Tag Archive | "venezuela"

Venezuela: ICSID Rules Against Exxon Mobil on Nationalisation Case

Orinoco Belt (image: Wikipedia)

Orinoco Belt (image: Wikipedia)

The World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled in favour of Venezuela in a case against Exxon Mobil for the nationalisation of its oil projects in the country in 2007.

The multinational company was seeking US$12bn in compensation, however the Venezuelan state was ordered to pay just US$1.6bn.

“The Tribunal has found that the expropriation was conducted in accordance with due process, that it was not carried out contrary to undertakings given to the claimants in this respect and that the claimants have not established that the offers made by Venezuela were incompatible with the ‘just’ compensation requirement of (…) the Bilateral Investment Treaty,” ICSID said on its website.

In a statement issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Venezuelan government said that “in the arbitration process that Exxon Mobil started against [state-owned oil company] PDVSA before the International Chamber of Commerce, PDVSA proved that Exxon Mobil’s demands were overly exaggerated and that, had Exxon Mobil had any interest in negotiating an agreement in good faith, it could have obtained the appropriate compensation through a friendly agreement.”

After mentioning that Venezuela has already paid US$907m of the outstanding debt, the statement celebrated that “despite the fact that the sum already paid by PDVSA should have put an end to the dispute in relation to the compensation for the Cerro Negro Project, the global amount determined by the ICSID arbitration tribunal for the total of the Exxon Mobil projects in the country is within the reasonable range considered by the Republic in 2007.”

In 2007, under President Hugo Chávez’s administration, the Venezuelan government nationalised all the oil projects in the Orinoco Belt. A decree signed by Chávez in February of that year stated that all the oil projects in the region had to exploited by mixed companies, where the state should have a majority stake of no less than 60% of the shares.

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Venezuela: Government Legislator Robert Serra Killed

Robert Serra casting his vote in 2010, when he became the youngest member of the National Assembly (photo courtesy of Robert Serra's official facebook page)

Robert Serra casting his vote in 2010, when he became the youngest member of the National Assembly (photo courtesy of Robert Serra’s official facebook page)

Venezuela’s Justice Minister, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, has announced that Robert Serra, a legislator from the governing United Socialist Party (PSUV) had been found dead in his apartment in the capital Caracas along with his partner, María Herrera.

Serra, a 27-year-old criminal lawyer, was the youngest member of the National Assembly. A prominent lawmaker with close ties to President Nicolás Maduro, he was widely known as a pro-Chávez youth leader, and also for his strong statements in the assembly. He was elected in 2010.

In a press conference this afternoon, Rodríguez Torres confirmed that the murders were “intricately planned” and that they were not a result of a regular criminal act, such as a robbery, but seemed to be pre-meditated assassinations. Both were killed using “long stabbing objects”, although further details have not been given.

Maduro reacted to the news, paying tribute to Serra via Twitter: “We’re immensely sad about the murder of Robert Serra, Bolivarian pro-Chávez leader. May God lift you to His glory [...] Robert, we will continue your example, loyal and steady on the path of the Revolution that you always defended passionately.”

The murders took place at around 10pm last night. Rodríguez Torres said that further details could not be disclosed until a full investigation had taken place. He also refused to give a possible motive for the killings.

In 2012 Serra’s bodyguard, Alexis Barreto, was killed. His body was found in a hill in the capital Caracas, and it was confirmed to have been a targeted assassination, as neither the money he was carrying nor his gun were taken.

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Venezuela: Video Shows Opposition Activists Planning Attacks

A still from video allegedly showing student activists Lorent Saleh (left) and Gabriel Valles plotting an attack in Venezuela.

A still from video allegedly showing student activists Lorent Saleh (left) and Gabriel Valles plotting an attack in Venezuela.

A video aired on state-channel VTV earlier this week appears to show two Venezuelan opposition student activists, who were recently deported from Colombia, planning an attack in their own country.

The video seems to show the two men – Lorent Enrique Gómez Saleh and Gabriel Valles Sguerzi – talking in a video chat to an unknown third person about “taking” a bridge and “warming up” the state of Táchira, which is on the border with Colombia and was the scene of violent protests earlier this year.

