Friday, February 24, 2006

Feb 24/06 - Insulza, Venezuela y la OEA: arando con los bueyes que hay

Un Secretario, muchos problemas

PMBComentario: El titulo de la nota de El Universal dice poco, pero los comentarios sin tapujo demuestran que José Miguel Insulza no será un actor de piedra, ni un precipitado, ante la polarización galopante que define y destruye a Venezuela. Acertado su comentario “es la responsabilidad de todos crear las condiciones para que todo el mundo pueda participar, e incluso unirse al proceso”. El gobierno de Venezuela ha sido intolerante con este y otro tipo de recomendaciones naturales de la OEA. Y el liderazgo partidista opositor Venezolano ha sido – hasta ayer - poco juicioso y consistente en lo de exigir condiciones que respeten los derechos de los electores. Son los actores políticos locales los que tiene la responsabilidad de asegurar que el proceso electoral cumpla con mínimos irrenunciables. A días de las elecciones parlamentarias, gobierno y oposición parecían dichosos de ir a un proceso al cual los electores ya habían dado la espalda. El retiro irresponsablemente tardío de la oposición no le costo tanto a estos partidos y “lideres” por la muy ensimismada actitud del gobierno de ignorar las consecuencias de medirse a solas en un juego que por definición es – y tiene que ser - plural.

La respuesta de Insulza a la pregunta sobre la intervención de Chávez en los asuntos electorales de otras naciones es definida como un "no" rotundo por la agencia noticiosa. Creo mas bien que debe de haber sido descrita como un "no" diplomático, pues decir "si" (rotunda ó tímidamente) - algo que estaría mas ajustado a la opinión in pectore de varios gobiernos afectados - tendría muy complejas implicaciones El llamado de Insulza a los Presidentes a vigilar sus propios procesos traslada el problema a la instancia adecuada. Serian ellos los llamados a denunciar formalmente ante la Organización la ingerencia de Chávez y tendrán ellos también que asumir las consecuencias de lo que el Secretario General llama "procesos anormales".

Denunciada formalmente la intervención, la OEA y su estructuralmente maniatado – mas no inválido - Secretario General, tendrán en sus manos la papa caliente. Ahí veríamos si el todopoderoso Embajador de St. Kitt y Nevis, por dar un ejemplo únicamente, entiende el porque - y el para que - de su estancia en Washington. Leyendo entre muchas líneas - y observando muchas intervenciones - no me queda duda que el "Panzer" chileno si entiende las circunstancias y las responsabilidades que conlleva el no siempre grato cargo que buscó y obtuvo de forma voluntaria. Cuando de la OEA se habla, no se le puede pedir peras al olmo - ni poner el arado por delante de los bueyes. PMB

Postdata: Insulza tiene la ventaja de contar con una magnifico manual de que NO hacer en Venezuela que le dejo ese ocioso admirador de lo "precioso" que fue Cesar Gaviria. Lanzarse voluntariosamente de tirabuzón en un problema que no entiende, con un equipo sin experiencia ó peso específico alguno, y no contar con un plan alguno de salida (plan B), no creo que sean errores que veremos a este SG cometer.

Insulza instó a la oposición a acudir a los comicios del 3D

El Universal, 24 de febrero de 2006


Nueva York. El secretario general de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA), José Miguel Insulza, tiene esperanzas de que los comicios presidenciales que se celebrarán este año en 4 de los cinco países de la región andina sean igual de pacíficos a los que tuvo Bolivia a finales de 2005.

"La democracia tiene problemas en la región, pero la OEA no espera que haya procesos anormales", dijo Insulza durante un debate sobre los países andinos en el Consejo de las Américas, reseñó AP.

Sobre Venezuela indicó que la gran pregunta es si la oposición participará en las elecciones de diciembre. "Será muy desafortunado si no hay una contienda electoral. Es responsabilidad de todos crear las condiciones para que todo el mundo pueda participar, e incluso unirse al proceso".

"El problema de Venezuela es difícil de manejar, porque se reduce al "No confío en ti... Alguien tendrá que llamar a alguien para que haya un diálogo", señaló e instó a la oposición a que se presenten para 2006. En las recientes elecciones legislativas de 2005 los partidos opositores se retiraron argumentando ilegalidades en el sistema electoral.

