He traveled hard for the money

Source: @samuerudesu

On Friday, January 2nd, Brent crude oil prices closed at around US$57 per barrel.

Two days later, an alarmed Nicolás Maduro announced that he would travel to China for the China-Celac Forum, and to several OPEC and non-OPEC countries “to continue high-level efforts (to create) a strategy for a recovery of oil prices.” Everyone knew Nicolás was really trying to get fresh cash from close buddies.

First stop: Russia.

On Monday January 5th, Nicolás, his entourage, and his scarf landed in Moscow, but his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, did not receive him. Instead, Maduro met with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov Alexeevich.

Markets were not impressed. By the end of the day, Brent prices closed at around $54 per barrel, and the Russians didn’t give him any checks.

Second stop: China.

On Tuesday, January 6th, Nicolás arrived in Beijing to meet with President Xi Jinping. Nicolás would also meet with the presidents of the Bank of China and state-run oil company CNPC, as well as representatives of the People’s Bank of China, the Bank of China, and the China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC).

The next day, he said “we scooped up more than $20 billion in investments”, including a renewal of the Chinese Funds of $7 billion, a $5 billion investment in PDVSA, and $5 billion to “finance our foreign exchange accounts.”

Venezuelan Vice President, Jorge Arreaza, claimed that those agreements were “not debt”, but social investment. Crazy enough, we think that if you have to send oil as payment, then it is a debt. But then again, who are we to say?

Nicolás failed to mention that he was hoping to get and emergency loan of $16 billion from our Chinese buddies. According to El Nuevo Herald, “in exchange for the loan, Maduro was offering a range of collaterals, including future oil supplies and the future production of minerals from the Corporación Venezolana de Guayana (CVG), industrial complex that produces gold, aluminum and iron”. But “the Chinese government said it would only accept CVG production as a warranty if the company was left under its control, given the high levels of government corruption linked to its operations” and Nicolás didn’t agree to this.

Nicolás left China after participating in the China-Celac Forum. The Chinese didn’t give us any checks, and by Friday, January 9th, Brent prices closed at around $51 per barrel.

Third stop: Iran.

On Saturday January 10th, Nicolás was welcomed in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport by the Iranian Minister of Industry and Trade, Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh. He later on met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

After the meeting, President Rouhani said that “with the agreements reached during this meeting, we are hoping to see an increase in trade and investment, technical service exports, pharmaceutical industry, as well as the continuation of bilateral ties in the field of ship construction and launching joint airlines for tourism development”. In other words, no fresh cash for Venezuela.

Nicolás also meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said that “our common enemies are using oil as a political weapon, and they definitely have a role in the sharp fall in oil price”. President Rouhani also urged OPEC members to “neutralize schemes by some powers against OPEC and help stabilize an acceptable oil price in 2015”. At least Nicolás got this pat on the back to take home as a souvenir.

Fourth stop: Saudi Arabia.

This seemed to be a rather crazy stop, since the Saudi Arabian oil minister, Ali al-Naimi,had already said that “as a policy for OPEC, and I convinced OPEC of this, even Mr al-Badri (the OPEC secretary general) is now convinced, it is not in the interest of OPEC producers to cut their production, whatever the price is”. And he added, “whether it (oil price) goes down to $20, $40, $50, $60, it is irrelevant”.

Regardless, Nicolás arrived in Riyadh on Saturday January 10th and met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz on the next day.

Venezuelan Finance Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres tweeted “excellent meeting with important results. We (Saudi and Venezuelan authorities) agreed to work to recover the market and oil prices” and according to an official Venezuelan statement, both countries “agreed to work to recover the market and oil prices through joint state policies between two energy powers”. However, Reuters claims that “no details of the meeting were given by the official Saudi Press Agency and there was no indication that the world’s biggest oil exporter was any closer to taking action to stem the over 50 percent rout in oil prices”.

Needless to say, we didn’t get a check from the Saudis.

Fifth stop: Qatar.

On Monday January 12th, Nicolás arrived at Doha to meet with the Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, and Qatari lenders.

After the meetings, Nicolás said “we’re finalizing a financial alliance with important banks from Qatar that will give us sufficient oxygen to help cover the fall in oil prices and give us the resources we need for the national foreign currency budget”. But only three days later, a source close to the Qatari government told Reuters that “there’s no money being allocated from Qatar yet. We are just in a study phase which can include building a refinery in Venezuela over two years”.

By the time Nicolás left Qatar, Brent prices were under $49 per barrel. And, once again, Nicolás didn’t get any checks.

