Friday, February 29, 2008

NO FARC - Videos

Some of the videos that show how cruel is LA FARC against their hostages.

The FARC killed 11 hostages

Frank Pinchao was able to escape from LA FARC:

Ingrid Betancourt

How the people in Colombia talks with their hostages, EXCELENT!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

4 hostages freed by colombian rebels, reunited with families in Venezuela

Is very nice to see these people back to life.
vdebate reporter
4 hostages freed by Colombian rebels, reunited with families in Venezuela
Associated PressFeb. 27, 2008 06:03 PM
CARACAS, Venezuela - Colombian rebels freed four lawmakers Wednesday after six years of captivity, the guerrillas' second hostage release this year as they seek to persuade the international community to strike them from lists of terrorist groups.The four former Colombian politicians were reunited with relatives amid tears, hugs and grasped flowers at Caracas' international airport."You've given me the opportunity to live again," freed hostage Gloria Polanco said when she was freed in a Colombian jungle clearing, thanking Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for making the release possible.
The freed captives later met at the presidential palace with Chavez, who gave them a warm welcome next to troops standing at attention.In a video of the handover, officials who were sent to pick up the four in helicopters walked down a path and spotted the captives awaiting them on a rise.
The hostages descended an incline and wept as they hugged those sent for them. Polanco received flowers from a female guerrilla and sobbed "thank you, thank you."
The video of the handover was broadcast by the Caracas-based TV channel Telesur.
A guerrilla commander who spoke in the video was asked if the group was bombed by the Colombian military. He said that after his group received the hostages, no."But yes, troops were very close and that prevented them from being freed much earlier," he said, without specifying when his unit assumed control of the hostages.
The rebels handed over the four to the international Red Cross and a top official from Chavez's government. Two Venezuelan helicopters flew them to a Venezuelan border town, and then they flew on to their families in Caracas.
Polanco's three grown sons ran toward the plane as soon as it pulled up, with flowers in hand and wearing T-shirts reading: "Freedom for all." Polanco said seeing them again after more than six years was the happiest moment of her life.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has proposed trading some 40 high-value captives - including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. defense contractors - for hundreds of imprisoned guerrillas.
Another of the freed hostages, former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez, said he last saw Betancourt on Feb. 4 and that she was in very poor shape."It's a question of time. We need to take immediate action to obtain Ingrid's liberation," he said."I don't know how I managed to survive," said Perez, "I had a heart attack, three diabetic comas. I've had all the tropical diseases there are."Though some of the hostages were said to be ailing, top Chavez aide Jesse Chacon said their health "is much more satisfactory than we had hoped."
Another freed hostage, former Sen. Jorge Gechem, was gaunt and reportedly suffered in captivity from heart, back and ulcer problems."You've saved us practically from death," another freed hostage, former Rep. Orlando Beltran, said in the video, thanking Chavez.
In France, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the liberation provides "powerful encouragement" toward finding a "humanitarian solution to the hostage drama." Betancourt is a dual French citizen and a cause celebre in much of Europe.
Kouchner vowed to press for the freedom of the remaining captives, saying "the survival of the weakest hostages ... is in effect at stake."Chavez's intercession in Colombia's long-running conflict - and the hostage releases it has reaped - has raised the profile of the FARC, as it seeks to persuade the European Union to remove it from its list of international terrorist groups.
The FARC has been fighting for more than four decades for a more equitable distribution of wealth in Colombia, but has in recent years drawn wide reproach for its methods: It kidnaps civilians for ransom and funds itself largely through cocaine trafficking.
Colombia's government says it holds more than 700 people, either for ransom or political reasons.The four hostages were freed in the same region of Colombia's southern Guaviare state where the FARC released two other politicians on Jan. 10: Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez.
The operations to pickup the hostages have been overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross.Two of Polanco's three sons were kidnapped together with her and later released in 2004 after a ransom was paid. Her husband was later murdered, allegedly by the FARC.
As she held the flowers in the video, she said: "I will lay these flowers at my husband's grave, and another stem for each one of my sons."Her youngest son, Daniel Polanco, who was 11 when Polanco was kidnapped, told Colombia's Caracol radio that he and his brothers bought their mother flowers, balloons, two or three changes of clothes and cosmetics "so she can be pretty."
The FARC thanked Chavez for his mediation efforts in a statement on a pro-rebel Web site.After last month's release, Chavez called on the international community to recognize the rebels as a legitimate armed opposition group, rather than calling them terrorists.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Colombian rebels to release more hostages

CNN.- Leftist rebels in Colombia plan to release four hostages this week whom they have held for several years, senior officials in Venezuela and Colombia said.

Angela de Perez, wife of hostage Luis Eladio Perez, hugs Venezuelan official Ramon Rodriguez on Monday.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, plans to release the hostages Wednesday morning, Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez said Monday. His comments were reported by the Bolivarian News Agency, which is based in Venezuela.

The four hostages are former Colombian legislators: former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez and former Reps. Gloria Polanco, Orlando Beltran and Jorge Gechem, The Associated Press reported.

In Colombia, Army Cmdr. Mario Montoya said his government has given all necessary security guarantees for the hostage handoff to take place. He said that no Colombian military operations will take place near where the hostages may be freed, according to a report on a Colombian government Web site.

The four former legislators are among an estimated 750 hostages the FARC has held, many for several years, in the jungles of Colombia.

The rebel force released two hostages last month in a deal brokered by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, whose left-wing political philosophy is not far from that of the FARC, a force that was organized in the 1960s as a Marxist army intent on overthrowing the Colombian government.

The United States, the European Union and Colombia call the FARC a terrorist organization. They have resisted calls from Venezuela to lift that label in light of last month's release of the two hostages: a former Colombian congresswoman and a former candidate for the vice presidency. They had been held for about six years.

