Archive for the ‘Venezuela’ Category

U.S. Congressman urges Obama to block Venezuela’s Citgo sale

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY ZACHARY FAGENSON

Aug 27 (Reuters) – A U.S. congressman urged the Obama administration on Wednesday to block the proposed sale by Venezuela’s state oil company of its North American refining unit Citgo, saying it would be against “vital national interests”.

Venezuela Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said earlier this month that the country aims to exit Citgo “as soon as we receive a proposal that serves our interests.”

Citgo has three U.S. refineries in Illinois, Louisiana and Texas with combined capacity of some 750,000 barrels per day, and it also has 48 terminals.

Flanked by Venezuelan opposition figures, U.S. Representative Joe Garcia said the proposed sale by Venezuela’s socialist-led government was “a huge concern.”

The value of Citgo, he said, was derived from the refiner’s links to Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA and the OPEC nation’s crude oil reserves, which are the biggest in the world.

“It ... Read More

Trapped in Venezuela: Airlines Abandon Fliers Amid Currency Dispute

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 By KEJAL VYAS CARACAS, Venezuela—When this city’s professional soccer club traveled to a key match in Peru, its tough rival wasn’t the only challenge. The team also had to endure an arduous four-day journey, including four connecting flights, a layover in neighboring Colombia and a jarring, cross-border bus ride. Like many of their compatriots, the players simply couldn’t get a flight that would take them where they wanted to go.

The 20-man team was a victim of the long-simmering dispute between international airlines and the leftist administration of President Nicolas Maduro. With the cash-strapped government holding back on releasing $3.8 billion in airline-ticket revenue because of strict currency controls, carriers have slashed service to Venezuela by half since January, adding another layer of frustration to daily life here.

The lack of flights is complicating family vacations, business trips and the evacuation plans of Venezuelans who want to leave the country, which is whipsawed by 60% inflation, ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro: Fingerprinting at shops is voluntary

| August 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

Venezuela’s recently announced fingerprinting system, aimed at combating food shortages and smuggling, is to be “voluntary,” President Nicolas Maduro has said.

Mr Maduro appeared to backtrack after ordering last week that fingerprinting in shops that sell food be compulsory.

He stressed the biometric system would stop people from buying too much of a single item and fight consumerism.

But the Venezuelan opposition called on all Venezuelans to boycott the scheme.

It has rejected the plan, saying it treated all Venezuelans as thieves.

However President Maduro defended his government’s policy: “We will detect where the smugglers are and we will capture them.”

He told a party meeting in the capital, Caracas, that the implementation of the system would be “voluntary” and start “in the next few days”.

Up to 40% of the goods which Venezuela subsidises for its domestic market are smuggled to Colombia, where they are sold at much higher prices, the authorities ... Read More

Dollar shortage crimps Venezuela

| August 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

Daniela Toledo knew exactly what to ask for as a gift when her boss went on vacation to the Caribbean.

Instead of a carton of duty free cigarettes or a bottle of whisky, the Venezuelan wanted a stick of her favorite deodorant, which she’d been unable to find at home. A complex system of official and unofficial exchange rates, a legacy of the late former President Hugo Chavez’s 14-year rule, has left Venezuela with a shortage of dollars and stores empty of basics from toilet paper to medicine.

“I went to five shops in Caracas and couldn’t find it,” the 27-year-old factory worker said in an Aug. 14 interview in Venezuela’s capital. “The only deodorant I can find here doesn’t work for me. So my boss went abroad and he brought me back the deodorant I’ve always used.”

A decade and a half of increasing government control over the economy and official policy ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro more authoritarian than Chávez, analysts warn

| August 25th, 2014 | No Comments »
Baltimore-01

BY LARRY LUXNER

Beset with annual inflation of 62 percent, one of the world’s highest homicide rates and shortages of just about everything, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro is struggling to save his endangered presidency — even as relations with the United States get worse.

Earlier this summer, the Obama administration announced it was suspending the U.S. visas of “a number of Venezuelan government officials who have been responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses.” That follows “street mobilizations” organized by the Maduro government last February in which 43 people died, hundreds were injured and between 2,000 and 3,000 were thrown in prison.

It also came three days after the State Department failed to secure the extradition of Gen. Hugo Carvajal, Venezuela’s former intelligence chief, who was wanted in the U.S. on drug charges and had been detained on the Dutch-speaking island of Aruba.

