domingo, 1 de septiembre de 2013

The anti-corruption rhetoric of the Venezuelan government


During the last two months the current president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has made great emphasis in his determination to combat corruption. His daily statements in this connection have been received with skepticism by Venezuelans. The reason is that for the last 15 years Venezuela has suffered a level of corruption, rather hyper-corruption, never seen before. From the top , where Hugo Chavez enjoyed the amply documented life style of a petro-sheik, to the smallest government bureaucrat, the incidence and magnitude of government corruption has been unsurpassed. No one has been punished, certainly no one at a high level of office.

The real fight against Venezuelan corruption is taking place outside the country, due to the efforts of foreign law enforcement agents. Three examples:

(1),  In 2007 a man traveling in a chartered airplane, together with Venezuelan oil company officials, was caught at the Buenos Aires airport trying to smuggle a bag with $798,000. Released, the man was seen later at the Argentinean presidential palace. Since the man was a Venezuelan residing in the U.S. he was tried in the state of Florida. During the course of the trial the links with the Venezuelan president and the Energy minister to this act were clearly established. The money was for the presidential campaign of Cristina Fernandez and it had not been the only bag sent, only the first bag caught.

(2), In the U.S. state of Connecticut a former Venezuelan adviser to the state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela was imprisoned and tried for embezzlement in relation to the Savings Fund of the employees of the company. He pledged guilty in March 2011 and is expecting sentencing.  $500 million of the fund were diverted by this man to his own companies. Nothing had been or has been done in Venezuela about this crime in which top oil company managers most probably were involved.  

(3), Early this year a fraud was discovered, again in the U.S., in which managers of the Venezuelan Development Bank, BANDES, conspired with outside brokers to defraud the organization of some $66 million. The manager caught and put in prison was the Vice-president of Finance of the bank and was under the direct supervision of the president, another lady. This president, Ms. Edmee Betancourt, was later rewarded with the presidency of the Venezuelan Central Bank.   A previous president of this fund, Alejandro Andrade, is said to be the in-between who controls the Chavez family wealth. Mr. Andrade was also the national Treasurer when he had the top job at the development bank and has recently been denied entry in the U.S., where he had been living the life of  a billionaire.  

These cases illustrate the cynical nature of the Venezuelan regime’s rhetoric about fighting corruption. They have had plenty of opportunities to really do the job but have not. All talk, no walk.

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