Posts Tagged ‘Hugo Chávez’

Should We Be Worried about Iran’s Moves in the Western Hemisphere?

| October 31st, 2014 | No Comments »
The National Interest

By Ilan Berman

Sometimes, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees. Optimism may currently be running high in Washington that next month’s deadline for negotiations will yield some sort of durable deal over Iran’s nuclear program. But amid all of the diplomatic euphoria, one aspect of the Iranian challenge has received remarkably short shrift: its expanding presence and activities in our own hemisphere.

This is surprising, given the fact that the Islamic Republic’s capacity to threaten the U.S. homeland is comparatively well known. Back in October of 2011, U.S. law-enforcement agencies foiled a plot orchestrated by elements of Iran’s feared clerical army, the Revolutionary Guards, to kill Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the United States in a DC restaurant, using Mexico’s notorious Los Zetas cartel as a proxy.

The event jolted Congress awake to Iran’s growing presence in our own hemisphere. The result was the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act ... Read More

Venezuela’s Decision To Import Oil Is The Perfect Example Of Just How Screwed The Country Is

| October 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Business Insider

By Mike Bird

Despite being one of the largest oil producers in the world, Venezuela has started buying light crude oil from Algeria for the first time, Bloomberg reports.

Until recently, the Venezuelan government had been buying naphtha on open markets to treat its oil. That’s because the extra heavy crude produced by Venezuela needs to be diluted before it can be exported. But a combination of falling oil prices (which makes the country’s major export less profitable) and devalued currency (which makes buying things abroad increasingly expensive) has created a conundrum.

Naphtha is more expensive than buying light crude, which is mixed with the heavy crude to dilute it. Earlier in October, sources told Reuters that Venezuela was also importing light crude from Russia.

While the government holds an official exchange rate of 6.2 Venezuelan bolivars to the dollar, the bolivar is worth far less on the black market and the dollar is worth far more.

The shortage of ... Read More

Venezuela’s debts to China – well, that’s alright then

| October 29th, 2014 | No Comments »

By John Paul Rathbone

When oil prices fall, it’s a fair bet that Venezuela’s economy will suffer. After all, that has been the case every time oil prices have fallen in the past. When Venezuela’s official gazette then publishes a legal notice on October 10 saying that its oil-for-loans scheme with China had been tweaked, it is also a fair bet that this would be taken as a sign of Venezuelan economic distress and maybe even a default on loans from its closest ally, China. That is how beyondbrics and many others understood it. How wrong one can be — sort of.

A quick re-cap. Under the amended agreement, Caracas no longer has to send a minimum 330,000 barrels per day of oil to Beijing to service some of the $50bn China has loaned to Venezuela since 2006. Instead, Caracas can decide what the minimum oil shipments will ... Read More

Venezuela sees cabinet shakeup amid rift speculation

| October 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY JIM WYSS

Venezuela on Friday ousted Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez after he was fingered by pro-government “chavista” groups for being responsible for the deaths of a handful of their leaders during clashes earlier this month.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro made the announcement Friday amid a mini-cabinet shuffle. Taking Rodriguez’s place is Carmen Meléndez, who had been Minister of Defense since July 2013. Gen. Vladimir Padrino López, a government loyalist and outspoken U.S. critic, will become the head of the armed forces.

Maduro didn’t mention the controversy swirling around Rodriguez but said the outgoing cabinet member would have “15 days of rest” before being appointed to other duties.

The change comes after an Oct. 7 clash between police and pro-government “colectivos” left at least five of their leaders dead including the head of the “March 5” colectivo Jose Odreman.

The colectivos, formed early in the administration of late President Hugo Chávez, are seen as part of the administration’s informal muscle. Some ... Read More

Venezuela Cancels Plan to Sell US Oil Refiner Citgo

| October 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By Kejal Vyas

CARACAS—Venezuela has scrapped plans to sell U.S. refining unit Citgo, the country’s finance minister said in an interview published Sunday by a local newspaper, offering the government’s clearest statement yet on the potential divestiture.

Amid severe dollar shortages and economic woes that have roiled this oil-rich country and sparked fears of a default on external debt, officials indicated earlier this year that they were looking to sell Citgo for as much as $10 billion.

But President Nicolás Maduro last month puzzled analysts when he said that Venezuela plans were to “fortify our investment” into the Houston-based refiner, which is wholly owned by state energy giant Petróleos de Venezuela SA.

“The sale of Citgo is discarded and the president already asserted it,” Finance Minister Rodolfo Marco told local daily El Universal in response to a list of questions on the country’s economic situation.

