Hunger Under Fire

For Wednesday, January 10, 2018. Translated by Javier Liendo.


 Photo: El Correo del Orinoco

Bolívar State is still experiencing ongoing riots and looting despite stepped-up military presence.

There were also several protests in various regions of the country yesterday, which were caused by shortages of food, medicines, water and cooking gas.

But the day started with a couple of ominous news. The first took place in Vargas, where a National Guard shot a young woman in the head when she tried to flee with some stolen turkeys, committing the second food-motivated killing in less than ten days. The second story took place in the Fuerzas Armadas avenue in Caracas, where a couple of homeless guys were searching for food in a garbage container and found half of a dismembered body. The other half was found by garbage collectors in Las Mayas. The CICPC will handle the investigation on this atrocity.


Vice President Tareck El Aissami reported on Twitter that Nicolás decided to extend the measure that suspended all communications and commercial exchange with Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, claiming that the measure will stand until he can meet with authorities of these islands to activate and action plan to fight smuggling. The Netherlands government expressed disappointment for the regime’s lack of formality in notifying the blockade’s extension and said that they’re holding constructive talks to revert the measures. However, the Venezuelan Armed Forces held a meeting to assess the actions they’ll take against smugglers, adding that they’ve already been deployed in critical areas.

As this takes place, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s declared the default for Venezuelan bonds expiring in 2020 and the Emerging Markets Traders Association reported that the debt notes issued by Venezuela are now technically in default, explaining that they’re considered “flat trading”: their price is merely their nominal value.

Another country

Spending time reading official media confirms the regime’s disconnection with citizens. Ignoring the temperature in the streets, the ANC approved this Tuesday the Law against Economic War and for Rationality, Uniformity and the Purchase of Goods, Services and Public Works, an instrument proposed by Nicolás in September, 2017, to overcome the fictional economic war caused by “neoliberal practices in Venezuela’s production, distribution and marketing cycles.”

Presented by Planning Vice President Ricardo Menéndez, the law has four ostensible goals: making mechanisms for public purchases more flexible, fighting against corruption, developing new productive actors and boosting the national production that they themselves destroyed.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Néstor Reverol will prevent crime by building “Justice houses” in the 79 municipalities in the country that account for 77% of crime indices. And concerning oil, without mentioning the plummeting output, minister Manuel Quevedo met with Jia Yong, head of the China National Petroleum Corporation for Latin America, to review joint projects; so the signing of cooperation agreements between Portugal and Venezuela was no more than another show in the regime’s agenda of denying reality.

And in the National Assembly

The Parliament unanimously approved the proposal of the Promotion of a National Alliance for Humanitarian Solidarity, in coordination with civil associations, to support citizens who lack the capacity to satisfy their own essential needs due to the crisis. Similarly, they approved the Agreement about the Suppression of the Metropolitan Districts of Caracas and Alto Apure, condemning the ANC’s attempts to derogate the Constitution by decree, declaring that their actions are void because they’ve usurped the AN’s functions.

The AN also approved the Agreement declaring that the issuance of the petro, the pseudocryptocurrency that’s actually a debt instrument, is illegal and null. The lawmakers took the chance to discuss other key matters such as the precariousness of their administrative conditions to fulfill their role, the persecution against lawmakers, the meagre amount of political prisoners released in December and the re-validation of political parties who didn’t participate in municipal elections, a demand made by the ANC.

AD, yes. VP, no. PJ, who knows

Acción Democrática Vice President Edgar Zambrano said that his party will take part in the re-validation process whenever it’s announced because “these are 75 years of history and they can’t be erased by the ANC, or by the government’s political project,” adding that the decision is motivated by the refusal to cede democratic spaces.

On the other hand, lawmaker Luis Florido (Voluntad Popular) said that his party won’t attend the process because: “there’s no legal or judicial justification to disqualify any party.” Florido said that during negotiations, they’ll demand that the Administration legitimize the parties because after December’s agreements, it’s absurd for the government to undermine talks by imposing measures like this. His party-mate Juan Guaidó compared the ANC with an “institutional blockade” because it seeks to dominate public life and break down the opposition’s unity with the invalidation of several parties. Primero Justicia hasn’t revealed their stance on the re-validation process.


