Photo: El Carabobeño, retrieved.

Black Monday

The negative prices of oil is really bad news for Venezuela, we’ll see the consequences soon enough. The government keeps citizens on lockdown, like they keep the military in the barracks.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic caught up with oil. The price per oil barrel according to West Texas Intermediate (WTI), reference for the U.S., dropped 305% on Monday and for the first time since they first started tracking this figure, it was a negative number. WTI’s future contracts for May that expire tomorrow placed the price of oil at -37.63 dollars per barrel, an unprecedented event, 55.90 dollars less than the price on Friday. The volume of oil in storage increased even when refineries stopped their activity, when the demand dropped because of the quarantine. The worst fear is now the collapse of storage infrastructure. Most oil analysts say that even if it was a costly day, it’s unlikely to last long. Meanwhile, in Venezuela, there’s no gas and the gas that can be found is sold in dollars, paid at way over the price abroad.
  • In order to produce profitable oil in Venezuela, the price must be over 20 dollars a barrel. If it’s lower than that, it doesn’t cover production costs. Almost all Venezuelan income comes from oil. During the bonanza, chavismo accumulated debt and destroyed the industry. Today, production is as it was in the ‘30s and the weaknesses of our system are enormous. Maduro burned assets abroad, he closed off to international markets, he desperately liquidated debt with discounts, exchanged gold without accountability, emptied what was left of FONDEN and the international reserve… Now the oil market collapses, the state is in debt and there are no reserves. The most serious risk is that this disaster forces the few oil wells that are working to shut down, since there will be no money to reactivate them later. Privatizing oil seems inevitable. It’s either that or we’ll go through a “Somalization” process later.
  • Delcy Rodríguez announced 29 new coronavirus cases (285 so far) in the states of Miranda (7), Portuguesa (1) and Nueva Esparta (21). This last group is a “new ramification” of the baseball academy, 21 GNB officers in the Maneiro municipality. Out of the cases in Miranda, 4 are tied to the security company that provides services for Polar; 1 with the Los Roques party and 1 with the baseball academy. A 67-year-old man died and the number of deaths has risen to 10. She said that they’ve done 347,236 tests so far, 11,067 more than Sunday. 
  • Governor Alfredo Díaz talked about the origin of COVID-19 cases in Nueva Esparta, because of the mass contagion at the baseball academy, and held military sectors responsible. In an interview with digital news site Punto de Corte, Díaz said that since March 13th, he had all sports, cultural and recreational activities suspended, saying it’s up to police and military institutions controlled by the national government to enforce the measures, and they were disregarded for the academy because children of military officers play there and are future baseball prospects. He added that the responsibility for having three people coming from the Dominican Republic, responsible for the outbreak, is the military sector controlling the Nueva Esparta airport. 
  • Deputy Oscar Ronderos backed the governor’s claims and attributed the increase of confirmed cases to the regime’s terrible management and to Dante Rivas, the so-called “state protector” (an unofficial governor of sorts, appointed following the very chavista policy of disrespecting unfavorable election results). He said that despite the complications from the pandemic, there’s no water or gas on the island. 
  • Fishermen of Araya, in Sucre state (eastern coast of Venezuela), faced repression from the Maduro regime while they peacefully protested the gas shortage, which affects their productivity and nutrition. They were repressed with tear gas and beaten. 
  • At 3:45 a.m. on Monday, a citizen was shot in his leg while he was waiting in line for gas in La Florida, Caracas. The young man resisted the mass robbery and the criminals shot him. 
  • Deputy Carlos Valero denounced that the regime “blackmails and threatens” Venezuelans coming back through our borders and staying in the quarantine camps: “We have statements from those who were able to get home, they were visited by SEBIN agents and forced to sign papers saying they were treated well, under threat of jail for treason if they gave information about the actual conditions of their quarantine.” 
  • It’s unacceptable that citizens are humiliated to “make them understand” the importance of respecting the quarantine. In Lara, a group of citizens was recorded when they were forced to squat and walk in punishment, repeating the phrase “I can’t leave my house during quarantine”. Governor Carmen Meléndez violates citizens’ dignity with these degrading treatment, and that’s a human rights violation. 
  • Russian president Vladímir Putin talked about the COVID-19 situation and the OPEC agreement to cut oil production (it’s now useless) in a conversation over the phone with Maduro, reported the Kremlin. They also talked about the Russian leader’s proposal to create “green passageways,” exempt from commercial war and sanctions, to send medicine and food to the countries that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19. 
  • On Monday, 52 Venezuelan citizens coming from Uruguay arrived in Maiquetía, in an Uruguayan Armed Forces plane, thanks to a humanitarian effort for mutual repatriation of citizens amid the pandemic. Dozens of Uruguayans went back to their country on that same plane. 
  • The Red Cross donated 22 tons of technical humanitarian aid to Venezuela, which will be distributed in our health system to strengthen actions against COVID-19. In the last month, Venezuela has received over 100 tons of humanitarian aid. 
  • Donald Trump announced on Monday that, in order to protect American jobs and because of COVID-19, he’ll sign an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration to the U.S. 
  • On Monday night, several news agencies reported that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is in critical condition and getting treatment after undergoing heart surgery. 
  • According to Johns Hopkins University, there are 2,472,259 coronavirus cases and 169,986 deaths. On Monday, the WHO explained that coronavirus has infected a low percentage of the world’s population, according to the first results of serology testing, which means most people can still get the disease and that “herd immunity” isn’t occurring, as experts expected. The U.S. is still the country with the most COVID-19 cases, with over 792,000 cases and  40,900 deaths, the highest figure in the world so far. Latin America’s epicenter is Brazil, with over 2,575 deaths and 40,000 cases. Colombia has almost 4,000 cases and 189 deaths. In Nicaragua, schools reopened and students attended class without any kind of protective gear. Daniel Ortega is a sociopath. 
  • Professor Emeterio Gómez died. I met him in class and was fascinated by him, he was a teacher in every way, respectful, profound and he wanted people to understand him. It’s unavoidable to tie his absence to a day like today, while Nicolás’s regime still takes advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to paralyze productivity, politics and protests at the same time. But you can’t hide shortages, or poverty, no matter what they say on local media. There’s no doubt the regime wants to keep the quarantine going, as it helps stretch out the gas supply and avoid protests. But, as we saw in Araya, people insist.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.