Saleh also says that a group is preparing specialist military training in Bogotá – including the use of firearms, explosives, and self-defence – in order to be ready “after the elections”, allegedly in reference to municipal elections held in Táchira in December 2013.

In the video, Saleh says they need to “deactivate” and “burn” distilleries and nightclubs in the city of San Cristóbal, in Táchira, before targeting the National Election Commission (CNE). He adds that they need the “diplomatic front” of Operación Libertad, an organisation set up by Saleh to oppose President Nicolás Maduro’s administration and fight for democracy and human rights.


The video release comes 12 days after Saleh and Valles were deported from Colombia on 4th September for breaking the terms of their stay in the country and publicly holding political activities.

They were immediately picked up and detained by authorities in Venezuela, as they were wanted for violating a conditional release order to present themselves at local courts every 21 days while awaiting trial for participating in “violent protests” in 2010.

Venezuela’s Public Ministry later confirmed that Saleh was facing seven charges, including disrupting public order and divulging false information.

On the weekend, before the video release, Saleh released an audio file form prison saying he was being held for political reasons only, claiming he and Valles are simply human rights activists.


The mention by Salah in the video of a person named “Uribe” has sparked allegations that he was being supported by former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, currently a senator.

Uribe, an outspoken critic of the Maduro government, had stated that the deportation of the two activists was a “national shame”.

However, he has not yet commented on allegations by the Venezuelan government that he is the man named in the video and that he is supporting efforts by the opposition in Venezuela to destabilise the country through violence.

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Venezuela: President Maduro Announces Government ‘Shake-Up’

President Nicolás Maduro  (Photo: AVN/Télam/dsl)

President Nicolás Maduro (Photo: AVN/Télam/dsl)

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro revealed major changes to his cabinet as part of a promised “shake up” of the government and its policies.

The president also announced five ‘revolutions’ to embark on a new phase in the country’s so-called ‘Bolivarian Revolution’.

The changes to government include the creation of new vice-presidencies and the fusion of several ministries. The new vice presidencies will be for: Productive Economy and Finance; Security and Food Sovereignty; Planning and Knowledge; Social Development and the ‘Misions'; Political Sovereignty; and Territorial and Eco-Socialism.

Each vice presidency will have several ministries under its orbit.

Among the most significant personnel changes, Maduro announced that Rodolfo Marcos Torres would take over the role of vice president for economy from Rafael Ramírez, who has been an advocate of a currency devaluation to ease the country’s economic problems.

Ramírez will also step down as head of the state-oil company PDVSA – to be replaced by Eulogio del Pino – and move to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The cabinet changes come as Maduro expressed a need to renew the Bolivarian Revolution started by his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez.

“We are going to continue with a Socialist Revolution and keep renewing the government’s methods and policies,” said Maduro in a national broadcast last night. “I call, in the spirit of Chávez, for this to be the time for a revolution within the revolution to consolidate the horizons for the economy, social life, and national prosperity.”

Maduro explained that the new “phase” of the model would incorporate five main ‘revolutions': economy; culture, science and technology; social policies; state policies; and territorial socialism.

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Venezuelan Detained for Cocaine-Filled Breast Implants

Breast implants stuffed with cocaine are seen in this handout picture released by Spain's police (photo by Rene Walter)

Breast implants stuffed with cocaine are seen in this handout picture released by Spain’s police (photo by Rene Walter)

A Venezuelan woman has been detained in Madrid’s Barajas airport after confessing to police that she was carrying 1.7kg of cocaine inside her breast implants. The 43-year-old had arrived on a flight from Bogotá.

According to the Spanish police, the passenger had been acting in a way that aroused suspicion among the drug control section, who also noticed certain “irregularities and malformations” in the woman’s breasts.

When the woman realised she was being observed, as authorities were checking her bags she confessed that she was carrying implants that contained cocaine in her breasts. She was immediately transferred to a Madrid hospital, where she underwent surgery before being detained.

The drugs would have had an estimated street value of US$250,000. It is estimated that upwards of 120 tonnes of cocaine make it to Europe each year.


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Venezuela-Colombia Border to Close at Night

Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, during the Cartagena summit

Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, during the Cartagena summit

Starting tonight, the 2,200km border between Colombia and Venezuela will shut between 10pm and 5am in a bilateral effort to combat smuggling.