Don't Miss
Rebel sentenced for role in kidnappings

Days after the FARC released them amid widespread news coverage, the rebels kidnapped six tourists whose boat had come ashore on Colombia's Pacific Coast.

The Venezuelan government knows the coordinates where it plans to retrieve the four, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez and Montoya said that both of their governments have been coordinating with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which Rodriguez said will "ensure the hostages' health at the moment of their delivery."

The FARC has justified hostage-taking as a legitimate military tactic in a long-running and complex civil war that also has involved right-wing paramilitaries, government forces and drug traffickers.

Perhaps the highest-profile captive in FARC custody is Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian citizen and former candidate for the Colombian presidency. She was kidnapped February 23, 2002, after she and a campaign manager ventured into rebel-held territory despite warnings from the Colombian military. The FARC released her campaign manager last month.

Three U.S. citizens have been in FARC custody for more than five years. They are defense contractors who fell into rebel hands after their plane went down during a drug-eradication flight in 2003

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US to go after billions in laundered Venezuelan money

Financial Crime Consultant, for World-Check
US to go after billions in laundered Venezuelan money
Kenneth Rijock‏
February 26, 2008

Reliable Washington sources report that the Treasury Department of the United States, and other government agencies, whilst searching for assets held in financial institutions in connection with the ongoing Global War on Terrorism, have identified billions of dollars of laundered funds worldwide, all secreted by key senior Venezuelan government officials, a few military officers, and a large number of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), for their own corrupt use and benefit, and for that of designated global terrorist organisations, on the express orders of President Hugo Chavez.

The US now reportedly intends to officially name Venezuela as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, and seize all the hidden overseas accounts it has located. Miami banks alone hold several billion dollars of illicit money, and accounts have also been identified in places like China, Andorra, and Panama, and most of the major offshore financial centres. The funds rightfully belong to the people of Venezuela, as they were looted from government accounts, taken as bribes and kickbacks, and earned from narcotics trafficking activities aided and abetted through illegal governmental involvement. The other individuals targeted in this investigation are members of the Bolivarian Elite, a group of businessmen close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias, and his family, and whose aim is to keep his corrupt regime in power.

These Bolivarians have earned obscene amounts of money through corrupt government contracts, outright theft of government assets, and favoured transactions that have resulted in their acquisition of major assets that rightfully belonged to the Republic of Venezuela. The individuals involved will most likely face money laundering charges in the United States , which carry a 20-year sentence of imprisonment, terrorist financing charges,even potential Racketeering (RICO) counts, though this entire scenario, which has effectively destroyed the Venezuelan economy, was ordered, planned and engineered by President Chavez, as a part of his misguided Socialist economic agenda. Will he be indicted, as other heads of state of countries that border the Caribbean have. Only time will tell.

The United States has found active financial and political links between the Venezuelan government and the following designated global terrorist organisations, all of which operate within Venezuelan territory, with the explicit permission and support of the Chavez government:

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps

Moreover, the illegal fund-raising activities these groups engage in, whether they be narcotics trafficking, arms smuggling, extortion, human smuggling, or other types of crime, are allowed to flourish, even though some of the acts take place in, or through, Venezuelan territory. Frankly, we welcome any action by the United States against these terrorist groups, which have been operating freely in Venezuela for years. the FARC, for example, has well-established base-camps on the Colombian border, so that its leadership can evade the Colombian Ejercito, that country's powerful army. Do you not remember this writer's recent piece on the placement, by Venezuela, of missiles on the Colombian border? Those weapons are in direct support of the FARC.

Several of the senior Venezuelan money launderers must have been made aware recently that there is a major pending investigation, because they are rapidly retaining senior criminal defence attorneys for all criminal prosecutions and civil proceedings which are soon to come. May we tactfully suggest that they refrain from wasting their money in this way, because:

These experienced attorneys are well known for defending drug defendants, a fact that will not escape a prosecutor, judge or jury. It does not help their case one bit to be associated with known drug lawyers, and it could hurt you in a variety of ways.

They may get better deals by negotiating directly, early on, and not making an adversarial matter out of it, which causes the parties to become polarised, and may preclude any subsequent settlement. Remember that many great lawyers who have strict rules against clients cooperating with the US Attorney's office. Those lawyers do not have to do your time when a sentence of incarceration is handed down.

International bankers would do well to upgrade country risk for Venezuela to high-risk, to review all high net-worth Venezuelan accounts to rule out PEP status, and to close those that are identified as PEPs forthwith. All identification documents should be reviewed, to ensure that compliance policy has been scrupulously observed, for you will be getting a visit from law enforcement and/or regulators, or be served with a subpoena if you have a Venezuelan client base. We have been advised that many high volume Venezuelan accounts have been closed within the last 15 days. Latest accounts from inside Venezuela indicate that the country's gold reserves have disappeared. Do you need any additional red flags to raise the risk level to maximum?

We congratulate President Chavez, for destroying the economy of his once-flourishing country. Only Fidel Castro has done a better job of national ruination. Perhaps when Venezuela implodes from the shock of being placed in the same terrorist category as Iran and North Korea, its citizens blocked from visiting or trading with the US, and all Venezuelans globally stigmatized on account of one man, their elected president-for-life.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Who is Raul Castro, Cuba's new leader?

Who is Raul Castro, Cuba's new leader?

If you follow the link below, it will show the report done by Time Online. It is not very optimistic, but will be good to read it.


