thursday and later accused of being involved in an alleged "terrorist cell" planning attacks against high-level political figures. According to Rodriguez, Marrero coordinated the arrival of "hitmen" from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to "kill members of the Venezuelan government." He said that about 60 "hitmen groups" were prepared and "trained in Colombia," but that given the closure of the Colombian-Venezuelan border, only "30 groups entered Venezuela." Marrero's lawyers have denied the claims and accused Maduro's regime of planting evidence. Rodriguez did not present any evidence to support his claim. This is not the first time the Venezuelan government has presented strong accusations against the Venezuelan opposition based on text messages, emails or pictures. And, with frequency, the elements are not presented by the Attorney General's Office, but by Rodriguez himself. Surrounded by hundreds of people waving flags and flashing cameras, Guaidó asked his followers to stay on the streets demanding freedom and to not be afraid. "We have the support of important countries ... we are not alone," he said. Guaidó closed the rally by singing the national anthem and once again spoke directly to Maduro: "You believe you are going to intimidate us. Well, here we are, moving forward, holding our heads high, taking it all for the freedom of Venezuela," he said. (CNN:


House passes bills to expand humanitarian aid in Venezuela and hurt Maduro

The House of Representatives passed three bills on Monday to expand U.S. humanitarian assistance in Venezuela, examine Russia’s growing military presence in the country and prohibit U.S. exports of crime control materials that Nicolás Maduro can use against pro-democracy protesters. The bills, led by South Florida Democrats Donna Shalala, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, are the first legislative responses to Venezuela’s ongoing humanitarian crisis since the U.S. recognized Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate leader in January. The bills were sent to the U.S. Senate without opposition.“ The world has witnessed the violent actions of Maduro’s security forces and their use of arms, rubber bullets, tear gas, and other dangerous weapons to violently disperse crowds during peaceful protests,” Shalala said. “With the passage of the Venezuela Arms Restriction Act, we will move one step closer to ensuring that no weapons originating in the United States are used to silence dissent through intimidation, repression, or execution.” Republicans allowed the bills to pass by a voice vote, meaning there was no significant opposition to any of the proposals. Though some Democrats have questioned the U.S. decision to recognize Guaidó, there was no formal opposition to the bills on the House floor. Mucarsel-Powell’s bill compels the Trump administration to outline a long-term humanitarian aid strategy in Venezuela and allocate at least US$ 150 million in federal funding for humanitarian aid in 2020 and 2021. Wasserman Schultz’s bill would compel the State Department to monitor and provide Congress with steps to limit Russian military influence in Venezuela. The three South Florida Democrats are in lockstep with Florida Republicans in support of Guaidó’s nascent government and Wasserman Schultz and Shalala recently visited the Colombia-Venezuela border. But their efforts have been overshadowed by Democrats who argue that recognizing Guaidó is a prelude to a U.S.-backed coup and Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio who communicate directly with the president on the importance of maintaining a hard line against Maduro. Another piece of legislation that would expand Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans has the support of Democrats and Republicans from South Florida, though some of Trump’s advisers are wary of expanding immigration protections after they sought to cut TPS for countries like Haiti, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Rubio is also planning to reintroduce a bill that expands humanitarian assistance in Venezuela and provide funds for pro-democracy groups. (The Miami Herald:; AP:


US warns it will protect its 40,000 citizens in Venezuela

The US government took the unprecedented step of revealing the number of US citizens currently living in Venezuela. Spain’s ABC daily has published an interview with US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino where the Trump Administration warns Nicolás Maduro directly that it Will not tolerate abuses against US citizens on Venezuelan soil. “The US is seriously concerned for the wellbeing and safety of all Americans detained in Venezuela, and for deports that prison officials are blocking their families and lawyers from delivering food to them. We will make Maduro and his jailers responsible for their safety and wellbeing”. Previously, US National Security Advisor John Bolton had revealed that there are at least 40,000 US citizens living in Venezuela. More in Spanish: (Globovision,


