Archive for the ‘Venezuela’ Category

Retired Venezuelan General Hugo Carvajal Detained on U.S. Petition

| July 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

U.S. Alleges Carvajal Has Ties to Drug Trafficking, Colombian Marxist Rebels

By Kejal Vyas

CARACAS, Venezuela—A former chief of Venezuela’s military intelligence agency, accused by the U.S. of having ties to drug trafficking and Colombian Marxist rebels, was detained in Aruba on a petition from the American government, officials in the Caribbean island and the U.S. confirmed Thursday.

The detention of Hugo Carvajal, a retired military general who was awaiting confirmation as President Nicolás Maduro’s consul general to Aruba, is among the highest-profile arrests of a Venezuelan citizen in a cocaine trafficking case.

In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department had put him on a blacklist, which prohibits any American entity from doing business with him, alleging that he had protected the drug shipments of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and also provided the rebel group with weapons and logistical help.

Mr. Carvajal, who was detained Wednesday night on a provisional arrest request ... Read More

Does a caged chavista sing the blues?

| July 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
InterAmerican Security Watch

By Juan Cristobal Nagel| Caracas Chronicles

A few months ago, Nicolás Maduro appointed former general Hugo Carvajal to be Consul General of Venezuela to the Dutch island of Aruba. Yesterday, as Carvajal laid low in the island waiting for the Dutch government to approve his position, he was detained. The US had asked the Netherlands to incarcerate and extradite him.

Carvajal was head of Venezuela’s military intelligence (DGIM) for years. A high-ranking chavista military if there ever was one, he was a close confidant of Hugo Chávez, and is suspected of aiding and abetting Colombia’s FARC guerrillas. Ironically, among other posts he also headed the National Office against Organized Crime.

This 2008 story on Carvajal by the Colombian magazine Semana (in Spanish) is well worth a read. The story includes everything: torture, drug smuggling, coordination with the guerrillas. Una joyita, puej. The money quote is a whopper:

Although all of the aforementioned events leave serious doubts as to General Carvajal’s actions, perhaps the most serious of them all ... Read More

Venezuela just mortgaged another $4 billion of its oil exports to China

| July 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
Quartz

BY LILY KUO

Chinese president Xi Jinping pledged $4 billion in loans to Venezuela while visiting president Nicolás Maduro this week. The agreement will raise Caracas’s existing debts to Beijing by almost 25%, to over $20 billion—money that the country may find it increasingly difficult to repay.

China has lent its South American partner more than $40 billion since 2008 to help Caracas shore up its ailing economy, which is expected to slip into a recession this year and has suffered from shortages ranging from medicine to toilet paper. Venezuela has been paying that money back mostly with oil, but that is getting harder to do.

Every day, about 500,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil are exported to China, half of which go to pay off the country’s loans from Beijing. As of last month, outstanding debt totaled $17 billion, according to Venezuela’s vice president for the economy. The Maduro administration plans to pay ... Read More

Maduro necesita $15,000 millones para desmantelar el control cambiario

| July 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
El Nuevo Herald

POR ANTONIO MARIA DELGADO

El régimen de Nicolás Maduro necesita conseguir cerca de $15,000 millones para que el desmantelamiento del sistema de control de cambio no se le salga de las manos y hunda decididamente a Venezuela en un proceso hiperinflacionario, advirtieron analistas.

El régimen, que busca desesperadamente alguna fórmula que le permita lidiar con la grave crisis económica que aflige al país, tiene previsto anunciar en agosto sus planes para unificar en una sola tasa los tres distintos tipos de cambio vigentes, ante las abundantes señales de que el esquema cambiario actual está asfixiando aceleradamente lo que aún queda del aparato productivo nacional.

Pero expertos consultados dijeron que la unificación cambiaria –plan impulsado por el zar de la economía y ministro de Energía y Minas, Rafael Ramírez– no es suficiente para lidiar con los problemas que enfrenta la economía venezolana.

El proceso debe estar acompañado de una eliminación de las restricciones del mercado, ... Read More

China’s President Pledges Continued Aid to Venezuela

| July 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

BY KEJAL VYAS

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged additional financial support to Venezuela, as the oil-rich South American nation grapples with a moribund economy and a severe squeeze on hard currency.

Mr. Xi’s commitment to deepen economic ties comes on top of the more than $40 billion China has provided in loans to Venezuela since 2008 in exchange for oil. The bulk of those funds, which have been earmarked for unfinished infrastructure and housing projects as well as imports of electronics and oil drills, have done little to turn around Venezuela’s economic fortunes.

