Archive for September 28th, 2009

Did the Chavez Government blink by releasing Julio Rivas?

September 28, 2009

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When the Hugo Chavez Government decided to jail student Julio Cesar Rivas a few weeks ago, it was clearly an act of defiance by the Government toward the student movement. The message seem to be: Keep protesting and I will jail you too.

Because there was no real reason to pick on Rivas. The Government made him famous by choosing him and sending him to an inappropriate jail. Because in the end, pro-Chavez thugs have visibly done things that are much worse than anything you could accuse Rivas of, but remain at large, such as the 40 motorcycle thugs that accompanied Lina Ron in their violent attack on Globovision and only Ron is in jail, just because it would look bad if she were at large.  But armed Lina Ron was no even sent to the women’s jail, a kids playpen when compared to the Yare jail where Rivas was sent.

The Government had the chance to release Rivas on his own recognizance when he was first brought in front of a judge. But it didn’t. There were clearly orders from above to be tough, to move forward and send a message to the student movement.

But something happened at this point. While the OAS was watching Honduras and sending missions to Honduras (Funny, no OAS CIDH mission has been allowed in Venezuela in seven years but this does not bother those OAS cynics!), a small group of students decided to start a hunger strike at the Caracas OAS headquarters to protest the detention of Julio Rivas.

It started with a group of five students, but in time, it grew, more joined and by today reportedly 58 students (going on 78?) were involved

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(Foto by Noticiero Digital)

and one had to add other political prisoners to the group, as Somonovis, Forero and other, including Eligio Cedeno, joined the group.

And it did indeed look like the Government was trying to slow down the tsunami of hunger strikers with Rivas’ release.

But a funny thing happened on the way to freedom. Julio Rivas, after spending a few days at the Yare jail, figured that anything was better than that, even a hunger strike! So, he went straight to the OAS headquarters and joined the hunger strike. Thus, so far the strength of the movement has not slowed down, on the contrary, it has been picking up people.

The students, as usual, have been able to find more impacting strategies, than the so called opposition. I think the Government blinked, the question is at this time, whether the hunger strike action can be sustained in time and what will the Government do if the movement continues to grow.

Kudos to Rivas and the rest of the students!

We have a bond! (Or two) New Issue 101

September 28, 2009

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After a little bit of indecision, today the Government announced that it will sell at least US$ 3 billion in two bonds which will mature in 2019 and 2024 and will be sold for local currency, but denominated in US dollars. This is much like the other Bs/US$ issues sold by the Chavez Government since August 2003, which are sold in order to absorb liquidity, as well as satisfying the pent up demand for foreign currency. The maturity dates arise from the fact that Venezuela has no bonds maturing in those two years, thus 10 and 15 years from now, the payment schedule will be smoother and hopefully easier for the country. The 2019 has a coupon of 7.75% and the 2024 has a coupon of 8.25%.

I have already received a few emails asking me if it is a good deal, so I will try to answer it here:

–The bonds will be sold at auction. The Government will announce tomorrow a range of values for which it will accept offers for the bonds. Thus, there is no “price” yet for the bonds, the highest bidders will get them.

–At last the Government got smart. In previous bonds, people would put in for 100,000 dollars and they would get a fraction of that and pay for it. This time around, you can’t do that, you have to put up the full amount with your order. Thus, if you want 100,000 dollars of the bond and your price is 140%, then you have to pay Bs. 301,000 (100,000 x 1.4 x2.15) when you place the order and your bank and/or broker has to be able to prove that you did so. This eliminates “fake” orders and will make the bonds end up in the hands of those that the Bolivars and want to buy dollars to keep them. Should be more efficient and help keep the swap rate down for a while.

–Is it a good deal? Well, it will be at a certain price. Today the swap market was around 5.4, so anything you can get below that is “good”. Venezuelan Bonds with maturities like 2020-2023, “yield” if you keep them till the last day, around 12.5%. Thus these bonds should trade around that value in an ideal world.

Except the world is not ideal. The market for Venezuelan bonds handles maybe US$ 100 million on a good day. So, imagine that in the first two or three days, Venezuelans eager to sell their bonds will go to the market to sell. Too much offer, few bidders, the bonds will drop in price. Thus, the “yield” will be higher than the “ideal” 12.5% that matches bonds trading today.

Let’s assume the yield goes to 14.5%, then, at a price of 148%, you would be buying Bolivars at Bs. 5.01 to the dollar a nice discount over the swap market price. However, at 15.5% yield, at the same price of 148% you would be buying dollars at Bs. 5.33 per dollar, with commissions and the like it would be like buying dollars at the same value that the swap market closed today at. Not worth it.

-What do I think will happen? Well, the problem is that today may be too early to decide. First of all, the swap market could keep dropping between now and the last day to receive orders, which is Friday October 2nd. If the swap rate drops a lot, then it’s tricky.

I personally think that the bonds will likely trade in the international markets near 14-14.5%, which means a price around 144 should be fine. But I reserve the right to change my mind before Friday.

Why?

Because three things could still happen: One, the swap market could drop near or below 5 Bs. per dollar, which would make it too close for comfort at 144%. Two, The Venezuelan yield curve could go up, as investors sell (Bond prices are pushed down) to get ready to buy these higher yielding bonds. And three, and this one we will not know until after your order is in, the Government could decide to issue more than US$ 3 billion, if there are lots of orders.

This will have the effect that there will be more bonds (Lower bond prices) than expected coming to market, which would move the curve up even more (Yields to maturity higher than the 14% I expect).

Thus, On Thursday, I will give a brief update on how I see it then.

(Send questions to devilexcrement@gmail.com or write a comment with your question)

Chavez defends and praises Mugabe: It takes one to know one.

September 28, 2009

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(Mugabe sleep at the Margarita Summit)

At the ASA Summit this weekend Dictator Hugo Chavez gave Robert Mugabe a resounding backing saying:

“Mugabe has turned into the target of attacks of various institutions of the world system and through the world press he has been satanized, he is attacked…I want to give him our moral and political backing…The people recognize him for his anti-imperialists fights. He is a man that has spent all his life in the anti-colonianism fight. We have to align ourselves in his defense”

This is the same Hugo Chavez that criticizes Obama “because he has not denounced the military dictatorship in Honduras”, which is not even true. But while Chavez made this criticism in New York last week, he came back home to meet with some of the bloodiest Dictators on the planet, just a week after he had visited most of them. After the Margarita meeting, only North Korea is missing from Chavez’ list of face to face meetings with the worst Dictators of the planet. After his defense of Mugabe, visiting Kim Il Sung will add nothing to our understanding of Chavez’ true frame of mind.

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