OP-ED: Russia is making the US look weak in Venezuela, by Erin Dunne

It’s no secret that President Trump wants illegitimate Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro out. But as the Trump administration pressures Maduro’s regime and continues to back opposition leader Juan Guaidó, Russia has successfully positioned itself as a roadblock to Washington-backed regime change. And if existing shadowy ties between the Moscow and Caracas weren’t already a serious concern for Washington, the two Russian air force planes that touched down in Caracas over the weekend certainly are. Those planes carried 100 troops, a Russian defense official and almost 40 tons of cargo. They not only provide much-needed materiel assistance for Maduro, but they also send a clear message to Washington that the U.S. isn’t the only international player interested in Venezuela. That Russia would take stronger steps to back Maduro isn’t entirely unexpected. Indeed, at the end of January there were already Moscow-linked military contractors on the ground in Venezuela to support Maduro. Moreover, Russia has been a staunch backer of Maduro’s regime, investing billions of dollars in military contracts and other projects. That has left Moscow with a vested interest in keeping Maduro in power, both to cash in on their monetary investments and to reap the rewards of their influence. But the real motive for Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be what Russian and before them Soviet leaders have always relished: challenging U.S. authority in what Washington views as its own backyard. Putin is complicating U.S. plans to end Maduro’s grip and restore stability to the region. Russia's investment in the government of a failed state is likely to yield few if any long-term direct returns on investment. That makes this challenge to the U.S. the most plausible reason behind Moscow’s continued support for Maduro. Likewise, the 100 Russian troops that Moscow has put on the ground, even backed by a generous shipment of equipment, is hardly enough to secure an embattled regime, although it could be enough to create a headache for Washington. Russia's actions not only make U.S. involvement more dangerous by introducing the potential to spark engagement with Russia, but they also undercut existing efforts against Maduro limiting the impact of sanction. They give Maduro new military power to rely on and lend him international backing even as the U.S. and other countries have increasingly isolated him. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Monday that the U.S. does not take these actions lightly. As he put it, U.S. and its allies “will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela.” Just what Pompeo has in mind is unclear. What is obvious, however, is that Russia has made Washington look weak. (The Washington Examiner:


OP-ED: Maduro faces mounting pressure to quit, yet he persists, by Philip Reeves

Two months have elapsed since the Trump administration threw its weight behind a multipronged campaign to oust Nicolás Maduro, after an economic collapse that has led more than 3 million Venezuelans to move abroad and created widespread hunger and shortages. Since then, Maduro — who is fond of comparing himself to a boxer in the ring — has been absorbing one body blow after another. Yet, somehow, Maduro remains in the ring — still on his feet, on TV in front of a crowd, cheerfully goading his enemies. Maduro's adversaries had hoped for success by now. They are beginning to ask what else they and their international supporters need to do to topple him. No one doubts that Maduro would fall if the men in charge of Venezuela's armed forces withdraw their support. Some heavy hitters on the world stage continue to back him — notably China, Iran, Turkey and Russia. Fractures have appeared in the lower ranks. Yet Venezuela's military high command has remained loyal, despite Guaidó's offer of amnesty to armed forces that abandon the government. Maduro's opponents explain the continued support by saying senior army commanders pocket millions from illicit black-market activities, including food and currency rackets and narcotics and gold smuggling. Venezuelans also frequently attribute their generals' dogged loyalty to the role played by Cuba, Maduro's closest foreign friend. Large numbers of Cuban agents operate within the Venezuelan military, monitoring the ranks for signs of betrayal. The National Assembly voted to block the government's long-running shipments of heavily discounted oil to Cuba, in the hope this will encourage the Cubans to withdraw their spies. But the state-run oil company is not expected to abide. As Guaidó's U.S.-backed campaign to assume power enters its third month, Maduro appears to be stepping up the use of force against his opponents. After Venezuela's huge power outage, Maduro called for the mobilization of colectivos, an armed pro-government motorcycle militia with a reputation for using extreme violence. Many Venezuelans feel the same about other security forces: Thirty-seven people were reported killed in Caracas during house raids in January by the national police's special force, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Most of the victims were from poor neighborhoods and were suspected of participating in anti-government protests, she said. Many Venezuelans believe — and often hope — the U.S. will lead a military intervention that will finally drive out Maduro. That conviction is reinforced by the Trump administration and Guaidó: Both regularly emphasize that "all options are on the table." Yet the idea is widely opposed in the international arena, and there is little sign of enthusiasm for it in Washington. Maduro's hard-core support is small: just 14%, according to a February survey by the Caracas-based polling company DATANALISIS. Guaidó scored 61%. The same survey included another striking statistic: 47% still support Chávez, who died of cancer in 2013. Luis Vicente León, head of DATANALISIS, cites this as evidence that in the long term, the Chavistas could eventually make a comeback in Venezuela, "even with transparent and clear elections." Maduro now faces an even tougher test. Blows are raining down on him, as he dodges and weaves to somehow keep his broken economy running. The oil sanctions the U.S. imposed on Venezuela in late January are making an impact. With the world's largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela's production dropped by 142,000 barrels per day from January to February, according to OPEC. That is far below Venezuela's output from a few years ago. The industry's infrastructure is falling apart; many thousands of engineers have left; the state-run oil company finds it increasingly difficult to import diluents needed to raise Venezuelan crude to export grade. The Maduro government is scrambling to find fresh clients for crude oil that it is no longer exporting to the U.S. Despite this, it is far from certain Maduro will fall. That concerns rights groups, which fear U.S. sanctions are deepening the hardship of a long-suffering population and weakening their ability to organize against Maduro's government. Crashing an economy alone does not always bring a government down. Pollster León recalls: "Everyone thought the same with Cuba, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe and North Korea." (NPR:


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.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

March 08, 2019

Oil & Energy

Venezuela restores electricity to some parts of Caracas: state television

Venezuela has restored electricity to some parts of the capital of Caracas, state television said on Friday, following a major blackout on Thursday that knocked out service in much of the struggling OPEC nation. (Reuters,


Venezuela grinds to a halt as blackout drags into a second day

Venezuela shut schools and suspended the workday on Friday as the worst blackout in decades paralyzed most of the troubled nation for a second day, spurring outrage among citizens already suffering from hyperinflation and a crippling recession.

Power went out late on Thursday afternoon due to a problem at Venezuela’s main hydroelectric plant, the government said, calling the event an act of “sabotage” by ideological adversaries.

“We will once again defeat this electrical sabotage. We are going to recover this important service for the population,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said in comments broadcast over state television.

While blackouts are routine in many Venezuelan provinces, particularly along the western border with Colombia, nationwide power outages under the ruling Socialist Party have never extended for more than a day.

“This is a severe problem. It is not just any blackout,” said Luis Martinez, a 53-year-old construction worker walking to work in eastern Caracas.


President Nicolas Maduro always attributes major power outages to sabotage by opposition adversaries.

Maduro, who was re-elected last year in a vote widely viewed as fraudulent, blames the crisis on a U.S.-backed sabotage campaign.

His critics say his government has mismanaged the power sector since late socialist leader Hugo Chavez nationalized it in 2007 while setting aside billions of dollars for power projects that were swallowed by corruption.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido slammed the government for bungling the country’s energy supply and dismissed sabotage accusations.

“Sabotage is stealing money from Venezuelans. Sabotage is burning food and medicine. Sabotage is stealing elections,” he wrote via Twitter, referring to humanitarian aid trucks that went up in flames last month when opposition leaders attempted to bring relief supplies across the Colombian border.

More than 3 million people are believed to have fled Venezuela amid a deep economic crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine and hyperinflation. (Reuters,


PDVSA declares emergency as tankers returning

Plans by the German operator of a portion of the Venezuelan state oil company’s tanker fleet to return 10 vessels because of unpaid fees prompted a unit of state-run PDVSA on Tuesday to declare a maritime emergency, according to a document from the state-run firm and sources. PDVSA’s weak finances, the result of mismanagement, a sharp decline in oil output and U.S. sanctions designed to oust President Nicolas Maduro, have prompted dozens of suppliers and partners to stop working for the company. PDVSA’s maritime arm, PDV Marina, lacks about 160 people, including captains, machinists and operators, to immediately take back the 10 vessels from Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), according to a notification by PDV Marina’s security department that was viewed by Reuters. BSM officially notified PDV Marina’s top authorities of its “unilateral decision to deliver the fleet operated by the company due to lack of payment and cash flow for paying pending salaries and staff onboard,” putting PDVSA in a “critical situation to receive the tanker fleet,” the document said. BSM last month confirmed its crews would abandon PDVSA vessels Rio Arauca and Parnaso, held in Portugal due to unpaid fees to several companies. A third vessel operated by BSM, the Icaro, was seized in Curacao by a group of shipping companies claiming unpaid bills from PDVSA. BSM operated a fleet of 13 tankers owned by PDVSA and two very large crude carriers jointly owned by PDVSA and China’s PetroChina. The amount owed by PDV Marina to BSM is at least $15 million, according to a source at the company and a document seen by Reuters. Over a dozen tankers with Venezuelan oil around the world have been arrested in recent years by authorities or otherwise prevented from leaving because PDVSA has not paid for services. (Reuters:


Gas scarcity could turn Venezuela's crisis to catastrophe

Waiting hours to fill up is the high cost one pays for gasoline that's nearly free in socialist Venezuela. Lines stretching a mile (1.6 kilometers) or more to fuel up have plagued the western region of Venezuela for years — despite the country's status as holder of the world's largest oil reserves. Now, shortages threaten to spread countrywide as supplies of petrol become even scarcer amid a raging struggle over political control of Venezuela. The Trump administration hit Venezuela's state-run oil firm PDVSA with sanctions in late January in a sweeping strategy aimed at forcing President Nicolas Maduro from power in favor of opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Doomsday predictions immediately followed — mostly fueled by Maduro's opponents and U.S. officials — that Venezuela's domestic gasoline supplies would last no more than a week or so. That hasn't happened yet, but more misery is feared as expected shortages have economic implications far beyond longer gas lines, turning Venezuela's crisis to a catastrophe. Ixchel Castro, a Mexico City-based analyst at the Wood Mackenzie energy research firm, said Venezuela's domestic gasoline supply has been down by as much as 15% in recent years as the country's refineries and infrastructure fail — a trend that is expected to accelerate. PDVSA provided 160,000 barrels a day for domestic use last year, but with the U.S. sanctions and ongoing infrastructure challenges, that supply can be expected to fall to 60,000 barrels a day, she said, meeting just 38% of the country's needs. Exacerbating the problem are shortages of diluent, a critical product needed to thin Venezuela's tar-like heavy crude so it can be piped over 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the field to be turned into gasoline. Russia has stepped in, sending two tankers of the thinner, but these supplies will last just five to 10 days. Gasoline won't completely dry up in Venezuela, which still has access to waning domestic production, as well as fuel in storage and shipments from India and European countries that aren't subject to sanctions. But the fuel quality will suffer and there will be shortages, Castro said. (VOA:


Oil edges up on Venezuela and Iran sanctions, OPEC supply cuts

Oil prices rose on Thursday on the back of ongoing OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions against exporters Venezuela and Iran, but gains were capped by record U.S. crude output, rising inventories and falling estimates of global demand growth. Brent crude futures were at US$ 66.83 per barrel at 1143 GMT, up 84 cents or 1.2% from their last close. U.S. sanctions against the oil industries of OPEC members Iran and Venezuela have also had an impact, traders said. Venezuela's state-run oil firm PDVSA this week declared a maritime emergency, citing trouble accessing tankers and personnel to export its oil due to sanctions. Despite these factors, oil remains in plentiful supply thanks to surging U.S. production. (Reuters:



Venezuela, Palestine sign agreement on diamond production

Venezuela and Palestine have concluded a strategic agreement on the production of diamonds, the live broadcast of the signing ceremony on Nicolas Maduro’s Twitter account showed. According to the Venezuelan official figures, 85% of diamonds, found in the country’s Bolivar state, especially in the area of the Orinoco River, were the highest quality diamonds that met various international standards. (Sputnik News:


Economy & Finance

U.S. puts financial institutions 'on notice' on Venezuela transactions

White House national security adviser John Bolton on Wednesday warned foreign banks and other financial institutions that they will face U.S. sanctions for “illegitimate” transactions that benefit Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and his network. “The United States is putting foreign financial institutions on notice that they will face sanctions for being involved in facilitating illegitimate transactions that benefit Nicolas Maduro and his corrupt network,” Bolton said in a statement released by the White House. (Reuters:


U.S. set to punish foreign banks who deal with Venezuela's Maduro: official

The United States has identified efforts by Nicolas Maduro to work with foreign banks to move and hide money and is ready to punish the banks with sanctions soon, a senior U.S. administration official said on Wednesday. The White House said earlier on Wednesday that banks would face sanctions for “illegitimate transactions” that helped Maduro and his network. The warning was prompted by efforts by Maduro, his officials, their family members, and state-owned entities to find ways to keep revenues flowing. “They’re trying to move their money and hide that money in different places. Some banks - some foreign banks in particular - are being complicit in this behavior,” the official said in an interview, declining to provide further details. The U.S. government was getting ready to name and impose sanctions on banks that have ignored warnings, the official said. “You’ll definitely see some named in the near future,” the official said. “We will be sanctioning some in the days and weeks to come.” (Reuters: 


