PDVSA’s debacle

For Thursday, May 10, 2018. Translated by Javier Liendo.

Photo: Reuters

After the U.S. pulled out from the nuclear deal with Iran, oil prices rose again and Venezuela can’t take advantage of the situation due to plummeting output. In fact, Iraq’s Oil Minister Jabbar Alluaibi said this Wednesday that by the end of this month, OPEC will discuss a possible deficit in global supply. Alluaibi said that this is a political matter and that he hopes it won’t affect oil supplies from the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, American oil company ConocoPhillips confirmed that it will exhaust all legal options to collect PDVSA’s debt, a statement that concerned, among others, prime minister of Curaçao Eugene Rhuggenaath, due to the possibility that PDVSA ceases oil shipments to the Isla refinery to avoid an embargo by ConocoPhillips, which could cause a crisis in Curacao’s small economy. The Isla refinery contributes close to 10% of Curacao’s GDP and supplies fuel for communities and the ships coming to the island. PDVSA doesn’t own the refinery, it only operates it under a lease contract. To make this scenario even more complicated, PDVSA now faces the lawsuit for over $25 million in an U.S. court for the non-payment of promissory notes issued by Canadian energy contractor SNC-Lavalin. With sinking revenue do to such a low production —caused by mismanagement and corruption— the scenarios are completely unfavorable. The projection of economist and risk assessor Leonardo Buniak on the risk that Venezuela ceases to be a net oil exported by 2019 gains traction. Buniak added that: “Today, the Venezuelan economy is smaller than in 1994 and in just four months, the country’s monetary liquidity went from Bs. 127 billion to Bs. 595 billion,” boosting hyperinflation even more.

Chaos politics

The government hasn’t been making any decision in response to an economic scenario of greater contraction and shortages. In chavismo’s version of the country, the important isn’t urgent and the only open board is to cling to power. This is why yesterday, Vice-President Tareck El Aissami spoke of the nearly Bs. 18 billion approved to pay for salaries of mayors and governors, after his meeting with ministry representatives. More money without backing because they’re taking no action to reactivate national production. Meanwhile, Diosdado Cabello announced last night the possibility of activating recall referendums against National Assembly lawmakers after May 20, and this happened while Miguel Ángel Martín, chairman of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice in exile, sent letters to the military and police high commands urging them to arrest Nicolás.

Additionally, Venezuela currently ranks as the 7th country in the world with the most people arrested without a trial and the second worst performance in timely trials in South America, keeping a huge percentage of prisoners awaiting justice.

Only social media talks about elections

The hashtag used yesterday by chavista bots was a threat and not an invitation: vote if you want peace. However, National Electoral Council (CNE) rectora Socorro Hernández said that it was absurd that certain sectors think that the CNE could tamper with May 20 results, emphasizing that this complaint is a political strategy of “certain abstentionist opposition groups.” She forgot to explain the case of Andrés Velásquez in Bolívar State. A meeting was held between Armed Forces authorities, the CNE and representatives of the candidates to discuss Plan República. The statements of Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López were closer to those of a militant for the regime’s cause than to those of an impartial minister. Candidate Reinaldo Quijada spoke against Nicolás and chavismo’s contradictions, but he defended PSUV grassroots and the possibilities of socialism. Meanwhile, Nicolás announced in Yaracuy a Bs. 1,500,000 bonus for all mothers and grandmothers in Mother’s Day; he also promised resources to built 70,000 new housing units and the incorporation of 50,000 young citizens to the Chamba Juvenil program.

He took the “blame” because one of his militants still hasn’t got a house and after asking her for patience, he guaranteed her a house “for this very day.” So far, there are no news of the meeting in which Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci would allegedly define a single candidate.

Briefs and serious

  • Several universities staged a strike called by the Venezuelan Federation of Associations of University Professors to protest for budgetary conditions. Due to lack of budget, the National Experimental University of Táchira (UNET) declared the suspension of academic activities.

  • In 72 hours, two children died of measles in the J.M. de los Ríos Children’s Hospital. The current measles epidemic continues to spread and since the first case was recorded (July 2017, after ten years without records of the disease) until the third week of April 2018, the Health Ministry reported 1,631 confirmed cases in 13 states in the country. Delta Amacuro is the state with the highest incidence rate and Venezuela heads the list of countries with the greatest measles contagion.
  • The National Bureau for the Defense of Socio-economic Rights (SUNDDE) and the National Guard announced the confiscation of 134 tons of food stored in a warehouse in Catia, and they also confiscated weapons of several calibers, cartridges and tear-gas canisters. They also arrested four citizens.

  • Civil Protection issued an “early alert” for the rains in Barinas, Zulia, Táchira and Mérica. According to them, weather conditions will improve in the next 72 hours.

Abroad

  • U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said that his country won’t stay idly by “while Venezuela crumbles into dictatorship and oppression,” without explaining what will be their next actions. He restated his demand for Nicolás to restore democratic institutions, to set aside the sham elections for May 20 and to open the nation to humanitarian aid.

  • The mother of one of the 82 Venezuelans arrested in Trinidad and Tobago, denounced that her son remains detained until he pays the $1,500 fine for being in the island illegally. Venezuela didn’t guarantee the return of all deported citizens.
  • Álvaro Uribe Vélez’s party put up inappropriate banners urging Colombian citizens to vote for their candidate Iván Duque, “so that Colombia doesn’t become another Venezuela.”
  • Rebeca Grynspan, in charge of the Ibero-American General Secretariat, advocated yesterday for a “peaceful and institutional solution” in Venezuela, saying that “the role that the European Union can pay is very important.”
  • The Pan American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Center and the South American Commission for the Fight Against Foot-and-Mouth Disease will donate vaccines for the National Federation of Livestock Farmers of Venezuela if the government exonerates them from paying tariffs and if those responsible for the distribution belong to the private sector.
  • After almost a month of protests against Daniel Ortega’s government, Managua reported the largest march in its history. Aerial shots are astonishing.
  • The military high commands and Defense ministers of 12 American nations met to study security threats and to agree on joint strategies to fight organized crime. Padrino López didn’t attend.
  • The article “Stop Enslavement of Venezuelan Refugees in Brazil,” signed by Chris Feliciano Arnold for the New York Times, is tough and enlightening. I’ll leave it here for you.
  • The health director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Emanuele Capobianco, reported that a million people entered Colombia in the last year.
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