Imposed prosecutor general Tarek William Saab said yesterday that six high-ranking officials of PDVSA’s US-based Citgo had been arrested for corruption. The detainees are: Citgo chairman José Pereira; Supply and Marketing VP Jorge Toledo; Strategic Shareholder Relations VP Gustavo Cárdenas and Shared Services VP José Luis Zambrano. Saab said that the senior management had signed an agreement on July 15th with several financial companies for a refinancing of debt programs in 2015 and 2016, so they requested new loans (which allowed up to $4 billion in financing) “in absolutely unfavorable conditions for PDVSA and offering Citgo as a guarantee.”
Against the wall
“Corrupt officials are traitors and they’ll be pushed against the wall,” was Nicolás’ motto before promising university students to fight against corruption in State companies such as Citgo and PDVSA. Sadly, he didn’t tell them that the current head of PDVSA was, until not too long ago, head of Citgo and that the current oil minister used to be production VP and head of PDVSA for several years.
Nicolás chose to talk about treason and an agent provocateur, about urgent investigations (after 18 years in power), the shameless and massive embezzlement and the “criminal” use of public powers. He congratulated Saab for the speed and courage he never had as an Ombudsman and approved a special process so that students can get the carnet de la patria and with it, access to bonuses for school, transport and scholarships. He had enough nerve to claim that, despite the economic crisis, universities have had their budget. He approved a Bs. 80,000 hike for university scholarships. What will students do with so much money?
The National Assembly approved an agreement declaring a sanitary emergency in the country and orders the government to implement plans to contain epidemiological diseases.
Lawmakers Luis Alberto Silva and Américo De Grazia explained the magnitude of the crisis in Bolívar state, with 200,000 people affected by malaria and other diseases, saying that the reports presented in 2016 were ignored by this administration, an evidence of their negligence.
Parliament also demanded that the government release information on the management of PDVSA and its affiliates, to review the controls on oil activity and the nation’s assets.
William Contreras, head of the National Bureau for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights (Sundde), announced en cadena the inspection of Makro stores, because they allegedly condition the sale of products for users by demanding minimum quantity purchases. He also requested the Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation on this company due to irregularities in their compliance with labor commitments.
If the despair caused by food prices in supermarkets weren’t so alarming, it would be laughable to see Contreras’ gall when he announced the “convened” prices, emphasizing that imposing a price and convening it are different things. One kilo of sugar was set at Bs. 18,900 (it’s over Bs. 50,000 in the street); the highest quality rice now costs Bs. 15,561 (over Bs. 30,000 in the street), toasted and ground coffee costs Bs. 30,890 (it surpassed the Bs. 70,000 mark this week).
Even if convened prices were respected, the percentage they represent for a minimum wage is obscene. You can find the rest of the list in Sundde’s website.
Let’s talk about oil
OPEC asked Venezuela to provide true information about the drop in oil output, which has shown the lowest numbers in 30 years. The request was made by representatives of Saudi Arabia, with the support of other members during the recent meeting in Vienna. The drop in Venezuelan output could be the centerpiece of discussion during the next OPEC meeting, because our non-compliance is leaving space for other oil-producing countries that don’t belong to OPEC, such as Brazil and Canada, to step into the market and replace Venezuelan oil. In fact, Irak covered 80,000 of the 84,000 barrels that Venezuela couldn’t sent to India, and surpassed the 90,000 barrels we didn’t send to the U.S.
Reuters also released an extensive work on the operations with which PDVSA is rerouting oil from their joint projects with foreign companies, to feed its own local refineries.
While Sudeban announced an eleventh extension to the validity of the eternal (and useless) Bs. 100 banknote, reports said that new notes of the foreign debt of the Republic and PDVSA fell in the 30-day grace period to comply with their commitments, in addition to the three notes whose grace period expired last November 13th, as if the declaration of default and the activation of its corresponding guarantees against risks didn’t bring any harm to the nation.
Siobhan Morden, Nomura chief for Latin America, accurately describes the drama we’re experiencing: an economic crisis that grows worse with less imports (because paying the debt is the priority), even though we’re producing less oil, is linked to the quota of “corrupt profits through currency exchange distortions for the ruling elite;” understanding these variables as an internal catalyst for regime change.
Three incidents with Colombia
Nicolás lashed out against his Spanish and Colombian counterparts, Mariano Rajoy and Juan Manuel Santos, accusing them of having “pulverized“ public education in their respective countries, and I’m not sure if that’s his reaction to:
- The statement issued by Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín explaining how the Venezuelan diaspora complicates peace in this post-conflict period
- The Colombian Navy report about rescuing Venezuelans after two boats coming from Venezuela foundered in the waters of the Orinoco river
- The protest note Colombia sent due to the incursion of Venezuelan soldiers in the border zone
Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe resigned the presidency after 37 years in power. Jacob Mudenda, head of the Lower Chamber, read the resignation: “I, Robert Mugabe, formally submit by resignation as president (…) effective immediately.” And almost all Venezuelans remember that brief audio that ended with: “which he accepted.”
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