Source: ‏@eduamog

Sixth stop: Algiers

Nicolás arrived at Algiers on Monday, January 12th for a two-day state visit. There, he held meetings with the Prime Minister of Algeria, Abdelmalek Sellal, and the President of the National People’s Assembly, Mohamed Larbi Ould Khelifa (is he Algeria’s Diosdado?).

Nicolás said that the meetings were “productive” and that some agreements were reached on certain areas, but he didn’t give any details about them. Surely, these included increased supply of Algerian crude … because PDVSA.

By the end of the second day of Nicolás’ visit to Algiers, Brent prices were under $48 per barrel, and no checks were signed. To make matters worst, Moody’s downgraded Venezuela’s credit rating to Caa3, down from Caa1, because “default risk has increased substantially as external finances continue to deteriorate due to a strong decline in oil prices… (and) …In the event of a default, Moody’s believes that the loss given default (LGD) is likely to be greater than 50%”.

In full honesty, Venezuelans did get something out Nicolás visit to Algiers: REALLY amusing memes.

Seventh stop: Russia. (Does it count as another stop if it’s the same country again?)

On Thursday January 15th, Nicolás had to present his state of the union in front of the National Assembly, not according to us, but according to Venezuela’s Constitution. However, that day Nicolás arrived in Moscow (sans scarf) and this time he did meet with President Putin to discuss global oil markets and the “stability of natural resources”.

After the meeting, Nicolás said “we have agreed to step up the investment and participation of Russian companies and their share of joint ventures in the Orinoco oil belt and other projects. This will expand investments in stocks and oil production”.

It comes as no surprise that, even if –in Putin’s words– “Venezuela is not just a friend but also a close partner, one of Russia’s most important partners”, Russia didn’t give us a check.

By the end of the day, Brent prices were at $48 per barrel.

Eight stop: Portugal.

Just as we got the A-ok from our editor, we learned that Nicolás had landed in Lisbon, scarf an all. Nobody knew if he would ultimately go to Mexico, but Portugal was a curve-ball. According to Jacqueline Faría, Nicolás and his entourage made a Technical stop a Lisbon, “where they reviewed the progress” of energy, housing, roads and airline agreements. In other words: no checks for us.

The balance sheet.

On Thursday January 15th, while still in Russia, Nicolás said  that he had gotten all the necessary resources to solve Venezuela’s economic crisis, and that “in the next few hours I will be coming to Venezuela for offer all the details of the agreements of this successful tour”.

We have to wait for Nicolás to learn the details, but one things is for certain: he didn’t get the fresh cash he was looking for, and the oil price is cretainly not recovering.

We know that low oil prices don’t kill people, and that Venezuela’s recession is not just because oil prices fell, but because our policy-makers failed.

But Venezuela will go through a rather difficult time with the current oil prices. We hope that Nicolás, in his extended meditations on life and the world, realized that a change in the “Socialismo del Siglo XXI” economic model is imperative.

49 thoughts on “He traveled hard for the money

  1. Hilarious summary, Anabella and Bárbara.

    Nicolas “Forrest Gump” Maduro.

    Off topic: From twitter it seems that there is some sort of internet blackout going on in Venezuela. The people are using the hashtag #sininternet to report problems.


  2. Were the Venezuelan gold to be held in New York or London, the 20 billion dollars in gold bars could be used as collateral for new loans. But most of it is now in Caracas. What do THEY do now?


  3. Excellent summary, very complete. One item I did not see was Maduro’ s statement to the effect that oil should not become a geopolitical weapon. Very hypocritical, since this is what the deceased satrap and he did and have been doing all the time. They were strong hammers while they could but very weak anvils now, when i’ts their time on the receiving end..


  4. A+, for the Summary, and especially for getting the spelling right (I assume) of all the names visited. For those on this illustrious Blog who want to know the real reasons for oil’s current precipitous decline (Saudi Arabia just temporarily protecting its low-extraction cost light oil future production), as well as the bleak mid- to long-term outlook for future oil pricing, Google Jeremy Grantham’s excellent analysis “The Beginning Of The End Of The Fossil Fuel Revolution (From Golden Goose To Cooked Goose)”.


  5. My biggest fear in this trip and overall is that the government is willing to sell just about anything to generate the cash it needs to survive the year and no one can really stop them.

