oil rig guy
© AP/Fernando Llano
Restructuring of the public debt of Venezuela, which was agreed by the Russian Ministry of Finance, caused a predictably negative reaction from the public. The memory of the bad loans and other "fraternal aid" handed out by the leadership of the USSR is too alive. However, in this case, even if you look at the situation with the Venezuelan debt through the eyes of a cynical financier, Moscow's actions are nothing like charity. If the Russian-Chinese strategy is concisely formulated in the Venezuelan direction, a simple mathematical calculation will be obtained: in order for the country with the world's largest oil reserves not to fall into the clutches of Washington or the IMF (which in this case is the same), it is worth postponing the payment of its debts for several years. The rates in the Venezuelan party far exceed the amount of deferred interest payments.

If you call things by their own names, then Venezuela is now subject to a raider attack, which involves bringing the country to a state of artificial bankruptcy. It is worth emphasizing the artificiality and the political nature of the problems that Caracas faced, since this explains the desire of Moscow and Beijing to take the shoulder of the Maduro government, instead of bringing the country to default to the joy of the US State Department.

Despite the really difficult economic situation, until recently Venezuela has consistently continued to make payments on its debts. However, due to the new package of sanctions imposed by the United States against Venezuela and its state structures and companies, the last payment "hovered" (literally disappeared) in the european clearing system "Euroclear" (the European clearinghouse of the American bank JPMorgan) and in the Clearstream system (clearinghouse German Deutsche Börse AG), which are used for payments on Venezuelan bonds. Although representatives of clearing systems refuse to comment, market participants are considering a version that they are afraid of paying due to fear of falling under American sanctions and fines as "accomplices of the Maduro regime."

There is a well-founded suspicion that payments were specially detained in order for the American rating agency S & P to have a formal reason for defaulting. This scenario is indicated by the fact that such a scheme was originally applied to the state-owned Venezuelan company Electricidad de Caracas, whose default was announced due to the fact that the holders of its bonds did not receive payment. However, after the default was announced, the funds were suddenly magically carried through Euroclear. It can not be ruled out that a similar scheme of "artificial default" was realized with Venezuelan government bonds after it was "rolled" in one of the major Venezuelan state companies.

This entire operation to obstruct Venezuelan financial operations was apparently conducted in order to cause panic among investors in Venezuelan bonds and direct sovereign creditors of Caracas - Russia and China. The Russian Ministry of Finance took a pro-active part in reducing panic, and the message that Venezuela will not have to pay 3.15 billion dollars in the next six years had a positive impact on the market - the world saw no one going to leave Maduro to the mercy of fate. The Chinese Ministry of Finance, to which Venezuela owes as much as $ 23 billion, said that while proposals for restructuring the debt had not been made, but expressed "full confidence" in the creditworthiness of the Maduro government.

Against this background, the failure of a rather original scheme that began with the introduction of a new package of anti-Venezuelan sanctions becomes partly understandable. Based on the indirect data that are present in the material of The New York Times, about what was happening to the market of Venezuelan bonds after the declaration of an artificial default, this scheme can be reconstructed quite confidently.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions not only against Maduro and the government of Venezuela, but also against specific members of the government (at first glance it is an absolutely meaningless gesture, since it is difficult to imagine a Venezuelan official with a villa in Miami, and it's not about some kind of honesty of the citizens of this country, but that it would have long ago been taken away from the previous stages of Washington's struggle with the local authorities, but this had its own idea).

The second stage of the scheme was the provocation of Venezuela's default and the actual coercion of the Venezuelan authorities to begin negotiations on the restructuring of their external debts, which are about 150 billion dollars. It is very probable that the State Department hoped that against the background of panic, long-term holders of Venezuela bonds, such as the American bank Goldman Sachs and numerous European investment funds, will sell their bonds to American 'vulture funds', which specialize in 'collection work' against bankrupt countries and which over the past few decades already earned tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars on the crises in Argentina, Greece and Costa Rica.

In case the panic rate worked, representatives of "vulture funds" would refuse substantive negotiations on debt bond restructuring, and they had an ideal pretext - any deal concluded with Maduro government officials who are under sanctions is - with point of view of US law - on the one hand, illegal, and on the other - criminal. In this situation, the "vultures" could immediately go "to the sweet" - the arrest and sale of the assets of the Venezuelan government and its state oil company PDVSA under the hammer abroad. In addition to being able to take over the US oil refining capacity of PDVSA and its large network of American gas stations, the "vultures" would receive carte blanche to hunt for Venezuelan oil and currency payment to PDVSA worldwide, which would complicate the economic situation in Venezuela even more strongly and would put it on the edge or even over the edge of an economic and political catastrophe.

Unfortunately for the US and fortunately for Venezuela, the plan failed at the stage of creating panic. As reported by The New York Times , for a few weeks the "vultures" never managed to collect a significant package of Venezuelan bonds on the market, and holders of 91% of the total amount of debt nevertheless came to Caracas for negotiations. Now before them and before the Venezuelan government there is an extremely non-trivial task - to find a way to ensure the continuation of payments without substituting their recipients for sanctions. Skeptics point out that the Venezuelan authorities lack the necessary knowledge and experience. Restrained optimists, in turn, note that, most likely, the scheme of circumvention of sanctions will be developed by the bondholders themselves, among whom there are enough specialists in legal, semi-legal and openly illegal (from the point of view of the US Department of State) financial engineering. The Venezuelan crisis is far from over, but, at least, it succeeded in repelling the main American attack.

As strange as this may sound, over the past few months the situation in Venezuela has improved, but not deteriorated. The main risk for Caracas was the possibility of a "color revolution", but it was seriously reduced after President Maduro's team successfully held regional elections and formed a new, loyal Maduro legislative structure in the form of a Constitutional Assembly. The domestic political ingredients for the "color revolution" have not completely disappeared, but even the western critics of Maduro recognize that his power is now more stable than before. Moreover, gradually rising oil prices give it an extra margin of safety. Now the main challenge is to keep the ability to make payments on external debt and get money for oil. This is equally the problem of Caracas and his private Western creditors, against which Rosneft, which lent Venezuela six billion dollars and debt did not restructure, has an additional advantage. Unlike other creditors, Rosneft does not need access to Venezuelan currency payments, since it can receive "payments" in the form of oil supplies. To arrest a tanker with Russian oil already is a difficult task even for the most influential American "vulture funds".

In general, despite all the difficulties, Venezuela, reliably protected by Russian weapons purchased for the same restructured Russian loan of $ 3.15 billion, has good chances to continue to be a thorn in the region of the planet most sensitive to Washington. For us, this is not only an opportunity to create a strategic irritant for our overseas partners, but also an opportunity to make good money on it. Of course, such earnings always imply a certain risk and nothing can be done about it, but it is fundamentally impossible to build an energy superpower without risks. According to Reuters, in five large oil projects in Venezuela, Rosneft has 40% of shares, and probably soon such projects will be not five, but 14. More: according to estimates of the same source, Rosneft receives about 220,000 barrels from Venezuela oil per day, which is equivalent to about $ 8.8 million a day, or $ 3.212 billion a year, based on a very conservative price of $ 40 (!) dollars per barrel. For such an asset is definitely worth fighting for.