Preguntado sobre si el presidente Hugo Chávez estaba influyendo en las elecciones de otros países, fue rotundo con un "no", aunque pidió a los mandatarios a que se preocupen de sus propios procesos.


Pide verificación diplomática


Insulza señaló que entre EEUU y Venezuela "debería haber un diálogo diplomático mucho más intenso y todos tenemos que ayudar en esa dirección" para resolver las tensiones entre ambos países. "La diplomacia debería servir para eso", señaló Insulza, luego en rueda de prensa, informó Efe.

No especificó medidas concretas en torno a cómo aportar esa ayuda, pero aseguró que una manera de hacerlo es apelando a esa necesidad de un mayor diálogo entre ambas naciones. "Creo que es lo necesario y que la mayor parte de los gobernantes de América piensan lo mismo: es necesario buscar alguna forma de verificación diplomática entre Venezuela y EEUU", agregó.

Resaltó que "hay mucho en juego" entre ambos países y destacó que la red de relaciones económicas entre ellos es suficientemente densa como para que un distanciamiento "no sea una cuestión menor". Insulza insistió en que debe reclamarse que "haya una decisión consciente de detener la retórica por ambas partes" y buscar entendimiento diplomático entre los dos países.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Feb 21/06 - The NY Post on Hugo Chávez: lewd, crude and rude

Link to read the article: NY Post via 11abril.com


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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Feb 06/06 - The Venezuelization of Russia: an true insider's perspective

PMBComments: this is a very blunt and troubling article by Andrei Illarionov, who until December was Putin’s very outspoken economic advisor (and until a few months before, also point man for G-8 matters).

Those of us who do business in Russia had grown accustomed to his pointed criticism – from the Kremlin - which had the effect of fresh breeze in the summer and warm air in the bitter winter. But I have to admit that this article goes way beyond anything he had expressed before, and presents a vision of Russia that is both disheartening and very real. What he calls the Venezuelization of Russia’s economy is nothing but the predictable consequence of a sustained oil boom that allows governments to both defy gravity, and to believe they are doing a great job…when in truth, good things happen in spite of their arrogance, and incompetence.

The mayor question that one must ask when reading such a dire report is: Will Russia be able to move forward and occupy a place among the prosperous democracies of the world, or will it soon join the ranks of those willing to kick the board of a game they have not been able to excel at? PMB


International Herald Tribune

February 4, 2006

Op-Ed Contributor

Russia Inc.

By ANDREI ILLARIONOV

MOSCOW

RUSSIA today is not the same country it was only six years ago, when Vladimir Putin became president. Back then, the country was unsettled, tumultuous and impoverished, but it was free. Today Russia is richer — and not free.

A new model of Russia has taken shape. The state has become, essentially, a corporate enterprise that the nominal owners, Russian citizens, no longer control. Indeed, changes in legislation and limitations on political freedoms have effectively devalued the shares in this company — call it Russian State — that ordinary Russians hold, while an elite class of investors enjoys ever increasing privileges.

State-owned companies have become the assault weapons of this corporate state. Having mastered the main principle of state-corporatism — "privatize profit, nationalize loss" — they have turned to taking over private-sector companies, sometimes at cut-rate prices. Their victims include major industrial companies like Yuganskneftegaz, Sibneft, Silovye Mashiny, Kamov, OMZ, and Avtovaz.

Companies that are still in private hands resemble ever more closely their state-owned siblings. Any request from the state — whether it's a donation to a project or the sale of the company itself to "correct" buyers — is fulfilled. The fate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the chief executive of the Yukos oil company who is now in a penal colony after falling out with the Kremlin, is known to all.

Meanwhile, a guiding principal of Russia's new economic model is selectivity. One company is confronted with the maximum possible (and sometimes impossible) tax bill; another gets unique exemptions. One company is forbidden to sell shares to foreigners; another gets overwhelming state support for such a move (along with financing beyond any limits set by law). One company is not allowed to hire foreign workers; another is encouraged to do so. One set of buyers pays one price; another, five times as much.

It is not only economic freedom that has disappeared in Russia. Political freedom is also gone. The human rights monitor Freedom House last year moved Russia from the group of "partly free" countries to the "not free" group, which includes Cambodia, Rwanda and Sudan.