Russia's sanctioned RUSFINCORP to take on PDVSA accounts

The Russian accounts of Venezuelan companies, including state oil firm PDVSA, will be moved to the Russian Financial Corporation Bank (RUSFINCORP), which is sanctioned by the United States. The decision had been agreed with the Russian government, the source, who is familiar with the negotiations, said, confirming an earlier report by the RIA news agency. “This is not the Kremlin’s direct responsibility to open accounts and coordinate with business,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Reuters reported last month that Russian lender GAZPROMBANK had decided to freeze the accounts of PDVSA and halted transactions with the firm to reduce the risk of the bank falling under U.S. sanctions. Russian authorities made the decision to move the Venezuelan accounts after consultations with their counterparts and business in Venezuela. The United States imposed sanctions against RUSFINCORP, which is owned by Russian arms exporter ROSOBORONEKSPORT, and some businessmen in April 2018 in one of Washington’s most aggressive moves to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and other “malign activity.” (Reuters:


Guaidó asks CITIBANK to delay gold repurchase

Interim president Juan Guaidó has asked Citibank to delay by 120 days Venezuela’s scheduled repurchase of gold that President Nicolas Maduro’s government put up as collateral for a loan in 2015, three members of the team advising Guaidó said. Advisers to Guaidó, who has been recognized by most Western nations as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, have met with CITIBANK officials to ask them to hold off claiming the gold that Maduro’s cash-strapped regime committed to give up if it failed to pay off the loan by its March due date. One of the sources told Reuters that CITIBANK has not yet informed them whether it will agree to the request. The request is part of the opposition’s strategy to safeguard Venezuela’s foreign assets and prevent the socialist Maduro government from selling off gold reserves to raise hard currency amid tightening sanctions. In a public report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in February, CITIBANK said the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) had agreed to repurchase an undisclosed amount of gold in March as part of an agreement signed by both institutions in 2015. (Reuters:


IMF undecided on Guido’s recognition

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has not decided on recognizing a new government in Venezuela, the organization's spokesperson said on Thursday. "The determination of the recognition of the government in Venezuela by the IMF has yet to be made," IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice told reporters during a press briefing. He noted that the situation remains very fluid both on the ground in terms of international recognition of National Assembly president Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself president. The situation with Guido’s recognition in the International Monetary Fund which comprises of 189 countries has been complicated by the fact that some member states have an opposing political stance on the issue. (SPUTNIK News:


Politics and International Affairs

EU laments Maduro's expulsion of German envoy, Guaidó calls for more sanctions

The European Union said it was disappointed that the Maduro regime has ordered the German ambassador to leave the country after he expressed support for interim president leader Juan Guaidó. European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said Thursday that the EU wants to continue its dialogue with all political forces in the country. "Despite the tense and complex political context, the EU has been keen to maintain lines of communication with all key parties including the government," Kocijancic said. "In that respect, the EU hopes that this decision can be reconsidered." On Wednesday, the Maduro announced it was giving Kriener 48 hours to leave the country, a move seen as a response regime to Germany's support for Guaidó. The German ambassador and other diplomats greeted Guaidó when he returned to Venezuela on Monday — a gesture the Venezuelan government condemned. In Berlin on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the attempted expulsion of German Ambassador to Venezuela Daniel Kriener "incomprehensible" and "unacceptable." He added that Germany's support for interim president Juan Guaidó in his power struggle with Acting President Nicolas Maduro was "unshakable." Guaidó, however, said he had asked Kriener to stay on as ambassador in Caracas, since Maduro was not empowered to expel a diplomat as he was “occupying the post of president illegally.” In an interview with German news magazine "Der Spiegel," Guaidó said the expulsion of Kriener was an act of desperation on Maduro's part. "He's trying to fool the public into thinking he still has power by expelling an ambassador," Guaidó declared. " He also urged Europe to tighten financial sanctions against the Maduro regime “I hope that Europe reacts sharply to this serious threat against an ambassador,” Guaidó said. “Above all, they should tighten financial sanctions against the regime.” Maas said Kriener had acted on explicit instructions from the German Foreign Ministry. "It was my express wish and request that Ambassador Kriener turn out with representatives of other European nations and Latin American ones to meet acting President Guaidó at the airport," Mass told reporters. "We had information that he was supposed to be arrested there. I believe that the presence of various ambassadors helped prevent such an arrest." Maas also stated that he had recalled Kriener to Berlin for "consultations" and that he would arrive back in Germany on Saturday. But German foreign policy experts are outraged at Maduro's behavior. Juergen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for the conservative bloc in Germany’s parliament, backed Guaidó’ s call for further sanctions against Maduro and said the goal should be for Kriener to return to Caracas as soon as possible. (The New York Times:; Reuters:ó-urges-more-sanctions-after-german-expulsion-idUSKCN1QO0II; DW:


US pushes Russia to keep Venezuela's interim president safe from harm

U.S. officials are pressing Russia to ensure that Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro doesn’t harm his nemesis Juan Guaidó, who major Western powers recognize as the country's interim president. “We are discussing the urgent issues affecting Venezuela with many countries, including Russia,” a representative for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs told the Washington Examiner. “We hold Nicolas Maduro and those who surround him fully responsible for the safety and welfare of Interim President Guaidó and his family.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday, as Guaidó prepared to return home from meetings around the region. “An arrest of Juan Guaidó,” a senior administration official told the Washington Examiner, “would essentially ensure that the doors would be shut on Russia throughout the Americas for a generation.” That message was delivered with increased urgency considering “serious and credible threats [against Guaidó] and his family, which have recently intensified,” as the Colombian Foreign Ministry described it on Sunday. Pompeo’s call with Lavrov coincided with a warning from the European Union that an attack on Guaidó “would represent a major escalation of tensions.” Brazil, another regional heavyweight supporting Guaidó, also demanded Saturday that “those still in control of the regime's repressive apparatus” prevent him from coming to harm. Those warnings were heard, raising U.S. hopes that the regime’s grip on power is slipping, given the non-enforcement of the travel ban. Lavrov said Russia is willing “to hold bilateral consultations” with Pompeo about the crisis but reiterated the charge that President Trump’s administration is meddling in Venezuelan affairs. (The Washington Examiner:


US envoy dismisses military force in Venezuela

The U.S. envoy for Venezuela dismissed the possibility of American military action here in a recording made by two Russian pranksters and released Wednesday. Special Representative Elliott Abrams said in the recording that the U.S. wouldn’t use force in Venezuela unless the government did something “completely crazy” like attack the American Embassy. But Abrams, who apparently believed he was speaking with a Swiss official, said the U.S. seeks to “make the Venezuelan military nervous” by not publicly ruling out military action to oust President Nicolas Maduro. “We think it is a mistake tactically to give them endless reassurances that there will never be American military action,” he said. “But I can tell you this is not what we are doing. What we are doing is exactly what you see, financial pressure, economic pressure, diplomatic pressure.” The Abrams recording was released online and published by Russian media Wednesday. Asked for comment, the State Department said in an email that “we are well aware in general, and were aware in this case, of Russia’s propaganda playbook and the lengths they will go to prop up the Maduro regime.” (AP News:


UN’s Bachelet slams Maduro regime, says she will send mission here, criticizes sanctions

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet slammed the Maduro regime's "violations of civil and political rights" in her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. "Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights - including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms, and the independence of key institutions - can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights," said former Chile president socialist Bachelet. Yet she claimed that: "This situation has been exacerbated by sanctions," generally targeting individuals within the Maduro regime. She also announced she was sending a mission to Venezuela to evaluate conditions here. (Channel News Asia: and more in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,


