US accuses Venezuela’s leader of operating ‘a kleptocracy’

A U.S. official on Monday accused Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro of “rapacious corruption” and operating “a kleptocracy” on a rarely seen scale that includes not only embezzling from the state-owned oil company but stealing from a government program created to feed millions of hungry people.

Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. Treasury’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing, alleged at an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council that corruption by Maduro, his wife Celia Flores and their inner circle “have laid low a once great nation, and impoverished millions.”

The result, he said, is “a humanitarian crisis threatening regional stability,” a near-collapse of Venezuela’s oil production, and an economy “now in a death spiral.”

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who organized and chaired the meeting, said widespread corruption in Venezuela has unleashed “instability, violence and human misery.”

She said Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez’s “perverse vision of a socialist paradise in Venezuela has transformed into a criminal narco-state that is robbing the Venezuelan people blind.”

“Something is very wrong when citizens of an oil-rich country have to leave in order to beg on Colombian streets to feed their children,” Haley said. “That something is the corruption of the Maduro regime.”

Venezuela’s U.N. Mission did not send a representative to the open meeting and the mission had no comment on it.

Maduro regularly blames Venezuela’s shortages and inflation on an economic war waged by the United States and other capitalist powers. Venezuelan authorities also accuse opponents of sounding an alarm about a humanitarian crisis to justify a foreign military intervention.

Venezuela was once among Latin America’s most prosperous nations, holding the world’s largest proven oil reserves, but a fall in oil prices accompanied by corruption and mismanagement under two decades of socialist rule have left the economy in a historic economic and political crisis.

Inflation this year could top 1 million percent, according to economists at the International Monetary Fund.

Billingslea said “the cumulative effective of theft” from state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela has resulted in a more than 70 percent drop in oil export revenues since 2012.

And as the oil sector has plummeted, he said, “regime insiders are now jockeying to loot another of Venezuela’s precious natural resources, its gold deposits.”

Billingslea said the collapse in oil revenue led to a collapse in the Maduro government’s ability to import food, medicine and other goods — and he accused regime officials of illegally profiting at every stage of the government-controlled program that was started to distribute food.

This includes “at the end when they replaced more valuable or popular food products, such as dry milk with lower value, mass-produced products,” Billingslea said.

“The valuable products are then sold on the black market at high profit margins for officials’ personal enrichment,” he said. “For example, an investigation by Venezuela’s democratically elected National Assembly uncovered instances where the regime spent $42 for a box of food when the food items in the box cost less than $13. Maduro’s inner circle kept the difference, which amounted to over $200 million in just one particular order.”

Stressing that more than half of Venezuela’s population now lives in “extreme” poverty, Billingslea urged U.N. member states to hold the regime to account and investigate individuals under sanctions from the U.S. — including Maduro — as well as the European Union and others, and freeze their assets and prevent their travel.

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Exclusive: Venezuela signs oil deals similar to ones rolled back under Chavez – document

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela has agreed to hand over at least seven oil fields to little-known companies that will be paid to boost output through contracts similar to ones rolled back under late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, according to two sources and an internal document.

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during an agreement-signing ceremony of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, in Caracas, Venezuela August 28, 2018. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

The effort signals that President Nicolas Maduro, who is struggling under a hyper-inflationary economic meltdown and fast-declining oil output, is willing to reverse the aggressive efforts of his predecessor – who died in 2013 – to expand the state’s role in the energy industry of the OPEC nation.

But the plan faces significant hurdles because most companies involved have no known experience operating oilfields, and U.S. sanctions would likely inhibit more experienced firms from getting involved with Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA.

The government had already announced a vague plan to boost oil output with the help of seven companies.

The plan was described during a televised event on Aug. 28 in which representatives of those companies, during a ceremony including Maduro, signed “joint service agreements” with PDVSA. Details of the deals were not disclosed.

But in a draft contract seen by Reuters, PDVSA offers to put companies in charge of the fields for six years on the condition that they boost production, finance the required investment and procure the necessary equipment.

The draft was the basis for the contracts announced by Maduro, said two sources familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because they are not allowed to speak publicly about the issue.

Reuters was not able to obtain finalized contracts. The companies involved have not yet announced final agreements with Venezuela.

Neither PDVSA nor the companies involved responded to a request for comment.

The president of PDVSA, Manuel Quevedo, said during the Aug. 28 event that the overall plan would involve $430 million in investment and a production increase of 641,000 barrels per day (bpd). The terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Quevedo said the plan included 14 companies but that only seven were present that night, without mentioning the names of the other companies.

The deals involve fields including two that were operated by Italy’s Eni (ENI.MI) and France’s Total (TOTF.PA).

