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Venezuela Oil Production Continues Slow Recovery

According to state oil company PDVSA, production is again approaching one million barrels per day.

By Ricardo Vaz | Venezuelanalysis | December 11, 2019

Caracas – Venezuela’s oil output increased slightly in November for the second month running.

The monthly report of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) registered Venezuela’s November crude production at 697,000 barrels per day (bpd), as reported by secondary sources, up from 685,000 bpd in October.

State oil company PDVSA’s direct reporting to OPEC showed a bigger increase, from 761,000 to 912,000 bpd. Exports reportedly averaged over one million bpd as the oil giant drained stored crude.

Venezuela’s flagship industry has seen output fall precipitously from 1.911 million and 1.354 million bpd in 2017 and 2018, respectively, following the imposition of crippling US financial sanctions. PDVSA operations have likewise suffered from mismanagement, corruption, brain drain and lack of maintenance.

Before the trend was reversed in October and November, production had steadily plummeted following a US oil embargo imposed in January, which was expanded to a blanket ban on all business with Venezuelan state companies in August.

The August measures additionally authorized secondary sanctions against third party actors, leading several foreign companies to cancel oil shipments, including China’s state oil company CNPC. PDVSA has reportedly resorted to selling a large proportion of its crude output to Russian energy giant Rosneft, which then reroutes it to other destinations.

PDVSA’s modestly rising production levels comes as the firm resumes shipments to Indian customers such as Reliance Industries following a four month hiatus due to US threats. Dealings often involve exchanging crude for fuels or diluents so as to avoid sanctions. According to unnamed Trump officials cited by Bloomberg, the White House has ruled out sanctioning Indian firms at this time.

Analysts agree that recovering oil production is key to Venezuela’s economic recovery, but US Treasury sanctions create significant hurdles for foreign investment.

Reuters has recently reported that government and opposition figures are contemplating allowing private companies in joint ventures with PDVSA to operate oil fields themselves. The move would represent a reversal of a longstanding policy dating back to former President Hugo Chávez’s government which required that PDVSA retain operational control of oil operations. In an attempt to attract foreign investment, the Maduro government has also loosened the requirement that PDVSA hold at least a 60 percent stake in joint ventures, requiring only a majority stake in new dealings.

As part of ongoing talks, government representatives and several minority opposition parties have recently agreed to seek oil-for-food and oil-for-medicine agreements with international partners, but no further details are known at this time.

Edited by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.

December 11, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela: Guaido Embattled as Opposition Splits over New Corruption Scandal

Deputy Jose Brito and self-proclaimed “interim president” have traded corruption accusations this week. (Archive)
By Lucas Koerner and Ricardo Vaz – Venezuelanalysis – December 5, 2019

Caracas – Venezuela’s right-wing opposition has been beset by internecine strife in recent days following new corruption allegations involving senior anti-government figures.

On Sunday, pro-opposition website Armando.info published an investigative report alleging illicit ties between nine National Assembly (AN) deputies and a Colombian businessman reportedly involved in the Maduro government’s CLAP subsidized food distribution program.

The report named First Justice party deputies Jose Brito, Luis Parra, and Conrado Perez Linares, Richard Arteaga and Guillermo Luces of Popular Will, A New Era’s Chaim Bucaram and William Barrientos, Progressive Advance Deputy Hector Vargas, and Adolfo Superlano, recently expelled from Cambiemos. The majority of the legislators sit on the opposition-led AN’s own comptroller commission.

According to documents obtained by the news site, the lawmakers used their positions to lobby US and Colombian authorities to shield Colombian entrepreneur Carlos Lizcano from sanctions in return for kickbacks.

Lizcano is the owner of Salva Foods, which manages the network of so-called “CLAP Stores” in Venezuela. He has been linked to fellow Colombian businessmen Alex Saab and Alvaro Pulido, who have both been sanctioned by Washington for their alleged ties to the CLAP program.

The revelations have been widely regarded as an embarrassment for National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who proclaimed himself “interim president” of Venezuela in January and is recognized by the United States, Colombia, and several dozen other countries.

Immediately responding to the allegations, Guaido denounced “corruption” on the part of his fellow lawmakers and announced an overhaul of the comptroller commission.

“I will not allow corruption to endanger all we have sacrificed for freedom,” he tweeted Sunday.

The AN head’s comments provoked a backlash, with First Justice’s Jose Brito telling reporters on Tuesday that Guaido “does not have moral, ethical or judicial capabilities, because he’s corrupt.”

He also challenged Guaido to prove any wrongdoing on his part, while alleging that people close to the “interim president” were behind the purchase of a night club in Madrid with ill-gotten funds.

