In Search Of Good News In Venezuela

September 28, 2014


I know, I know, I have been away for too long. I agree. Somehow this happens now every time I am in Venezuela. It is not writer’s block, it is more like information overload. Everything is a story, but in the end nothing appears to be one. The lack of information and the lack of transparency, in the presence of a thousand daily headlines, makes it impossible to understand most things. Let alone write about them.

I spent the week trying to find good news. Not that I am a masochist, but I figure if I can find something positive to write about in Venezulea, that alone will make it a good story. Everything seems to be so negative. But good stories are hard to find, every time I think I have one, I find a wrinkle in it, some orthogonal feature that makes the good news somewhat iffy.

Take Chikungunya. Before I went looking for experts on it, I learned to spell the word, I didn’t want to be like Maduro and call it something else. I talked to a couple of people that suggested that something was up in Maracay, but.. It is the but that gets me intrigued. The but is that there is so little information that it is not clear whether it is the Ch. word or it is dengue that is to blame for what is going on. That is certainly good news, until I am told that the number of dengue cases is ballooning to levels not seen in the country’s history. To top it all off, people who either get dengue or the Ch. illness need Acetaminophen, which is in lvery ow supply in Venezuela. It seems like Chikungunya is not the good news story I am looking for, even if I learned how to spell it.

I then turn to the release of political prisoner Simonovis, who has been been given house arrest instead of jail for health reasons. This is certainly great news, at last the Government seems to have shown some compassion for someone in the vast array of injustices that go from political prisoners, to crime, to persecutions and to human rights abuses. But then you start to see the wrinkles in the case. The measure is only temporary and he is taken to the hospital shackled and treated like a common criminal. But worst of all, you see the dark side of Chavismo in the outcries of the radical Chavistas who find this humanitarian measure incomprehensible, filled with hate, unable to have even a the slightest empathy for human beings. Unable to even consider, not only Simonovis’ role in the affairs of 2002, but to realize how Chavismo got away with murder and murders in the 1992 coup attempts. They were all forgiven. They got away with it. From Chávez to Arias Cardenas, to all of them. Many of them rule the country today.

What happened to Venezuela and Venezuelans, that hate and politics became more important than humanity and compassion? How can sending a very sick man home become a subject of protests and revolutionary symbolism? As if this was not enough, a friend explains to me why Simonovis was finally given house arrest: Don’t believe anything you read, Maduro was just worried that he may die in jail. It was a political move, nothing more. Another good story dies at this point.

I then turn to shortages.  I go to the market and see milk, margarine and even toilet paper.  Surely this is good, no? Except that now you can’t find diapers or cleaning products. It is the rotation of priorities. The Government devoted all of its efforts to make sure there was toilet paper, but forgot about diapers, it imported milk, but forgot about margarine, and there had never been shortages of cleaning products, so the Government did not even understand they could be in short supply.

The worst part is that by now, the shortage mentality has taken over the population. There is milk in the shelves, but you don’t know how long it will last and take home as much milk as they will sell to you. The fact that there are limits, people reason, must mean that there isn’t enough for everyone. Everyone hoards whatever they give priority to. The end result is that it will be quite difficult to bring inventories up, it is sitting in people’s homes..

Take water, for example. It is raining cats an dogs in Caracas. The dams are 70% full. Reportedly, the Government is punishing middle class neighborhoods limiting their water supply. But the shortage mentality has taken over residents too. Water is rationed even when there is plenty of it. In my building, they cut it off at the usual time mid-morning, despite the fact that the tank is half full and water is coming in. This means that everyone will be ready at 12:30 to wash all the clothes, fill all the pails, pots and pans and shower again just in case. The end result is more water consumption, all clothes are clean all the time and most people (like me!) take extra showers, just in case.

Hard to break this vicious cycle. Shortages are definitely not a good story either.

And then there is Convenio Cambiario #30, some analysts hail it as a sign of further “adjustment”. A positive. But all I see is a decree allowing Pdvsa to have total freedom as to whether it gives Bs. at three different exchange rates, to opacity-ladden-Fonden, so that Maduro may have more funds at his convenience, simultaneusly creating a new perverse mechanism for printing money: Pdvsa exchanges with the Central Bank at Bs. 50 (Sicad 2 rate) but the BCV can turn around and sell those same dollars at Bs. 6.3 per US$. All stages of this may be done with total discretion and no disclosure. Sorry, not a positive, another negative.

