Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A corruption "gotcha'" in Venezuela

This week we have a clear, smoking gun evidence, of the extent of Venezuelan corruption. With even a price tag.

The basic facts

Chavez went to Argentina last week end to buy 1 billion dollars (US) of rather bad Argentinean debt. It is not the case to discuss the real motivations of the trip here, just that Chavez, without even discussing matters with the National Assembly, for example, goes to Argentina to buy bonds. Just so, because he decided it.

Unfortunately there was a small cash tip going along with that billion: someone claiming to be with the Chavez entourage, arrived on a private flight carrying 800 000 USD. Cash, cold cash in some attaché. The Venezuelan ambassador in Buenos Aires was quick to say that the guy carrying the cash had nothing to do with the Venezuelan embassy.

La Nacion of Argentina carries the names of the passengers (linked to ENARSA, the Argentinean oil state company) and the tale of what happened at the airport. One of them, Uberti, is closely linked to all the Argentina-Venezuela juicy deals. You draw your own conclusions.

El Clarin just reported the press issue of ENARSA. There all the names of ENARSA directors in that flight are confirmed, as well as the petition from PDVSA to give a "lift" to Buenos Aires to five of its employees. The Argentineans accepted. One of the Venezuelans was
Antonini Wilson of no specificied rank or title within PDVSA.

The impossibility of it all

Now, that does not mean of course that Uberti is a corrupt accomplice, or if he was just taken in by his good faith as PDVSA crooks might have hoped that, just as it happens in Venezuela, high officials are sort of exempted from custom controls. Unfortunately Argentina being significantly more orderly and civilized than bolibanana Venezuela, I can imagine the face of
Antonini when the directors of ENARSA, even coming through a private flight, checked through customs. That is how the 800 K were caught.

Now, without going further, the presumption of fraud and delinquency committed in Venezuela is already enormous, even if Wilson was, well, only holding the bag.

In Venezuela there is a severe currency exchange control. NO VENEZUELAN can buy dollars without the consent of the government through its currency control agency, CADIVI. Any import that you make must be approved by CADIVI if you want to be able to pay your provider at the official currency rate. Otherwise you must go to the parallel market, at twice the bolivar value. In other words, getting an 800 000 cash transaction is already rather difficult.

In fact it is even more difficult than what you think. Any Venezuelan that travels overseas has the right to ONLY 600 USD a year, plus a few thousands THROUGH approved credit cards. In other words, ANY VENEZUELAN carrying more than 600 USD in cash must have some special permit from the government.

But it is even worse than what you think. If this blogger must travel and ask for his 600 in cash to pay for cab fees, a cup of coffee and such stuff, he must present his plane ticket and his CADIVI permit to his bank. Then the bank processes it and will call this blogger after about a week. This blogger then has at most 72 hours to go and withdraw his cash. If he does not do so, the cash is returned to the Central Bank and that is that. In other words: Venezuelan private banks do not carry significant amounts of foreign cash at their agencies. At most a few thousands for their daily needs. That is, NO VENEZUELAN BANK is likely to have at any given time 800 000 in its vaults unless there is some very special arrangement between the Central Bank, the private bank and the government for a given purpose.

Antonini Wilson was carrying was the cash allotment of 1,333 Venezuelans (1,333 X 600 = 800 000). Clearly, it was not the case of 1,333 PDVSA employees pooling together their resources to go on a Buenos Aires vacation.........


In Venezuela today there are only two ways to have 800 000 in cash. It is either

1) some drug trafficking (difficult as most Venezuelans would be paying in VEB rather than dollars: where would they get the dollars for their fixes, at CADIVI?)

2) some governmental direct action. In such case it would be very easy for PDVSA to emit a communique explaining the "incident". No such communique has been issued.

Thus we are left with only one other explanation that makes sense: through governmental complicity someone in the government (not necessarily PDVSA, Antonini might just be the bag boy) has managed to get from the Central Bank (or PDVSA, the only guys that could perhaps be managing such cash sums though by law they are supposed to give ANY USD they get o the Central bank) the 800 000 in cash. The motive will apparently be obscure (if it were legit we would already know about it). The motives could be anything from financing the electoral campaign of Cristina Kirchner (she better watch out!) to simply stashing away some cash by some PDVSA director that wants to invest corruption money in Argentina. I personally think that it was for political purposes during Chavez visit. Or for Cristina.

And speaking of Chavez? What is he saying to all this? "Media manipulation" "Bush/Empire intervention" "the private media is th worst problem in the world" and what not, leaving Chomsky far behind. But is he ordering a thorough investigation? NO! In fact considering the recent revelations at how corrupt and inefficient PDVSA has become I doubt very much that any investigation will be launched. The regime could collapse as some are murmuring that the total stolen monies could be several billions dollars ( a number of 7 is advanced even).

-The end-

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