When asked whether banks hired by the government will continue ... Read More

Peter Foster: The limits of Ecuador’s shakedown statism

| October 25th, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Post

By Peter Foster

The great eighteenth century lexicographer and wit Samuel Johnson described second marriage as the “triumph of hope over experience.” How then might one characterize the tendency of Canadian mining companies to return again and again to the altar of commerce with foreign government partners who recall Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction?

This week, Vancouver-based Lundin Group confirmed that a subsidiary would take over the Fruta del Norte prospect in Ecuador from Toronto-based Kinross Gold Corporation for US$240 million. Ecuador is run by the left-wing caudillo windbag Rafael Correa, whose hero was Hugo Chavez, the man who turned oil-rich Venezuela into a basket case.

Mr. Correa’s  preferred mode of money-raising is the shakedown. The two most spectacular examples in recent years have been an attempt, via the “Yasuni Initiative,” to blackmail the rest of the world into putting up US$3.6 billion in return for Mr. Correa (italics) not (close italics) drilling ... Read More

Low oil prices fuel death spiral of Venezuelan regime

| October 24th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Roger Noriega

Oil prices plummeting to four-year lows has compounded Venezuela’s budget and governability crisis, leading that government to call for an emergency meeting of OPEC member nations. Until now, Venezuela’s petrodollars have prevented a complete collapse. Now that oil prices are declining drastically, the government does not have the revenue to placate its political base and buy off power-hungry rivals. (Ironically, the reliable source of oil revenue from the United States is propping up Maduro’s hostile regime.)

The price of oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate dropped today to its lowest point in over 4 years, reaching just $80.38 a barrel. Experts point to two causes for the steep decline, an excess supply and a decision by Saudi Arabia to cut its prices in hopes of undermining competition from US shale. Oil revenue is vital to Venezuela’s economy, making up 95% of its export earnings and nearly half of its fiscal ... Read More

Venezuelan victory is bad news for Washington

| October 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Star

By Oakland Ross

This month’s election of socialist Venezuela to a two-year term on the UN Security Council is one more sign of dwindling U.S. influence in Latin America, a part of the world once regarded as Washington’s “backyard,” according to some experts on the region.

“Latin America has become a dead star (for Washington),” said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a somewhat left-tilting think tank based in Washington. “It is simply not in the administration’s workbook.”

In the past — most recently in 2006 — the U.S. government has resorted to determined diplomatic arm-twisting to prevent Venezuela from joining the UN’s powerful inner sanctum.

This time, Washington mounted only a muted opposition, but even that campaign was roundly ignored by UN member states on Oct. 16 when 181 of 193 countries voted to vault Venezuela into a two-year term as one of the Security Council’s 10 non-permanent members.

One ballot ... Read More

Venezuela seizes warehouses packed with medical goods, food

| October 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
Yahoo News-01

By Andrew Cawthorne

CARACAS (Reuters) – President Nicolas Maduro’s government said on Thursday it had taken over warehouses around Venezuela crammed with medical goods and food that “bourgeois criminals” were hoarding for speculation and contraband.

The socialist government says businessmen and wealthy opponents are trying to sabotage the economy to bring Maduro down, while also seeking to make profits from hoarding, price-gouging and smuggling across the border to Colombia.

Critics say 15 years of failed policies of state intervention are to blame for the OPEC nation’s widespread shortages, high inflation and apparently recessionary economy. They accuse nouveau riche officials and military officers of illegal business practices.

Maduro gave a live address to the nation from one of two warehouses seized in central Aragua state, where he said 14 million syringes and 2 million surgical gloves were among a massive hoard of medical equipment bound for Colombia.

“There’s enough medical equipment here ... Read More

Despite Riches, Venezuela Starts Food Rationing

| October 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By Sara Schaefer Muñoz

MARACAIBO, Venezuela—Amid worsening shortages, Venezuela recently reached a milestone of dubious distinction: It has joined the ranks of North Korea and Cuba in rationing food for its citizens.

On a recent, muggy morning, Maria Varge stood in line outside a Centro 99 grocery store, ready to scour the shelves for scarce items like cooking oil and milk. But before entering, Ms. Varge had to scan her fingerprint to ensure she wouldn’t buy more than her share.

Despite its technological twist on the old allotment booklet, Venezuela’s new program of rationing is infuriating consumers who say it creates tiresome waits, doesn’t relieve shortages and overlooks the far-reaching economic overhauls the country needs to resolve the problem.

