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Venezuela: Latest News

From El Universal

The Venezuelan oil barrel was unchanged this week at an average price of $25.47, the Ministry of Energy and Mines informed.

The basket of crude and refined products for export maintained the same price as last week, something seen as a reflection of a sustained energy demand by international players. The recent tendency in prices led the OPEC to leave production levels unchanged at 25.4 million barrels per day.

So far this year, the price of the Venezuelan barrel has averaged $25.56, up from the $21.95 in 2002.


The Caracas Stock Exchange Index (IBC) closed 312.29 (1.44 percent) higher than Thursday’s session, El Diario de la Bolsa said.

The IBC closed at 22,045.13, while the Financial Index and the Industrial Index finished at 35,217.83 and 19,875.90, respectively.

In 174 transactions in cash, 13,110,199 shares changed hands for VEB 2,740,595,500.00. At the end of the day, ten shares closed higher, one fell, and seven remained steady.

In the fixed-income market, commercial papers and public bonds were traded for VEB 2,046,721,581.01 in 230 transactions.


Elías Santana, leader of civil association Queremos Elegir, said the number of Venezuelans living abroad who signed a recall petition against President Hugo Chávez has been updated up to 37,713 signatures.

He said the total number of signatures collected in foreign countries would be disclosed in a report over the next few days.

Santana stressed that final figures have not been disclosed yet, "because we imposed a series of legal requirements (in connection with the collection of signatures in foreign countries), such as the presence of a notary (at the signing centers). This has caused some delays in the process."


The Venezuelan opposition alliance Democratic Coordinator on Friday met with the directors of the National Electoral Council (CNE) and commended the way the opposition initiative to collect signatures endorsing a recall petition against President Hugo Chávez was conducted.

Antonio Ledezma, president of opposition Alianza Bravo Pueblo (ABP) party and opposition leader, said "this first step we have irreversibly taken towards holding recall votes against both (pro-government) lawmakers and the President of the Republic in the first months next year," was praised during the meeting.

Ledezma commended the work of the National Armed Force (FAN) in protecting the electoral move. "I have to admit that virtually all members of the national army made an excellent job."

He indicated that Democratic Coordinator asked CNE to designate opposition witnesses who may be present during the verification of the signatures collected.

Ledezma stressed that on Monday the opposition is to announce the date on which they are going to submit the signatures they collected to CNE. They plan to deliver the signatures gathered nationwide in a single batch.


Petróleos de Venezuela's Citgo Petroleum Corp. plans to expand oil-refining operations in line with the ambitious production goals Pdvsa has set, said Citgo's president, Luis Marín.

"Pdvsa is targeting oil output levels of 4.8 million barrels per day in the next five years. We have to adjust to Pdvsa's business plan," Marín told Reuters during an interview on Thursday in New York.

According to official sources, Venezuela's current oil production amounts to 3.1 bpd, Nevertheless, independent analysts claim the country's production represents 2.6 million bpd, after a devastating general strike in December 2002 and January 2003.

Marín's statements suggest that Citgo, the largest gasoline provider and retailer on the U.S. east coast as well as the largest buyer of Venezuelan heavy crude oil, may seek to purchase new refineries, some plant expansions or strategic partnerships.

"We are always looking for opportunities and we will continue to do so, if it has sense, of course. There are people waiting for synergies with us," he added.

Citgo owns four refineries in the U.S. processing some 700,000 barrels of oil per day. It owns stakes in other three refineries in the U.S. that process around 970,000 bpd. It also owns 14,000 gas stations throughout the U.S.


Oscar Pérez, a member of civil association Gente de Sucre, on Friday presented audio recordings from radio communications according to which pro-government groups tried to sabotage the so-called Reafirmazo, an opposition move to collect signatures demanding recall votes against both President Hugo Chávez and pro-government lawmakers.

According to Pérez, the sabotage actions had several goals: blocking the collection of signatures; delaying the installation of signing centers, provoking chaos in signature collection centers and sending electoral material to incorrect collection centers.