Mr. Xi and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, signed more than a dozen financial and bilateral cooperation agreements, including a renewal of a joint development fund in which China will contribute $4 billion that Venezuela will repay with an additional 100,000 barrels a day in crude.

“Everything we do with China is for the happiness of our people,” Mr. Maduro said ... Read More

Venezuela’s Auto Industry in a Free Fall

| July 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

BY EZEQUIEL MINAYA

This car-crazed country’s auto industry, once the third largest in South America, is seizing up as manufacturers struggle to produce a few vehicles a day.

Car makers, including global giants like Ford Motor Co. F +0.59% , Fiat Chrysler Automobiles F.MI -0.07% NV, General Motors Co. GM +0.84% and Toyota Motor Corp. 7203.TO +0.35% , have cut output by more than 80% in the first six months of the year compared with a year earlier because of a lack of dollars to pay parts suppliers, according to data compiled by the Automotive Chamber of Venezuela, which represents car makers.

“This is the first time I have ever seen things this bad,” said 61-year-old Antonio Lopez, a Ford worker who recently prepared a sedan for painting at the auto maker’s factory here. The cavernous Valencia pla`nt, about 110 miles west of Caracas, was quiet by midafternoon one day last month, with a ... Read More

China’s Xi eyes increased investment in Cuba

| July 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Yahoo News-01

Havana (AFP) – Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Cuba with hopes of expanding political and economic ties in the fellow communist nation.

The tour of the Americas’ only one-party communist nation is the last leg of a weeklong trip in the region that has already taken Xi to Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, as he reaches out to resource-rich countries often shunned by the United States and Europe.

The Chinese leader arrived in Havana late Monday from Caracas for the two-day official visit.

Xi aims to make his country — already Cuba’s second-largest trading partner after Venezuela and its primary source of credit — a major investor on the Caribbean island.

Coinciding with his trip, about 50 Chinese entrepreneurs traveled to Havana to explore business opportunities, attracted by foreign investment incentives and the future Mariel free trade zone outside the capital.

“We want Chinese businessmen to invest in Cuba and partner with Cuban companies,” said ... Read More

The Deep Roots of the Border Crisis

| July 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Daily Signal-01

MIKE GONZALEZ & ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

The violence in Central America that leads to the crisis at our border is not an isolated example of policy gone awry but the tipping point of a failing policy on Latin America. Exhibit 1 is Venezuela. We don’t hear much about Venezuela anymore since the Obama administration let its dictatorial president regain the upper hand.

Yet, Venezuela is the distribution point for much of the drugs that end up in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, which are then shipped from there to the United States. It is estimated that 75 percent of illegal drug flights outbound from South America land in Honduras and originate in Venezuela.

The cartels and street gangs that transship the drugs have overwhelmed the armed forces of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, giving them the No. 1, 4 and 5 highest murder rates in the world. This is why, when Central American ... Read More

Leopoldo Lopez’s jailing is a symptom of a sick Venezuela

| July 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Lilian Tintori

Lilian Tintori, wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, lives in Caracas.

This year, my husband, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López , spent his 43rd birthday behind bars. To mark Leopoldo’s birthday, our children, Manuela, 4 , and Leopoldo, 1, and I tried to bring him a birthday cake at the Ramo Verde military prison. We were turned away. We were forced to celebrate on the street outside the prison, where our family sang “Happy Birthday” to a life-size picture of him.

For our children, this was a poor substitute for seeing their father. It’s been a month since we last visited Leopoldo, and we miss him each day. In his absence, I am a single mother, a circumstance that has taken a toll on our family.

The irony is that my husband is not a criminal but rather a devoted father, husband and politician whose “offense” was urging Venezuelans to peacefully exercise their ... Read More

An Average Of 35 Protests Per Day In Venezuela, A Total Of 6,369 This Year

| July 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

During the first half of 2014, Venezuela endured an average of 35 protests per day across the nation, according to a report released by the NGO Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS).

So far this year, the number of recorded rallies is 6,369, the NGO said.

In the report entitled “Social Unrest in Venezuela in the First Half of 2014,” OVCS indicated that the first six months of this year have had the most protests seen in the last 10 years.

It estimated an increase of 278 percent over the first semester of 2013, when there were 1,687 rallies.