Politically, the corporate ideology may seem unclear: it does not look communist, or liberal, or nationalistic, or imperial. Instead, it is an ideology of "nash-ism," or in English, "ours-ism," in which subsidies, credits and powers are handed out to those who are "nashy."

This ours-ism does not know national or ethnic boundaries. The former chancellor of a foreign country is made a member of the corporation and becomes "our man in Europe." Meanwhile, a Russian businessman who created a company that brought billions into the national treasury turns out to be an "other" and is exiled to the depths of Siberia.

The entire might of the Russian State is thrown behind "our" members of the corporation, whether this means refusing to allow Kazakhoil to travel to Lithuania via a Russian pipeline, switching off electricity to Moldova or waging a "gas war" against Ukraine. Russian imperialism has taken a distinctly corporate image.

The point of the new model is to redistribute resources to "our own." The rule of law is only for civilized countries. Fair business practices are only for countries that want to catch up with the developed world. Good relations with foreign neighbors are necessary only if Russia is interested in long-term development. The corporation has other goals.

Is it only in Russia that this model exists? No, there are other countries like this: Libya and Venezuela, Angola and Chad, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Russia is one of them now. And yes, this politico-economic model can last for quite some time. In some OPEC countries it has survived for a third of a century; in Venezuela, for half a century. It can survive even without high prices for energy. Cuba and North Korea have even more impressive models, and they don't even have oil. And then, of course, there was the Soviet version of this model.

So from a historical point of view, there's nothing particularly novel about the new Russian model. But choosing it today, at the outset of the 21st century, is nothing other than deliberately choosing the third-world model. More precisely, the model of a very specific group of countries in the third world whose long-term prospects are well known no matter how much money they get from oil, no matter how many pipelines they control at home and abroad, and no matter what saccharine stories they tell on TV.

It is a historical dead end. No country that has set off on this road has become richer or stronger or more developed. Nor will Russia. It will fall farther behind. And the price will be paid, as usual, by Russian citizens.

In a democracy, political change is linked to a change of rulers, which occurs regularly and at minimal social cost. In countries with limited freedom, a change of rulers also occurs — as with the "velvet revolution" in Czechoslovakia and the "orange revolution" in Ukraine — but the social costs are much higher.

Measures that the corporation has taken to prevent a similar revolution make change highly unlikely in Russia in the short term. But power will shift — sooner or later. When it does happen, it may not be as velvet. In this case, the cost to the country will be incomparably higher.

It is difficult to say when or how this change of power will occur. For those who cannot accept a corporate state, or the Venezuelization of the economy, or the degradation of social life, the current situation seems nauseating: before there can be a deed, there must be a word, and the most important mass media are under the corporation's control.

But one can start one's own separation from such a state through a campaign of non-participation. In this way, working from below, one can begin to restore civil, political and economic freedoms, freedoms that were offered to Russian citizens in 1905, 1917 and again in 1991, but squandered. If we succeed, we may get a new Russia — free, open and tolerant. A dynamic, developed and steady country, standing on its own feet, genuinely respected by its neighbors. A country with a future. Another country.

Andrei Illarionov was an economic adviser to President Vladimir Putin of Russia until resigning in protest in December. The article, a version of which originally appeared in the Russian newspaper Kommersant, was translated by The International Herald Tribune from the Russian.


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Friday, February 03, 2006

Feb 03/06 - Sobre la "relación" Venezuela-EEUU: Entrevista a Tom A. Shannon, Secretario de Estado adjunto para América Latina

PMBComentario: hoy - para no variar - fue otro intenso día en "la relación" Venezuela-EEUU:

Anteayer fue la insólita admisión por parte de Chávez de que viene vigilando muy de cerca ( el G2?) la actividad de los funcionarios de la embajada de los EEUU en Caracas...hubo, por supuesto, amenazas a granel.

Ayer fue el intercambio inusitado en el Consejo Permanente de la OEA entre los Embajadores Maisto de EEUU (intervención contundente sobre el tema electoral, ceñida a los hechos) y Valero de Venezuela (respuesta patética, insultante a la inteligencia de sus colegas embajadores y que sirvió para validar todo lo que el informe del jefe de la Misión de Observación intentaba comunicar de forma prudente pero muy firme).