The hope is to stem the flow of food and fuel products from Venezuela, where prices are much lower due to state subsidies of 40%. Venezuelan authorities estimate that 40m litres of petrol and 20,000 tonnes of food have been smuggled across the border into Colombia so far this year.

The smuggling has led to scarcities of products in the west of Venezuela, which was one of the grievances of groups that were involved in the anti-government protests earlier this year.

The inflow of cheap goods has also had an effect on Colombian producers who have found it hard to compete with the contraband products. Colombian authorities also say such illicit trade, which they estimate to be worth US$6bn a year, is one of the main sources of finance for mafia and illegal groups in the country.

The measure is one of many to be implemented as a result of a meeting in Cartagena between President Juan Manuel Santos and President Nicolás Maduro earlier this month. The leaders met to review the peace process between Colombia and FARC and also discuss trade between the neighbours. They also reviewed freight and passenger transport and the efficiency of their borders as well as creating a permanent working group, directed by both countries’ ministries of economy, to monitor the effects of the new measures and also evaluate the bilateral trade.

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Venezuela: Arrested Diplomat Returns from Aruba

The island of Aruba is located in the Southern Caribbean, just north of Venezuela (image: Wikipedia)

The island of Aruba is located in the Southern Caribbean, just north of Venezuela (image: Wikipedia)

Hugo Carvajal, the Venezuelan Consul General to Aruba, returned to his home country yesterday after being illegally arrested on the island last week.

Carvajal, a former military intelligence chief, was arrested on 23rd July in the capital city of Oranjestad, following a request by the US Department of Justice. Carvajal is being investigated for alleged links with drug trafficking operations conducted by the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) in Venezuela. However, he was released yesterday after the Dutch state recognised that his arrest contravened international laws regarding diplomatic immunity, such as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.

Carvajal had been appointed Consul General earlier this year, though he was yet to receive formal approval by the Aruban government. According to Venezuela’s Supreme Court, the retired military official “began his consular functions on 7th February 2014, as per the notification made on 10th February 2014 by the General Consulate of Venezuela in Aruba to the Aruban Foreign Relations Department.”

On a note sent by the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Venezuelan government, it is stated that “As per article 13 of the consular agreement [the Vienna Convention], the head of a consular mission may be admitted provisionally to exercise their functions. In that case, the dispositions of the consular agreement apply. Based on this article, the Kingdom recognises that the dispositions of the consular agreement are applicable to Mr. Carvajal Barrios. This means that his detention on 23rd July was in violation of his [diplomatic] immunity, the Kingdom will see to his release.”

The note finishes saying: “The Kingdom informs the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that Mr. Carvajal Barrios must return to his country after his release.”

Carvajal flew back to Caracas accompanied by the Venezuelan deputy chancellor for Europe, Calixto Ortega, and was greeted at the Simón Bolívar airport by Foreign Affairs Minister Elías Jaua. Upon his return, he said: “I want to point my finger at two people: the judge that dealt with my case and the prosecutor are both corrupt. I suspect they received money to do what they did to me.”

Talking to Venezuelan TV station TeleSUR in Aruba, Ortega said that “the government of the Netherlands assumed the criterion of the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry in the sense that the Mayor General [Carvajal] is a diplomatic functionary; common sense prevailed and that’s the reason why he was released.” On the potential severity of the issue, he added that “tensions arise when the diplomatic status is not acknowledged: this would have set a very grave precedent with which we don’t know what could have happened.”

The US State Department issued a statement saying that the government “is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Dutch government” to release Carvajal “based on a supposed immunity that goes beyond the established international rules.”

The Island of Aruba is located in the Netherlands Antilles, some 27km north of the Venezuelan coast on the southern Caribbean Sea. It is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.

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Venezuela: Charges Upheld against Leopoldo López

Leopoldo López (centre) gives himself up to the National Guard today (photo: AFP/ Juan Barreto/Télam)

Leopoldo López (centre) gave himself up to the National Guard on 18th February (photo: AFP/ Juan Barreto/Télam)

During a hearing that concluded in the early hours of this morning, Judge Adriana López upheld the charges against Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, ordering him to be remanded in custody until his trial.