Cuba’s Political Succession:From Fidel to Raúl Castro

If you follow the link below you will find an interesting report, prepared by CRS to the US Congress, back in October 23rd 2007. It seems that Raul bring some Cuba Openings. The report says:
"In a speech on Cuba’s July 26, 2007 revolutionary anniversary (commemorating the 1953 attack on a military facility in Santiago, Cuba), Raúl Castro acknowledged that Cuban salaries were insufficient to satisfy basic needs, and maintained that structural and conceptual changes were necessary in order to increase efficiency and production. He also called for increased foreign investment. For some, Raúl’s call for structural changes was significant, and could foreshadow future economic reforms such as allowing more private enterprise and a shift away from state ownership in some sectors.
A contrary view is that Raúl’s speech offered nothing concrete that would open the Cuban economy, but instead emphasized that the key to economic improvement was greater discipline and productivity".
vdebate reporter


Cuba in fear of the unknown as Fidel Castro fades

The cubans don't know what will be their future......... they hate to see Chavez in TV all the time, like in venezuela. We are all tired of Chavez and Fidel.
vdebate reporter

February 24, 2008
Cuba in fear of the unknown as Fidel Castro fades

Fidel Castro's long goodbye is posing a delicate moral dilemma for Alfredo Hernandez, a member of one of the few Jewish families to remain in Cuba after the 1959 revolution.
Hernandez’s grandparents arrived in Havana in 1913 and acquired a sprawling cattle ranch near the eastern city of Camaguey. The farm was confiscated in the first wave of Castro’s nationalisations.
As the ailing 81-year-old Cuban dictator slowly relinquishes his grip on power – his brother Raul is expected to replace him as president today – Hernandez has been wondering if future changes in economic policy might one day offer his family the chance to fulfil a long-held dream.
“It was our house, but Fidel gave it away,” Hernandez said. “Maybe now Fidel is going we might get it back, no? It’s only fair for people to reclaim their belongings.”
It is a question many Cubans have been pondering with mounting trepidation as both political and economic uncertainty envelops a ruined economy once memorably described as “Stalinism with pineapples”.
Yet Hernandez is the first to admit that questions of ownership and compensation will be hard to address in any future economic transition from state regulation to private initiative. His family may have been booted off its ranch, but it was offered a replacement home in Havana that in turn had been seized from a wealthy businessman who had fled into exile in Miami.
“If we can claim our farm back, does that mean they get their house back?” said Hernandez, a 32-year-old English teacher. “It’s the house where I’ve lived all my life. My family has lived there for nearly 50 years. I can’t imagine losing it.”
The Castro regime has long played up the threat of mass disruption should President George W Bush succeed in his supposed plan to “annex” Cuba and hand over all its assets to the capitalist gusanos (worms) of Miami’s 1m-strong Cuban exile community. The US government maintains a growing list of almost 6,000 legal claims to confiscated Cuban property, estimated to be worth more than $6 billion (£3 billion).
Billboards around Havana warn of the dangers of “El plano Bush”, which is not only said to threaten property and jobs but, according to one poster near the grim Soviet-era housing estates of suburban Alamar, will also “take away your good morning kiss from your child, deny you their hug before school and extinguish the sparkle in their eyes”.
Other Cubans last week doubted there would be any change at all – a feeling reinforced on Friday when, three days after declaring that “my elemental duty is not to cling to positions [of power]”, Castro returned to the country’s state-control-led newspapers with new warnings about the annexation plots of the devious “Yanquis”.
Cecilia Lopez, a former surgeon at one of Havana’s most prestigious hospitals, says the political posturing of the Cuban and American governments has long been “a stupid game” to her mind.
“The Americans are fools,” she said. “As long as they insist on this economic blockade, the Cuban government can blame everything on Washington and people here will accept that. If they take away the blockade the government will have no more excuses.”
Lopez walked away from her high-ranking job four years ago, disgusted with insanitary conditions at the hospital and a rate of pay so low that staff were departing in droves to work in Cuban medical missions abroad. “They thought it would be easier to feed themselves in Venezuela,” said Lopez. “But I think a lot of them were disappointed.”
Her hospital has since been renovated, but the work was done so shabbily that the ceiling of the intensive care unit recently collapsed on a patient who had just undergone cardiac surgery. “You laugh,” she said, “but it’s horrible.”
Like many in Havana last week Lopez shied away from blaming Castro for the island’s massive ills, which include water shortages, food rationing, severe restrictions on travel and internet use, and the continuing repression of dissidents. Other countries have black markets in currency or cigarettes but Cuba remains perhaps the only place in the world where a shifty-looking trader might whisper in your ear: “Pssst! Want to buy some carrots?”
Not only has there been no spontaneous eastern-European-style uprising, but there was not a trace of antiregime graffiti on the crumbling walls of old Havana last week, and in three days of talking to dozens of Cubans about Raul’s takeover the harshest words I heard were spoken in a barber’s shop: “One Castro for another is no change,” said a young Afro-Cuban who was having his head shaved. “Same direction, same fear.”
Various explanations have been offered for the outwardly placid reaction in both Havana and Miami to the looming demise of El Comandante, the only leader most of the Cuban population has ever known. Cuba-watchers in Washington believe that only Fidel’s death is likely to trigger any serious national soul-searching.
Most analysts believe that Raul Castro, considered a pragmatist and a potential reformer, is highly unlikely to begin dismantling his brother’s legacy as long as Fidel is alive.
Yet it quickly emerged that many Cubans have already made up their minds about who they do not want exercising any kind of authority in Havana. “He’s a stupid clown,” said Arturio Perez, an artist.
“He’s a very cheap copycat,” said Cesar Morales, a trainee teacher. “He’s a sham and an opportunist,” said Gustavo Barredo, a taxi driver.
They were all talking about Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan strongman who has laid claim to Castro’s mantle as the chief thorn in America’s side and the standard-bearer of Latin American revolution. A frequent visitor to Havana, Chavez has cosied up to Castro while using Venezuela’s oil fortune to prop up the Cuban regime.
His de facto subsidies are estimated to be worth up to £2 billion a year – almost as much as the aid Cuba lost after the 1991 collapse of its previous benefactor, the Soviet Union.
Chavez’s revolutionary posturing – he waves books by Che Guevara at his rallies and often appears in a Che-style beret – has become a source of intense irritation in Havana, where the Venezuelan leader is seen by many ordinary Cubans not as a saviour, but as a sinister fraud.
“He has become like a second president in Cuba,” complained Maria del Carmen Lablanca, a former government translator. “We have only four television channels, and on three of them there’s always Chavez. Why? He’s not my president and I don’t want to see his show on my TV.”
At times it seemed last week that criticism of Chavez had become a code for criticism of Castro himself. If Raul emerges – as expected – as Cuba’s new president today, his relationship with Chavez threatens to be his most testing challenge.
Most analysts believe that the economy would quickly collapse without its Venezuelan crutch; yet the more Cubans see of Chavez, the more publicly they may complain.
It is all adding up to a tense and unsettling transition in a country that seems trapped between a broken ideological fantasy and a promise, albeit distant, of paradise regained. Perhaps the most notable sentence in Castro’s announcement last Tuesday was: “This is not my farewell to you . . . I shall continue to write.”
Fidel’s folly
When Fidel Castro took power in January 1959, his country was among the five most prosperous nations in Latin America.
After 49 years of his brand of socialism, it ranks as one of the poorest in the region. Cubans today live on a minimum wage of 225 pesos or just over £5 a month, while national wealth has barely increased in decades.
According to the Index of Economic Freedom, Cuba’s centrally planned economy is one of the least free in the world, exceeded only by that of North Korea.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Venezuela's Chavez does not recognize Kosovo

