Last week, Cleary Gottlieb – the US law firm representing Argentina in its debt negotiations – held a packed closed-door session on Venezuela. The question of the day was: what if Venezuela defaults? This week, the US Senate passed a bill that seeks to sanction Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights violations. Although these two events are not obviously related — and the sanctions bill still has to be approved by Congress, and signed into law by Barack Obama — they could become so. They both also illuminate the horrible mess that Venezuela could be heading into. Read more
By John-Paul Rathbone and Andres Schipani
Socialist Venezuela would never sell out its friends to Wall Street, right? Yet it appears that is exactly what Caracas wants to do. Pressed by the oil price collapse, rattled by fears of default, facing rising social tension as imports collapse due to lack of foreign exchange, and seemingly unable to put its economic house in order, the country is trying to raise desperately-needed cash by selling debts owed to it by the Dominican Republic and Jamaica on to Goldman Sachs. Chavismo turns to the vampire squid?
The idea has been circulating for a while in the investment banking community. But now details have emerged in the press, as reported by El Nuevo Herald, and Petroleum Argos. Essentially, the trade involves Venezuela securitizing debts owed under its $3.5bn a year subsidised oil program, called Petrocaribe. Read more
Last month Ricardo Hausmann, a normally mild Harvard academic, set off the equivalent of a financial bomb. The economist suggested that Venezuela had already defaulted on many of its suppliers, its oil service contractors, and its citizens. So who or what might come next?
When Hausmann suggested Wall Street, the market reaction was huge. Indeed Venezuelan bonds, undercut by the falling oil price, have been dropping ever since. Yet it turns out that Venezuela’s latest default has been, in fact, to China. Given that Beijing is one of Caracas’ closest allies, this is surprising. It is also bullish for Wall Street. Read more
On Tuesday night, halfway through announcing what he had trailed earlier would be a major cabinet re-shuffle, Nicolás Maduro (pictured) let slip a telling phrase. The Venezuelan president praised outgoing oil minister Rafael Ramírez because, as Maduro said, he had rescued the country from “the claws of the meritocracy”. No kidding. Read more
Should one laugh or cry over Venezuela? The answer is: it depends on who you are, and when. Usually, it is investors and businesses that do the crying. That is especially so since President Nicolás Maduro (pictured) took charge after Hugo Chávez’s death last year and struggled to control chavismo’s disparate factions. As a result, policy making was paralysed. Increasingly, though, it seems that Maduro and the pragmatists are gaining the upper hand, at least over the country’s more militant radicals. They now seem to be doing more of the crying. Read more
President Nicolás Maduro is a fraud, his government is incompetent and corrupt, most ministers should be sacked, the ruling Socialist Party’s ideological discourse is sterile, the national “Bolivarian” project is on a suicide path, and there is a growing risk of a coup from within the administration.
But don’t believe the FT on any of this. These are the words of Heinz Dieterich, a Marxist professor and former mentor of Hugo Chávez, writing in the leftist website Aporrea. Having cleared our throats before Sunday’s municipal elections, what actually is at stake at the vote — in concrete terms? Read more
Over the weekend Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s president, announced further measures to reinforce his “economic offensive” against “capitalist parasites”. At the same time, your correspondent was on his way to cross the border from Colombia into Venezuela – overland, listening to loud vallenato and merengue in a rusted 1984 Chevrolet Caprice.
And while waiting hours on end to get his passport stamped in the sweltering heat of Paraguachón, he witnessed one of the unwanted consequences of the president’s war on free enterprise. Read more
First, he came for the toilet paper factory. Then, late on Friday, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro seized a national chain of electronic stores as part of his battle against galloping inflation and rampant shortages he blames on an “economic war” coming from right-wing contrarians.