“These machines make longer lines,” said Ms. Varge, 50, as she was jostled by people in line, “but you get inside, and they still don’t have what you want.”

The government rolled out the system last ... Read More

Venezuela Prepares 2015 Budget in Wake of Tumbling Oil Prices

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

By Ezequiel Minya

CARACAS—Venezuela’s finance minister assured lawmakers Tuesday that the country was poised to handle sliding oil prices and wouldn’t default on its debt, while proposing a 35% increase in the 2015 budget.

“It’s important to emphasize that we are prepared to deal with whatever scenario that presents itself with the price of petroleum,” Rodolfo Marco Torres said.

Venezuela, which depends on oil for 96% of its export revenue, has seen the price for its crude slide to $77.65 a barrel, the lowest since late 2010 and a drop of $15 since late September.

A scarcity of dollars has spurred shortages of basic goods in the import-dependent country and made investors increasingly nervous. Oil rich but cash strapped, Venezuela carries a total of $67.4 billion in debt issued by the government and state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, also known as PdVSA.

The country’s budget deficit registers at 16.9% of gross domestic product, government ... Read More

Venezuela Does Not Deserve a Seat on the Security Council

| October 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By Ernesto Londoño

The timing certainly was awkward.

On Monday, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for the release of political prisoners in Venezuela, arguing that their detention has been unjustifiably “prolonged and arbitrary.”

Incredibly, that scolding, the most high profile in the case of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López, came not even a week after Venezuela secured a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council, the organization’s most powerful body. How to explain the dichotomy? In a nutshell, Latin American governments were spineless.

Given Venezuela’s dismal record on human rights, its tumbling economy and its brutal crackdown on the opposition earlier this year, no one can credibly argue that Caracas deserves a seat on the council. Many organizations, including the editorial boards of The Times and The Washington Post, called on regional capitals to pick a different nation for the seat. But ... Read More

Venezuela, Ninth-Biggest Oil Producer, Confirms It’s Importing Crude

| October 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
International Business Times

By Brianna Lee

Venezuela’s state-owned oil company confirmed this week that it was set to receive its first shipment of light crude oil from Algeria. This marks the first-ever import of oil for Venezuela, which has the largest oil reserves in the world and is the ninth-biggest oil producer.

Venezuela’s exports of oil extracted by state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) make up the government’s largest source of revenue. But oil production has declined over the years, exacerbating the country’s problems with a limited foreign currency supply, and critics say mismanagement of PDVSA is largely to blame. Meanwhile, global oil prices have slipped by more than 25 percent since June.

Venezuela produces mostly a type of oil known as extra heavy crude, which necessitates the addition of light crude to make it more exportable. Venezuela had been buying naphtha as a diluent in recent years, as domestic stocks of light and medium crude oil have dwindled. But ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro approval rating drops to 30 percent, poll says

| October 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

Reporting by Girish Gupta, Writing by Brian Ellsworth, Editing by W Simon

(Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s approval rating dropped to 30.2 percent in September from 35.4 percent in July, according to a survey by pollster Datanalisis, amid an ongoing economic crisis that has weighed on his popularity.

The OPEC nation faces the highest annual inflation in the Western Hemisphere at 63.4 percent, chronic shortages of consumer goods and an economy that business leaders say has entered recession.

The poll conducted between Sept. 25 and Oct. 7 showed that 80.1 percent of those interviewed have an unfavorable perception of the country’s state-led economic model, created by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

Maduro narrowly won the presidency last year following Chavez’s death from cancer and his popularity has slid consistently since then.

The overall situation of the country was viewed negatively by 81.6 percent of the population, according to the poll.

Support for Henrique Capriles, ... Read More

Colombia police arrest Venezuelan troops after illegal border crossing

| October 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
Colombia Reports

By Craig Corbett

Five members of the Venezuelan military were arrested on Sunday morning after illegally crossing into Colombia.

The armed troops allegedly crossed into La Parada in North East Colombia by mistake, and were attempting to return to Venezuela when they were stopped and arrested by Colombian police.

Local police had been notified by concerned locals, who witnessed the truck containing armed Venezuelan troops crossing the border via the Simon Bolivar International bridge.

Representatives from Colombia migration authorities said the five Venezuelans “entered Colombian territory without realizing that had crossed the border, at a time when conducting an inspection in the town of Ureña in Venezuela.”

The troops were escorted to migration authorities in Cucuta. Police and government authorities were met by Venezuelan representatives to discuss the issue, and to negotiate the troop’s release.