“There is a rebellion inside the National Assembly against Guaido, because he’s corrupt,” Brito concluded, adding that 70 deputies have penned a letter to Guaido demanding he render accounts of the February humanitarian aid funds – another scandal implicating the opposition leadership.

On February 23, Washington and the Guaido-led opposition attempted to force “humanitarian aid” across the Venezuelan-Colombian border in a failed bid to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

In June, reports emerged that Guaido’s representatives in Colombia had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked for soldiers who had heeded the opposition call to desert on February 23.

Months later, it was revealed that Guaido had crossed into Colombia, ahead of the “humanitarian aid” effort, with the help of infamous paramilitary outfit Los Rastrojos. The opposition leader was seen in videos and pictures with members of the group, which has been accused of drug smuggling, assassinations and extortion.

Both scandals were dragged back into the limelight last week following the announcement that Guaido’s “ambassador” to Bogota, Humberto Calderon Berti, was being replaced.

Calderon, a former minister and president of state oil company PDVSA in the 1980s and ‘90s, later gave an interview to Miami-based anti-government outlet PanamPost in which he blamed hard-right Popular Will leader Leopoldo Lopez for the opposition’s “biggest mistakes.” Lopez was serving a 14-year sentence under house arrest for his responsibility in the violent 2014 opposition protests when he was freed by rogue intelligence personnel during April 30’s failed putsch attempt. He then fled to the Spanish embassy where he has resided since.

The former minister highlighted his “ethical differences” with respect to Juan Guaido and his mentor, Lopez, while also pointing the finger at leading opposition figures for the embezzlement of humanitarian aid funds.

Calderon also commented on another scandal brewing at chemical company Monomeros, Colombian subsidiary of Venezuelan state petrochemical company Pequiven. Monomeros was taken over by the opposition earlier this year, and Calderon accused the main opposition parties of appointing ill-prepared board members and engaging in corrupt practices.

The latest opposition infighting has also garnered a reaction from Maduro government officials. Comptroller General Elvis Amoroso announced that this office is opening an investigation into Guaido and his associates over the alleged misappropriation of state funds.

Meanwhile, National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello commented that the corruption scandals evidence the opposition’s “lack of morals and ethics.”

“Nobody should be surprised that they are trading accusations of corruption, of taking bribes, they even stole humanitarian aid,” Cabello said in a press conference on Monday.

December 7, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | 1 Comment

US Vows to ‘Reinforce’ Sanctions, Accuses Venezuela and Cuba of Stirring Regional ‘Strife’

Elliott Abrams reiterated support for Guaido and denied that sanctions are damaging the Venezuelan economy

White House envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams defended Washington’s Venezuela sanctions on Wednesday. (C-Span)
By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | November 28, 2019

Caracas – The Trump administration has pledged to continue economic sanctions against Venezuela in its ongoing bid to oust the Maduro government.

Speaking at a press conference at the State Department Wednesday, Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams defended US regime change policy, which he said would “continue.”

“There’s no change… What is next is, I would say, a continuation of the current policy,” he said in response to questions about the status of US efforts more than ten months after recognizing opposition politician Juan Guaido as “interim president” of Venezuela.

Guaido proclaimed himself head of state in January and has gone on to lead several unsuccessful efforts to topple Maduro, including a failed military putsch in April.

Trump immediately backed Guaido’s “interim presidency,” handing the Venezuela file to Abrams, a veteran cold warrior infamous for his role in the Iran/Contra scandal, the Reagan administration’s Central America policy, and the Iraq War.

Asked about the efficacy of US sanctions, Abrams assured reporters that the measures are cutting off vital funds for the Venezuelan government. However, he acknowledged that he “would like to see, obviously, the sanctions work better,” adding that “there are plans to reinforce the effort.” He did not offer further details.

“The gravy train days that they had 10 years ago are over,” he announced, referring to the period when Venezuela had the highest minimum wage in Latin America and among the lowest levels of inequality.

Abrams went on to deny that US sanctions are negatively impacting Venezuela’s economy, citing a paper authored by former Guaido Inter-American Development Bank envoy Ricardo Hausmann claiming, “the bulk of the deterioration of living standards occurred long before sanctions were enacted in 2017.” Hausmann was a key architect of neoliberal policies in Venezuela in the 1980s and 1990s and has been a longtime government opponent.

The conclusions of Hausmann’s study have been disputed by the DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, which published its own report in April finding sanctions responsible for at least 40,000 deaths since 2017. The study likewise claims that sanctions amount to “collective punishment,” blocking any possibility of economic recovery in the Caribbean nation.

Washington has dramatically ramped up its sanctions regime since January, imposing an oil embargo which has since been escalated to a sweeping ban on dealings with Caracas under threat of secondary sanctions.

