Caracas outruns the barrel counters

Back in the 1990s, Venezuela, like some other Opec countries, used to fudge its crude production numbers to avoid accusations of breaching its Opec quota. Until recently, Caracas was still blurring the data, not to sneak extra barrels into the market, but to keep the market from knowing how much its production was falling.

Over the past few months, Venezuela looks to have come clean on the data —  so clean that even secondary sources like Argus are racing to knotch down their estimates of Venezuelan output. It’s a far cry from the days when official data routinely exceeded secondary source estimates.

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Opec losing the Latin beat

Don’t be surprised to find an idle Spanish language interpreter or two along Vienna’s Helferstorferstrasse this week, as Latin America’s sole Opec members are preoccupied with their rocky home fronts. Venezuela and Ecuador appear content to let Opec´s heavyweights plus Russia hammer out the terms of the likely extension of a deal to restrict output. Their effective withdrawal means the region has less of a voice at the negotiating table, matching their loss of relevance in the market. Continue reading

The orphans of Odebrecht

The first night in jail was probably not too uncomfortable for Ecuador’s once-powerful vice president Jorge Glas. But this wasn´t where he was supposed to end up after president Lenin Moreno moved into Carondelet palace in May. Like Moreno himself, the impact of the region-wide Odebrecht corruption scandal that landed Glas behind bars was underestimated from the start.

An Ecuadorean court yesterday granted a request by the attorney general’s office to detain Glas for alleged bribery and conspiracy, accusations that have already tainted senior politicians from Brasilia to Bogotá after the contractor signed a 2016 international plea deal over its elaborate bribery scheme. The region´s new heroes are state prosecutors like Brazil´s Rodrigo Janot, Ecuador´s Diana Salazar and Venezuela´s Luisa Ortega.

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Venezuela´s last chirp?

One wonders if Venezuela’s energy minister Nelson Martinez has packed extra underwear on his new tour of Opec and non-Opec oil producers. The streets of Caracas are ablaze with protests, and Opec’s traditional price hawk has become a crippled bird.

It is a rich irony that the accelerating downfall of Venezuela´s once-thriving oil industry isn´t enough to realize the country´s ambitious oil price aspirations. The Orinoco oil belt is still mostly an undeveloped wasteland, and grand schemes for offshore gas have given way to gruesome images of spiraling canisters of tear gas.

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