The wave of protests, which intensified in February, began with demands for the right to public safety as a response to astronomical rates of street crime and violence. In the following weeks, the NGO wrote in its report, the theme of the protests expanded to include demands for a range of rights: food, political participation, ... Read More

Xi heads to Venezuela after inking trade deals with Argentina

| July 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
Global Post

China’s President Xi Jinping departed Argentina Sunday for Venezuela, the next-to-last stop of a Latin American tour aimed at bolstering trade with the region.

The Chinese leader’s charm offensive seeks to secure new bilateral trade deals — particularly for coveted raw materials.

Xi hopes to further develop his country’s strategic relationship with Venezuela, just as Caracas’ ties with the United States — the region’s traditional political and economic powerhouse — are arguably at their lowest point ever.

The countries, which have not had ambassadors in each other’s capitals since 2010, had poor relations during the leadership of late president Hugo Chavez and ties have remained strained under his successor, Nicolas Maduro.

- Warming ties with Caracas -

By contrast, relations have been warming between China and Venezuela where bilateral trade has been steadily rising, exceeding $20 billion in 2012. Beijing now is also the second largest buyer of Venezuelan oil.

Xi’s visit to Caracas is sandwiched ... Read More

China’s Goals in South America

| July 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Diplomat

By Shannon Tiezzi

As Xi Jinping travels through South America this week, China’s goals for the region are on display. Even though Xi ’s tour of South America only sees him stopping in three countries (Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina), he has arranged meetings with even more leaders, including the presidents of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Amidst all the diplomatic niceties, what does China actually want to achieve with Xi’s trip?

The most obvious priority is expanding economic ties between China and South America. Trade between China and Latin America (a region encompassing South America, Central America, and the Caribbean) has skyrocketed in the past 15 years, rising from a total value of $12 billion in 2000 to $261 billion in 2013. And there’s still room for growth, as China’s bilateral trade volumes with individual countries remain relatively low. China has grown to be Latin America’s second largest trading partner and may ultimately has its sights ... Read More

Putin’s Pirates Of The Caribbean Tour

| July 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
IBD

Geopolitics: Vladimir Putin blew through Latin America last week, handing out goodies to anti-U.S. regimes. But he insists he doesn’t want to reopen an old spy base in Cuba, which we find disingenuous.

The scope of the Russian president’s visit took the U.S. by surprise. Instead of just attending the World Cup final and a summit of BRICS countries, Putin made an unexpected visit to Nicaragua, with talk of a military land base there. He then flew to Argentina, reportedly with promises for two nuclear plants, and on to Venezuela to offer a credit lifeline.

Last but not least, Putin stopped in Cuba to sign deals on everything from electricity output to exploration for oil with Rosneft (the company whose unsavory oligarch, Igor Sechin, was the target of Wednesday’s sanctions over Ukraine). There was also a dramatic announcement that Russia would forgive 90% of Cuba’s $35 billion debt.

But on Thursday, Putin denied that ... Read More

China, Russia leaders seek South American inroads

| July 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By JOSHUA GOODMAN

It’s enough to make an aging U.S. Cold Warrior shudder.

During overlapping visits to Latin America, the leaders of China and Russia have been welcomed with open arms by governments that are among the most hostile to Washington, including Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Together with stops in Argentina and Brazil, which both have distanced themselves from the U.S. in recent years, the tours underscore the mix of ideology and economics that’s allowing the two superpowers to expand their influence in America’s backyard.

“These are all countries the U.S. has some real question marks about,” said Kevin Gallagher, a Boston University economist and expert on Chinese-Latin American ties. “It’s going to require some PR so as not to be interpreted in certain, phobic circles as an overt alignment with left-leaning governments at odds with the U.S.”

Both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin said their visits were focused on ... Read More

Venezuela’s loss of thousands of oil workers has been other countries’ gain

| July 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

In 2003 Venezuela’s then president, Hugo Chávez, fired more than 18,000 employees, almost half the workforce, of the state-run oil corporation, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). Their offence was to have taken part in a strike (pictured) called in protest at the politicisation of the company. Their punishment was to be barred from jobs not only in PDVSA itself but also in any company doing business with the oil firm. The axe fell heavily on managers and technicians: around 80% of the staff at Intevep, PDVSA’s research arm, are thought to have joined the strike. At the stroke of a pen, Venezuela lost its oil intelligentsia.