Those affected by the visa revocation include high-ranking Venezuelan military, National Guard ... Read More

Maduro prepara mecanismo óptimo de control social: el racionamiento electrónico

| August 25th, 2014 | No Comments »
El Nuevo Herald

Se anunció como un instrumento para combatir el contrabando, pero la instauración de un sistema de identificación biométrico en los supermercados venezolanos podría terminar convirtiéndose en un asfixiante mecanismo de intimidación y control social que aumentaría la dependencia del ciudadano al régimen bolivariano y sofocaría en muchos la disposición a protestar.

Analistas consultados dijeron que los polémicos planes de instaurar un sistema de identificación en los supermercados no es nada más que los primeros pasos para establecer un sistema de racionamiento computarizado, inspirado en la experiencia cubana, que terminará siendo utilizado para doblegar la voluntad de disentir de los venezolanos.

“En Venezuela están imitando muchas de las cosas que han hecho Cuba. La influencia cubana, la asesoría cubana, es crítica dentro del chavismo”, comentó Jaime Suchlicki, director del Instituto de Estudios Cubano y Cubano Americanos.

En este caso, se estarían uniendo la experiencia en represión ... Read More

Venezuela plans to introduce supermarket fingerprinting

| August 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela has announced a mandatory fingerprinting system in supermarkets to combat food shortages and smuggling.

He said the system would stop people from buying too much of a single item.

But the opposition in Venezuela rejected the plan, saying the policy treated all Venezuelans as thieves.

Critics said fingerprinting consumers of staple products was tantamount to rationing and constituted a breach of privacy.

Up to 40% of the goods which Venezuela subsidises for its domestic market are smuggled to Colombia, where they are sold at much higher prices, the authorities say.

“The amount of staples smuggled to Colombia would be enough to load the shelves of our supermarkets,” Gen Efrain Velasco Lugo, a military spokesman, told El Universal newspaper earlier this week.

The opposition blames what it says are the failed left-wing policies of the past 15 years – initiated by late President Hugo Chavez – for the ... Read More

Chavez Propaganda Tool for Sale as Crisis Worsens: Andes Credit

| August 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

BY PIETRO D. PITTS

A decade ago, Hugo Chavez started using Venezuela’s Citgo Petroleum Corp. to provide heating oil to the poor in the U.S. to spread his socialist message. His successor is now seeking to sell the company to stem the South American country’s deepening economic crisis.

State-owned producer Petroleos de Venezuela SA wants at least $10 billion for Citgo, its U.S. refining and distribution arm, company president and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said Aug. 5. Since energy news agency Argus first reported the potential sale July 24, Venezuela’s bonds have plunged an average 5.9 percent, the most inemerging markets after Argentina’s defaulted debt, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The planned sale highlights the increasing financial stress faced by President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s handpicked replacement, in a country where a dwindling supply of dollars has left shortages of everything from basic medicines to toilet paper, as well as the world’s highest inflation rate. Citgo, which has had a recognized ... Read More

Maduro’s Rating Falls to 39% in Venezuela Poll on Economy

| August 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Anatoly Kurmanaev

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s approval rating fell 21 percentage points this year to 39 percent in August, as the economy worsened, according to an Hinterlaces poll.

“The people are waiting for answers, for solutions,” Oscar Schemel, director of the polling company, said by telephone from Caracas today. “There’s a lot of uncertainty about the direction of the economy.”

Currency and price controls pushed annual inflation to 60.9 percent in May, the fastest in the world, while gross domestic product shrank 2.1 percent in the second quarter, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Slumping popularity has made Maduro reluctant to make economic adjustments such as raising gasoline prices or devaluing the bolivar, Eurasia Group analyst Risa Grais-Targow said in a client note Aug. 18. The government will start rationing basic products with biometric sensors before year-end, according to the country’s price controls ombudsman.

Maduro’s approval fell from highs ... Read More

Hospitals in Venezuela virtually closed for lack of materials

| August 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
Local 10

BY HELENA POLEO

Hospitals all over Venezuela suffer from a critical shortage of basic medical materials, from saline to gloves and medications, causing a nationwide health crisis.

The president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation, Douglas León Natera, states that Venezuelan hospitals are “virtually closed” due to medical material shortages. In the group’s estimate, 98 percent of the medical facilities have no way to operate.

“If they are open, it is because the health workers have decided to continue working at their own risk,” he told the Agence France-Presse.

