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Venezuela News Review 28.04.06

By Aleksander Boyd

• The Financial Times reports today "Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has struck a $2bn deal to buy about 100,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Russia until the end of the year." PDVSA's decreasing production is believed to be the reason behind the move. The FT notes "Under President Hugo Chαvez, PDVSA's oil output has declined by about 60 per cent, a trend analysts say has accelerated in the past year because of poor technical management." The Russian oil is meant to be destined to Germany's Ruhr Oel refinery in which PDVSA has a 50% stake.

• Whilst Hugo Chavez takes Venezuela out of CAN, due to trade agreements that some of its members have signed with the USA, MERCOSUR countries -namely Brazil and Uruguay- are advancing negotiations to enter into agreements with the USA.

• Bloomberg reports that Venezuela needs investment to the tune of $200 billion to turn the Orinoco heavy-oil belt productive. Such expectations are unrealistic and not feasible, given the fact that "political promises are not binding," (sic) as declared recently in London by German Marxist cum PDVSA director Bernard Mommer, and the disregard that the Chavez administration has for contract law and private property.

• The OAS published its final electoral observation report on Venezuelan legislative elections of December 4 last year. As readers of this site already know, the audit in Fila de Mariches on November 23 2005, and the fact that Smartmatic e-voting devices keep the sequence of the vote, is not a product of my imagination, an accusation heard far too often by apologists of Hugo Chavez. The report is extremely damning for Venezuela's Executive and its electoral authorities. To the point that it states clearly that as of March 2006 the OAS has yet to receive a) final results of an audit conducted on December 4 2005 by the CNE on 45% of the Smartmatic machines used and b) that as of March 2006 the OAS has yet to receive final results of the legislative election. So much for the reinforcement of the official argument about the necessity of automatising elections in Venezuela for the sake of transparency, reliability, trust and rapidity of voting processes.

• Along the same electoral vein, the findings with respect to the utter unreliability of Venezuela's electoral roll, whereby 39.000 people of more than 100 years of age are still registered to vote, has received very little attention by political actors and media.

• The questions about the nature and purposes of CITGO's programme of discounted oil to poor Americans, posed by U.S. Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., to Felix Rodriguez, president and CEO of CITGO Petroleum Corp. on February 15 this year, were answered in Venezuela last Sunday. 72 American beneficiaries of the programme were flown to Venezuela, presumably all expenses paid given their financial situation, to publicly thank Hugo Chavez during his national TV show "Alo Presidente." If there were any doubts as to the political nature of the initiative, these have been clearly dissipated.

• Congressman Bill Delahunt, architect of the US version of oil-for-political-favours programme allegedly met, in private, with Hugo Chavez for a couple of hours at the beginning of this week. The discontinuation of the programme could cost him dearly.

• Cuban press reports today that Chavez and Morales are to visit Castro in Havana for consulations. Both Castro and Chavez finally managed to get another country (Morales' Bolivia) to sign into the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas, an agreement by which Venezuela regals oil and money in exchange for political favours, in the case of Bolivia, and security and repressive technology in the case of Cuba.

• Whilst President Chavez announces that bilateral relations with European countries will be reinforced during his visit next month, Spain's Senate approved unanimously a motion requesting his government to respect rights and private property of Spanish citizens residing in Venezuela, and reminds his government of the importance of giving appropriate consideration to electoral recommendations made by Europe's observation mission deployed last December in Venezuela.

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