The struggle for control of Venezuela is not only about securing the military’s support or holding the streets. It is also about how much of the country’s dwindling financial resources President Nicolas Maduro can keep his hands on.
With debt rising dramatically and reserves diminishing fast, here is a snapshot of the Maduro administration’s financial lifelines.
• Representing the overwhelming majority of Venezuela’s income, oil production plummeted to 1.22 million barrels per day in December, half the level of three years ago. Output is expected to fall another 33 percent in 2019, according to Fitch.
• The biggest takers of Venezuelan crude in December were the U.S., India and China, according to fixture reports and ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.
• The U.S. on Monday announced sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA.
• Freezing of U.S. and European accounts is likely to bring oil production to a standstill and cause the economy to contract by 26.4 percent in 2019, Torino Chief Economist Francisco Rodriguez wrote.
• Gold reserves plunged to $5.45 billion in November from $6.76 billion in July, and from $21.27 billion in September 2011, according to Caracas Capital, an investment bank and financial consultancy.
• Accessing Venezuela’s gold reserves overseas is becoming increasingly difficult for Maduro, as shown by the Bank of England’s decision to deny a withdrawal request.
• Total external debt in 2018 was $157 billion, or 150 percent of GDP, up from 131 percent a year earlier, according to Torino Capital of New York, a boutique investment firm.
• China has been a constant source of financing for Venezuela. Torino Capital estimates that Venezuela owes China $13.5 billion.
• Citgo, the Houston-based subsidiary of PDVSA, buys most of Venezuela’s crude. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Citgo would be able to continue to operate but won’t be allowed to remit money to the Maduro regime.
• Vast amounts of oil revenue are estimated to have been siphoned off PDVSA and parked abroad, including in the U.S., Spain, and Russia.