- Ms. Rita Bitar Deeb PhD student in Political Science at the Otto-Suhr-Institut of Freie Universität Berlin
- Dr. Ivo Hernandez Lecturer in International Relations at the Political Science Institute of Universität Münster
- Dr. Manuel Silva-Ferrer John Boulton Foundation Fellow and Lecturer at the Latin-American Institute of Freie Universität Berlin
- Dr. Thomas W. O’Donnell -Moderator Guest Lecturer at Hertie School of Governance and the European Studies Program, FU/BEST at Freie Universität Berlin
WHEN: 10 October, 6-7:30 pm. LOCATION: Hertie School of Governance, Friedrichstrasse 180 – 10117 Berlin, Germany. [To attend, please register online.] – Venezuela is currently unable to adequately feed its people, or to provide basic services such as medical care, education, and electricity. Polls indicate about 90% of the population would vote to remove its Chavista president, Nicolas Maduro, if his government allowed a recall referenda to take place this year, which is widely demanded. What will happen in Venezuela: Collapse? Chaos? Democratic renewal? And, moreover, why is this occurring now?
Since the mid-20th Century, fueled by oil riches, Venezuela has veered from being the leading example of ‘democratic development’ within a continent rife with right-wing dictatorships, to a nation mired in its own economic and political crises. A ‘neo-liberal shock’ in the late-1980’s failed and was roundly rejected by citizens. At the end of the 1990‘s, Hugo Chavez broadly excited the hopes for development of not only Venezuelans but elicited significant sympathy worldwide with Chavismo’s ‘new resource nationalism’ and ’21st Century Bolivarian Socialism’. However, this leftward turn is also demonstrably failing, with the nation again on the brink of disaster. What comes next? Our panel of Venezuelan experts weighs in and will address attendees’ questions.
Rita Bitar Deeb is a PhD student in Political Science at the Otto-Suhr-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. She received her Master in Public Policy and Management from the University of Pittsburgh and Graduate Certificate in Latin American Studies. Her research interests are democratization process, social development and gender policy. She has worked for the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), and several local NGOs as project coordinator in Venezuela (Atenea, Súmate, Red de Apoyo-HHRR). Bitar has taught at the University of Kassel in Germany, and at the Catholic University in Caracas.
Ivo Hernandez is lecturer in International Relations at the Political Science Institute of Universität Münster. He studied at Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) in Caracas, the London School of Economics (LSE), the University of Heidelberg and University of Tübingen in Germany and The National Defense University in Washington D.C. His research interests include oil politics, national oil companies, the logics of terrorism, and Latin American politics and political economy.
Manuel Silva-Ferrer is John Boulton Foundation Fellow – exploring oil, society and culture in 20th-Century Latin America – as well as Lecturer at the Latin-American Institute of Freie Universität Berlin. Born in Caracas, he is a graduate of the Institute of Communication Studies at Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) and earned his PhD from Freie Universität Berlin. He was Director of the state film foundation Cinemateca Nacional de Venezuela and Head of Cinema and Media at the Ministry of Culture where his work included developing the National Academy of Film and Audiovisual. Silva-Ferrer led ExtraCámara, a magazine for Latin-American photography, and was co-responsible for the creation of the Centro Nacional de la Fotografía, a public foundation for the promotion of photographic art. During his studies, Silva-Ferrer was Fellow of the Fundación Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho, and awarded a PhD full scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
Moderation & comments:
Thomas W. O’Donnell is Guest Lecturer at Hertie School of Governance and the European Studies Program (FU/BEST) at Freie Universität Berlin. An academic, analyst and consultant in the global energy system and international relations, his work has encompassed especially the role of oil and gas in the EU, Russia, Latin America, Middle East, China and the USA. His PhD is from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in experimental nuclear physics, and he previously studied Political Science and China Studies at the State University of New York and Canisius College. In 2008-09, he was US Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor at the Center for the Study of Development (CENDES) at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and in 2015 AICGS (American Institute of Contemporary German Studies) & DAAD Fellow in Washington D.C. O’Donnell has taught post-graduate seminars on energy in international relations and development at The University of Michigan, The Ohio State University, The New School University’s JJ Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs (NYC),and Freie Universität, JFK Institute (Berlin). He is Senior Analyst at Wikistrat and consults with other geopolitical and business-intelligence firms. Before his PhD, O’Donnell gained broad tech experience in U.S. automobile-manufacturing, railway-operations and power-generation industries. He is author of some 40 peer-reviewed scientific physics papers.
If you wish to attend, please register online.