And the I notice something. The new President of PDVSA has been talking only about oil since he took over the position. First, he said that he will reactivate one thousand wells to increase oil production. He talked about modernization, met with managers and talked about increasing production by 60 to 70 thousand barrels of oil a day. He then intervened the marketing division of PDVSA, where Maduro said there were “mafias” involved in the commercialization of products. Finally, yesterday Del Pino called for making investments in the Orinoco Heavy Crude belt a reality. After years of his predecessor announcing projects and projects but little happening, Del Pino wants it to become reality saying “it is time to go beyond the presentations to financing and building the projects”. Wow!

The best part, Del Pino seldom mentions the party or politics, even if he can’t help mentioning the almighty Hugo. He apparently wants to be President of PDVSA and see if he can increase production of oil in Venezuela. What a concept! He is praising the company’s workers, trying to improve moral. For now, I will give Del Pino the benefit of the doubt. He is saying the right things and concentrating on what he should. And that, in the current Venezuela is a HUGE positive. And that, my friends, is the GOOD NEWS!

And now that I have given you the good news, here is the bad news. One Bolívar fuerte is now worth less than a penny. That is not even bad news, it is simply depressing:

bolfA true tribute to the success of the revolution!










35 Responses to “In Search Of Good News In Venezuela”

  1. dmahvUqf Says:


  2. Dr. Faustus Says:

    Oh my. It appears that the numskulls presiding over the Bolivarian Revolution have decided to rent a wheelbarrow and throw money around Wall Street. Yup. One point seven billion (1.7) to be exact. Tomorrow. Oh boy, what fun is to be had by all! Our beloved ‘Revolutionaries’ just love giving billions of dollars to the hated capitalists. The capitalists love em back. A symbiotic relationship. I, however, appear to have lost my Vegas bet. Sniff. There is a “must read” article this morning on Bloomberg concerning Venezuelan debt. Go here:

  3. Boludo Tejano Says:

    In the month when Venezuela is supposed to make a big bond payment, the price of oil continues to tank. Oil Benchmark Hits 28-Month Low.

    The price of oil hit a more than two-year low in trading recently, as Brent crude plunged to just over $92 a barrel. For more than a year, that benchmark was trading above $100 a barrel, but a variety of factors has sent prices in a downward spiral in recent months, as you can see in the graph above.

    That is a $20+/BBL drop from mid June to now.
    Were I a betting man, I would bet on Venezuela defaulting.

  4. Island Canuck Says:

    Off topic but interesting.
    An indication of the problems Venezuela is having in paying their bills:

    Banca y Negocios ‏@bancaynegocios now8 seconds ago
    Exportaciones de crudo de EEUU alcanzan en agosto un máximo de 388.818 bpd .

  5. Gustavo Coronel Says:

    Miguel’s optimism regarding Eulogio del Pino is, unfortunately, unjustified. Del Pino is an old member of the Board of PDVSA, made up of the inept and/or the corrupt. He has been the head of Exploration (dead) and production (in free fall) for some years now. The Orinoco belt is one of his babies, still born. He is more of the same, probably not as harmful as Ramirez Carreño, who was a complete gangster.
    The other thing, of course, is that PDVSA does not need only a new president. It needs a new Board, new financial strategies, new production, new everything. Or better, let’s start from scratch and structure a new oil industry model. But this will not be possible until the gorvernment changes hands.

    • Dr. Faustus Says:

      Sorry, but to an outsider looking in on the managerial shenanigans of PDVSA it strikes one as being all quite bizarre. Usually when a man of Ramirez’s stature leaves a powerful international corporation he usually disappears, goes into retirement. The Chinese government and the boys at SINOPEC have dealt with this guy for years. Rosneft and Reliance as well. The OPEC meetings will be missed without him. Every major oil firm on the planet knows him, or of him. Yet, there he still is! Looking like the rusting tin man on the Wizard of Oz. His purpose? Was that Ramirez carrying Cilia’s bags and then nodding in agreement to the words of his new illiterate boss speaking from the podium? Dunno. It’s gotta hurt. A ghost? He’s in New York last week, doing what again? What about del Pino’s relationship with all the oil power brokers? Is he comfortable in meetings? Does he eat with a knife and fork? What vintage wine does he prefer? Sorry, but this whole thing is weird…

  6. Glenn Says:

    Miguel – here’s more good news!