Venezuelan authorities released a statement saying that “thanks to the timely intervention of the Colombian law enforcement a problem was avoided and delivery ... Read More

Maduro supporters, foes stage rival protests in polarized Venezuela

| October 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) – Red-clad “Chavistas” rallied in central Caracas on Saturday to protest the killing of a young ruling party lawmaker, while across town a protest called by the opposition’s new leader failed to attract as big a crowd.

The government says the stabbing to death of the 27-year old Robert Serra in his home earlier this month is part of a wider plot by an elitist, self-interested opposition to bring down Venezuela’s socialist experiment, created by beloved late president Hugo Chavez.

“Do you know why they killed Robert Serra?,” President Nicolas Maduro said at the rally in front of a podium emblazoned with the slogan “Against terrorism”.

“To silence us! The right-wing fascists are scared of young rebels, young revolutionaries,” said Maduro, clad in a yellow, blue and red Venezuelan tracksuit.

Several arrests have been made in Serra’s case, including one of his bodyguards. Maduro has also blamed Colombian paramilitaries, although some ... Read More

Falling oil prices put pressure on Russia, Iran and Venezuela

| October 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Editorial Board

THE SILVER lining in the recent financial market turbulence has been the continued decline in the price of oil, which is down about 25 percent since June. In addition to creating a windfall for U.S. consumers — one analysis reckoned the savings could amount to $600 per household — the drop, if sustained, will place considerable pressure on three problematic petrostates: Russia, Iran and Venezuela. The aggressively anti-American foreign policies pursued by all three countries in recent years have been financed in large part by soaring oil revenue.

Though separated by culture and continent, the regimes of Vladi­mir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Nicolás Maduro have in common autocratic government and ambitions to dominate their regions. More than half of their state budgets come from petroleum exports, and their spending plans depend on high prices: $100 a barrel in the case of Russia, $120 for Venezuela and $140 for ... Read More

Venezuela Vulnerable to Oil’s Fall

| October 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By Sara Schaefer Muñoz and Ezequiel Minaya

CARACAS—This week’s plummeting world oil prices are throwing into doubt financial stability in Venezuela, which relies on the commodity for most of its income.

Oil exporters from Russia to Iran are suffering with the lowest crude oil prices since June 2012. But few are as vulnerable as Venezuela, where a free-spending populist government had already been grappling with a recession, widespread shortages, and massive protests earlier this year.

The price of the Venezuelan barrel—heavier and more expensive to process than Middle East oil—fell to $77.65 on Friday, the lowest price since late 2010. The price drop was due to “ample” supply and weakening worldwide demand, the ministry said in its weekly oil price report Friday. Venezuelan oil has now tumbled nearly $15 since early September.

“We were already in a critical and precarious situation with oil prices ... Read More

Venezuela’s Election to UN Security Council Can’t Hide Its Weakness

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Commentary

By Ben Cohen

The good news is that Turkey didn’t manage to get itself elected to the UN Security Council. The bad news is that Venezuela did, as was expected. So come January, the chavista regime will have an unprecedented say in world affairs for a two-year term as one of the Security Council’s non-permanent members.

This marks the fifth time in the UN’s brief history that Venezuela will serve on the Council. The last occasion was in 1992-93, when its representative was Ambassador Diego Arria, who distinguished himself by highlighting the genocide then raging in Bosnia, and by speaking out on behalf of human rights more generally. Two decades later, the situation has flipped entirely–the current crop of genocidaires, rogue states, and terrorists, particularly in the Middle East, will discover to their satisfaction that there are few friends more loyal than Venezuela’s present rulers.

As Arria himself pointed out in a recent ... Read More

Venezuela Joins U.N. Security Council for Two-Year Term

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By Ezequiel Minya

CARACAS—The United Nations on Thursday voted Venezuela on to its Security Council, granting the South American country a long-coveted trophy of international standing and placing a persistent thorn in the side of the U.S. on the U.N.’s most influential committee.

“This is a moment of great pride for all of Venezuela,” said President Nicolás Maduro from the presidential palace in Caracas. “The world has given us support. We should feel happiness in our hearts that we are a country that is admired and loved.”

Not everybody was celebrating the victory. Though the Obama administration resisted calls from Venezuela’s critics to mount a campaign to derail its entry into the Security Council, U.S. officials on Thursday criticized Venezuela’s record at the U.N.

“Unfortunately, Venezuela’s conduct at the U.N. has run counter to the spirit of the U.N. Charter and its violations of ... Read More

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