I was very happy to be interviewed for the Latin American “Energy Analytics Institute” (EAI), a Houston-based consultancy and news service. I’ve followed its work for years.
With Biden in and Trump out, everyone is debating how to deal with Maduro and his chavista regime that’s brought such misery and ruin in Venezuela. It’s not only the USA’s new LatAm team of Biden, Blinken and Nichols, but the EU, Norway, the OAS, the Lima Group, who are all looking for a new strategy. And so has the Venezuelan opposition, plus an increasingly important actor: the growing and doggedly persistent civil society organizations. Increasingly suffering forced-isolation from abroad, this array of social, cultural, media, medical, educational, nutrition, economic and political resistance groups do largely self-sufficient work to replace basic necessities and social-services, which the chavista government and ruined private sector can no longer provide.
However, in this brief Q&A what was addressed was not strategy per se; but a key underlying issue to understand in framing a strategy: the interests of both Moscow and Beijing as key obstacles to removal of the chavista regime. Read at EAI site (free) or Read below – Tom O’D.
China, Russia, Venezuela: Q&A With Thomas O’Donnell
(Energy Analytics Institute, 13.Feb.2021) — China and Russia continue to push around their might in Venezuela. Thomas O’Donnell with the Hertie School of Governance & Freie Universität-Berlin weighs in briefly here.
Energy Analytics Institute: What might China and Russia be willing to do this year to assist Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro?
Thomas O’Donnell, PhD: Beijing’s original (and perhaps still) plan for Venezuela was deep vertical integration mirroring PDVSA-Citgo Petroleum: new Faja upgraders, a pipeline to Colombia’s Pacific coast, dedicated ships, dedicated domestic Chinese refineries, etc. All very rational and lucrative for both sides. China became alarmed with Hugo Chavez’ unreliability and incompetence within a few years and with Maduro’s incapacity to reform within a year or so. The entire “oil-for-loans” history was a fallback strategy for Beijing – at least secure an oil stream with minimized risk. I have no doubt the Chinese Communist Party wants a new Caracas regime it can work with.
Posted on14.May.2022|Comments Off on Latin American Oil: Beijing Still Lending, But for How Long? – I’m quoted by Energy Compass
Last week, Energy Intelligence (EI) quoted me on China’s continued appetite for oil and gas investments in Latin America even with its own economic slowdown and LatAm’s many political upheavals. (Sincere thanks to EI for a PDF of their proprietary Energy Compass to share on my blog. You can access it below here.)
Some thoughts on China’s strategy: In the case of Venezuela, as the price of oil fell, Beijing quickly eased up on PDVSA’s repayment terms for its huge outstanding loans which are repayable in oil. This shows some willingness to help Venezuela cope with the falling market value of oil. Why? Because, mainly, it is the oil that China has always been laser-focused on – not making interest on these loans.
Generally, it is clear that new Chinese investments or loans are still possible in Latin America. In Venezuela however, Continue reading →
Falling oil prices are not a US-EU-Saudi plot against Russia, Iran and Venezuela… though their effect is certainly not unwelcomed..Foto: REUTERS/Jim Bourg
[Printed in IP Journal, German Council on Foreign Affairs] Pin-pointing the reason for the dramatic – and continuing – fall in the price of oil is relatively easy: OPEC held its 166th conference in late-November 2014 to decide on a strategy to address oil prices, which had been falling at five to ten percent per month since July. Rather than pursue a production cut
Here’s my piece [in Spanish] in Petroguía 2015, the oil-&-gas sector catalog for Latin America Note: Hemispheric integration (e.g., energy infrastructure) was endlessly promoted by Hugo Chavez. In the end, he built none. The region’s resources continue going mainly to develop other regions, such as China. Continue reading →
Last week, I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal on why Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) is looking to sell its Citgo refining affiliate in the USA. The key motivation, in my estimation, is to finance projects critical to … Continue reading →
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 deVenezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV), whose loyalty requires his polarizing words and deeds. This conundrum already wrecked a previous dialogue.
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
I had a pleasant exchange with an intern – in the end a class of interns – at the Brazilian newspaper “O Estado de São Paulo” a couple of weeks ago. The questions were insightful. I tried to answer in an informative and direct manner. Indeed, things are not going well at Petrobras lately, and looking at the politics of Pdvsa and Petrobras next to one another is a useful exercise. Here’s the interview.
1) Do you agree that PDVSA and Petrobras have both had political mishaps in their administrations? Why?
Yes. Hugo Chavez used Pdvsa as the “goose that lays the golden eggs.” However, he took so much from Pdvsa — especially to support his frequent election campaigns, before each of which he increased public spending to win votes — that the “goose” has been left to starve.