Abrams likewise rebuffed reporters’ concerns about Guaido’s “lack of momentum,” suggesting that “hundreds of thousands… went to the streets on November 16.” The claim was scrutinized by journalists who pointed out that viral video footage purported to be from the protests was in fact taken in January.

Questioned repeatedly about allegations of the Maduro government “intervening” in regional protests, the White House envoy accused Caracas and Havana of acting to “promote more strife everywhere.”

“There is evidence beginning to build of an effort by the regimes in Cuba and Venezuela to exacerbate problems in South America,” he added.

In recent weeks, the region has been rocked by massive anti-neoliberal protests that have shaken right-wing governments in Ecuador, Haiti, Chile, and Colombia. Government spokespeople have frequently attributed the uprisings to “meddling” by Caracas, while the Organization of American States has branded them a “destabilization strategy” by the “Bolivarian and Cuban dictatorships.”

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | 6 Comments

What Does PDVSA Have to Do with the Crisis in Haiti?

By Clodovaldo Hernandez – Supuesto Negado – November 7, 2019

Haiti has been on fire for weeks, without the so-called ‘international community’ or its associated press paying any attention.

Fuel shortages have plunged the Caribbean country back into social turmoil which borders on civil war. There are many causes behind this dramatic panorama, which has been exasperated by the decrease in production by Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA, corruption scandals in the Caribbean country and relentless US pressure on Venezuela, which have all damaged the PetroCaribe crude oil supply programme, which Haiti was reliant on.

PDVSA’s internal collapse, coupled with the labyrinth of obstacles placed by the US’ unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) against Venezuela, has forced the dismantling of what was one of Commander Hugo Chavez’s most powerful initiatives.

The project is a regional mechanism for selling oil at preferential prices with financing for the residents of the Antillean Basin. Local opposition groups and the Washington-led international coalition have, however, always branded the programme as a way for Venezuela to ensure support in the international arena based on the so-called ‘petro-chequebook.’

Internal corruption

Before the programme was damaged by PDSVA’s fall in production and the blockade [against Venezuela], there were already revelations of financial irregularities by unscrupulous Haitian civil servants and entrepreneurs who took advantage of Venezuelan aid to line their own pockets.

In Haiti, these crimes are particularly outrageous because the programme was conceived as a way of providing financial assistance to the government to address serious internal problems, exacerbated by the 2010 earthquake and five major hurricanes, including Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Under the programme, PetroCaribe delivered crude oil to a state agency called the Monetisation Bureau of Development Aid Programmes, which proceeded to sell it to private Haitian companies. The resulting funds should have been used to rebuild infrastructure, especially in the areas of health, education, housing and roadways, however around US $2 billion is estimated to have been stolen.

The responsibility of Venezuelan officials in this and other Petro Caribe- related corruption cases remains to be seen.

The issue of corruption is so important in the Haitian political debate that in addition to demanding the resignation of pro-US President Jovenel Moise, the opposition and Haitian grassroots movements, which have led the wave of demonstrations in recent months, also demand the prosecution of those involved in irregularities that distorted the initial objectives of the programme. Opposition Deputies Youri Latortue, Moise Jean Charles and Shiller Louidor have been the flag-bearers of these demands.

The political reasons

In parallel, and in accordance with Washington’s instructions, the Haitian government of businessman Jovenel Moise, which is propped up by the US, has preferred to sever its relationship with PetroCaribe, supposedly to distance itself from the influence that revolutionary Venezuela exerted on previous Haitian presidents, such as René Preval and Michel Martelly.

Moise (whose name also appears amongst the list of alleged benefactors from the theft of PetroCaribe funds) was snared with promises that the US would supply the oil that Venezuela would no longer deliver. But that obviously hasn’t happened.

As the country ran out of fuel, what has been described as Haiti’s worst political crisis has erupted. The nation has lived in perennial instability due to, among other reasons, the continued interference of the US in its internal affairs.

Apart from Haiti, the PetroCaribe programme favoured Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Guatemala, Guyana, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Suriname. Guatemala and Belize abandoned the agreement in 2014 and 2017 respectively, and in June 2018 Venezuela announced that it was suspending shipments to all these nations due to a drop in production, with the notable exception of Cuba.

Denouncements of irregularities [in the programme’s funds] were well exploited by Venezuela’s opponents to discredit the project between 2016 and 2018. Simultaneously, the US toured the Caribbean offering to supply US oil extracted through fracking in exchange for support for its aggressive political moves against the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro. Of course, in the US’ case, we aren’t talking about a social programme but rather winning the Caribbean market for its oil corporations, while continuing to strangle Venezuela economically.

