Venezuela Weekly: US Sanctions Rosneft

The US Treasury Department sanctioned the Geneva-based Rosneft Trading SA, a subsidiary of the Russian oil giant Rosneft, for allegedly helping the Maduro government evade sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector. The US will freeze any assets that Rosneft Trading SA and its president, Didier Casamiro, have in the US. Anyone who does business with them could face US sanctions. The US issued a 90 day general license for companies doing business with Rosneft Trading SA to terminate their arrangements with the company.

Secretary Mike Pompeo justified these actions saying “those who prop up the corrupt regime and enable its repression of the Venezuelan people will be held accountable.” Guaido, for his part, welcomed the sanctions and said that this is a “victory.” Analysts have noticed that the language of the Treasure Department is not as strident as previous iterations of sanctions, leaving some room for future negotiations.

Russian officials said that despite the US sanctions, Moscow will continue its energy cooperation with Venezuela. The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the new measures could further deteriorate US-Russia relations. At the same time, Russia raised concerns about unfair commercial competition, with US oil companies operating in Venezuela under special licenses while Russian companies are sanctioned.

US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said that the United States is advising India and China against purchasing oil from Venezuela. Also, he said that the US is urging Spanish oil company Repsol to review its operations in Venezuela.

Violence

  • The Victims Monitor informed that 896 people were murdered in Caracas from January to December 2019. There is a significant decrease in the number of deaths compared to 2018 by almost 30% (in 2018 took place 1,364 homicide). The Monitor mentions that police and military operations are responsible for at least 38% of the deaths in 2019.
  • Opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) says that gender violence should be treated as a public policy issue and fought vigorously. They reported that 28 women were murdered in the country during the month of January, almost one per day.

Human Rights

  • Human rights organizations and relatives of Hugo Chavez’s former defense minister, Raúl Baduel, denounced that he and the other two military prisoners have disappeared, after the security forces transferred them to unknown places on February 14.

Humanitarian Crisis.

  • After years without official data regarding education, the National Institute of Statistics presented a report. The country now has significantly fewer students and teachers than in the first years of Maduro’s government. 1275 educational establishments stopped operating between 2015 and 2018.
  • Water and electricity services remain deplorable, according to a study of the Venezuelan Observatory of Public Services.

Migration

  • An article in The New Humanitarian documents rising xenophobia in Latin American countries struggling to cope with Venezuelan migration. International funding continues to be a significant problem. Despite the pledges, donors have covered just over half of the $738 million requested by the UN in 2019.
  • Peru’s Minister of the Interior of Peru Carlos Morán announced that his country would expand the Special Migratory Quality program for Venezuelans. The program allows many Venezuelans to work and stay in Peru legally for a period of one more year. Representatives of Guaidó welcomed this decision.

Civil Society

  • With support from the European Union, a group of Venezuelan civil society organizations elaborated and presented a study on the employment situation of young people in conditions of social vulnerability including: being from low-income households, living with HIV, belonging to LGBTI or indigenous populations. The study is part of a project called Strengthening the Capacities of Civil Society Organizations.

Economy

  • Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA increased fuel shipments to Cuba in recent weeks, almost doubling the number from January. Cuba suffers from a shortage of oil due to US sanctions
  • Nicolás Maduro is defending the unorthodox dollarization that takes place in the Venezuelan economy. He argues that the decision to allow foreign exchange transactions is the correct one “in the middle of a war.”
  • Venezuela joins Panama and Guatemala in the top three positions of the Financial Opacity Index in Latin America and Caribe, prepared by the British organization Tax Justice Network.