Pérez indicated that the mastermind behind the plan was pro-government Sucre Municipality Mayor, José Vicente Rangel Ávalos, son of the Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel. The move was also supported by leaders of the ruling party Movimiento Quinta República (MVR) and officers from the Sucre Municipality Police Force.

The audio recordings Pérez presented to support his claims were provided by officers from the Sucre Municipality Police Force who spoke under condition of anonymity.


Chilean President Ricardo Lagos on Friday said he has "good relations" with his Venezuelan colleague Hugo Chávez, who recently backed Bolivia's demand to obtain an access to the sea, causing discomfort in Chile.

In an interview with Radio Corporativa, Lagos also said he may address the topic with Chávez in the Summit of the Americas, to be held in January in Mexico.

"We have a good relation: he (Chávez) has been very busy with domestic affairs in his country. I believe (a meeting) is not advisable at this moment," Lagos said when asked if he was going to talk to Chávez any time soon, news agency Efe reported.

"I could meet with him in the next Summit of the Americas, to be held in Monterrey in January. There we could address some of these topics," Lagos added.


Venezuela hopes a significant improvement in country-risk this year helps the government to issue $1.5 billion in public debt bonds in the international markets in order to continue restructuring its public debt.

Tobías Nóbrega, Venezuelan Finance Minister, said his dispatch plans to complete the transaction by February 2004 with the help from excess liquidity among international investors and an increased interest for Venezuelan debt bonds.

According to Nóbrega, on Thursday Venezuela's country-risk amounted to 620 basic points, 6.2 percent above the U.S. Treasury bills. "It is the lowest level since 1998," he said.

The Venezuelan administration is believed to have plans to use resources from this debt issue to finance a recall or buyback of domestic and foreign debt maturing over the next three years.


Workers dismissed from state-run oil giant Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (Pdvsa) after they joined a nationwide civic strike earlier this year will not be reinstated to their former positions, said Fabián Chacón, legal advisor of the oil conglomerate.

"Worker who excluded themselves (from Pdvsa) and who sabotaged the economic process in the country, sabotaged the industry and attacked the President of the Republic will not be back. It is not a possibility, as certain media have suggested," Chacón added.

Instead, he announced that both criminal and civil actions would be filed against the leaders of civil association Gente del Petróleo and oil workers union Unapetrol.


A news conference President Hugo Chávez was scheduled to offer to both domestic and foreign media on Friday morning was suspended.

Official sources did not disclose the causes of the decision, said reporters.


The so-called Group of Five, comprising likely candidates that are to run for the Venezuelan presidency in 2004 in the event that Hugo Chávez is removed from power in a recall vote, may suffer some modifications in the short term.

Henrique Salas Römer (Proyecto Venezuela), a member of the group who has not attended a number of its meetings, said that he would disclose his decision on the G5 modifications in January.

Meanwhile, Henry Ramos Allup (Acción Democrática), another member of G5, said that he is willing to abandon the group. He expressed doubts on the convenience of extending the number of members of G5. "I believe it has worked because it is a small body; if it gets larger it would not be operational."

Juan Fernández, leader of civil association Gente del Petróleo, admitted "an evaluation process" is under way, adding that "people are circumstantial". He would not elaborate on the topic, but added that "no person comprising this group has personal ambitions."


The price of the basket of basic products and services raised by VEB 235,340 ($147) to VEB 1,125,339 ($704) in November, which represents a 26.4 percent increase so far this year, according to the Centro de Documentación y Análisis para los Trabajadores (Cenda), a think tank associated with the Venezuelan labor movement.

According to Cenda, an average Venezuelan household's income amounts to at least two minimum wages (totaling VEB 494,208, that is, $309). Therefore, average Venezuelan households face a deficit of VEB 631,131 ($395) to purchase the basket of basic products and services. The figure means that a household with two minimum wages can only buy 44 percent of said basket.

 



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