Y hoy, Chávez declara persona non grata al Agregado Naval Americano y ordena su expulsión inmediata del país, luego vino la lamentable declaración de Donald Rumsfeld comparando a Chávez con Hitler (ambos fueron elegidos y luego acapararon el poder...cierto pero totalmente innecesario y ABSOLUTAMENTE contraindicado), seguido esto por las sesudas palabras de John Negroponte - Jefe Nacional de Inteligencia - advirtiendo sobre el innegable afán de Chávez de intervenir en los asuntos internos de numerosos países, y concluimos - por ahora - con esta magnifica entrevista de Tom Shannon quien esta de visita por Europa justo en momentos en que Irán y sus sacristanes Venezuela y Cuba desafían al mundo en una demencial apuesta nuclear cuyo propósito real aun elude a la inmensa mayoría de analistas y políticos del mundo. PMB

ENTREVISTA: THOMAS SHANNON Secretario de Estado adjunto para América Latina

"No intentamos aislar a Venezuela"
R. M. DE RITUERTO - Bruselas
EL PAÍS (España)
Edición Viernes, 3 de febrero

"Se está exagerando la influencia de Chávez, quizá no sus intenciones, pero sí sus logros, atribuyéndole triunfos como el de Evo Morales"
"El gran desafío al que nos enfrentamos en la región no es Venezuela o Chávez, sino la pobreza y la marginación"

Thomas Shannon, secretario de Estado adjunto para América Latina, pasa por Bruselas en un periplo europeo. En la capital de Europa ha visitado las instituciones comunitarias, donde dice haber encontrado identidad de criterios sobre Latinoamérica. La Unión y Estados Unidos siguen con interés el ascenso de la izquierda en el continente y en particular las evoluciones de Hugo Chávez. Para la comisaria de Relaciones Exteriores, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, "todo lo que ocurre es bienvenido si no desestabiliza la democracia en otros países". Shannon, diplomático profesional que ha hecho la mayor parte de su carrera en puestos relacionados con América Latina, considera que se está exagerando la influencia de Chávez en la región y asegura: "No intentamos aislar a Venezuela".

Pregunta. ¿Inquieta a su Gobierno el ascenso de la izquierda en América Latina?

Respuesta. No es cuestión de izquierda o derecha, sino de Gobiernos comprometidos con la democracia y el libre mercado. América hoy es democrática. Hemos visto en Bruselas que hay consenso sobre los desafíos y soluciones para el continente.

P. ¿Qué consensos?

R. Que América es un continente en el que ha habido cambios espectaculares en muy poco tiempo y que hay países a los que les ha ido mejor que a otros. Y que la pobreza en la región y la capacidad limitada de proporcionar servicios han dado lugar al populismo, que es un fenómeno natural que se produce cuando las instituciones no están a la altura de los desafíos.

P. ¿Percibe ese populismo, con sus diferentes variantes, como una ruptura con EE UU?

R. El populismo como fenómeno político no es ilegítimo. Todas las sociedades lo han experimentado, incluido EE UU. Hay que reconocer que esta forma de expresión política es válida y respetable, y hay que ayudar a crear estructuras que lo canalicen de forma positiva.

P. ¿Por qué es Washington tan crítico con Venezuela?

R. El enfrentamiento entre Washington y Caracas es cosa de Caracas. Nosotros estamos dispuestos a hablar con Venezuela. Pero el Gobierno de Venezuela ha tomado la decisión estratégica de no hablar. El antiamericanismo es el mensaje central de Chávez, con él ha sustituido el mensaje de la justicia social y de la lucha contra la pobreza porque lo necesita para movilizar a la gente y mantener el enfrentamiento dentro de la sociedad venezolana a través del enfrentamiento con el exterior. Venezuela preocupa no por la expresión política popular, sino por el estado de salud de sus instituciones democráticas.

P. ¿Está enfermo el cuerpo político venezolano?

R. Venezuela está en una transición que será larga. Hugo Chávez representó la radical ruptura con un modelo político agotado y corrupto, hasta el extremo de que la clase media se dio cuenta de que sólo con la ruptura podía Venezuela seguir el proceso de modernización política, social y económica. Pero esa transición descarriló y se rompió el amplio consenso a favor del cambio. La cuestión es cómo reconstruir ese consenso para que Venezuela se siga modernizando.

