Legal Market Overview
Venezuela’s dire situation remains unchanged: sanctions imposed by the US in April 2019 were simply added to a long list of continued challenges, which also includes hyperinflation, a shortage of medicine and food, a crumbling infrastructure that is seeing power failures and cuts, and a divided government. Nicolás Maduro remains the president, with power over the Venezuelan military, even though his style of ruling has repeatedly been labelled a dictatorship. He is backed by countries such as China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, Syria and Turkey, as well as on a national level by irregular, leftist paramilitary groups or colectivos, which harass and intimidate opponents in the streets.
While multiple countries in North America, Latin America and Europe have acknowledged Juan Guaidó as the acting president, he also faces difficulties: after a failed bid to overthrow Maduro in early May 2020, his relationship with the US has become strained.
Taking a look at the legal landscape, the challenges remain the same. The Supreme Court judges appointed by the opposition-led National Assembly have left Venezuela out of fear of facing charges of treason. Companies try to avoid having to engage in disputes with state entities as proceedings tend to be extremely lengthy and prosecutions in the competition, IP and labour spaces are rare. Areas which have seen legislative changes and international interest include energy and tax.
The legal market is dominated by national full-service and boutique firms, with Dentons and Baker & McKenzie, S.C. being the only international set-ups continuing operations in Venezuela. D’Empaire and Leĝa Abogados are popular one-stop shops with impressive track records throughout various practice areas, but firms such as InterJuris Abogados, Mendoza Palacios Acedo Borjas Páez Pumar & Cía, Araquereyna, Travieso Evans Arria Rengel & Paz, Rodríguez & Mendoza and Tinoco, Travieso, Planchart & Núñez also have comprehensive offerings. Torres, Plaz & Araujo and Palacios, Torres & Korody are noted for their experience in tax and public law mandates, while Hoet Pelaez Castillo & Duque and Antequera Parilli & Rodríguez are experts in the IP field. Founded in 2017, Altum Abogados, S.C. now evidences strong activity in a variety of practice areas. More recently, the merger of PM&A Regulatory and Citemark International IP saw the November 2020 founding of Pi360 Legal, which focuses on IP, regulatory and life sciences, telecoms, and media and entertainment.