Venezuela's Chavez does not recognize Kosovo
Friday, February 22, 2008 03:13 [IST]

CARACAS: Venezuela will not recognize Kosovo as an independent republic, socialist president Hugo Chavez said on Thursday, saying the Balkan state's separation from Serbia last week was a sign of U.S. interference.

Chavez, an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy, said Kosovo's independence set a dangerous precedent.

"This cannot be accepted, it is a truly dangerous precedent for the whole world and could also be the start of I don't know how many wars." he said.

"We protest against this, it's part of U.S. pressure," he said during a televised Cabinet meeting.

Serbian protesters opposed to Washington's support for Kosovo's independence broke in and started a fire at the U.S. embassy in Belgrade on Thursday.

Venezuela joins several countries including China and Russia who have opposed Kosovo's independence.

Chavez is close to Russia and China as a proponent of what he calls a multipolar world. He spends time and money on projects aimed at building a bloc of nations opposed to American influence.

Source : UNI

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Hugo Chavez's Ex-Wife Speaks

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Chavez says Venezuela will continue oil exports to US

Chavez can't live without Venezuela money........
vdebate reporter
Feb. 17, 2008, 3:20PM
Chavez says Venezuela will continue oil exports to U.S.
Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez sent a soothing message to American motorists on Sunday, saying Venezuela is not preparing to cut off oil shipments to the United States.
The socialist leader rattled oil markets last Sunday when he threatened to halt shipments to the United States in retaliation for Exxon Mobil Corp.'s success in persuading courts in the U.S. and Europe to freeze Venezuelan assets.
"We don't have plans to stop sending oil to the United States," Chavez said during a visit to heavy-oil projects in Venezuela's petroleum-rich Orinoco River basin that were nationalized last year.
But if the United States "attacks Venezuela or tries to harm us, we will have to make the decision not to send a single drop of our oil to the United States," he added.
U.S. officials have denied planning to attack Venezuela.
Chavez's administration — a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro — is locked in a legal battle with the Irving-based oil company over compensation for nationalization of one of four heavy-oil projects in the Orinoco River basin.
Exxon Mobil — the world's largest publicly traded oil company — wants to freeze billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets in the United States and Europe to guarantee a payoff in the event it wins a decision by an international arbitration panel.
The United States relies on Venezuela for about 10 percent of its oil imports.

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Venezuela paying italian company over oilfield takeover

Venezuela paying Italian company over oilfield takeover

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) — Venezuela has agreed to pay Italy's Eni $700 million in cash for the takeover of an oil field but hardened its stance in a fierce compensation battle with ExxonMobil (XOM).
Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said Tuesday that the government would make the payment to Eni for the Dacion heavy crude project over a seven-year period.
"The book value of the investments made by the transnational company in the Dacion field are $700 million and we have agreed to pay it over seven years," he said.
He said the agreement left Exxon isolated as the only company fighting with the government over a drive to increase state control of Venezuela's huge oil resources.
Exxon in recent weeks won court orders freezing up to $12 billion of Venezuela's assets, prompting state oil company PDVSA to sever commercial ties with America's biggest company.
Ramirez warned that Venezuela could pull out of its Chalmette, La., refinery joint venture with the Texas company over the dispute. He said the fight with Exxon was one factor helping support world oil prices.
Venezuela took over the Eni field in 2006 after negotiations with the government of socialist President Hugo Chavez to convert the Dacion subcontracting venture into a state-majority joint venture fell through.
"Eni believes this settlement represents an important step toward improving and consolidating the cooperation with local authorities and with PDVSA," the company said last week in statement.
Ramirez thanked Eni for its willingness to negotiate an agreement with Venezuela while slamming Exxon for challenging PDVSA over compensation for the nationalization last year of one of four Orinoco heavy oil projects.
"Eni never lost trust in our country," Ramirez was quoted as saying by the local Globovision television channel, which posted his comments on its website. He criticized what he called Exxon's "aggressive attitude."
Ramirez on Tuesday denied that Exxon's investments in the Orinoco region are worth billions of dollars, saying the company's "total assets in Venezuela are less than one billion dollars."
Contributing: Associated Press
Copyright 2008 Reuters Limited.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

It would be the worst time politically for Chavez to cut oil shipments to US

"It would be the worst time politically for Chavez to cut oil shipments to the U.S.," said Patrick Esteruelas, Latin America analyst at the Eurasia Group in New York.
Oil analysts dismiss threat by Chavez on sales to U.S.
Dan Caterinicchia
Associated Press
Feb. 12, 2008 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's latest threat to cut off oil sales to the U.S. produces tantalizing headlines and rattles some oil
traders' nerves.But analysts say it presents no long-term danger to global oil supplies or prices and makes no economic or political sense for his own country.Chavez's threat was in retaliation to Exxon Mobil Corp.'s efforts in U.S. and British courts to freeze billions of dollars of assets belonging to Venezuela's state oil company to resolve an oil-production contract dispute.

