We’ll go Down The Rabbit Hole in a sec but first…Tip Ranks reports oil major, Conoco Phillips is exploring a deal with PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company) whereby they would be able to sell Venezuela oil in the US on behalf of PDVSA. The move is viewed as an effort by Conoco Phillips to recover the $10 billion it is owed by Venezuela due to the nationalization of it’s assets in Venezuela in 2007. According to the report, Conoco Phillips has no plans to resume pumping oil in Venezuela. With so many companies owed so many billions of dollars by Venezuela due to asset seizures you have to wonder who’s next up.
There are a couple of questions regarding any possible deal between the two companies. First, Conoco Phillips would need a license from the US Treasury Department, similar to that of Chevron, to be able to sell Venezuela oil and if they were issued a license, as we said, would that open the door for other companies owed money by Venezuela to recover their debt through oil sales?
Just so you know, we haven’t forgotten about Eni (Italy) and Repsol (Spain) who received just such a license six months ago, well before Chevron, except their oil was to be shipped to Europe. Just as with Chevron, the permission was granted for debt relief only, PDVSA would get no cash.
After the initial shipment cargoes were halted as PDVSA demanded cash for all future shipments. After four months shipment was resumed but we don’t know if PDVSA relented and took another debt reduction deal or if Europe caved and paid cash, which would be a sanctions violation as cash sales were not permitted under the license. Nobody’s talking and, more importantly, nobody’s asking the question, “Did they pay cash?”
The next question on a proposed Conoco Phillips deal would be that without the ability to pump their own oil, as they have no current operations in Venezuela, where would the oil come from?
Last year’s average Venezuela crude oil production came in at just over 600,000 bpd (barrels per day). Venezuela already has obligations of at least 600,000 bpd for oil to China, Cuba, and domestic needs. Responsible oil analysts put Venezuela’s maximum production capacity at about 850,000 bpd for the next two years and despite all the Maduro regime’s hype about Iran helping Venezuela to rebuild it’s dilapidated oil infrastructure production went down in 2022, not up. If Conoco Phillips doesn’t pump their own oil, exactly whose oil could they sell? At this point, as is always the case with Venezuela, we have more questions than answers.
Then we have BA Times telling us that Juan Guaido, replaced as president of Venezuela’s opposition, says if the opposition can reunify the democratic alternative then Maduro is 100% defeatable (spell check says that’s not a word) in the upcoming 2024 presidential election.
What else would you expect him to say? Well, maybe something like “The opposition really needs to get their sh_t together!” He did say something we totally agree with and it’s a word of caution to all these leaders that want to “normalize” relations with the Maduro regime. “Getting close to Maduro is a mistake”…or as we are fond of saying, :The Chavistas have screwed basically everybody on basically every deal they’ve ever made!”
Then we have Law 360 reporting that a judge in Delaware has denied Venezuela’s request to sit in on a court-appointed special master’s meeting with Biden administration officials as the court hammers out next steps to conduct an auction for CITGO shares. The shares were offered as collateral for the now defaulted PDVSA 2020 bonds.
And we have Gov.UK telling us that the UK government issued a statement in support of Venezuela’s 2015 National Assembly. The statement said, more or less, that even though the “interim government” has been dissolved and “interim president” Juan Guaido, has been replaced, The UK still views the 2015 National Assembly as Venezuela’s legitimate government and maintains it’s stance that Maduro’s election in 2018 was not in accordance with international democratic standards.
Then we have Airline Geeks telling us that Conviasa (Venezuela government-owned airline) will resume operations to Brazil in February. This continues Venezuela’s trend of, step by step, reconnecting with neighboring countries and the world as more nations consider “normalizing” relations with the Maduro regime. In South America the trend has been fueled by the election of leftist presidents in several countries.
Now, let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…
Chapter 12 continued…
…When the opposition swept to victory in the 2015 legislative elections the appointment of Moreno heading the TSJ would become crucial to Maduro. He would lead and the other judges would follow. The pattern would be repeated time and time again. Maduro would issue a decree and the TSJ would ratify said decree as constitutional no matter how blatantly unconstitutional it might be, beginning with Maduro’s decree powers themselves. His emergency powers were required by law to be renewed by the National Assembly. When the opposition took control of the assembly Maduro began renewing the emergency powers himself (even though, as previously stated, he denied the existence of a humanitarian emergency) and the TSJ ruled his decision as constitutional.
In 2015 the TSJ disallowed the election results of the four MPs taking away the opposition’s super-majority.
In 2016 international organizations The G 7, UNASUR, OAS, MERCOSUR, and even The Pope called for health-related emergency aid to be admitted into Venezuela. The assembly passed it’s health emergency law and the aid was denied by Maduro citing sovereignty issues and, just as he would do in 2019, said he was concerned over the quality of the food and medicine in the proposed aid. The TSJ upheld Maduro’s decision ruling that the assembly’s declaration infringed on executive powers. Maduro would allow shipments from Cuba, Iran, and China but it was very limited as evidenced by the 85% shortage of medicine in 2016 – 2018 and up to a 90% shortage in 2019.
In 2016 a National Assembly commission declared 13 TSJ judges appointed by the outgoing Chavista MPs should be dismissed because procedure wasn’t followed according to the Constitution and 3 more judges were unfit to serve. The TSJ ruled the declaration totally invalid due to the assembly’s standing with the court and since they had no super-majority. (Round and round we go…)
In 2016 and 2017 TSJ sentenced five opposition mayors to prison. While the rulings were denounced, they were not challenged.
In 2017 during the height of the protests, repression, calls for dialog etc. Maduro called for the establishment of a constituent assembly through snap elections. Remember, the protests were sparked when the TSJ assumed (then reversed itself) the legitimate assembly’s powers. While the constitution provides for the establishment of such an assembly ( Chavez did it), it requires passage of a referendum before election of members can be called for and the constituent assembly (ANC) can be convened. Maduro’s decision to bypass the constitutionally mandated process was upheld by the TSJ.
In 2017 when the TSJ assumed the assembly’s powers then subsequently backed off they still prohibited the assembly from “declaring political responsibility” and prohibited acts that alter public order. Uh, I’m no constitutional scholar but I think that means you can’t say “This mess is Maduro’s fault” and you can’t protest.
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