    Well, good news for Exxon perhaps : )

  7. Roger Says:

    Not much value in my centavamento collection except the metal. I have a funny feeling about the plan to open up some stripper wells to produce 70K barrels a day. Years ago I joked that when wells started to fail, people would squat on them and pump them with a 72 Chevy jacked up with a rear tire removed to run a wireline pump called a junk basket. Crude but effective. Even at say 25$ a barrel or so not a bad profit. We have ranchers, farmers and small producers here that do exactly that and make money and pay their BLM lease. Several hundred feet of oil in an eight inch pipe is worth the fuel it takes to bring it to the surface. Of course in Venezuela, I would expect a very complex commission system. Why risk taking it across the border when you can make the same amount taking it to the PDVSA terminal? Just a guess but we all know some are going to profit from this. While this can also be done with hi tech well services and secondary recovery, I don’t think they have the money or technical people to do it much less heavy crude. Even the Chinese and Russians have given up on them?

  8. syd Says:

    1. Keep taking breaks, Miguel, including those that take you to Vzla. Your writing is great, “orthogonal feature” superb.

    2. Re Del Pino: “He apparently wants to be President of PDVSA ”

    Is he not president of PDVSA already?

  9. metodex Says:


    So the good news in Venezuela is….more hay talk?
    Is people eating words and that’s why I see nobody talk about food scarcity on the streets anymore?

  10. Island Canuck Says:

    “And that, in the current Venezuela is a HUGE positive.”

    I’m not really sure that anything that gives these criminals more money is Good News. I like it better when they are totally failing as they are with everything else they touch.

    • firepigette Says:

      I agree because it is not how much money is received, but rather HOW they use it that will matter.

    • TV Says:

      I agree with you two. That PSVDA does what it’s supposed to is actually bad news. Yes, it may alleviate some problems for a short while, but it will only prolong the inevitable. The Chavista regime is doomed, or Venezuela is.
      The latter may already be true, but nothing prolonging Chavista regime is inherently positive. This is all oil can do, truly.

    • Island Canuck Says:

      This whole proposal reeks of prolems & failure.

      The CNE is already calling the collection of signatures illegal.
      And what do you think they are going to do with a new Tascon list?

      Even if the conference is called & items passed do you think for one minute that the government is going to pay any attention to it?
      The Supreme Court will just rule it null & void on some technicality.

      These people will not leave legally or through votes – forget it.

      • Ira Says:

        My niece is a govt. employee. Anti-Chavista from day one.

        If she signs this…makes it clear to those around her that she signed this and gets fired…does that hold ANY weight in acquiring a U.S. Residency Visa, for political persecution?

        I have GOT to get her out of the country.

        • firepigette Says:

          I know a number of people in Florida that got asylum into the US.They applied in Venezuela…So if you think she needs to get out ,get her on it, if she wants to leave…

          But all of the people I know exaggerated.

        • SHe needs to have clear documentation, not just her word for it. Legally she may also find refugee status in other nations. If she plans to leave she should take English lessons ASAP.

  11. Carlos Says:

    A good news. I have one. Altuves AL batting champonship. The 4th venezuelan in a roe to do so.
    A guy of 1,50 mt do extraordinary thing. Thats good news

  12. Ira Says:

    More bad news:

    I knew about the military’s preferred status as the new “social elite” in VZ, but I had no idea it was this bad.

    FASCINATING article (for me) on the Chavista gameplan to follow the Cuban model:

  13. Boludo Tejano Says:

    And now that I have given you the good news, here is the bad news. One Bolívar fuerte is now worth less than a penny. That is not even bad news, it is simply depressing:

    Or, 100,000 old Bs are now worth less than a penny. Which reminds me of a story from the Argentine comic strip Diogenes y el Linyerna [lunfardo for Vagabond…play on linterna]. Diogenes y el Linyerna had found a map which revealed hidden treasure. After days of searching, they finally discover the hidden treasure chest: full of bills of old pesos, which by then were worthless, as they should have been exchanged @ 100:1 for the new pesos some years back.

    Miguel, in previous trips back, you had mentioned that arepas were as good as ever. That would be some good news, though not as newsworthy as the news you were seeking. 🙂

    Regarding PDVSA pronunciamentos, I will wait until I see something done. OTOH, Del Pino is not making grandiose claims of increasing production by 1 million BBL/day or even 1.4 million BBL/day, which has been the usual PDVSA prediction in the last 10 years. By making a prediction of a much smaller increase, of 60,000-70,000 BBL/day, he is much more credible than his predecessors.

  14. Ira Says:

    Come on:

    We need some Clorox jokes!

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