"If you end up freezing (Venezuelan assets) and it harms us, we're going to harm you," Chavez said Sunday. "Do you know how? We aren't going to send oil to the United States. "His comments helped stir anxiety on oil markets on Monday, sending crude futures prices up by nearly $2 a barrel. (Violence in Nigeria, refinery outages and colder weather in the U.S. also propelled prices higher.)
If Chavez actually cuts off supplies to the U.S., the impact would be mostly symbolic, said oil analyst Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover in New Canaan, Conn. Any short-term supply disruption would dissipate as other nations make arrangements to take the Venezuelan crude and the U.S. makes up its shortfall by purchasing additional barrels from the Middle East, Africa and other regions.
"It makes no sense for Mr. Chavez to follow through on his threats" because the U.S. refining industry's plants, some of which are owned by Venezuela, are customized to handle much of Venezuela's high-sulfur crude oil, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J. If Venezuela's crude was low in sulfur content, making it more valuable on the global market, he might have a better hand to play, Kloza said.
Indeed, the U.S. remains the No. 1 buyer of Venezuelan oil, purchasing more than 41 million barrels in November, accounting for roughly 10 percent of all crude-oil imports that month, according to the most recent Energy Department data available.
With oil prices hovering above $90 a barrel, Chavez relies largely on U.S. oil money to stimulate his economy and bankroll social programs that have traditionally boosted his popularity. Nevertheless, Chavez in December lost a vote on constitutional changes that would have let him run for re-election indefinitely."It would be the worst time politically for Chavez to cut oil shipments to the U.S.," said Patrick Esteruelas, Latin America analyst at the Eurasia Group in New York.
This isn't the first time Chavez has tried to use the oil weapon. He has repeatedly threatened to cut off shipments to the U.S. if Washington tries to oust him, but many analysts have dismissed that scenario as highly unlikely. Chavez, meanwhile, has been vague about precisely what actions by the U.S. government could constitute an attack against his government worthy of halting oil shipments.
Exxon Mobil has gone after the assets of Petroleos de Venezuela SA in U.S. and European courts as it challenges the nationalization by Chavez's government of four heavy oil projects in the Orinoco River basin, one of the world's richest oil deposits. Other oil companies including Chevron Corp., France's Total, Britain's BP PLC and Norway's Statoil Hydro ASA have negotiated deals with Venezuela to continue as minority partners in the project, but ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil balked at the tougher terms and have been in compensation talks with Petroleos.
It still remains unclear how much Venezuela stands to lose economically from Exxon Mobil's lawsuits in courts in New York and London.Although a British court last month issued an injunction "freezing" as much as $12 billion (euro 8.3 billion) in Venezuelan assets, initial reaction from Venezuela's top oil official suggested that Chavez's government does not expect to face much harm.
Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said last week that the state oil company does not have "any assets in that jurisdiction that even come close to those sums."Light, sweet crude for March delivery rose $1.82 to settle at $93.59 a barrel Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange after earlier hitting a one-month high of $94.72.
A key factor, analysts said, was that unidentified gunmen in Nigeria attacked a naval vessel that was escorting petroleum industry boats. Militant attacks have cut the African nation's oil output by nearly a quarter in the past two years.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Gustavo Coronel‏

**** The Venezuelan Oil industry in chaos: an unreliable supplier to the U.S.

The model chosen to nationalize the Venezuelan petroleum industry in 1976 was unique and very successful: four integrated operating companies under a financial and strategic planning holding company. Management was very professional, politics did not play a role and, as a result, Petroleos de Venezuela became, for the next 25 years, one of the top oil companies in the world, next to Exxon and Shell. This success story came to an end when Hugo Chavez came into power in 1999. During his presidency Petroleos de Venezuela has lost about 800,000 barrels per day of production capacity, and management has been politicized. U.S. based, fully owned affiliate, Citgo, has become a political tool that distributes subsidized fuel in the U.S. as part of Hugo Chavez’s strategy to establish a political beachhead in that country, with the willing assistance of Joseph Kennedy III and a few members of U.S. Congress.

Venezuela still is one of the key petroleum suppliers to the U.S., sending about 1.1 million barrels per day to that country. Any abrupt disruption of this flow of oil would result in a major blow to the U.S. economy, already in the threshold of a recession. Up to now the possibility of such a disruption had been based upon the unpredictable nature of Hugo Chavez as an authoritarian leader who hates the U.S. There is little doubt that Chavez would interrupt the flow of oil to the U.S if he could. But he cannot. Most of the oil coming to the U.S. can only be refined in U.S refineries and it would take China or India, the other two likely main clients, about five years to build refineries to process Venezuelan oil.

The danger of such an interruption is, therefore, negligible? Not really. There is another reason why this flow could be suddenly interrupted: because the Venezuelan petroleum company becomes unable to fulfill its contractual obligations due to poor management and to a major financial or operational collapse. Even two years ago this would have appeared extremely unlikely but, recently, the company has been deteriorating at an alarming rate. Under investment and lack of maintenance have combined to take production down to very low levels, no more than 2.5 million barrels per day, while domestic consumption is now reaching some 800,000 barrels per day, cutting into the volumes originally destined for exports. Some 300,000 barrels per day go at subsidized prices to Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and some of the Caribbean states. Any further problems of an operational or financial nature would place PDVSA’s production below the volumes contractually committed to the U.S.
What are the chances of these problems getting worse in the near future? They are so high that the U.S. should be prepared for such an eventuality.