P. ¿Intentando aislar a Venezuela, por ejemplo, poniendo trabas a las ventas de equipo militar español?

R. No intentamos aislar a Venezuela. Eso es imposible para Estados Unidos, dada la relación energética e histórica que tenemos. Es una relación que nos interesa mantener. No nos interesa aislar a Venezuela. Es Venezuela la que se ha aislado de nosotros y ha intentado romper canales de comunicación que han existido durante décadas.

P. ¿Teme los intentos de Chávez de crear un frente latinoamericano contra EE UU?

R. Se está exagerando la influencia de Chávez, quizá no sus intenciones, pero sí sus logros, y atribuyéndole triunfos, como el de Evo Morales, que no tienen nada que ver. No hay duda de que Chávez piensa que está ofreciendo una alternativa, pero no está clara: en términos económicos es un sistema que ya ha fracasado en el resto del mundo. Atrae a algunos en la región por la elevada pobreza, marginación y frustración existentes. El gran desafío al que nos enfrentamos en la región no es Venezuela o Chávez, sino la pobreza, la marginación y la incapacidad de algunas sociedades de proporcionar los bienes y servicios que la gente espera. Para hacer frente a este problema necesitamos lo que dice Felipe González: "Más democracia y más desarrollo".

P. ¿Qué siente Estados Unidos cuando Evo Morales hace su primera visita a La Habana y rinde tributo a Fidel Castro, a quien llama "maestro"?

R. Lo importante del viaje de Morales no fue que viajara a La Habana, sino que fuera a Europa, a Suráfrica y a China. Fue muy importante y muy inteligentes su decisión de entrar en contacto con el mundo real. Soy consciente del interés que suscitan Chávez y Castro, pero el verdadero liderazgo de América Latina está en Brasil, en Chile, en Colombia, en Argentina, en Uruguay... cuyos líderes están volcados en crear instituciones y en lograr desarrollo. No debemos centrarnos en las voces discrepantes, que piden un especie de ruptura, sino en las que quieren cooperar, globalizarse.


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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Feb 01/06 - On a CITGO Boycott initiative: does it make sense and will it have any impact?

100% red?

PMBComment: I always assumed that this type of initiative would come up as a "logical" reaction to CITGO's use as a political tool. In the past, I firmly opposed opposition attempts to promote a boycott of CITGO gas stations for two reasons:

1. The 13,000+ gas stations are owned by American individuals and SMEs that are not involved in anything that goes on in Venezuela.

2. CITGO is a key asset of Venezuela (despite what Chávez used to say when he was intent on disposing of it) and all of those who still believe in our country's future must seek to preserve the value of what is, and should remain, ours.

After seeing how the Caracas regime is using CITGO to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public, it might make sense to have the guys at CITGO Headquarters in Houston feel, and convey, the pressure from the public through their, probably-not-too-thrilled, network of jobbers.

While not actively promoting this initiative (have never even heard of the promoters), I will be curious to see if it, or similar offshoots, have any impact.

Mr. Chávez needs to be reminded that deeds have consequences and so does banter.

PMB


AFA Online - America's Leading Pro-Family Online Activism Organization

Venezuela Dictator Vows To Bring Down U.S. Government

Send an email to Chavez and to Citgo that you will not be shopping at a Citgo station.

Venezuela government is sole owner of Citgo gasoline company

Venezuela Dictator Hugo Chavez has vowed to bring down the U.S. government. Chavez, president of Venezuela, told a TV audience: "Enough of imperialist aggression; we must tell the world: down with the U.S. empire. We have to bury imperialism this century."

The guest on his television program, beamed across Venezuela, was Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar activist. Chavez recently had as his guest Harry Belafonte, who called President Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world."

Chavez is pushing a socialist revolution and has a close alliance with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Regardless of your feelings about the war in Iraq, the issue here is that we have a socialist dictator vowing to bring down the government of the U.S. And he is using our money to achieve his goal!

The Venezuela government, run by dictator Chavez, is the sole owner of Citgo gas company. Sales of products at Citgo stations send money back to Chavez to help him in his vow to bring down our government.

Take Action

Send an email to Chavez and to Citgo that you will not be shopping at a Citgo station. Why should U.S. citizens who love freedom be financing a dictator who has vowed to take down our government?

Very important. Please forward this to your friends and family and urge them not to shop with Citgo. Most of them don't know that Citgo is owned by the Venezuela government.

http://www.afa.net/Petitions/IssueDetail.asp?id=182

Send Your Letter Now!