Maduro sent soldiers to “occupy” Daka, (similar to Best Buy in the US), accusing them of unjustified price hikes and said it will force them to sell everything at “fair prices”. Read more
Christmas comes round pretty quickly each year – too quickly for some, given the proliferation of Xmas ads on TV. But not soon enough, it seems, for Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro. Forget the calendar: over the weekend he wished his followers a “merry early Christmas”, flicking on the lights at the presidential palace and saluting the Three Wise Men.
His decision of advancing Christmas by decree means that workers will receive the first two-thirds of their bonuses and pensions next week, with the remaining in early December, and that the supply of some 50m toys will be guaranteed in a country that is battling shortages. Read more
What to do if you are a president struggling with massive shortages and galloping inflation? You create a Deputy Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness, to try keep people, well, happy.
That is what Venezuela’s President Maduro announced late last week, stating that the ministry co-ordinate all the poverty alleviation programmes installed by his mentor and predecessor Hugo Chávez. Leaving aside the self-declared good intentions, some commentators smell political motives ahead of municipal polls in December already perceived as a plebiscite on Maduro’s rule. Read more
In Nicolas Maduro’s latest attempt to mimic his peripatetic predecessor, Hugo Chavez, he is touring the “Old Continent”, stopping off in France on Wednesday after visits to Portugal and Italy earlier this week.
Obviously the former bus driver’s one-on-one with Pope Francis I was a highlight, but so was his announcement that he intends to buy “various” airplanes from Airbus. Read more
Perhaps the most revealing feature of the wikileaks publication of US diplomatic cables a few years ago is that it showed that what Washington said in public to other governments is also what is said to them in private.
By contrast, many other governments, especially in the Gulf but also in Latin America, were often revealed as two-faced hypocrites that praised each other publicly in elaborate shows of regional unity while privately stabbing each other in the back. That remains as true as ever today when it comes to Venezuela’s contested presidential election, which Nicolás Maduro, heir of Hugo Chávez, won by a whisker. Read more
Only six weeks in the grave, and Hugo Chávez’s socialist dream is fading fast, writes John Paul Rathbone. Last night, the chosen successor of “el commandante”, Nicolas Maduro, won Venezuela’s presidential election, but only by whisker. Maduro – “the self-proclaimed son of Chavez” – got 50.7 per cent of the vote, versus 49.1 per cent for Henrique Capriles, the opposition leader. That compares to an 11 point win for Mr Chavez in October’s presidential election. Mr Capriles has refused to accept the result until the votes are fully audited. Read more
Venezuelans may be fed up with their country’s stuttering economy, but it doesn’t look like that is going to stop Nicolás Maduro from winning presidential elections on Sunday.
As Venezuelans make up their minds whether to vote for Hugo Chávez’s handpicked successor, or the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, recurrent problems like shortages of basic goods, electricity blackouts and relentlessly rising prices continue to complicate day-to-day living. Read more
If anyone wants Nicolás Maduro to win Venezuela’s presidential elections this Sunday, it is PDVSA, the state oil company – judging by the effort it has made to support the campaign of Hugo Chávez’s heir, or the amount of people at his rallies wearing red caps emblazoned with PDVSA’s logo.
But for all that the big guns at PDVSA, not least its president Rafael Ramírez, may want to maintain the status quo, which is what Maduro is essentially promising, changes may yet be in store for Venezuela’s oil sector if he wins – if he knows what’s good for him, anyway. Read more
New Year in Venezuela is a curious occasion at the best of times – traditions include jumping off chairs backwards, running round in circles carrying suitcases and wearing yellow underwear.
But with half the country petrified that their beloved leader may be about to depart this world, and the other half desperately hoping that they may be on the verge of a new era, there was less time for the usual eccentricities. Read more
It was no surprise that Venezuelan bonds rallied strongly on Monday after Hugo Chávez named Venezuela’s vice-president, Nicolas Maduro (pictured), as his chosen political heir on Saturday.
An opposition candidate would probably have a fair chance of beating Maduro if new presidential elections are called – but is it also possible that even if Maduro were to win he would be less radical than Chávez? Read more