Early this morning, Protector of Tachira State Freddy Bernal announced through his Twitter account that seven Colombian citizens were killed in a confrontation with Venezuelan authorities in Tachira state yesterday. Bernal said that members of the Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas (CICPC)–the Venezuelan investigative police service–engaged members of a Colombian paramilitary group called “Los Pelusos” in a village called La Cabrera, not too far from the Colombian border.
Bernal revealed that the confrontation left five men and two women dead, and that the group was affiliated with the Clan del Golfo drug cartel. He also said that Venezuelan authorities recovered seven firearms, five vehicles, one grenade, military uniforms, drugs, and “violence-generating pamphlets” from the slain.
The Maduro regime created the title Protector of Tachira and gave it to Bernal in January of this year. It’s not clear what the position’s duties and responsibilities entail. The creation of the position coincides with the fact that the opposition won the Tachira state governorship in last year’s regional elections, after being held by PSUV stalwart Jose Vielma Mora since 2012.
Luisa Ortega Diaz Asks Interpol to Arrest Maduro
Former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz announced yesterday that she has formally requested that Interpol issue an arrest warrant for Maduro, and that she hopes that the agency will detain the president whenever he attempts to leave the country next.
Diaz made the announcement during a web address to the National Assembly’s Foreign Policy Commission, during which she said:
I’ve asked that Interpol issue a Red Notice against Nicolas Maduro, and that he be detained if he travels to the Summit of the Americas or anywhere else. I hope that they can intercept him in the air and detain him.
Maduro has threatened to attend the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru in April, despite the fact that the country has formally requested that he not attend given his authoritarianism.
It is unlikely that Interpol will respond to Diaz’s request. The organization’s Red Notices are issued on behalf of countries or international courts. In other words, when Interpol issues a Red Notice against an individual, it is because a country or international judicial entity (like the International Criminal Court) is seeking the individual to prosecute them or have them serve a sentence.
Maduro has not been charged with any crimes by either a national or international court, which in all likelihood makes the Red Notice inapplicable to his case.
PDVSA Document Says Refineries Will Operate At 43% Capacity in March
Reuters reported today that according to an internal document from the state-owned PDVSA oil firm, the country’s refineries are expected to operate at an anemic 43% of their capacity in the month of March. According to the document, the reason for the poor performance is a chronic lack of virtually every material necessary to operate the refineries, from light crude for distillation to spare parts.
According to PDVSA’s March production plan, Venezuelan refineries are expected to pump out 701,000 barrels of oil per day. On paper, the country’s refineries are able to produce 1.62 million barrels per day.
The Reuters article includes details on the chronic disrepair affecting the refineries, including the two largest: Amuay and Cardon. On the Amuay refinery, the article says:
The 655,000-bpd Amuay refinery, Venezuela’s largest, will process 303,000 bpd of crude next month due to lack of spare parts and equipment malfunctions, the report said. That volume includes 35,000 bpd of upgraded oil coming from the Petropiar joint venture with U.S. oil firm Chevron Corp .
Amuay’s flexicoker, delayed coker, hydrotreater, alkylation unit and one of its crude distillation units are expected to remain out of service, while its fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) and two other distillation units will operate with limitations, the document said.
The situation at the Cardon refinery is similarly grim:
At the 310,000-bpd Cardon, two crude distillation units will remain under maintenance, while two hydrotreaters, the alkylation units, the hydrodesulfurization unit (HDS) and the catalytic cracker will operate with restrictions due to lack of input, limiting crude processing to 110,000 bpd.
PSUV Governor Accused of Hiding Money in European Bank
Spain’s El Pais published an article today in which it alleges that Carabobo state governor (PSUV) Rafael Lacava hid money in Andorran and Swiss bank accounts in 2009. According to the article, Lacava used a complicated network of shell companies and attorneys to “camouflage” the origin of the cash, which he allegedly received for work as a “intermediary” in oil refinery deals.
While the mere ownership of an Andorran or Swiss bank account is not illegal, the two countries are famed for being favorite destinations for dirty money given banking regulations that make the hiding of illegal money simpler than in other jurisdictions.
El Pais claims that Lacava had a bank account with the Banca Privada D’Andorra (BPA) as of May 2009, citing institutional documents. In 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury accused the BPA of facilitating money laundering from Venezuelan and Russian sources.
The BPA documents show that the bank refused to allow Lacava to make a transaction in 2009, after the bank’s compliance department discovered that the then-mayor of Puerto Cabello was attempting to funnel money into a Swiss bank account, a move that set off alarms at the institution that the money Lacava was trying to move was dirty.
The documents that El Pais examined do not show how much money Lacava had in his BPA account.
Lacava was elected governor of Carabobo state last year.
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