In 2018, a Caribbean Energy Security Summit was held in Washington, which mentioned adopting sustainable renewable energy systems for the region. The political purpose, the true one, was later expressed by a spokesman for the US State Department: “That the Caribbean doesn’t increase its debt to the only energy supplier which has attended the region to date.”

PDVSA’s inability to continue honouring the programme, in addition to corruption scandals in countries like Haiti, allowed this goal to be achieved just as the US wished.

Now, the entire Caribbean region once again depends on the savage capitalism’s suppliers , and Haiti’s social protests are one of the first symptoms of this return to the harsh reality.

Clodovaldo Hernández is a Venezuelan journalist who has written for left leaning news sites Supuesto Negado and Aporrea.

Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.

November 23, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Colombia’s US Ambassador Advocates ‘Covert Actions’ Against Venezuela in Leaked Audio

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | November 21, 2019

Senior Colombian diplomats discussed strategies for regime change in Venezuela in a leaked audio published by Colombian news site Publimetro on Wednesday.

Speaking in a Washington DC cafe, Colombian Foreign Minister Claudia Blum and Ambassador to the US Francisco Santos repeatedly stressed the failure of US-led efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“The solution is not a military coup, because the military is not going to remove [Maduro]. Nor is the United States going to remove him at the point of an “I don’t know what,” observed Blum, alluding to the possibility of US military intervention in Venezuela.

Santos stressed the need for clandestine operations to “support the opposition.”

“The only thing that I see is with covert actions within [Venezuela] to make noise and support the opposition which is very isolated,” he told Blum.

The ambassador additionally reported that the “CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] is not getting involved [in Venezuela],” a fact that Blum appeared to lament.

Santos went on to complain about the apparent disarray within the Trump administration. He noted that the State Department and the White House were divided over the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty (TIAR), which the former “wanted” but the latter did not. The TIAR was activated in September at the behest of the Venezuelan opposition, which hailed the move as a first step towards foreign military intervention in Venezuela.

For her part, Blum concurred with her ambassador’s assessment, lamenting that with US elections fast approaching, “no one knows what Trump is going to do.”

Santos responded by speculating that if Trump fears losing the presidential race, “he will go into Venezuela,” a possibility downplayed by the foreign minister.

Both officials, however, agreed on the urgent need to remove Maduro from power.

“If this guy doesn’t go, Colombia has no future,” warned Santos, going on to describe efforts to enlist US congressional support on Venezuela.

“Let them understand that this shithole is going to destabilize the whole continent,” he emphasized.

Since opposition leader Juan Guaido’s self-proclamation as Venezuelan “interim president” in January, the hard-right Colombian government of Ivan Duque has spearheaded efforts to oust Maduro.

In February, Colombia strongly supported a US-led attempt to force “humanitarian aid” across the Venezuelan border, which Blum dismissed as a “fiasco.”

More recently, tensions have been on the rise along the 2,219 kilometer Venezuelan-Colombian border since Bogota resumed hostilities with guerrilla factions in August.

The leaked audio is the latest in a series of Venezuela-related scandals that have dogged the Duque government in recent months.

In September, photos and witness testimony surfaced revealing that Guaido had crossed the Colombian border in February with the assistance of Colombian paramilitary groups in coordination with the Colombian authorities. The Duque administration had earlier been accused of turning a blind eye to accusations that Guaido’s envoys to the country had embezzled money destined to support deserters from the Venezuelan armed forces.

Weeks later, Duque came under fire after presenting false evidence of ELN activity in Venezuela during his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York.

The latest scandal provoked condemnation from Caracas, with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza slamming Colombian interference in Venezuelan affairs.

“Colombia has been affirming for years that Chavismo destabilizes the region… Meanwhile in a leaked conversation the new foreign minister and ambassador in the US confess how and with whom they conspire to destabilize Venezuela,” he tweeted.

November 22, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , , | 4 Comments

Will phony assault charge intimidate Grayzone editor? Unlikely.

By Damian Wilson | RT | October 29, 2019

The heavy handed arrest and detention of Grayzone founder and editor Max Blumenthal comes five months after an attempted coup and assassination plot against the Venezuelan President failed. Maybe the US is running out of ideas…

The US intelligence service finally ran out of patience with Max Blumenthal last Friday morning and stormed his home, seizing him and spiriting him away to prison for a weekend of illegal detention, mistreatment and threats.

If that had happened to a well-respected investigative journalist in Caracas, Venezuela then the international media would have risen as one in outrage, condemning the heavy-handed tactics of President Nicolás Maduro and his security forces.

There would have been calls for the Venezuelans to explain their actions, demands to release the journalist immediately and to guarantee their future security. Sanctions already in place by the US would have been tightened and denunciations would have been forthcoming from all corners.