The companies that signed agreements include five Venezuelan firms: Petrokariña, Enfriadores de Venezuela C.A., Consorcio Rinoca Centauro Kariña, Well Services Cavallino, and Consorcio Petrolero Tomoporo.

Most of them appear to be involved in oil services but have no evident experience operating fields, which tends to require significantly more capital, human resources and certifications.

The companies either did not respond to requests for comment or do not have sufficient publicly available contact information to make such a request.

The other two are Helios Petroleum Services, a Panamanian company that describes itself as petroleum marketer, and Shandong Kerui Holding Group, a Chinese oilfield equipment manufacturer.

Neither responded to requests for comment.


The draft says companies would receive a fee in compensation for the value of additional barrels they produce, and be reimbursed for the investments they make. PDVSA would have a six-month grace period, starting at the time the contractor increases output, to begin making payments.

Payments would be made to the account of a trust created by the contractor, the draft says, helping ensure the contractor actually receives payment from PDVSA – which is billions of dollars behind in paying partners and providers.

The draft contract is similar to a group of 1990s-era contracts known as “operating agreements” under which PDVSA contracted out oil production to companies that were paid a fee for the crude they produced.

Chavez, elected in 1998, for years lambasted this arrangement as a bad deal for Venezuela on the grounds that it was a “disguised privatization” of the oil industry that did not leave enough revenue in the hands of the state.

Former oil czar Rafael Ramirez, who oversaw Chavez’s push to boost the state’s role in the oil industry, in a 2005 speech to Congress said the arrangements were illegal because they handed over oilfields to private companies in violation of the 1970s oil industry nationalization.

The legal status of the contracts signed in August was not immediately evident.

Venezuela in 2005 ordered that operating agreements be converted to joint ventures in which PDVSA held a majority.

Despite a 10-year oil boom that left PDVSA flush with cash, output at those fields steadily declined as the company diverted necessary investments into social programs that kept Chavez popular. The 2014 collapse of oil prices ushered in an economic crisis that left millions unable to eat, leaving oil engineers and oilfield workers alike rushing to leave the country.

Maduro says the country is victim of an “economic war” led by opposition politicians with the support of Washington, which has slapped several rounds of sanctions on his government.

Reporting by Corina Pons in Caracas; Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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Boletín de Noticias de Costa del Sol, Güiria, 10-09-2018

Boletín de Noticias


Diosdado Cabello dice que venezolanos emigran por “moda” y “estatus”

Diosdado Cabello dice que venezolanos emigran por “moda” y “estatus”

  El presidente de la oficialista Asamblea Nacional Constituyente (ANC) de Venezuela aseguró que aquellos que abandonan su país lo hacen por moda e influenciados por un plan de “desestabilización mental” de la derecha. France24 Moda y estatus. Para el presidente de la ANC, Diosdado Cabello, estas son las razones por las cuales tantos venezolanos han partido del país. Pero, …
80 organizaciones cuestionaron informe que niega emergencia humanitaria en Venezuela

80 organizaciones cuestionaron informe que niega emergencia humanitaria en Venezuela

  Más de 80 organizaciones cuestionaron este lunes el informe presentado ante el Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU, el cual niega la emergencia humanitaria en Venezuela. Jennifer Suárez El experto independiente para la promoción de un orden internacional democrático y equitativo, Alfred de Zayas, presentó el día de hoy ante el Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU …
AI denuncia “estrategia de expulsión” de Curazao con migrantes venezolanos

AI denuncia “estrategia de expulsión” de Curazao con migrantes venezolanos

  Amnistía Internacional (AI) criticó en un informe difundido hoy la “estrategia de expulsión activa” que, asegura, aplica Curazao con los inmigrantes venezolanos, al tiempo que le pidió a este territorio ligado a los Países Bajos que apoye a quienes “huyen de la grave crisis” que atraviesa el país petrolero. “En lugar de proteger a quienes llegan desde Venezuela, el …
Por esta razón Nicolás Maduro jamás podrá derrotar al dólar paralelo

Por esta razón Nicolás Maduro jamás podrá derrotar al dólar paralelo

  Por donde la vieras, Catalina es tuerta. Pasó con el Sitme luego del “asesinato” de las casas de bolsa en 2010; pasó con Simadi, con Cencoex, y con todos los mecanismos de asignación y liquidación de divisas que ha inventado el Gobierno 2003: el problema es la oferta de divisas. Y mientras haya escasez de dólares, no habrá caída del dólar …
Sebastiana Barráez: Traslado de tropas del FAES a Táchira ante presunto ataque colombiano

Sebastiana Barráez: Traslado de tropas del FAES a Táchira ante presunto ataque colombiano