This oil-producing country imports 98 percent of its drugs and medical equipment, and the shortage of dollars and strict currency controls in the Venezuelan economy has severely affected all types of medical providers. The Pharmaceutical Federation estimates that drug shortages has reached 60 percent, while the Venezuelan Association of Distributors of Medical, Dental, Laboratory and Related Equipment (Avedem) reports there are “absolute deficiencies” in 85 percent ... Read More

Morris Beschloss: Venezuela Abandons Citgo-Petroleum Corp. and Supplemental U.S. Holdings

| August 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Desert Sun-01

The unofficial announcement by Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, that it is in the process of selling major U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum Corporation in addition to three refineries, representing a combined 750,000 barrels per day conversion capability, has geopolitical, as well as energy-oriented ramifications.

Caracas is already closely allied with fellow U.S. antagonist Cuba, while providing Iran with a strong footprint in the Western Hemisphere. The late dictator Hugo Chavez, who first “socialized” Venezuela and seems to have established that energy rich nation in the Sino/Russian/Iranian world camp, has also perpetuated a distinct anti-U.S. point of view, leading to a breakdown with America economically, as well as politically.

While Venezuela harbors South America’s largest crude oil reserves, it also sits on a huge additional complement of Canada-like “oil sands,” second only to Canada in tar-sands reserves in the Athabasca region of its Alberta Province.

Citgo’s refineries are located in Chicago’s suburb of Lemont, IL, ... Read More

Venezuela as a Distressed Seller

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

BY CHRISTOPHER SWANN

Venezuela is digging its way to distressed seller status.

The country wants to offload Citgo, its American refinery and pipelines unit. It may be worth up to $15 billion, money that’s sorely needed because of President Nicolás Maduro’s foolish economic policies. And the drop in value of heavy-oil assets like Citgo owns makes it a bad time to sell.

There can be advantages to getting rid of refining businesses.ConocoPhillips, for example, spun out its fuel-processing plants as a standalone company in May 2012. The two separate companies are now worth a total of 61 percent more.

Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA has a different motive. Mr. Maduro’s administration is running out of cash. That’s the result of anti-business policies — including price controls and nationalization — that have depressed local production and increased reliance on imports. Access to dollars is rationed ... Read More

New owners of leading Venezuelan newspaper fire columnists and change editorial line

| August 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Journalism in the Americas

BY DYLAN BADDOUR

A leading Venezuelan newspaper that was recently sold to anonymous investors appears to be shifting its opposition editorial line weeks after pledging not to. The managing editor at El Universal, Elides Rojas, told the International Press Institute (IPI) that the newspaper’s new president had “ordered a complete revision of the opinion section” and had suspended or dismissed editorial staff.

El Universal has been a vocal critic of the Venezuelan government, especially on its editorial pages.

Weeks ago, the spokesman for the group of unknown buyers who bought the 105-year-old newspaper last month, Jose Luis Basanta, dismissed fears that the buyers had a political agenda in an interview with Bloomberg News.

“The editorial line is not going to be touched but only the days, the weeks and the months ahead will be able to demonstrate that,” he told Bloomberg.

... Read More

Opposition Fails to Exploit Venezuela’s Woes, Leader Says

| August 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

BY JUAN FORERO

Venezuela’s de facto opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, said the country’s opposition movement was divided and unable to take advantage of the government’s inability to improve a deeply troubled economy.

“There’s like a short circuit, with the opposition apparently not in tune with the problems of a majority of Venezuelans,” said Mr. Capriles in a Tuesday interview. “The government is weak, unpopular, but there’s an opposition that is not capitalizing on the discontent, because the opposition is in this internal debate that doesn’t interest Venezuelans.”

That political scenario comes despite months of student protests this year against rampant crime, food scarcity and soaring inflation that shook President Nicolás Maduro’s government and resulted in a crackdown that left dozens dead and hundreds jailed before it fizzled in April, rights groups say.

Mr. Maduro’s popularity has plummeted in recent months to 35.4%, as four of every five Venezuelans believe the oil-rich nation is headed in ... Read More

Chavez Friends Get Rich After His Death as Venezuela Slides Into Chaos

| August 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

BY MICHAEL SMITH & ANATOLY KURMANAEV

Retired Venezuelan Army Captain William Biancucci paces around his sparsely furnished Caracas office, clutching a red, bound copy ofHugo Chavez’s socialist constitution. He’s discussing his plans to buy a private jet to ease travel to and from his cattle ranch in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest. From a sprawling stretch of pastureland, he packs cows by the thousands on ships headed to Venezuela.

Biancucci, 55, who grew up poor, says he won contracts to supply Venezuela with livestock thanks to friendships with military officers now in the government. His voice rises with emotion as he says he’s been a devotee of Chavez since military college, when the late leader was his history professor.