But with this happening in the US capital, it is a different story because the intelligence services do not like people like Max Blumenthal. He is the sort of troublemaker who asks awkward questions of the powers that be, who raises issues that are considered best left unexplored and generally makes them squirm when rocks are kicked over and their less honourable activities are revealed in daylight.

Ask Edward Snowden how that goes down. (Better still, read his autobiography Permanent Record which came out a few weeks ago.) Ask Chelsea Manning, ask Julian Assange.

If you cause a fuss that US intelligence does not like then your card is marked and it is only a matter of time before you will be whisked away for a weekend of fun and games while shackled in a cage. It might not be today, or tomorrow, but that knock on the door will come.

So Blumenthal’s reporting from outside the Venezuelan embassy, as he and other activists attempted to deliver food and sanitary supplies to those besieged inside was exactly the sort of thing to make the men in dark suits see red.

He told how, “the pro-coup mob outside turned violent, physically assaulting embassy protectors, and hurling racist, sexist and homophobic abuse at others” and he, along with his colleagues, tweeted details of pro-coup individuals vandalising the Venezuelan embassy and abusing the Embassy Protection Collective activists.

This sort of exposure did not fit in with the plans of the US Government to demonize Venezuela or its president, with Obama having kicked things off by declaring the nation a national security threat way back in 2015.

Current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that belief earlier this year in case anyone thought there had been a thaw in the frozen relationship since the change in the White House residents.

And as the powers have spoken, don’t you dare disagree with them or make them look bad. Which is what Blumenthal has done.

Having made its mind up about Maduro, the US managed to sign up 50 nations to somehow back the notion that the Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido should actually be recognised as president of the oil-rich nation. There are some powerful dissenting voices, however, namely Russia and China who sit alongside the US as permanent members the United Nations Security Council.

America decided to try and orchestrate a coup back in June this year and along with Colombia and Chile, devised a plot to overthrow the Venezuelan government and assassinate Maduro.

Around the same time, the embassy in DC became a focus for the plotters, who included supporters of Guaido but the local activists were too quick and managed to get people embedded inside the building to report on and record the siege as it unfolded.

That was not what the intelligence services wanted.

Blumenthal and Co needed to be shut down. Stooges willing to press fake charges were found and Blumenthal was wrongly accused of assault albeit five months after the incident apparently took place. Why the delay?

A puzzled Blumenthal wrote online: “If the government had at least told me I had a warrant I could have voluntarily surrendered and appeared at my own arraignment.”

But it is not justice that is being sought here. This is an exercise in intimidation and fear, hence the unheralded 9am arrival of the forces of law and order, the shackles, the cages and the denial of contact with legal representation.

Whatever happened to the press freedom guaranteed under the First Amendment which permits information, ideas and opinions without interference, constraint or prosecution by the government? Or doesn’t that count anymore?

Are threats, insults and attacks now simply occupational hazards for journalists in the USA?

Will Max Blumenthal and his colleagues at The Grayzone, and investigative journalists elsewhere, let an increasingly authoritarian regime intimidate them into early retirement? Unlikely.

Blumenthal has had an unpleasant experience, no doubt, and while the assault charge may not succeed in unnerving him he would certainly know now that the fight to maintain press freedom does not come easily. First amendment or not.

Damian Wilson is a UK journalist & political communications specialist.

Read more:

‘Political persecution’: Max Blumenthal arrested in DC police raid, held for 2 days on phony charges over Venezuela embassy siege

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , | 1 Comment

US Renews Chevron License as European Refiner Cuts Venezuela Ties over Sanctions

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | October 23, 2019

The US Treasury Department has allowed Chevron to continue its operations in Venezuela for a further 90 days.

One of the few remaining US petroleum companies still in Venezuela, Chevron currently produces around 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) in several joint ventures with Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA. The California-based energy giant had its Treasury-issued sanctions waiver extended on Monday.

The Trump administration imposed an oil embargo in January, barring dealings with Venezuela’s oil sector, including US imports of Veneuzelan crude, which then stood at 586,000 bpd. At the time, Chevron was issued a six-month license to wind down its Venezuela operations, which was renewed in a last-minute late July decision after months of lobbying. Other beneficiaries of the renewal are Haliburton, Schlumberger, GE’s Baker Hughes, and Weatherford International.

The license does not cover sales of diluents to PDVSA, which were outlawed by the Treasury Department in June. Venezuela relies on imports of diluents to blend its heavy crude into exportable grades, as well as produce gasoline and diesel for internal consumption.