López is accused of being the mastermind behind arson, damage and conspiracy related to the violent events that took place during a student march on 12th February. He is also charged with inciting public violence. Four students are also facing charges related to damage and conspiracy.

His lawyers consider him a prisoner of conscience and maintain that he is being kept behind bars as a result of his political ideas.

López has been held military prison on the outskirts of the capital Caracas since 18th February, after handing himself in in the middle of a demonstration in support of him. No date has been set for his trial, but his lawyers estimate that it will begin in August. 

In other news, Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega, yesterday issued subpoenas for former deputy María Corina Machado and other members of the opposition, ordering that they appear on Monday testify about the alleged assassination plot agains Maduro, which was unveiled last week. Former director of Petróleos de Venezuela, Pedro Burelli, former ambassador Diego Arria, and lawyer Ricardo Koesling will also appear.

Since anti-government protests erupted in Venezuela in February, 44 people have been killed and over 600 injured, and a further 2,500 have been imprisoned. 


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Venezuela: Machado Says Alleged Assassination Plot ‘Defamatory’

María Corina Machado is at the heart of the assassination plot scandal (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

María Corina Machado is at the heart of the alleged assassination plot scandal (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Venezuelan former deputy María Corina Machado yesterday filed a criminal report against Caracas mayor Jorge Rodríguez, who on Wednesday linked her to an alleged “plot to assassinate” President Nicolás Maduro.

Machado, who vehemently denies the accusations, aims for charges to be brought against Rodríguez for defamation, falsifying documents, cyber-spying, insult, and fabricating a criminal case, among others.

The public prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, came out to justify the interception of communications, calling the situation a serious state security problem. She also confirmed that the relevant authorities had given their backing to the interception, and underscored that a criminal investigation is underway into the alleged plot.

“All those who are implicated in the case could be charged, imprisoned, or prohibited from leaving the country,” she said, whilst adding she would keep the public informed as the investigation progresses.

Machado has claimed the accusations are a “stage show”, and that she does not have faith in the independence of the Venezuelan justice system.

In other developments yesterday, the White House confirmed that it would not support sanctions against Venezuela. On Wednesday, the lower house passed a bill to implement sanctions against various government officials, and will now be debated in the Senate. “The fact is that we have seen how sanctions can be counterproductive,” said State Department representative, Roberta Jacobson, who went on to say that now is not the right time for such action, and that the US prefers to give its backing to the Unasur-led dialogue.

Maduro welcome the decision, saying that it was “sensible”.

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Venezuela: Government Reveals Assassination Plot

Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodríguez at yesterday's press conference (photo: AVN)

Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodríguez at yesterday’s press conference (photo: AVN)

Yesterday the Venezuelan government unveiled a series of emails which appear to show opposition figures plotting an assassination attempt against President Nicolás Maduro, seemingly with financial backing from the US.

At the press conference, mayor of Caracas, Jorge Rodríguez, showed an email written on 23rd March by right-wing former deputy María Corina Machado and sent to Gustavo Tarre, a lawyer who is under investigation by the Public Ministry, orchestrating “violent actions” and the assassination plot. Other mails showed communication between Machado, former governor Henrique Salas Römer, Diego Arria, and US officials talking of financial backing for the opposition from the US, as well as economic support by the fugitive Venezuelan banker Eligio Cedeño, currently residing in the US. Rodríguez said that at least one US State Department official was involved in the plot.

He went on to say that the government has more evidence that it would not be disclosing, due to the sensitivity of the materials, and called on the opposition to deny the accusations and for Venezuelans to publicly reject the emails.

The mayor of Caracas then confirmed that Maduro has authorised a criminal investigation into the exchanges, in an attempt to “stop this madness”.

The opposition’s response was confused, with some claiming the emails were fake, whilst others responded saying that telephones used to send the messages had been stolen. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles called the emails a “government conspiracy against the people”.

The reports come in the same week the US House of Representatives approved a bill to introduce sanctions against Venezuelan officials involved in human rights abuses. The legislation calls for a travel ban on some members of the Venezuelan government and for their assets in US banks to be frozen. However, the White House has opposed sanctions against the Maduro government, to give the Unasur-brokered dialogue a chance of working.

Anti-government protests erupted in Venezuela in February and have left at least 42 dead and dozens more injured.


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