Posted in Berlin, Chavez lagacy, Chavez legacy, corruption, Economic Crisis, Energy and Geopolitics, Global Oil Market, Hertie School of Governance, Latin America, PDVSA, Uncategorized, Venezuela oil, Venezuela update, Venezuelan Democracy, Venezuelan elections, Venezuelan weak institutions
Tagged oil, Venezuela
If you’re in New York: Luiz Pinto and I speak at Columbia University’s Institute for Latin American Studies (ILAS) on post-Chavez Venezuela, 12-noon, Thursday, 9 October:
Posted in Chavez, Chavez lagacy, Chavez legacy, heavy oil, Hugo Chávez, Latin America, Leopoldo López, Maracaibo, PDVSA, PDVSA weakness, Uncategorized, Venezuela oil, Venezuela update, Venezuelan Democracy
Tagged Caracas, Chavez, Chavismo, Columbia University's Institute for Latin American Studies, Heavy crude oil, Hugo Chávez, Latin America, Maracaibo, Nicolás Maduro, oil sector, PDVSA, Petróleos de Venezuela, Rafael Ramírez, Venezuela
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking during the first UNASUR-and-Vatican mediated peace talks with the opposition in Caracas 10 April (Reuters)
Here’s my commentary at Americas Quarterly today, 11 April:
A delegation of foreign ministers from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) returned to Caracas on April 7 and 8, securing an agreement to hold peace talks to calm political polarization and protests in Venezuela. The talks are being mediated by the foreign ministers of Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador, plus a Vatican representative.
The UNASUR delegation first visited in late March, recommending that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and leaders of the opposition’s Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) enter into a dialogue. The U.S. State Department had expressed support, as had Organization of American States (OAS) General Secretary José Miguel Insulza.
However, UNASUR’s plan will be complicated by Maduro’s reliance on paramilitaries within his Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV), whose loyalty requires his polarizing words and deeds. This conundrum already wrecked a previous dialogue.
In early February, before protests broke out, a highly placed government official explained to me, … CLICK to Continue Reading at Americas Quarterly. Continue reading
Posted in Chavez, Chavez legacy, Energy and Geostrategy, Henry Capriles, Hugo Chávez, Latin America, Leopoldo López, PDVSA, The USA, Uncategorized, Venezuela update, Venezuelan Democracy
Tagged Caracas, Chavez, Chavismo, Hugo Chávez, Latin America, Nicolás Maduro, PDVSA, peace talks, Petróleos de Venezuela, UNASUR, Union of South American Nations, United States, Venezuela, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
- The anti-government protest in eastern Caracas 13 March ended in clashes with Venezuelan police. Three more died in widespread protests. BBC
As protests continue against Venezuela’s faltering “oil revolution,” the political strategy of the chavista administration is striking for its intransigence. President Maduro has refused to recognize any grievances by students or other protesters. He calls protesters “fascists” and blames them for all the ills of the economy. Protests are attacked by the national guard and often by state-organized paramilitary gangs on motorcycles who are praised by the president.
The administration’s strategy so far appears to be that protests will burn themselves out if they can be delegitimized and contained within middle-class areas. Accordingly, the president’s rhetoric aims at inciting poorer citizens against protesters. All in all, this is a risky strategy. Protests have constantly intensified, with perhaps 25 persons dead now.
After a month of protests, the administration has taken urgent economic measures it hopes will undermine the protests and prevent their spread to poor and working-class barrios.
1. Ramirez announces Chinese and Russian loans and the launch of a very liberal Sicad 2
Posted in Chavez, Chavez lagacy, Chavez legacy, China, Faja of the Orinoco, Global Oil Market, heavy oil, Hugo Chávez, Institutions and rule of law, PDVSA, Uncategorized, Venezuela oil, Venezuela update, Venezuelan Democracy
Tagged Beijing, Business and Economy, Caracas, Chavez, China, Energy, Heavy crude oil, Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, PDVSA, People's Republic of China
Back in April, Brazil’s Folha de SaoPaulo ran an article entitled: “The Future of Venezuela Depends on China“ and highlighted this quote: Translation: “If Maduzo wins, he’ll have to regain the confidence of the Chinese.” TOM O’DONNELL, petroleum consultant
Indeed, it is now clear that the short-term strategy of the post-Chavez Maduro-Cabello administration was to escape the country’s severe dollar crisis: convincing Beijing to extend it a $5 billion cash loan alleviating food-import shortages before 8 December elections. In particular, the cash was to fund a new dollar exchange system (see El Nacional,25 Sept 2013). Continue reading
Posted in Chavez lagacy, Chavez legacy, China, Faja of the Orinoco, heavy oil, Hugo Chávez, Latin America and Caribbean, PDVSA, Venezuela diplomacy, Venezuela oil, Venezuela update, Venezuelan elections
Tagged Beijing, Caracas, China, Hugo Chávez, Maduro, Nicolás Maduro, PDVSA, Venezuela
I’m invited to deliver a public lecture Wednesday, 24 April, at 3:30 in New York City at The New School University‘s Graduate International Affairs. This will be a critical examination of the legacy of Hugo Chavez’ “oil socialism” as an “alternative developmental model” for Latin America. Continue reading
Posted in Chavez, Chavez lagacy, Chavez legacy, Chavezsuccession cancer, China, Faja of the Orinoco, heavy oil, Henry Capriles, Hugo Chávez, Institutions and rule of law, international relations, PDVSA, PDVSA weakness, Venezuela update, Venezuelan Democracy, Venezuelan elections, Venezuelan weak institutions
Tagged Hugo Chávez, Latin America, New York City, The New School, Venezuela
The Supreme Court of Venezuela has just made a rather strange decision. Rather than deciding between the two possible scenarios described in the constitution for the case when a president-elect is unable to take the oath of office on the prescribed day of 10 January, they have instead pronounced a third scenario proposed by leaders of Chavez’ party: There is “no temporary absence” of Chavez, and there is “administrative continuity” (i.e., that there is no new administration since he was the previous president).