Guaidó seeks Venezuela’s public workers’ support, announces strikes

Immediately after he returned to Caracas Venezuela’s interim president Juan Guaidó announced to tens of thousands of supporters his plans for new protests. As part of his challenge to Maduro, Guaidó is attempting to take control of the state bureaucracy, which he considers having been "kidnapped" through blackmail and persecution. He met on Tuesday with union representatives as he escalated his campaign to topple Maduro with an appeal for support from state unions, long reliant on government handouts. Unions from the oil industry, basic services, the public bank and local government took part in Tuesday's meeting, union leader Ana Yanez told AFP. "The public administration is practically paralyzed. In the town halls, people only go to work three days a week and even then, barely half the day," said Yanez. Guaidó announced that the unions will launch a staggered strike within the public administration to continue exerting pressure to leave office on leftist incumbent Nicolas Maduro. "Public sector workers have lost practically all their rights, we have no other option but to call for a civic strike," said Guaidó. “We’re definitively moving toward a staggered strike in the public administration, a proposal made by the unions,” Guaidó said at a press conference. He added that at the meetings the participants promised to “build their abilities so as not to continue collaborating with the dictatorship, so that public employees will not find themselves obligated to cooperate any more or to be forced to do anything” by the Maduro regime. Hours earlier, Guaidó said police officials were among those at a meeting that he held with leaders of public employee unions, which rely heavily on subsidies from Maduro's government to get by in a country suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and other necessities. "We're not going to collaborate any longer with the dictatorship," Guaidó said after a meeting at the offices of an engineers' association in Caracas. He urged state workers to prepare for a strike, though no date was given, and he said an immediate priority will be to promote a law guaranteeing rights for public workers and said he would call a meeting of the legislature on Wednesday to craft the law. Guaidó announced that starting Wednesday, the National Assembly will begin meeting with the biggest union confederations, which gather together more than 600 unions, to coordinate future actions. Guaidó said: "They thought the pressure had already maxed out... They better know that the pressure has barely begun." Maduro immediately countered by offering to hold long-postponed collective bargaining talks nationwide with the unions. (Latin American Herald Tribune,; Local10:; Channel News Asia:; BBC News:; and more in Spanish: (Noticiero Venevisión,; AVN,


Maduro vows to defeat 'crazed minority'

Former President Nicolás Maduro has vowed to defeat a "crazed minority" that wants to remove him from power. In a challenge to opposition leader Juan Guaidó, he called for "anti-imperialist marches" on Saturday to coincide with anti-government protests. Maduro's comments were the first since Guaidó defied him and returned to the country on Monday. Appearing a day after his rival returned home to a tumultuous welcome, former president Nicolas Maduro denounced his opponents in a speech Tuesday at a military ceremony but did not refer by name to Juan Guaidó. The Maduro government's decision not to move against the interim president upon his return to Venezuela on Monday reflects the intense pressure Maduro faces and, possibly, a calculation that restraint is the best tactic for now. Some analysts speculate the two sides might consider behind-the-scenes negotiations to end the standoff. Still, Maduro was defiant during a ceremony marking the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez, belittling a "minority of opportunists and cowards." He said government supporters would hold a rally on Saturday, a "day of anti-imperialism" in his words, and a counter to U.S.-backed Guaidó’ s plans to hold nationwide protests the same day. Maduro also pinned medals on members of the security forces involved in a crackdown on Guaidó’ s failed Feb. 23 attempt to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Brazil and Colombia. Speaking at an event marking the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor and political mentor, Hugo Chávez, Maduro said: "While a crazed minority continues with their hatred, with their bitterness, it's their problem. We won't pay attention to them, compatriots." His call for marches on Saturday sets the stage for more confrontation with Guaidó. Maduro has done this before, calling his own counter-demonstration every time Guaidó announces a protest. But the opposition gatherings usually have the edge in numbers. (BBC News:; Channel News Asia:; Local10:


More Venezuela sanctions on the way, Abrams tells Congress

The U.S. is preparing to slap additional sanctions on financial institutions supporting Nicolas Maduro. U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday that the U.S. is “going to expand the net” of sanctions and visa restrictions on Maduro’s inner circle, their families and supportive companies as part of a campaign to drive the socialist president from power and install opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim leader. “There will be more sanctions on financial institutions that are carrying out orders from Maduro’s regime… stealing money and hiding it around the world,” Mr. Abrams said. Last week, the U.S. imposed “dozens” of new visa restrictions and sanctions on top officials of the Maduro regime and their families and on six Venezuelan security officials who have allegedly participated in obstructing international aid into the country. Mr. Abrams explained to the committee that “every time” the U.S. imposes new sanctions on a person or institutions, it is noted that “all visa revocations are reversible.” He did not detail the path toward reversing a visa revocation but said the U.S. has a plan in place. (The Washington Times:


Heavily armed soldiers aborted a plan to enter Venezuela by force

Late last month, as U.S. officials joined Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó near a bridge in Colombia to send desperately needed aid to the masses and challenge the rule of Nicolas Maduro, some 200 exiled soldiers were checking their weapons and planning to clear the way for the convoy. Led by retired General Cliver Alcala, who has been living in Colombia, they were going to drive back the Venezuelan national guardsmen blocking the aid on the other side. The plan was stopped by the Colombian government, which learned of it late and feared violent clashes at a highly public event it promised would be peaceful. (Bloomberg,


Cody Weddle, a U.S. journalist, is arrested in Venezuela and will be deported

An American freelance journalist with legal residence in Venezuela was arrested on Wednesday along with his Venezuelan assistant by the country’s military counterintelligence service, the latest episode in an expanding crackdown on press freedom amid the country’s long-running political crisis. The authorities held the reporter, Cody Weddle, 28, for several hours at the headquarters of the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence after searching his apartment, Mr. Weddle said in a voice message late Wednesday. He was then told he was going to be deported and was taken to the airport by armed men, he said. Lawyers in Venezuela said that Mr. Weddle’s assistant, Carlos Camacho, was released from police custody earlier in the evening. Mr. Weddle said around 6:40 a.m., four people from the military counterintelligence service arrived at his apartment with a search order. He said they put all his electronics in a briefcase, and more people arrived in civilian clothes to sweep the apartment — possibly looking for “spying equipment,” Mr. Weddle said. He was then taken to the agency’s headquarters, where he said he was masked and hooded for hours. The mask was taken off and Mr. Weddle was asked questions about his work as a journalist, he said. Mr. Weddle is a freelance reporter whose most frequent employer is the South Florida television network WPLG. He was later taken to the airport by men in bulletproof vests, he said, and was to fly to the United States on Thursday. Kimberly Breier, the United States assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said on Twitter earlier Wednesday that the State Department was aware of Mr. Weddle’s arrest and demanded his “immediate release, unharmed.” Mr. Weddle and Mr. Camacho joined dozens of journalists, both local and foreign, who have been detained in recent weeks in Venezuela. (The New York Times:


State Department supports Guaidó’ s status as interim president, chides media coverage

At the press briefing on Tuesday, spokesman Robert Palladino objected to news coverage describing Juan Guaidó as opposition leader or self-proclaimed president, rather than “interim president” as Washington has declared him to be. “Millions of Americans and more than 50 countries recognize Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela,” Palladino argued, so to refer to him otherwise “falls into the narrative of a dictator who has usurped the position of the presidency and led Venezuela into the humanitarian, political, and economic crisis that exists today.” (RT: and more in Spanish: (El Universal,ó)


Trump, unpopular elsewhere, has lots of fans in Venezuela

President Trump’s trade and other foreign policies have made him unpopular in many countries that are traditionally U.S. allies. But they love him in Venezuela. Polls show that the U.S. government’s toughening stance against Venezuela’s authoritarian regime in recent weeks has catapulted Mr. Trump up the popularity rankings in this crisis-stricken country. His favorable numbers are especially noteworthy in a region that has long been wary of American intrusion. (The Wall Street Journal:


Navy SEAL who killed Bin Laden warns of ‘bloody’ end to Venezuela crisis

Retired Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, who claims that he killed Osama Bin Laden in 2014, has predicted fatal consequences for the current political standoff in Venezuela. “What needs to happen is something along the lines of a coup. As much as I would like to see it [end in a way that is] non-violent, I think it’s going to end bloodily for [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro”, O’Neill told Fox Business. He claimed that the Venezuelan army is keeping Maduro in power and urged opposition leader and self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó to “turn the military around”. (Sputnik News:


Venezuela mental health institutions struggle in economic crisis

Years of economic hardship are taking a shocking toll on Venezuela's most vulnerable, leaving psychiatric patients without doctors, food or medicine. All over Venezuela, mental health institutions are struggling to provide medication and care through the country's economic crisis. The government has blamed the sanctions imposed by the United States, but doctors and facility workers said the problem began years ago. As the political and economic crises in Venezuela worsen, it is likely that patients with mental illness and others among the country's most vulnerable will fare the worst. (Al Jazeera:


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.