It was a blow from which PDVSA has never recovered. The firm’s oil production has since stagnated (see chart), despite a big run-up in prices. The financial crisis bears some of the blame for that, as does the economic mismanagement of Chávez and, since last year, ... Read More

US should be ready if Petro Caribe tightens credit terms, study says

| July 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Oil and Gas Journal

By Nick Snow

The possibility that Venezuela’s financial support for energy imports in the region could erode quickly makes it imperative for the Obama administration to adopt a wide range of policies to avoid an energy crisis in the Caribbean and Central America, a recent Atlantic Council report said.

“It’s almost 10 years since Venezuela announced the Petro Caribe program, which sells products at market benchmarks, but provides credit financing,” David L. Goldwyn, president of Goldwyn Global Strategies LLC and a senior nonresident energy fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, said during a discussion of the report he co-wrote with Cory R. Gill.

Petro Caribe has been an enormous political success and a significant financial drain for Venezuela, he noted. It also has undermined budgets in the Caribbean and Central American countries that use it by keeping electricity prices high through continued use of fuel oil and diesel fuel to generate power, ... Read More

Top US Airlines Are Fleeing Venezuela Because Of Its Bizarre Currency Regime

| July 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Business Insider

ADAM LEVINE-WEINBERG

In the past month, each of the three top U.S. airlines — American Airlines, United Continental, and Delta Air Lines — have dramatically cut their flight schedules to Venezuela.

Indeed, airlines across the world have been complaining for months about the impact of currency manipulation and government regulations in Venezuela. Several other foreign carriers have stopped flying to Venezuela altogether this year. The U.S. legacy carriers have finally realized that they, too, need to cut their losses.

Venezuela’s bizarre currency regime Whereas most countries today operate with floating exchange rates that vary based on economic conditions across different countries, Venezuela has a fixed official exchange rate. For a long time, this official exchange rate has overvalued Venezuela’s local currency (the bolivar), causing a shortage of foreign currency.

For a while, airlines benefited from this situation. A loophole allowed Venezuelan citizens to exchange bolivars for up to $3,000 dollars at the official exchange rate if they were traveling ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro announces tax reform, more oversight as he struggles to fix economy

| July 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Jim Wyss

Venezuela might be bracing for tax hikes after President Nicolás Maduro said Tuesday he was preparing a “fiscal revolution” that was needed to continue financing the country’s social programs and subsidies.

During a televised speech, Maduro didn’t offer details about the plan but said it would be unveiled in coming weeks.

The beleaguered administration had said that major economic announcements were going to be made during the broadcast, fueling speculation that another currency devaluation might be in the works, but the hours-long speech provided few bombshells.

Along with the tax reform, Maduro said he planned to review the functioning of each ministry to “detect the true truth” — suggesting a shakeup might be in the works.

He also ordered an extensive audit of every company that received dollars at preferential rates during the first semester. He said more than 3,000 companies have already been barred from the program and are under investigation ... Read More

Sale of Paper in Venezuela Raises Fears on Freedom

| July 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By WILLIAM NEUMAN

CARACAS, Venezuela — One of Venezuela’s leading pro-opposition newspapers has been sold in a transaction shrouded in mystery, fueling growing concerns here over the independence of the news media.

The newspaper, El Universal, whose sale was announced this month, is the third major media outlet to change hands here since the death last year of the country’s longtime socialist president, Hugo Chávez, and the election of his handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro.

Venezuela is a deeply divided country, where propaganda and the news media have long been part of the political battleground between a powerful leftist state and an opposition concentrated in the middle class and the elite. The government operates at least 10 television stations and more than 100 radio stations, and critics say that independent media outlets increasingly feel pressured into silence or self-censorship.

The two other recent ... Read More

Reform drive puts strain on Chávez legacy

| July 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Andres Schipani in Guarenas, Venezuela

A red graffito of the late Hugo Chávez is sprayed on walls around the Venezuelan capital and nearby towns. Its legend is an apparent warning from the comandante to his successor, Nicolás Maduro. “Ouch, Nicolás – I see disaster.”

The message resonates deeply in a country where the economy is so badly run that even recent presidential broadcasts have been interrupted by power cuts. The ruling socialist party, the PSUV, is also suffering from internal rifts ahead of its third congress at the end of July. The question there will be whether Mr Maduro and the pragmatists in his cabinet are strong enough to push for more reforms.

At stake is the economic survival of Chávez’s “21st-century socialism”. Since taking office in April 2013, Mr Maduro has struggled to unite the PSUV, where factional discord has pushed Venezuela deeper into the economic mire, despite the largest oil ... Read More

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