The decision by the TSJ [press conference 9Jan 2012] seems particularly amazing as it rejects the constitutional option of declaring Chavez “temporarily absent” that would have kept Chavismo in the presidency without an election for 180 days.
This decision is just as transparently un-constitutional and invented as the rationals of the right-wing Honduran military and congress in 2009 for throwing the president out of their country in his pajamas, rather than pressing whatever grievances or charges they had against him within the framework of the constitution. There is a habit growing in Latin America of “democracies” being unwilling to fight out political crises within the sphere of the constitution and the nation’s institutions.
Here’s the situation in Venezuela: The vice-president and acting president, Continue reading
A succession crisis is stalking Venezuelan society. President Chavez of Venezuela is again in Havana, after a complex six-hour surgery, his third in a year for an unspecified form of cancer. Just before the surgery, he returned to Caracas to address the nation. For the first time he spoke about what he wishes to be done if he is unable to return to the presidency. Continue reading
Leopoldo López, former Mayor of Chacao, Caracas
(Note: this post was expanded and some corrections made 23 Sept. Also, Part B will treat the “oil angle” – what are the policies of opposition candidates H. Capriles, P. Pérez and L. López as compared to the Chavista policies on PDVSA and on spending the nations’ oil income?)
This past week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights overturned the administrative disqualification (inhabilitación) of Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo López from running as an electoral candidate. (see: decision of the Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, and press release from Lopez’ organization. )
What might be the effect on the October 2012 election? In polls till now, Lopez has run third behind top-runner Henry Capriles, his former political ally and governor of Miranda State, and behind Pablo Pérez, the governor of Zulia State. The Chávez administration has been actively shaping who may run for the opposition ever since President Chavez’ first electoral loss, in the December 2007 plebiscite. This decision is clearly a setback for this policy.
Posted in Chavez, corruption, Henry Capriles, Hugo Chávez, Human Rights, Institutions and rule of law, Leopoldo López, Maracaibo, PDVSA, Uncategorized, Venezuela update, Venezuelan Democracy, Venezuelan elections, Zulia
Tagged American Convention on Human Rights, Government, Henrique Capriles Radonski, Hugo Chávez, Human rights, Human Rights and Liberties, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Leopoldo López, Manuel Rosales, Miranda (state), Petróleos de Venezuela, United States, Venezuela, Zulia
First, here is an outline of this and the next three or four blogs on this topic:
I. Changes on the Venezuelan side that are enhancing the Chinese role:
a. Chavez’ recent interest in increasing national oil production
b. The existential crisis Chavismo faces from the slow collapse of dysfunctional state institutions, civil infrastructure, and nationalized enterprises
II. Changes on China’s side that enhance its role in Venezuela:
a. China has now loaned Venezuela so much money, and Venezuela so badly needs continued Chinese financing (lately it also feels a need for managerial and technical assistance), that Beijing has been able to insist Caracas not only begin to come through on long-awaited heavy-oil contracts, but that it also comply with certain geo-political and fiscal-accountability conditions. A couple of these are pretty amazing.