Chavez’ revolution was, in his own words, an “oil revolution” and “oil socialism.” However, he did not understand how to run the national oil company. While he distributed largess from the country’s oil wealth to the poor, he was incapable of introducing a new, higher productivity of labor in Venezuelan society, which is what any real social revolution requires for success. He left the country in a very dangerous situation with a shortage of foreign exchange. If the price of oil falls further due to a US & EU accord with Iran and/or an improvement in the oil production situation in Libya, and Iraq, then Venezuela will face a deep crisis.
Petrobras too, under Lula, began to be viewed as a cash cow after it discovered the pre-salt. As a president. Lula was much more competent organizationally and in economic matters than Hugo Chavez. However, Continue reading →
Inversiones energéticos de China en Latino américa. Nota que Venezuela está en cuatro lugar, en contra de las intenciones iniciales de Beijíng en 2007-08. HAZ CLICK para magnificar. (Grafico por T.O’D.)
[English readers: This post is an analysis I did in Spanish for Petroguía 2014 – the annual hard-copy guide for the LatAm petroleum sector – of China’s oil and gas investments in LatAm and the Carribean. For Beijing’s other investments, or a presentation, etc. drop me a line. ]
NOTA: La siguiente es mi análisis publicado en Petroguía 2014, la guía anual para el sector petrolífero latinoamericano. Soy agradecido a los directores del Petroguíapor haberme permitido publicar el artículo aquí. El artículo es una resumen de una investigación que hizo sobre todas las inversiones de China en Latino américa. Si tienen interés en una reportaje o presentación detallada, por favor contactarme.
China y América Latina: ¿Quién gana y quién pierde?
Sumario. El mercado de hidrocarburos ya no está en el norte de América sino hacia el este, y la mejor estrategia de intercambio con esa plaza la lleva Brasil, mientras que Venezuela y Argentina están a la zaga.
Por Thomas W. O’Donnell
El petróleo y el gas que exportará América Latina en las décadas venideras irán mayormente a China y otras partes de Asia. Y eso es por el efecto combinado de menores necesidades de energía importada en Estados Unidos, gracias a la utilización de los nuevos métodos de fractura hidráulica (fracking) que produce cada vez más petróleo liviano, y por el tope que ha alcanzado su demanda doméstica. Continue reading →
Presidents Chavez and Ahmadinejad met in Caracas in January (here) and June 2012
I was cited a number of times yesterday in a Bloomberg News article by Nathan Crooks in Caracas and Paul Burkhardt in NYC. I reprint it below because the authors’ research further illustrates an issue I’ve often stressed here.
That is: in spite of President Chavez’ rhetoric promising to stand by Presidents Ahmadinejad of Iran (and Assad of Syria, and previously Qaddafi of Libya), he is actually in no position to withstand the U.S. sanctions that could be imposed on Venezuela for aiding Iran. Continue reading →
[Edited Tues 630 EDT] The Negra Hipólita, a tanker operated by an affiliate of PDVSA, should be arriving at the Syrian port of Banias after a 15-17 day voyage from the Venezuelan refinery at Puerto La Cruz (El Universal, 17Feb12).
Syrian tanks are seen in Bab Amro near the city of Homs,12Feb12. Photo Reuters
Puerto La Cruz produces about 187k bbl/day and, the Negra Hipólito, if fully loaded, will deliver 47,000 (47k) tonnes of diesel fuel to alleviate reported widespread shortages of fuel in Syria. That’s about 330k barrels of fuel usable as home heating oil, or as fuel for Assad’s Russian tanks “indiscriminately” shelling neighborhoods, as in the city of Homs. Note:
In Vienna, the U.N. chief demanded the Syrian regime stop using indiscriminate force against civilians caught up in fighting between government troops and Assad’s opponents. “We see neighborhoods shelled indiscriminately,” Ban told reporters. “Hospitals used as torture centers. Children as young as ten years old jailed and abused. We see almost certain crimes against humanity.” (Time World, Syrian Troops Shell Central City with Tanks. 17Feb12).
What, however, is the geopolitical significance of this shipment? Let’s examine three issues:
Chavez’ motivations: Why risk sanctions?
Is this a significant material assistance to Assad’s regime?
(Edited, 20 Jan.) President Ahmadinejad of Iran visited Venezuela on January 9, and then three of President Chavez’ closest Latin American allies, to search for help. His tour was part of a flurry of diplomacy in the New Year leading up to the imposition of severe new U.S. sanctions on Iran’s ability to export oil, beginning in June.
Presidents Ahmadinejad and Chavez in Caracas (Photo: El Universal)
While these two presidents met in Caracas, U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner was visiting South Korea, Japan and China, and other U.S. officials were Continue reading →