  La periodista venezolana Sebastiana Barráez, informó a través de las redes sociales que desde este sábado se habría ordenado la movilización de tropas policiales y militares desde Caracas a la frontera de Táchira con Colombia. Barráez especificó que cerca de un centenar de hombres pertenecientes a las Fuerzas de Acciones Especiales (FAES) estarían siendo trasladados vía terrestre “La movilización …
Plan económico entre un pasito para adelante y un pasito para atrás

Plan económico entre un pasito para adelante y un pasito para atrás

  “Se mezclan los anuncios realmente importantes y de fondo (y hay algunos ortodoxos importantes) con un maquillaje (populista) tan pastoso y contradictorio que confunde y complica la interpretación de impactos”, dijo Luis Vicente León. Desde el pasado 18 de agosto, el país ha recibido una avalancha de “medidas”, emprendidas por  el Gobierno nacional y que forman parte de su …
Vladimir Villegas: ¿Repatriados o repateados?

Vladimir Villegas: ¿Repatriados o repateados?

Ni el gobierno ni sus medios “del Estado” han querido admitir que millones de venezolanos han salido, huído, escapado o abandonado el país para ponerse a salvo de una desastrosa política económica queha demolido no solo los salarios y la calidad de vida, sino también el derecho a tener una vida digna, e incluso a soñar con esa posibilidad. Pero cómo le han …
Alirio Pérez Lo Presti: Los inmaculados

Alirio Pérez Lo Presti: Los inmaculados

  La vida personal de cualquiera se parece un tanto a los combos que ofrecen en las ventas de comida rápida: Se aceptan como vienen o simplemente se cambia el pedido. La historia de vida de un ciudadano va acompañada de tantos componentes, que zafarse de tamaña cola es francamente imposible. De esos elementos propios de la existencia de cualquier …
Sofía Esteves: Que hay detrás de la guerra Colombia Venezuela

Sofía Esteves: Que hay detrás de la guerra Colombia Venezuela

  Amigos en una recopilación de algunos artículos e informaciones  sobre el conflicto armado con Colombia, que esta en pleno desarrollo. Notaran algo de bulto, al frente por Venezuela esta el “general” Freddy Bernal y han enviado para la frontera al primer contingente del FAES como avanzada. Se ve a luces como van a usarlos como carne de cañón. Lo …
Vladimiro Mujica: Memorias de Cándido; Los nuevos pobres

Vladimiro Mujica: Memorias de Cándido; Los nuevos pobres

  Mi primera visita al monasterio de San Pedro Claver en Cartagena de Indias me dejó cargado de interrogantes sobre la canonización del religioso, el hecho de que se hiciera llamar el “esclavo de los esclavos” y que se le presentara como el defensor de los derechos humanos de los esclavos negros. Una circunstancia notable porque su obra precede a …
Gehard Cartay Ramírez: La diáspora que amenaza

Gehard Cartay Ramírez: La diáspora que amenaza

  El régimen castrochavomadurista se ha equivocado si creía que promoviendo la terrible diáspora venezolana que estamos presenciando  podía repetir aquí la experiencia castrocomunista de la Cuba de los años sesenta. Como se sabe, la entonces triunfante revolución cubana estimuló la huida de muchos de sus nacionales, al tomar el poder en 1959. Consideraba, no sin razón, que mientras más …
César Pérez Vivas: La ruta de la protesta

César Pérez Vivas: La ruta de la protesta

  La ruta de la protesta es una opción a la que no puede renunciar una ciudadanía, asediada por un sistema político que le ha hurtado sus libertades, su calidad de vida, y hasta la esperanza. Frente a la opresión y el despotismo de la camarilla roja, tenemos que asumir la alternativa que la protesta y la resiliencia. Sabemos del …
NOTA: No se dan detalles de las noticias porque la dictadura del colombiano Nicolás Maduro bloqueó desde hoy el por Costa del Sol.

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Venezuela announces easing of currency controls, economists skeptical

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela on Saturday eased 15-year-old currency controls, decreeing that private banks and exchange houses are allowed to sell dollars, but economists are skeptical the measure will improve the dysfunctional and crisis-stricken economy.

A man poses with dollars, after buying them at a money exchange in Caracas, Febreuary 24, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The currency controls, which require businesses and individuals to buy dollars via the state, are frequently identified as one of the main drivers of the crisis that includes hyper-inflation and product shortages.

Economists noted that the central bank remains in charge of determining the exchange rate. Before Saturday’s measure, the government had only sold greenbacks through the central bank although many transactions routinely took place on the black market.

“The exchange controls are being maintained, though they are a bit more flexible,” said economist Asdrubal Oliveros of local consultancy Econanalitica, responding to social media commentary suggesting that the controls had been lifted.