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Feb 01/06 - On how the spoils get split under populist regimes: one of Argie bonds and fattened bankers

Two populists and their wild schemes to make the rich richer and keep the poor poor.

PMBComment: as someone once said, behind every crooked government there is always a bunch of very crooked non-government types.This story, from todays’s FT, is long overdue and proves that the Chávez “revolution” has inherited and perfected the "best practices" of the past. As Soviet communism collapsed under the weight of a privileged, incompetent, corrupt and cynical Nomenklatura, the fate of "XXI Century Bolivarian Socialism" seems headed in a hurry in the same direction. The shortchanged poor will have to wait - once again - as it is customary with populist regimes. PMB

Financial Times

Venezuelan banks enjoy treasuries windfall
By Andy Webb-Vidal
Published: January 31 2006 19:07 | Last updated: January 31 2006 19:07

A select group of Venezuelan banks is profiting from opaque government treasury operations involving hundreds of millions of dollars of Latin American sovereign bonds under a financial programme fostered by President Hugo Chávez.

Backed by record oil revenues, Venezuela has bought $1.6bn in Argentine debt during the past year – mostly dollar-denominated Boden bonds maturing in 2012. They were purchased in auctions that were eschewed, in some cases, by big investment banks, such as Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, because the yields offered were considered too low.

Venezuela, which has been the largest buyer of Argentine sovereign debt since the country defaulted on itsforeign debt in 2001, has said it is ready to buy up to $2.4bn worth of Argentine bonds.

It has also bought $25m of Ecuadorean debt and finance minister Nelson Merentes recently said he was looking at buying Brazilian and Chinese bonds.

Investment banks Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank are reportedly advising on the bond transactions.

Mr Chávez justifies his virtual “hedge fund” as a benevolent concept that will allow Latin American nations such as Argentina to “liberate’’ themselves from an international financial system that, he asserts, is manipulated by the US.

Last year, Venezuela transferred all of its foreign reserves that were held in US Treasuries or that were on deposit at US banks, about $20bn in total, to the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland.

Venezuela’s bond purchases have helped Argentina increase its foreign reserves. President Nestor Kirchner’s government last month paid off its outstanding $9.5bn debt to the International Monetary Fund, in part thanks to the cash injection from Mr Chávez.

“Whilst the [bond] purchases are good news for the Argentine government, the benefits for Venezuela are less clear,” said Vitali Meschoulam, emerging markets strategist at HSBC Securities in New York.

The Financial Times has learned that significant profits deriving from the bond transactions are being accumulated by a few private banks, rather than by the Chávez government.

In late November, Mr Merentes announced that some of the bonds had been liquidated, leaving a profit of $40m. Mr Merentes said last month that $600m worth of the Boden 12 bonds had been sold, without elaborating on the method.

Most of the bonds were sold directly – instead of in an auction – to two local banks, Banco Occidental de Descuento and Fondo Común, according to two people familiar with the deal and a senior official at a financial regulatory authority. The banks have since re-sold the bonds into the open market.

Mr Merentes didn’t respond to several requests for comment during the past week. Victor Vargas, president of Banco Occidental de Descuento, and Victor Gil, president of Fondo Común, also didn’t return messages seeking comment.

But though the chosen banks are likely to have profited from increases in prices of Argentine bonds, they have benefited more significantly from Venezuela’s foreign exchange controls, in place since 2003, and a flourishing but tolerated parallel market.

Venezuela’s treasury sold the Boden 12 bonds to the banks at the official exchange rate of 2,150 bolívars to the dollar. But, according to the people familiar with the transactions, the banks re-sold the bonds at the parallel market dollar rate, which trades at about 2,600 bolívars.

On a re-sale of $100m worth of bonds, the banks would gain bolivar profits equivalent to about $17m at the informal market rate, or $21m at the official rate.

Following alleged complaints from banks that were excluded from the operations, in recent weeks the finance ministry has also begun selling directly to them some of the bonds that it still holds, in $40m-$50m tranches every two weeks.

Orlando Ochoa, an independent economist, said that a lack of transparency has become the hallmark of the Chávez government’s financial administration.

‘’The ministry of finance is allocating windfall gains in Argentine bond operations to selected domestic banks, without bidding rounds and without financial reasons to privilege them,’’ Mr Ochoa said.


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