The Venezuelan petroleum industry is nearing financial collapse. Recent signs are ominous. The company is demanding payment of exports within eight days, rather than the traditional thirty days, suggesting that the company has a severe problem of cash flow. Some days ago the Venezuelan petroleum company ordered Citgo to obtain an urgent $1 billion loan on its behalf and a few hours ago it requested another $500 million from Citgo as advanced dividends. In a very unusual move cargoes of fuel oil, worth about one billion dollars, have been placed for sale in the spot market at a discount provided they are paid in cash. The Venezuelan petroleum company has obtained a $4 billion loan to China, to pay for debts of the central government that have no relation with the oil company. The Bahamas oil terminal, owned by Petroleos de Venezuela, has been put up for sale, without success. There is an air of panic surrounding the finances of the Venezuelan petroleum company.

But this is not all. As a result of the aggressive political moves during the last two years by Hugo Chavez, who practically confiscated large oil projects of Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips in Venezuela, Exxon Mobil has just decided to counter attack and has obtained court orders from the U.K., the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and the U.S. to freeze up to $12 billion worth of Venezuelan oil assets in these countries. This legal action by Exxon Mobil might not impede the daily operations of the company but represents a major financial and psychological blow to the already very weakened Venezuelan petroleum company and to the government of Hugo Chavez. This action might be followed by a similar action by ConocoPhillips,another company that feels wronged by the Chavez government.

The possibility of a major collapse of the Venezuelan petroleum company and of its inability to fulfill U.S. contractual commitments increases as the days go by.

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Exxon Mobil cut off from Venezuela's oil

Exxon Mobil cut off from Venezuela's oil

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's state oil company said Tuesday that it has stopped selling crude to Exxon Mobil Corp. in response to the U.S. oil company's drive to use the courts to seize billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets.

President Hugo Chavez has said Exxon Mobil is no longer welcome to do business in Venezuela.

Exxon Mobil is locked in a dispute over the nationalization of its oil ventures in Venezuela that has led President Hugo Chavez to threaten to cut off all Venezuelan oil supplies to the United States.

Venezuela is currently the United States' fourth largest oil supplier.

Tuesday's announcement by state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, was limited to Exxon Mobil, which PDVSA accused of "judicial-economic harassment" for its efforts in U.S. and European courts.

PDVSA said it "has paralyzed sales of crude to Exxon Mobil" and suspended commercial relations with the Irving, Texas-based company.

"The legal actions carried out by the U.S. transnational are unnecessary ... and hostile," PDVSA said in the statement.

It said it will honor any existing contracts it has with Exxon Mobil for joint investments abroad, but reserved the right to terminate them if permitted by the terms of the contracts.

Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Margaret Ross declined to comment on the move by Venezuela but said that "it is our long-standing practice to take appropriate steps to meet our customers' needs."

Exxon Mobil is challenging the Chavez government's nationalization of one of four heavy oil projects in the Orinoco River basin, one of the world's richest oil deposits.

A British court issued an injunction last month temporarily freezing up to $12 billion of PDVSA's assets.

Other oil companies including Chevron Corp., France's Total, Britain's BP PLC and Norway's StatoilHydro ASA have negotiated deals with Venezuela to continue as minority partners in projects. ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil balked at the government's tougher terms and have been in compensation talks with PDVSA.

Earlier Tuesday at an energy conference in Houston, Exxon Mobil senior vice president Mark Albers declined comment on any court proceedings with Venezuela, though he said the company is eager to negotiate fair compensation for its assets. Exxon Mobil is taking the dispute to international arbitration, to which Venezuela has agreed.

Venezuela's announcement came after Ramirez, the oil minister and PDVSA president, reiterated in a newspaper interview Tuesday that Venezuela is ready to cut off oil supplies to the United States if pressed into an "economic war."

"If they want this conflict to escalate, it's going to escalate. We have a way to make this conflict escalate," Ramirez was quoted as saying.

The White House on Tuesday declined to comment on Venezuela's threat. "When there's a litigation that's ongoing, different parties will say anything to try to win over on an argument," said White House press secretary Dana Perino.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan state television has begun airing short anti-Exxon segments, with a message appearing on the screen in red text reading: "Exxon Mobil turns oil into blood."

The U.S. remains the No. 1 buyer of Venezuelan oil, and Chavez relies largely on U.S. oil money to stimulate his economy and bankroll social programs that have traditionally boosted his popularity.

Some analysts say it would make little sense for Chavez to follow through on his threats because Venezuela owns refineries in the United States that are customized to handle the South American country's heavy crude.

Ramirez said Venezuela is selling the U.S. a daily average of 1.5 million barrels of crude and other products derived from