In 1992, Biancucci joined 140 other officers in staging a coup attempt led by Chavez. Although the coup failed, Chavez was elected president six years later — and Biancucci’s business thrived. Socialism, Biancucci says, is the ... Read More

Why Sanctions Are Right in the Case of Venezuela

| August 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Huffington Post

BY SERGIO MUÑOZ BATA

I beg to differ with liberals who say the recent U.S. sanctions against individual members of the Venezuelan government are counterproductive. By the same token, I disagree with conservatives who dismiss them for being too light and applaud the White House and Congress’ efforts to punish Venezuelan drug traffickers and human rights violators for a very simple reason: in the rigged system of justice that Hugo Chavez set up in the country, it is impossible for any member of its repressive political system to ever face justice in a court of law.

The latest sanctions controversy came about last month after a period of relative calm in the stormy relationship between the United States and Venezuela and should serve as a reminder that the interactions between the two countries continue to be prickly and could get worse.

The first confrontation came when the State Department requested the government of ... Read More

Venezuela to close Colombia border each night

| August 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

Venezuela says it will close its border with Colombia at night from Monday, to try to stop large-scale smuggling of petrol and food.

The government says that tonnes of goods – produced in Venezuela and heavily subsidised – are sold in Colombia at much higher prices.

The shortage of many staples in Venezuela’s western border area this year led to anti-government protests.

The border closure was agreed with the Colombian government.

President Nicolas Maduro discussed the measures with his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, at a summit on 1 August.

The 2,200km-long (1,360 miles) border will be closed between 22:00 local time and 05:00 every night.

Cargo vehicles, including vans and lorries, will be banned from crossing from Venezuela to Colombia between 18:00 and 05:00.

‘Failed policies’

The cross-border smuggling is also a problem for Colombia, with a big loss in taxes and complaints of unfair competition by local businessmen.

The profits are often used ... Read More

Emails: Mary Landrieu, Citgo fend off Venezuela sanctions

| August 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Politico

BY BYRON TAU

Oil company Citgo teamed up with Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu to block a package of Venezuelan sanctions that senators were considering last week, emails obtained by POLITICO reveal.

Citgo — the wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela’s national oil company — raised concerns that the package targeted at human rights abusers would hurt the company’s ability to import crude oil to its Gulf Coast refinery in Port Charles, La., eliminating jobs, according to the documents.

Landrieu’s office confirmed her involvement in heading off the sanctions package. The Louisiana Democrat faces a tough reelection fight and is under pressure to show she can wield her energy chairmanship to help her state.

According the emails, Citgo’s concerns set off a last-minute scramble on Capitol Hill to determine what Landrieu’s objections to the bill were and whether they could be resolved before Congress left town. Her concerns ultimately resulted ... Read More

Venezuela Says It Wants at Least $10 Billion for Citgo

| August 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

BY PIETRO D. PITTS & ANATOLY KURMANAEY 

Venezuela won’t accept less than $10 billion for its oil refining and marketing assets in the U.S., the head of state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA said.

“Their value is much, much more,” Rafael Ramirez, president of the oil producer known as PDVSA, told reporters today. PDVSA is receiving offers for Houston-based subsidiary Citgo Petroleum Corp. and will sell the company if an acceptable proposal is made, he said, without elaborating further.

“We are not a refining company, we’re an oil producing company,” Ramirez said during the commemoration of 100 years of Venezuelan oil production in Zulia state.

Citgo said PDVSA has put it up for sale in a July 29 bond prospectus. The company owns three refineries capable of handling about 749,000 barrels a day in Louisiana, Texas and Illinois. The company sells gasoline through about 6,000 stations and donates heating oil to 200,000 low-income families during winters.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro is seeking to sell foreign refineries ... Read More

Menor demanda externa reduce crecimiento de América Latina

| August 5th, 2014 | No Comments »
El Nuevo Herald

AFP

SANTIAGO – La menor demanda externa de materias primas por parte de los socios de América Latina y el Caribe, principalmente China, llevó a Cepal a reducir su estimación del crecimiento de la región de 2.7% a 2.2% en el 2014.

A la menor demanda externa se suma “un bajo dinamismo de la demanda interna, insuficiente inversión y un limitado espacio para la implementación de políticas que impulsen la reactivación”, sostuvo la Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (Cepal) en un informe económico presentado este lunes.

El menor crecimiento de China es “el principal riesgo” en lo que queda de año para los países de la región exportadores de materias primas.

En tanto, el crecimiento de Europa y Japón, otros importantes socios comerciales de Latinoamérica, caerá de 0.5% a 0.2% y de 1.7% a 1.4% respectivamente, lo que también significará una menor demanda de las ... Read More

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