The Colombian government travelled to Quito to resume peace talks with the guerrilla of the National Liberation Army (ELN), to extend the ceasefire that ended yesterday. North and South Korean delegates met for the first time in over two years, establishing that the North will send a delegation to continue talks in Seoul, which they hope will relieve military tensions.

Luisa Ortega Díaz keeps advancing her agenda and, yesterday, she met with the TSJ justices appointed by the National Assembly, to set up “strategies to recuse democratic institutionality and guarantees in Venezuela,” according to her. Later, she met with a group of young people in an event organized by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy and the National Unionist Youth Network. By the way, who’s paying for Luisa’s trips?

The Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV) chose its new board of directors for the three-year period 2018-2021 and Mgr. José Luis Azuaje will be its top representative. Azuaje said that the church will always be open to dialogue with all of the country’s sectors and said that “in this country, we not only need a change of economic model but also a change of the political model, because our decline is astonishing.” A detail that proves Azuaje right: since last December, the cost of a black market dollar has increased by almost 50%.

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    • I have to agree. They don’t serve anything but to perpetuate the misery.

      Try this: Tell the Chavists that the opposition will dialogue… but the opposition will set the terms and conditions of said dialogue. The opposition must bargain from a position of strength, as the opposition has the moral high ground.

      Let Maduro and Delcy and Diosdado refuse to dialogue.

      In my opinion, (from the back row and thousands of miles away), the opposition is doing EVERYTHING WRONG in terms of doing what it needs to to bring an end to Chavismo. It doesn’t help when the opposition is lead by the same weasels that brought them to this mess in the first place. It doesn’t inspire confidence.

  1. “it’s absurd for the government to undermine talks by imposing measures like this..”

    Seriously?…I certainly recommend the song by El Grupo Niche: Ana Mile also known as “Me pinto pajaritos en el aire”

    That song will explain everything there is to know about Maduro’s plan with the negotiation table.

  2. “making mechanisms for public purchases more flexible, fighting against corruption” sounds like “let’s make corruption easier and just say we are fighting against corruption.”

  3. Based on current inflation rate, the black market exchange rate will hit 1 Million BsF to the $USD before this summer. That’s a whole lot of “corruption upside” if the government sells USD for less …

    • The Dolar Today XR is 157,500 BsF to 1 USD as of a few seconds ago. Will easily pop 1M before end of this winter. This Economic War is a bitch.

  4. “… the Law against Economic War and for Rationality, Uniformity and the Purchase of Goods, Services and Public Works.”

    I always wonder how any of these decrees will ever be carried out with no money. But is it true, that the money is actually gone?

    2017: 23,227 21,022 23,684 25,698 23,764 19,901 21,259 18,786 18,601 17,419

    That’s the monthly Ven export of oil to the US from 1-2017 to 10-2017. Averaging 21.3 million barrels a month, or basically 256 million barrels exported to the USA for 2017. 256 million time 50 (roughly the current price) , Maduro still pulled down 12 billion dollars out of the US last year in oil monies. Lift cost probably knock that down to 9 or 10 billion (guessing), including the dough needed to mix down the thicker gunk to produce “sweet” crude. Shipping and other fees winnow it down to, say 7 or 8 billion. One billion more for skimming, another two billion to pay down the military, and Maduro is down to maybe 6 billion. And that’s before his own colleagues have skimmed off another billion, at the very least. So with 5 billion left, and a population of 31.6 million, and with the bolo now worthless (meaning Maduro has to underwrite or sponsor every citizen working for fake money), that leaves $161 per person per year. And that’s WITHOUT paying a dime on pending bonds, which exceed 5 billion this year alone.

    Nobody can actually live on 161 dollars a year. And since he’s already in default on this years bonds, its only a matter of time when they go after his oil monies. He can try and sell them elsewhere but I’m told refineries have trouble or simply can’t process Orinoco Basin gunk.