I. Changes on the Venezuelan side enhancing the Chinese role: a. Chavez’ new interest in increasing national oil production
One reason for China’s deepening influence in Venezuela is that PDVSA‘s president and energy minister, Rafael Ramirez, is no longer alone in insisting that PDVSA’s level of production has to rise. President Chavez now seems to have gotten behind the need to increase national production. If the price of oil falls significantly (many feel six months at an average of $60/barrel would be ruinous) and PDVSA’s exports per day have not risen to compensate, Venezuela will be in real trouble. Venezuela is extraordinarily dependent on imported goods, from food to machinery for which dollars are needed; and it also must keep up payments to foreign bond holders, for which a steady stream of dollars are also needed. Chavez and Ramirez have every reason to expect that the world’s economic woes will lead to a decrease in oil demand over the next year or two, and this of course can lead to significantly lower prices. These fears were not apparent in the recent past. It has been more or less a tenent of Chavista faith at elite-and-professional levels that the price of oil will never again fall significantly. I have been told this many times. Continue reading
Posted in Chavez, China, corruption, Economic Crisis, Faja of the Orinoco, heavy oil, international relations, PDVSA, Resource conflicts, The USA, Venezuela diplomacy, Venezuela update
Tagged Bolivarianism, Caracas, Chavismo, China, Energy, Eni, Heavy crude oil, Hugo Chávez, La Campiña, peak oil, Petróleos de Venezuela, Rafael Ramírez, States of Venezuela, United States, Venezuela
Major Chinese Faja heavy-oil-production contracts had not materialized till now. Why not?
(This is continued from Part I) On the one hand, technical reasons would be given against closing deals with the Chinese. For example, it was thought by some in PDVSA that Chinese companies lacked the technology to efficiently implement the refineries needed to upgrade Venezuela‘s extra-heavy oil to a grade light enough to enable it to be accepted by foreign refineries. On this excuse, some top PDVSA executives had pressed Chinese firms to focus on making joint proposals together with, say, Total of France. This was because Total had already proven the quality of its upgrader-refinery technology in one of the four proof-of-principle projects foreign companies had implemented during the previous government’s apertura period. (The apertura was the liberal “opening” of the oil sector to significant Continue reading
Posted in Chavez, China, corruption, Economic Crisis, Faja of the Orinoco, heavy oil, Institutions and rule of law, international relations, PDVSA, Resource conflicts, The USA, Venezuela diplomacy, Venezuela update
Tagged Chavismo, China, Heavy crude oil, Hugo Chávez, Petróleos de Venezuela, States of Venezuela, United States, Venezuela
In my travels and interviews in Venezuela this summer, it became clear that there has been a major advance in the relationship between China and the Bolivarian administration of President Chavez. China’s dogged persistence and large state-sponsored investments in Venezuela – apparently the largest they’ve made to date in any country – are finally beginning to bear fruit. The new Chinese influence is being simultaneously extended to both oil and non-oil sectors.
Partly this development is due to the many crises affecting the Bolivarian state, and decisions it has been forced to take to make increasing national oil production a priority. To advance this program, President Chavez’ administration has made initial moves to grant Beijing access to Venezuelan oil in major ways it had not previously.
However, there are two sides to this story: on the other side, increasing Chinese participation is also a product of China having step-by-step put some quite sharp demands on PDVSA and the Venezuelan Bolivarian state for financial transparency and accountability, for geopolitical stabilization, and in particular, for Chinese firms being granted large-scale access to new heavy-oil fields in the Faja of the Orinoco River. The key ingredient here is that Continue reading
Posted in China, Economic Crisis, Oil subsidies, Resource conflicts, The USA, Uncategorized, Venezuela update
Tagged Beijing, Bolivarianism, China, Heavy crude oil, Orinoco, PDVSA, People's Republic of China, Petróleos de Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, States of Venezuela, United States, Venezuela
Why did President Chavez last week order that Venezuela‘s gold reserves held abroad be repatriated and that international reserve funds held in banks in the U.S., Switzerland, Britain–the global north–be moved to banks in Brazil, Russia and China–to BRIC countries? The move is being hailed by Chavistas; but, the generalized anti-imperialist and nationalist rationals being cited are not useful as far as a specific geopolitical analysis. That is , they do not explain why this takes place right now as opposed to having been done at any given time during the last 12 years of his presidency.
So, why is this being done now? The idea is obviously to keep these funds in places where they cannot be seized or frozen. But, WHAT might trigger seizures or freezing of these funds NOW as they lay in U.S., British or Swiss banks? Continue reading
Posted in Chavez, Economic Crisis, Gaddafi, Libya, Venezuela update
Tagged BRIC, ConocoPhillips, Hugo Chávez, Libya, PDVSA, Petróleos de Venezuela, United States, Venezuela
First of all, Greetings! I have been in Venezuela during July and half of August, talking to contacts and doing research on the present situation.
I was fortunate to have had the benefit of hundreds of hours of heart-to-heart discussions with Venezuelans from both the pro- and anti-chavista camps, both in and out of government, and some in neither camp. I also met with several foreign reporters, business people and diplomats. There are really not many other people from the global north in Venezuela now (I did find one grad student, from Finland). Continue reading
Posted in China, Energy and Environment, The USA, Venezuela update
Tagged Carabobo, China, Eni, Hugo Chávez, Maracaibo, Monagas, Petróleos de Venezuela, United States, Venezuela