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

n Venezuela, Faith in Chávez Starts to Wane

It is difficult to understand what is going on in Venezuela, and why Chavez is still on power......
vdebate reporter
Venezuelans waited to buy subsidized food last month in San Antonio de Tachira.
The nation is facing food shortages.
Published: February 9, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela — These should be the best of times for Venezuela, blessed with the largest conventional oil reserves outside the Middle East and oil prices near record highs. But this country’s economic and social problems have become so acute lately that President Hugo Chávez is facing an unusual onslaught of criticism, even from his own supporters, about his management of the country.
In a rare turnabout, it is Mr. Chávez’s opponents who appear to have the political winds at their backs as they reverse policies of abstention and prepare dozens of candidates for pivotal regional elections. Mr. Chávez, for perhaps the first time since a recall vote in 2004, is increasingly on the defensive as his efforts to advance Venezuela toward socialism are seen as failing to address a growing list of worries like violent crime and shortages of basic foods.
While Mr. Chávez remains Venezuela’s most powerful political figure, his once unquestionable authority is showing signs of erosion. Unthinkable a few months ago, graffiti began appearing here in the capital in January reading, “Diosdado Presidente,” a show of support for a possible presidential bid by Diosdado Cabello, a Chávez supporter and governor of the populous Miranda State.
Outbreaks of dengue fever and Chagas disease have alarmed families living in the heart of this city. Fears of a devaluation of the new currency, called the “strong bolívar,” are fueling capital flight. While the economy may grow 6 percent this year, lifted by high oil prices, production in oil fields controlled by the national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, has declined. Inflation soared by 3 percent in January, its highest monthly level in a decade.
In fact, some economists see a slow-burning economic unraveling playing out in a country flush with oil revenues. But as Mr. Chávez embarks on his 10th year in power, it is becoming harder for him to blame previous governments for the malaise.
This holds true especially in poor areas where voters failed to turn out in support of the president in a December referendum on a constitutional overhaul that would have vastly increased Mr. Chavez’s powers, a stinging defeat from which the president has yet to recover. “I cannot find beans, rice, coffee or milk,” said Mirna de Campos, 56, a nurse’s assistant who lives in the gritty district of Los Teques outside Caracas. “What there is to find is whiskey — lots of it.”
The contrast between revolutionary language and the consumption of imported luxury items by a new elite aligned with Mr. Chávez’s government, known as the “Bolivarian bourgeoisie,” has led to questioning of the priorities of his political movement. “Chávez’s revolution has stalled, but it can move forward if he can solve some problems,” said Daniel Hellinger, a political scientist at Webster University in St. Louis who follows Venezuela. “I don’t envy him the challenge of trying to make the country’s government more effective in people’s daily lives.”
Mr. Chávez highlighted the challenge after his defeat at the polls when he called for a year of “revision, rectification and relaunching.” He issued an amnesty decree for opponents who had been charged with supporting a brief 2002 coup and shook up his cabinet, replacing his vice president and ministers in charge of the economy and fighting crime.
But for each minor policy shift or good economic statistic from the government, Mr. Chávez has stirred deeper anxiety by intensifying threats to expand state control of the economy and society. For instance, Mr. Chávez warned Monday that he would nationalize large food distributors caught hoarding groceries.
Pedro E. Piñate, an agricultural consultant in the city of Maracay, said: “We live in two countries, one inhabited by officials who think they can alter reality by sending soldiers to intimidate citizens. The other country is where the rest of us live in fear of being killed or kidnapped or of our businesses being seized.”
This fear is reflected in a statistic that is illegal to publish in Venezuela: the black-market value of the strong bolívar, or bolívar fuerte, put into circulation at the start of the year to replace the old bolívar. Its value hovers around 5.2 to the dollar according to currency traders here, less than half at the official rate, 2.15.

For other domestic problems, Mr. Chávez’s approach has been equally erratic. After the recent outbreak of dengue fever, which reached into his cabinet to infect Culture Minister Francisco Sesto, the president did not shake up the public health system. Instead, he called for an investigation of claims that the disease may have been altered into a more virulent strain as part of an attack on Venezuela by unidentified enemies.
Enemies of Venezuela have rarely been more threatening than in recent weeks, according to Mr. Chávez, who has elevated a political dispute with President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia to the point of mobilizing troops.
Last month, Mr. Chávez claimed Colombian military officials were conspiring with American officials in Bogotá to kill him. It was the 25th time that Venezuela’s government said that Mr. Chávez was the target for assassination since 2002, according to Tal Cual, a newspaper here.
As these domestic and economic troubles accumulate, Mr. Chávez faces a new test this year in state and municipal elections, with a reinvigorated opposition. Mr. Chávez stands to lose some authority if opponents win just a handful of important states or cities, almost all of which are now controlled by his supporters. Even more unpredictable are the dynamics within the president’s own movement, with insurgent candidacies clamoring to challenge the status quo.
“Chavismo is most vulnerable at the local and state level,” said Steve Ellner, a political scientist at Oriente University in eastern Venezuela. “That opens great opportunities for the opposition to erode Chávez’s power and influence, beginning with big gains in the elections held at the end of this year.”
Amid growing calls for debate and the grooming of new leaders in the Socialist Party he created last year for his followers, Mr. Chávez is trying to instill discipline within its ranks. He called for party members to be expelled if they initiated candidacies too soon for coming elections. The rule apparently does not apply to Mr. Chávez, whose bid to remove term limits for the presidency, along with other proposals to transform Venezuela into the hemisphere’s second socialist state after Cuba, was rejected by voters in December.
He mentioned a proposal last month to hold a vote in 2010 to allow him to run for re-election in 2012, when his current term expires. Billboards proclaiming “Por Ahora” — “For Now” — have gone up in the capital, reminding Venezuelans that Mr. Chávez will not give up his quest to reconfigure society.
Mr. Chávez has also not given up on his efforts abroad to deepen alliances with like-minded leaders. For instance, even as Venezuela struggles with a shortage of oil-drilling rigs, the government has sent two rigs to Ecuador, whose president, Rafael Correa, is a Chávez supporter.
This foreign aid, once tolerated by Mr. Chávez’s supporters, is emerging as a source of resentment among those left out of the country’s oil boom. “I see Chávez traveling and traveling abroad, and the money ends up somewhere else,” said Jesús Camacho, 29, who sells coffee on the street in Catia, an area of slums here, making about $8 a day.
Mr. Camacho said he had always voted for Mr. Chávez but had recently lost faith in politics. “This situation will be fixed by no man,” he said. “Only God.”