Venezuela’s oil production has plummeted over the past two years since the US began imposing economic sanctions. According to OPEC secondary sources, output fell to just 644,000 bpd in September, down from an average of 1.911 and 1.354 million bpd in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Caracas has scrambled to find new crude buyers, reportedly selling shipments to Russian state energy company Rosneft which then reroutes them to other customers. PDVSA has also moved to convert its heavy petroleum upgraders into blending facilities so as to produce lighter Merey grade crude favored by Asian markets.

In August, Washington upgraded its sanctions regime to a general embargo, prohibiting all US dealings with the Venezuelan state and its associated entities as well as authorizing secondary sanctions against third party actors.

The Trump administration has been reluctant to renew Venezuela operating licences, insisting on the need to deprive the Maduro government of export revenues in the hope of removing it from power. Venezuela depends on oil sales for over ninety percent of its hard currency earnings, which it uses for vital imports of food, medicine, and all classes of inputs.

Despite opting to greenlight Chevron’s operations for three additional months, the Treasury Department moved last week to modify the license of a European refining company prohibiting new purchases of Venezuelan crude.

Jointly owned by PDVSA and Finland’s Neste Oil, Nynas AB operates speciality refineries in Sweden, Germany, and the UK geared mainly towards asphalt production.

Under the terms of the new license, Nynas is authorized to sell Venezuelan oil or petroleum products already in inventory but is barred from making new purchases.

Nynas is one of only two remaining buyers of PDVSA’s lighter, Western-sourced crudes following Washington’s ratcheting up of sanctions this year, which have led most cash-paying customers to cut ties with the Venezuelan state oil firm.

Reuters reports that the move could lead Petrozamora, a Venezuelan-Russian joint venture in the western border state of Zulia, to cut production by 50,000 bpd in order to avoid overflowing oil stocks.

With additional reporting by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.

October 24, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , | Leave a comment

Chevron hopes Trump allows it to stay in Venezuela

RT | October 19, 2019, 2019

US oil giant Chevron is hopeful that the Trump administration will extend a waiver allowing the company to continue doing business in Venezuela despite tough US sanctions on the South American country.

“We are a positive presence in Venezuela, and we are hopeful that General License 8C is renewed so that we can continue certain operations in the country for the long-term,” Chevron spokesman Ray Fohr said in a statement, as cited by Reuters.

General License No 8C is a document that authorizes transactions in Venezuela involving its state oil company PDVSA and its entities, according to the US Department of Treasury. Apart from Chevron, four other multinational corporations enjoy the right to continue certain operations in the country, including oil industry firms Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Weatherford International.

As the document expires on Friday, Chevron, which has been operating in Venezuela for nearly a century, needs an extension to the waiver. The Trump administration is already considering the move, Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing sources. The report said that it is unclear if other companies will be granted a similar 90-day sanctions reprieve, as the Treasury wants to adhere to its “maximum pressure strategy” to further limit Venezuela’s oil production.

US economic warfare against the Bolivarian republic has seen multiple rounds of sanctions, including punitive ones targeting the country’s vital energy sector. Venezuela’s crude production has already neared a historic low of around 600,000 barrels per day, according to S&P Global Platts.

Analysts have recently predicted that a US refusal to extend the waivers for Chevron and other companies mentioned in the General License could further halve the country’s oil output.

“I think you’d see it go certainly to under 300,000 b/d within a month,” said Neil Bhatiya, an associate fellow with the Center for a New American Security, as cited by S&P Global Platts. “The question after that is whether and how fast there is backfilling by Chinese, or, more likely, Russian state firms. It will take a while though, so a Chevron-less Venezuela will probably be in the [sub-300,000 b/d] zone for the remainder of the calendar year.”

October 19, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , | Leave a comment

Venezuela says it would make sense for US to restore ties

Press TV – September 19, 2019

Venezuela says it would make sense for the United States to restore diplomatic ties with the elected government in Caracas as Washington has failed to install an opposition figure as Venezuela’s leader.

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez told reporters in Caracas on Wednesday that it would be reasonable for the US “to restore diplomatic contacts and dialog with the government” of President Nicolas Maduro.

Washington is left with “a single path,” having failed to remove Maduro from power, and that is “negotiation and diplomatic communication,” Rodriguez said.

In January, obscure opposition figure Juan Guaido unilaterally declared himself the “interim president” of Venezuela, winning the recognition of Washington.

Later, he attempted an abortive coup against Maduro’s government, again with support from the United States.

However, even the opposition groups that had sided with Guaido have been breaking ranks with him, joining talks that the government has opened to resolve differences peacefully.

On Monday, the representatives of several opposition parties concluded an agreement with Maduro’s top aides, including Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, an increasingly isolated Guaido has ruled out continuing talks with the government that Norway has been brokering.