    Fact is I’m basically pulling most of those figures out of mi culo, but even if they are in the ballpark, Maduro’s finances don’t remotely add up, and his options at this point are apparently running out as well. I hope the final decline goes slowly, so at some point sane measures can be taken to avoid total anarchy and starvation. But what happens if the bottom falls out all of a sudden? What decrees can help in the face of a failed state?

    • Juan Largo,
      Before the collapse in the Bolivar, Venezuelan lift costs were pegged at over $27 per barrel.
      Around 1.2 million barrels per day is earmarked for repaying Chinese and Russian debt, subsidized domestic consumption, Cuban aid and free or reduced cost oil provided to PetroCarib member countries.
      In other words only about 1/3 of the oil that is produced is available to convert into cash.
      3 barrels must be taken out of the ground, cleaned and blended for 1 barrel to be sold.
      I don’t know how much the collapse in the Bolivar has reduced labor costs. If employee numbers have not been reduced commensurate with reduced production, Dividing the fixed overhead by the lower production may still result in a similar lift cost.
      The most recent numbers that I can find put a cost of over $80 for every barrel that can be sold at $60. $27 X 3 = $81.
      Deferred maintenance and reduced capital expenditures are the only other places money can be found. This will result in accelerating the decline of oil production.
      I don’t see much oil money available anywhere unless China and Russia suspend deliveries for debt payments.
      here are reports that Chinese workers are in charge of some production. This mst lower the price credited to Venezuela for debt repayment compared to oil that is loaded at the ports.
      PDVSA keeps many secrets. Most likely because the truth is such bad news.

  5. Directive 10-289

    In the name of the general welfare, to protect the people’s security, to achieve full equality and total stability, it is decreed for the duration of the national emergency that:

    Point One. All workers, wage earners and employees of any kind whatsoever shall henceforth be attached to their jobs and shall not leave nor be dismissed nor change employment, under penalty of a term in jail. The penalty shall be determined by the Unification Board, such Board to be appointed by the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources. All persons reaching the age of twenty-one shall report to the Unification Board, which shall assign them to where, in its opinion, their services will best serve the interests of the nation.

    Point Two. All industrial, commercial, manufacturing and business establishments of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth remain in operation, and the owners of such establishments shall not quit nor leave nor retire, nor close, sell or transfer their business, under penalty of the nationalization of their establishment and of any and all of their property.

    Point Three. All patents and copyrights, pertaining to any devices, inventions, formulas, processes and works of any nature whatsoever, shall be turned over to the nation as a patriotic emergency gift by means of Gift Certificates to be signed voluntarily by the owners of all such patents and copyrights. The Unification Board shall then license the use of such patents and copyrights to all applicants, equally and without discrimination, for the purpose of eliminating monopolistic practices, discarding obsolete products and making the best available to the whole nation. No trademarks, brand names or copyrighted titles shall be used. Every formerly patented product shall be known by a new name and sold by all manufacturers under the same name, such name to be selected by the Unification Board. All private trademarks and brand names are hereby abolished.

    Point Four. No new devices, inventions, products, or goods of any nature whatsoever, not now on the market, shall be produced, invented, manufactured or sold after the date of this directive. The Office of Patents and Copyrights is hereby suspended.

    Point Five. Every establishment, concern, corporation or person engaged in production of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth produce the same amount of goods per year as it, they or he produced during the Basic Year, no more and no less. The year to be known as the Basic or Yardstick Year is to be the year ending on the date of this directive. Over or under production shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board.

    Point Six. Every person of any age, sex, class or income, shall henceforth spend the same amount of money on the purchase of goods per year as he or she spent during the Basic Year, no more and no less. Over or under purchasing shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board.

    Point Seven. All wages, prices, salaries, dividends, profits, interest rates and forms of income of any nature whatsoever, shall be frozen at their present figures, as of the date of this directive.

    Point Eight. All cases arising from and rules not specifically provided for in this directive, shall be settled and determined by the Unification Board, whose decisions will be final.

    That ought to work.


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