Legislator and economist Jose Guerra said the measure was the furthest the government has gone in easing the controls, but that it would depend entirely on how it was implemented.

President Nicolas Maduro during five years in office has repeatedly promised to create market-based systems to improve access to hard currency. Each attempt has fallen apart because the systems were unable to provide steady access to dollars.

The government currently sells dollars for around 62 bolivars, while the black market rate is around 90.

That disparity has in the past made foreign exchange systems unworkable because it creates incentives to buy dollars at the preferential rate and quickly resell them at a profit on the black market, meaning the preferential dollars quickly dry up.

Merchants unable to obtain dollars through the government have to buy them on the black market to import products. But they can be thrown in jail if they sell those products at prices higher than those approved by state price controls.

Maduro says his government is victim of an “economic war” led by opposition politicians with the help of the United States, which has levied financial sanctions against Venezuela.

Critics say Venezuela’s economy will not function properly until prices are determined by the private sector rather than government decrees.

They noted that Finance Minister Simon Zerpa on Friday promised free exchange of hard currency but also warned that “businesses that decide to continue feeding the criminal (foreign exchange) market are working in the shadows at great financial and legal risk.”

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; editing by Brian Ellsworth and Grant McCool

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Venezuela Accuses US of Plotting Coup Against Maduro

Venezuela and one of its allies accused the United States on Saturday of plotting against its president, Nicolás Maduro, who has presided over a near collapse of the country.

Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s foreign minister, responded Saturday to an article by The New York Times detailing secret meetings between American officials and Venezuelan officers seeking to oust Mr. Maduro. “We denounce before the world the United States’ intervention plans and help to military conspirators against Venezuela,” he said on Twitter, adding that the article had “brought to light new and crude evidence” of such a plot.

The Times article, based on interviews with United States officials and a Venezuelan former military commander who is seeking to overthrow Mr. Maduro, gave an account of several meetings that took place starting last fall and continuing into this year.

The main request of the military plotters was encrypted radios, which they planned to use to communicate among themselves in order to capture Mr. Maduro and his lieutenants. But the United States never granted the request, and after multiple meetings, the Venezuelans became frustrated. Mr. Maduro’s government has since jailed dozens of the conspirators, though many remain at large.

Among those who denounced the secret meetings was President Evo Morales of Bolivia, a longtime leftist ally of Mr. Maduro, who referred to them on Saturday as “Trump’s coup conspiracy.”

In a tweet he wrote, “The free countries of Latin America will withstand and defeat any further attacks of the Empire against the peace and democracy in the region.”

The White House has not commented on the meetings.

On Saturday, Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the United States preferred “a peaceful, orderly transition to democracy in Venezuela.” He added that the government “hears daily the concerns of Venezuelans from all walks of life” and that “they share one goal: the rebuilding of democracy in their homeland.”

However, some former officials defended the meetings, arguing that something must be done to stem the humanitarian crises set off by Mr. Maduro’s authoritarian leadership, from shortages of food and medicine to the migration of millions of Venezuelans from the country.

“If you don’t like the idea of the U.S. talking to the military, then what do you propose?” said Richard N. Haass, a former top State Department official in the George W. Bush administration who is now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

He said that while he did not support a coup, the region should consider a “Latin American coalition of the willing,” an alliance of Venezuela’s neighbors created for a possible regional military intervention, similar to the United States’ invasion of Iraq.

While Latin American leaders loudly condemned remarks by President Trump last year saying there was a “military option” to thwart Mr. Maduro, the reaction to the news that American officials had met with coup plotters was muted this time. Mr. Morales was the only president who came to the defense of Mr. Maduro.

That reflects the growing exasperation with Mr. Maduro’s government, some experts say.

“There is so little sympathy now,” said Michael Shifter, the president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy forum. While Mr. Shifter does not support a coup either, he said comparisons to the overthrow in Chile of Salvador Allende in 1973 by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who became a military dictator, were unfounded, given the humanitarian crisis Mr. Maduro had caused.

There are signs that the Trump administration may harden its stance toward Mr. Maduro, one of the few sitting presidents currently under sanctions imposed by the United States. The White House is expected to name Mauricio Claver-Carone to head Latin America affairs at the National Security Council.

Mr. Claver-Carone is considered a conservative hard-liner on Cuba and was involved in tightening American sanctions against Venezuelan officials. He would report to John Bolton, who came to lead the N.S.C. in April and is also seen as more hawkish than his predecessor.

Shannon K. O’Neil, a vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, said she would have a wait-and-see approach on shifts in American policy toward Venezuela, despite the growing chaos there.

“Why should Latin America be different than other parts of the world where people have stepped in?” she asked. “But the realpolitik of this is there’s no will to do so yet.”

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