Torino Capital, an investment bank based out of New York City that often provides analysis of the Venezuelan economy, has released a report that estimates that the country has over $54 billion in debt payments to make before the end of 2019. The figure is more than 5.5 times all of the money that Venezuela has in foreign reserves, which was $9.86 billion as of yesterday.
According to the Torino Capital report, Venezuela must make debt payments of $6.5 billion before the end of the year, $22.5 billion in 2018, and 25.2 billion in in 2019. The report considers it “not likely” that the country will be able to meet all of these debt obligations. Part of the report reads:
It is clear that some of this debt will be restructured. The question is which ones, and whether the Republic will continue to give priority to bond holders above other creditors.
Venezuela’s monetary woes are the result of rampant government corruption, economic mismanagement, continued anemic oil prices, and most recently sanctions by the United States barring financial institutions from touching Venezuelan government bonds.
The Torino Capital report also points out that Venezuelan oil production–virtually the only way that the country earns foreign currency–continues on a downward spiral, and that the industry has seen a decline in production of 728 thousand barrels per day over the last five years. Oil production has fallen by 203 thousand barrels per day over the last year alone.
PetroChina US Cuts Off PDVSA
PetroChina, the Chinese state-owned oil giant, announced today that it had instructed its subsidiary in the United States to stop providing loans to PDVSA, the Venezuelan state-owned oil company. The move follows a crackdown by the Trump administration on the Maduro regime’s ability to finance itself via sanctions targeting Venezuelan state bonds.
The move by PetroChina is likely to hurt Venezuela’s access to capital, since the company has facilitated $45 billion in loans from Beijing over the past ten years.
The Latin American Herald Tribune reports that while the US sanctions on Venezuelan bonds do not affect PetroChina’s dealings with PDVSA prior to the imposition of the measures from Washington, they do make renewal of financial agreements impossible.
Relatives See Caguaripano After 40 Days of Anguish
The relatives of Juan Caguaripano–the former military officer who launched a failed insurrection on August 6–were able to see him yesterday for the first time in forty days. Caguaripano is being held in the infamous La Tumba [The Tomb], a hellish underground prison in Caracas run by the regime’s political police, the SEBIN.
At approximately noon yesterday, Caguaripano’s wife, Irene Olazo, received a call from the Public Ministry informing her that she would become the first person besides the authorities to see her husband since he was arrested forty days ago.
Olazo said that she was able to speak to her husband for approximately 30 minutes, and that he was unwilling to divulge too much information about his time in La Tumba because their conversation was being recorded. However, she also said that she found her husband to be in good condition despite showing obvious signs of torture:
He’s never been so firm and strong as I saw him today, so sure of his convictions despite the evidence, the signs of torture.
Caguaripano led a small group of rebellious soldiers on an attack on the Fuerte Paramacay base near Valencia, Carabobo state last month. While the attackers were able to escape with weapons and evade the authorities, Caguaripano was eventually captured and the insurrection that he hoped to start never materialized.
Olazo said that her husband has not been able to meet with his lawyers since he was arrested.
Gilber Caro Ends Hunger Strike After Fainting
National Assembly (alternate) deputy Gilber Caro has ended a hunger strike yesterday that lasted eight days after he lost consciousness, according to his sister Yeydi Carolina Caro. Caro sewed his lips shut last week to demand that he be transferred from the Tocuyito prison–where is is being held in a 2 by 3 meter cell–to the Ramo Verde military prison.
Caro was arrested on January 11 of this year by SEBIN officers after the car in which he was riding was allegedly found to contain weapons. Caro’s party, Voluntad Popular, claims that the weapons were planted on the vehicle in order to incarcerate Caro, who was sent to prison even though he has parliamentary immunity. He is being charged with treason against the fatherland and stealing military equipment.
Carolina Caro told El Nacional that her brother’s lawyers hope to meet with him next Tuesday, and that the authorities promised to transfer him to Ramo Verde.
While the Tocuyito prison hosts prisoners from the general population, the Ramo Verde military prison is reserved only for a handful of individuals, mostly political prisoners.
Wuilly Arteaga, Famed Violin-Wielding Protester, Flees Venezuela
Wuilly Arteaga, who gained international fame for playing a violin during anti-government protests, has left Venezuela. The news came via Colombia’s El Tiempo, which published an interview with Arteaga yesterday. The article claims that Arteaga passed through Colombia last week on his way the United States, and that he has no plans to return to Venezuela.
Arteaga said that his decision to leave Venezuela was cemented by an invitation by the Human Rights Foundation to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum in New York City.
Arteaga was brutally tortured by regime agents after he was arrested at a protest in late July for playing his violin. He received constant beatings, had his hair burned off, and was left deaf in one ear after his captors smashed his violin against his head. Arteaga was released after about three weeks in custody.
When asked about his decision to leave Venezuela, Arteaga pointed to increasing persecution and harassment from regime forces. He explained:
I didn’t want to leave. They’ve been threatening me for two months, but the persecution and the threats got worse. They’ve persecuted me a lot. I couldn’t be out on the street alone, and they broke into my home…
Arteaga told El Tiempo that he snuck out of Venezuela in the overnight hours of September 13. Fearing that he would be detained at the airport if he tried to make his escape by air, Arteaga said that he took a bus from Caracas to Barquisimeto, where he then traveled by land to Maracaibo. There, he found a taxi to take him to the Colombian border.
When asked by the El Tiempo reporter if there was a song that symbolized his journey out of the country, Arteaga began to play Gloria al bravo pueblo, the Venezuelan national anthem. On why he had chosen that song, Arteaga said:
Because, as I once wrote in a song: I’m leaving, but she’s not leaving my heart.
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