Venezuela broke off relations with the US after Washington recognized Guaido as “interim president” on January 23.

The US has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Venezuela, confiscated its state oil assets based in the US, channeled revenue from them to Guaido, and has hinted at the use of force to remove Maduro.

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 4 Comments

Russia Warns US Against Economic Blockade on Venezuela – Deputy Foreign Minister

Sputnik – August 20, 2019

Russia has warned the United States against any attempts to impose an economic blockade on Venezuela, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in a statement.

“We will certainly study the situation related to Washington’s boosting of illegal, illegitimate sanctions pressure and attempts to impose blockade [on Venezuela]. We warn Washington against incautious steps in this sphere”, Ryabkov said.

According to the diplomat, the issue of US sanctions against the Latin American nation will be discussed during the course of talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez scheduled for 21 August.

Ryabkov said that Rodríguez has already held several rounds of talks and will continue to communicate with Russian officials on various subjects.

Speaking about the bilateral ties between Russia and Venezuela, the diplomat said that the two nations will boost economic cooperation, including in mining and machine engineering.

“We are not discussing economic assistance, but economic cooperation”, Ryabkov said, when asked whether Russia possibly increasing its aid to the Latin American country was on the agenda during Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez’s visit to Moscow. “We’re continuing work on a range of projects. New possibilities have emerged in some areas, such as the mining industry and … machine engineering. We’re continuing work on Russian grain deliveries to Venezuela in quite significant amounts. As I see it, the government already started … such discussions yesterday”.

Earlier this month, Washington imposed a new round of sanctions on Venezuela with National Security Adviser John Bolton saying that the pressure sent a direct signal to all enablers of “Maduro’s dictatorship”. Caracas decried the sanctions as “another serious aggression by the Trump administration through arbitrary economic terrorism against the Venezuelan people”.

Venezuela has suffered a political crisis since the beginning of this year when opposition figure Juan Guaido proclaimed himself interim president of the country just days after legitimate President Maduro was inaugurated for a second term.

Washington as well as other nations immediately recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s leader. However, Russia among several other nations refused to recognise the legitimacy of the self-styled president’s claim.

President Maduro, for his part, slammed the opposition leader as a US “puppet”, saying Guaido’s recognition by global leaders was a coup attempt staged by the United States.

August 20, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Punishing the World With Sanctions

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 15, 2019

Sanctions are economic warfare, pure and simple. As an alternative to a direct military attack on a country that is deemed to be misbehaving they are certainly preferable, but no one should be under any illusions regarding what they actually represent. They are war by other means and they are also illegal unless authorized by a supra-national authority like the United Nations Security Council, which was set up after World War II to create a framework that inter alia would enable putting pressure on a rogue regime without going to war. At least that was the idea, but the sanctions regimes recently put in place unilaterally and without any international authority by the United States have had a remarkable tendency to escalate several conflicts rather than providing the type of pressure that would lead to some kind of agreement.

The most dangerous bit of theater involving sanctions initiated by the Trump administration continues to focus on Iran. Last week, the White House elevated its extreme pressure on the Iranians by engaging in a completely irrational sanctioning of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The sanctions will have no effect whatsoever and they completely contradict Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that he is seeking diplomacy to resolve the conflict with Iran. One doesn’t accomplish that by sanctioning the opposition’s Foreign Minister. Also, the Iranians have received the message loud and clear that the threats coming from Washington have nothing to do with nuclear programs. The White House began its sanctions regime over a year ago when it withdrew from the JCPOA and they have been steadily increasing since that time even though Iran has continued to be fully compliant with the agreement. Recently, the US took the unprecedented step of sanctioning the entire Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is part of the nation’s military.

American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear that the sanctions on Iran are intended to cause real pain, which, in fact, they have succeeded in doing. Pompeo and his accomplice in crime National Security Advisor John Bolton believe that enough pressure will motivate the starving people to rise up in the streets and overthrow the government, an unlikely prospect as the American hostility has in fact increased popular support for the regime.

To be sure, ordinary people in Iran have found that they cannot obtain medicine and some types of food are in short supply but they are not about to rebel. The sanctioning in May of Iranian oil exports has only been partially effective but it has made the economy shrink, with workers losing jobs. The sanctions have also led to tit-for-tat seizures of oil and gas tankers, starting with the British interception of a ship carrying Iranian oil to Syria [?] in early July.

Another bizarre escalation in sanctions that has taken place lately relates to the Skripal case in Britain. On August 2nd, Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing a package of new sanctions against Moscow over the alleged poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in March 2018. The order “prohibit[s] any United States bank from making any loan or providing any credit… except for loans or credits for the purpose of purchasing food or other agricultural commodities or products.” The ban also includes “the extension of any loan or financial or technical assistance… by international financial institutions,” meaning that international lenders will also be punished if they fail to follow Washington’s lead.