    This will undoubtedly make things worse for them going forward if they do survive, but it also gives foreign players much more interest in stopping an opposition takeover in the future (in case there ever is a coup or another election). Further, those same players will likely hold whoever is in power accountable for those dumb agreements, so it will be hard to start the country afresh if there ever is a change…


  6. Next to this first-class summary is an astute tweet as follows:
    Gran Torta ‏@GranTorta
    Alguien financiara a quien llega en un avión prestado por un país quebrado? pic.twitter.com/IJlgWZpQG7 @joseagraterol


      • we don’t know the contract details of the Cubana CU-T1250 aircraft between Venezuela and Cuba. Cannot assume the aircraft is on loan. They should be paying for it and the terms are probably good. It’s a very good aircraft that can be had for cheap compared to Boeing and Airbus however it sucks more fuel but that is not a concern for them and is offset by other factors. Havana gives nothing for free.


    • You cannot judge a country’s financial condition by the aircraft the leader flies. You don’t understand where they are coming from (perspective). They live in another world. However, they are open to ridicule because you won’t see other world leaders do this.


  7. Which reminds me of a road trip from long ago, courtesy of the Grateful Dead: Truckin’

    Sometimes the lights all shinin on me;
    Other times I can barely see.
    Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip its been.

    Has Maduro returned yet to Venezuela?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Congratulations on an excellent piece, although unfortunately, I think the conclusion of your article will not come to fruition… We’re hopeless with these people..

    Maduro Eyes Change in Food Supply System, Not Economic Model
    sábado, enero 17, 2015 02:49 PM
    by Anatoly Kurmanaev
    (Bloomberg) — Venezuela must deepen Socialist system of production to solve economic problems, President Nicolas Maduro says in televised address from presidential palace.
    “Private sector, not everyone but most, are parasitic bums. They are a threat to the country”: Maduro
    Product shortages caused by problems in private supply networks
    “We have to change many things but not the model”: Maduro
    Maduro says tried to gain liquid funds for “economic development” during foreign tour; doesn’t comment on success of efforts.


  9. Maduro should have bitten the nose off that Saudi guy. While the outcome of this diplomatic approach in Colombia is not yet fully known, I bet it would have gotten Putin’s attention on his next stop.


  10. The Venezuela people are now swimming in the same sea of happiness as the Cuban people………isn’t this what H Chavez wanted?


      • Nah, for the cuban perraje it’s the same, here are drug-addict malandros protected by the central government, there are drug-addicted malandros controlled by the central government over there in the island.

        The only difference is that tourists don’t get screwed as often in cuba as they are here in Venezuela (Except the times they are kidnapped and end as political prisioners)


        • Umm, tourists get screwed a lot in Cuba, IYKWIMAITYD. That’s why many of them go there – for the bargain jineteras


    • What a hopeful story. If the individuals of the world’s populations believed that they had a dignified, productive economic and social future crime statistics would plummet and extremism would disappear. People will always do bad things, it is our nature. Poverty and despair, however, are the nutrients for a garden of thorns.


    • What a great story! Homicides reduced to 14 per 100,000. Gangs eliminated. People working productively and peacefully. It just doesn’t get any better. This is a model that should be emulated. Sr. Vollmer has shown Venezuela a practical and functional path towards rehabilitation and reintegration of the malandros back into civil society. MUD politicians, please take note…


    • Great story, you now show me how to make 29 million people play rugby and I will believe this is a viable anti-crime policy.

      there is a word for this kind of thing: “anecdote”.


        • Yes. It’s funny, isn’t it? people believing that sport will somehow offer career opportunities. How many practise a sport and are able to live off it? a tiny minority.

          Same with classical music. Ok, it’s great to play an instrument, but how many will make a career of playing the trumpet or the violin?

          What about good quality public education? does that have an effect on people, more powerful than bumping your head against another bloke?


          • Clearly, the story is anecdotal and is not a universal blueprint for societal change. I choose to believe, however, that most malandros are not irredeemable and that there is opportunity to remediate the prevailing zeitgeist of Darwinian chaos and re-establish the social compact. Don’t rain on my parade. Some delusion, in moderation, is a necessary component of a positive attitude.


      • Clearly, it worked in this case, due to the personality and leadership of Sr. Vollmer. It doesn’t mean you have to get 29 million people to play rugby. It means that with some dedication, commitment, and creativity, Venezuela’s social wounds CAN be healed.


    • Whoever wins will have to deal with existing and exacerbated social disintegration. The challenge will not simply be instituting an effective economic model. An entire national ethos will have to be altered.


  11. New lyrics: “He traveled hard for the money, Traveled hard for it honey, He traveled hard for the money,…But didn’t get a bite.”


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