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Court Bars Sale of billions in Oil Assets by Venezuela

We have years working against Chavez because we new he was ruining Venezuela. It is very sad to see this.
vdebater reporter
Court Bars Sale of Billions in Oil Assets by Venezuela
Published: February 8, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela — The oil giant Exxon Mobil has won court orders freezing as much as $12 billion in petroleum assets controlled by Venezuela’s government in an escalation of a dispute over efforts by President Hugo Chávez to assert greater control over the country’s oil industry. Venezuela’s dollar-denominated bonds suffered their steepest drop in six months on Thursday on concerns that Mr. Chávez’s government could face a protracted legal battle with Exxon, preventing the government from raising cash through the sale of refineries abroad if the economy here slows after years of torrid growth.
Investors are also increasingly concerned about the financial health of the national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, amid reports that its debt is ballooning as its output declines. The oil company is the largest single source of revenue for Mr. Chávez’s government, financing an array of social welfare projects and foreign aid to leftist allies. “This is a big blow against Venezuela,” said Pietro Pitts, an oil analyst who publishes Latin Petroleum, an industry magazine based here. “It could set an important precedent for other multinationals threatened by Venezuela’s government.”
After Mr. Chávez’s move to take control of large oil ventures last year, Exxon dug in for a fight. While Chevron and other companies accepted the terms imposed by Mr. Chávez, Exxon aggressively sought to prevent Venezuela from transferring control of foreign-based oil assets to entities here ahead of arbitration proceedings.
In recent days, Exxon won a court order from the High Court of London prohibiting Petróleos de Venezuela from selling assets worldwide up to a value of $12 billion, Margaret Ross, an Exxon spokeswoman in Houston, said in a statement. Exxon won similar orders in the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles for assets worth up to $12 billion.
And in New York, Exxon won an order freezing $300 million of Petróleos de Venezuela’s assets. Despite a deterioration of political relations between Caracas and Washington, Venezuela remains a major trading partner with the United States, ranking as its fourth-largest supplier of imported crude oil. Venezuela’s government also controls Citgo Petroleum of Houston, which operates refineries in Illinois, Louisiana and Texas. Mr. Chávez’s government has compensated American companies in previous nationalizations of their assets when it was faced with the possibility of losing control of Citgo and other foreign assets in retaliation.
A spokesman for Petróleos de Venezuela did not return calls seeking comment. The company is expected to appeal the rulings. The dispute may raise borrowing costs for Petróleos de Venezuela, which is being reconfigured by Mr. Chávez to focus on pressing social concerns.

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Exxon wins freeze on $12bln of Venezuelan assests

This is terrible to Venezuela...... Thanks Chavez and his political supporters, they ruin Venezuelans wealth.... They will have to pay.
vdebate reporter
Exxon wins freeze on $12 bln of Venezuelan assets
Thu Feb 7, 2008 7:32pm EST
(Adds analyst comments, background, byline)
By Michael Erman
NEW YORK, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) has won court orders freezing up to $12 billion in Venezuelan assets around the world as it fights for compensation for operations lost to President Hugo Chavez's nationalization drive.
The largest U.S. company sought the asset freeze to guarantee repayment should it win arbitration over the Cerro Negro heavy oil project.
The move is the boldest challenge yet by an international oil major against any of the governments around the world that have moved to increase their holds on natural resources as energy and commodity prices have soared.
"To me it sounds like a very aggressive tactic," said Stephen Zamora, professor of international law at the University of Houston Law Center.
"I can't really say that I'm aware this has been used in other investment disputes. They may be trying to get the government to settle."
Exxon -- which last week posted the largest ever year's profit by a U.S. company -- said on Thursday it has received court orders in Britain, the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles each freezing up to $12 billion in assets of Venezuela state oil firm PDVSA. An Exxon spokeswoman said the total that could be frozen worldwide was $12 billion.
Exxon also won a court order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in December freezing more than $300 million belonging to PDVSA, seeking to guarantee repayment should it win the arbitration.
PDVSA, one of the largest suppliers of crude oil to the United States, was not immediately available for comment. The White House and the U.S. State Department also declined to comment.
Venezuela's sovereign bonds sold off after the court orders surfaced.
Left-winger Chavez, who regularly clashes with the Bush administration, took over Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips (COP.N: Quote, Profile, Research) stakes in multibillion-dollar heavy oil projects in Venezuela's oil region last June.
The move was part of the left-wing leader's drive to nationalize key industries including utilities and telecommunications companies owned by private companies.
The news comes as a tough blow to Chavez, who suffered a stinging defeat in a December referendum that would have let him run indefinitely for reelection and enshrine socialism as the OPEC nation's economic system.
PDVSA is already facing growing debt and increasing operational problems that analysts attribute to underinvestment caused by the company's massive contributions to Chavez's social programs.
But the near-term effect of the Exxon legal maneuver on PDVSA's day-to-day operations was not immediately clear.
The South American nation has an extensive overseas refining network, including the Citgo refining and marketing branch in the United States.
Exxon said in court filings that recent estimates have placed PDVSA's global asset value -- including its operations in Venezuela -- at over $62 billion
PDVSA's European refining assets, principally a 50 percent share in the German refining joint venture Ruhr Oel, were held through a Netherlands Company PDV Europa BV, according to filings PDVSA made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2006.
Exxon filed for arbitration in September with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
Exxon has not specified how much it wants for the 41.7 percent stake in the Cerro Negro project, but it has said its remaining book investment in the project was about $750 million at the time the assets were expropriated.
The move underscores Exxon's reputation for toughness in dealing with foes as varied as governments and fishermen, as it has been willing to wage prolonged legal battles to defend its interests around the world.
Amy Meyers Jaffe, energy policy researcher at Rice's Baker Institute, said the case could have far-reaching implications.
"These are precedents that are going to be important for what people can and cannot do in the oil industry," she said.
ConocoPhillips spokesman William Tanner said his company "continues to discuss an amicable resolution regarding the assets that were expropriated in Venezuela."
Conoco filed for arbitration over the dispute in November.
Venezuela's benchmark global bond due 2027 lost 2.375 points in price to be bid 98.938, while total returns offered by the country's debt slipped 1.52 percent according to the JP Morgan EMBI+ index 11EMJ. (Additional reporting by Robert Campbell, Matt Daily and Matthew Robinson in New York; Anna Driver in Houston; and Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Gary Hill)
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