The sanctions were imposed under the authority provided by the US Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act adopted in 1991, which imposes penalties for use of chemical weapons. Novichok, which was reportedly used on the Skripals, is a chemical weapon developed in the labs of the Soviet Union, though a number of states are believed to currently have supplies of the agent in their arsenals. Russia can appeal the sanctions with 90 days by providing “reliable assurance” that it will not again use chemical weapons.

Russia has strenuously denied any role in the attack on the Skripals and the evidence that has so far been produced to substantiate the Kremlin’s involvement has been less than convincing. An initial package of US-imposed sanctions against Russia that includes the export of sensitive technologies and some financial services was implemented in August 2018.

Venezuela is also under the sanctions gun and is a perfect example how sanctions can escalate into something more punitive, leading incrementally to an actual state of war. Last week Washington expanded its sanctions regime, which is already causing starvation in parts of Venezuela, to include what amounts to a complete economic embargo directed against the Maduro regime that is being enforced by a naval blockade.

The Venezuelan government announced last Wednesday that the United States Navy had seized a cargo ship bound for Venezuela while it was transiting the Panama Canal. According to a government spokesman, the ship’s cargo was soy cakes intended for the production of food. As one of Washington’s raisons d’etre for imposing sanctions on Caracas was that government incompetence was starving the Venezuelan people, the move to aggravate that starvation would appear to be somewhat capricious and revealing of the fact that the White House could care less about what happens to the Venezuelan civilians who are caught up in the conflict.

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez condemned the move as “serious aggression,” and accused the Trump Administration of trying to impede Venezuela’s basic right to import food to feed its people.

One of the most pernicious aspects of the sanctions regimes that the United States is imposing is that they are global. When Washington puts someone on its sanctions list, other countries that do not comply with the demands being made are also subject to punishment, referred to as secondary sanctions. The sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, for example, are being globally enforced with some few exceptions, and any country that buys Iranian oil will be punished by being denied access to the US financial and banking system. That is a serious penalty as most international trade and business transactions go through the dollar denominated SWIFT banking network.

Finally, nothing illustrates the absurdity of the sanctions mania as a recent report that President Trump had sent his official hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien to Stockholm to obtain freedom for an American rap musician ASAP Rocky who was in jail after having gotten into a fight with some local boys. The Trumpster did not actually know the lad, but he was vouched for by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, both of whom have had nice things to say about the president. The negotiator was instructed to tell Sweden that if they did not release Rocky there would be “negative consequences.” Who can doubt that the consequences would undoubtedly have included sanctions?

It has reached the point where the only country that likes the United States is Israel, which is locked into a similar cycle of incessant aggression. To be sure Donald Trump’s rhetoric is part of the problem, but the indiscriminate, illegal and immoral use of sanctions, which punish whole nations for the presumed sins of those nations’ leaders, is a major contributing factor. And the real irony is that even though sanctions cause pain, they are ineffective. Cuba has been under sanctions, technically and embargo, since 1960 and its ruling regime has not collapsed, and there is no chance that Venezuela, Iran or Russia’s government will go away at any time soon either. In fact, real change would be more likely if Washington were to sit down at a negotiating table with countries that it considers enemies and work to find solutions to common concerns. But that is not likely to happen with the current White House line-up, and equally distant with a Democratic Party obsessed with the “Russian threat” and other fables employed to explain its own failings.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Food Shipment Destined For Venezuela Seized Due to US Blockade

teleSUR | August 7, 2019

Venezuela’s Vicepresident Delcy Rodriguez denounced Wednesday that a ship containing 25 thousand tonnes of Soya has been seized in the Panama Canal due to the U.S. blockade while calling on the United Nations to take action against the “serious aggression” that impede Venezuela “right to food”.

“Venezuela denounces before the world that a boat that holds 25 thousand tons of Soya, for food production in our country, has been seized in the Panama Canal, due to the criminal blockade imposed by Donald Trump,” the vice president said in a tweet.

“Venezuela calls on the UN to stop this serious aggression by Donald Trump’s govt against our country, which constitutes a massive violation of the human rights of the entire Venezuelan people, by attempting to impede their right to food.”

In a subsequent tweet, the Venezuelan senior official explained that the owner of the vessel carrying the merchandise of food was informed by the insurance company that it was prevented from moving that cargo to Venezuela.

The shipment seizure comes just days after Trump signed an executive order Monday that imposes a near-total blockade on government assets in that country, which includes an embargo against food suppliers, among other basic inputs. This is the first time in 30 years that Washington has taken such an action against a sovereign country.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments