The arrests of Rincon and Shiera (and maybe more) in Houston and Miami this week end may be more important than what you may think.
Let's first dispatch the news.
Rincon and Shiera have been investigated for a while by the DEA which does more than just drug stuff. Money laundering of all sorts is also looked upon. Journalist Cesar Batiz has, in Spanish, a long investigation on the rise from rags to riches of Rincon, through conveniently organized supply companies to Venezuela state oil PDVSA, as of 2003 when all controls on procurement were eliminated. Last year Rincon lavishly married a son in what in French we say defrayer la chronique (goes beyond social gossip?).
Rincon came to political notoriety when a plane from his business was the one transporting "el pollo" Carvajal, a Venezuelan army officier accused in the DEA list of drug trafficking who was briefly detained in Aruba as the US failed to extradite him (due to The Netherlands unwillingness to endure insults from the regime, but that is another story). The first question that comes to mind, is what the hell was Rincon still doing in the US? Speaks a lot of the brazenness of these people that think that outside of Venezuela they can go around equally unscathed.
It is important to mention that people like Rincon have been followed closely by noted bloggers whose own investigations may have been of use by authorities, investigations also linked to the contract abuses and overprices around the Derwick. In addition to Cesar Batiz, already named above, there is Alek Boyd who has been personally threatened by the Derwick people (who else?) and whose web page Infodio is blocked in Venezuela. Steve Bodzin is another one who has covered the oil scandals of Venezuela and who did extensive searches into how the corrupts like Rincon or Derwick bolichicos pay to have their images cleansed through Internet. And there is also a blog in Spanish who looks into actual criminal activities of these people but without stated ownership.
So, what does it all mean? On the trials to come I do not know but on Venezuela future politics I have a good idea,
The chavista corruption has been reckless, and the more so that it involved drug trafficking. These people are just a street gang that somehow was catapulted into controlling a country through Chavez who needed people to do his dirty job, no questions asked. Chavez was himself of a thug mentality but crossed with messianic idealism and the inability to understand what classic texts actually meant. Thus he let it all happen as long as it increased his chances to be president for life.
Though years of success in Venezuela and the establishment of a system here where they can do as they please, they have come to assume that outside of Venezuela it works the same: pay what it takes to bribe and do almost as much as you do in Venezuela.
Unfortunately it does not work like that. The US and Europe maybe tolerant on corruption to a point: after all, it is investment money coming in and if the country where it comes from is idiotic enough to allow it, well, too bad for them. However when the levels of corruption start affecting the workings in the US things change and there is a crackdown. Rincon if just another chain link, but that chain goes to the billions that went through the HSBC bank, or the accounts in Andorra and what not.
On December 6 the regime lost elections badly because, among other reasons, they were busier looting the country than taking care of the basic necessities of their very own electorate that was willing to pretend to be fooled as long as a regular flow of freebies came down. Trickle down economics, chavista style. Bankrupting the country with so much looting cut down the trickle......
For a few days we were wondering about how the regime would find ways to void the new assembly and how that one would stare down the regime. But the arrest of Rincon (and more to come) is, in my eyes, speeding up the whole scene rearrangement. The list is now long on people that have been caught: if Rincon was the middle man, there are the nephews of the first lady, or ponzi traders like Illaramendi. We can state without fear that at the very least a couple of dozen of high ranking chavistas are next, and cannot leave the country anymore. And they know it. We can cite for example Diosdado Cabello, Rafael Ramirez, a few army officers, a few ministers and CADIVI bureaucrats, just for starters.
The question is how can you negotiate a power sharing system with people that cannot hold their part of the bargain for many reasons, one of them because they cannot travel outside of the country for fear of not being able to return for the duration of their sentence? Add to that a country on the verge of collapse that cannot hold much longer while corrupts and politicians decide what to do.
This is not about sharing of power anymore. I am not sure if a transition is still an option. We are talking here of an outright change of regime, either a military dictatorship or a direct overthrow of the people in charge who are too corrupt and who in any case have no idea on how to take the country into the quagmire they created.
I am nobody here but I would suggest Maduro to name a new vice president and an opposition cabinet to let them do what must be done while he is himself the garant that key social programs will be untouched. A cohabitation French style, for example. Or at the very least name a more technocratic cabinet, where key financial posts are held by people who know that 2+2=4. This would give a few months for Disodado and his ilk to figure out some deal with the DEA and the like to avoid the worst of their fate. But we all know that this sensible approach will not happen.
The "transition" has suddenly become very unexpected.