The Third Take on the Mezerhane Scandal

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As far as I can see, there are three takes on the case of Nelson Mezerhane – the part-owner of opposition broadcaster Globovisión who got the hell out of dodge after his Banco Federal was taken over by regulators last month. The first two are the same old same old: as far as María Alejandra López is concerned, the guy’s a Freedom of Speech Martyr brutalized by a thuggish government solely for dissenting; and as far as the government is concerned, well, pretty much the exact opposite.

So far, so predictable.

The wrinkle is that there’s a third interpretation, one that’s much less loudly stated, usually by financial professionals who, though rabidly anti-Chávez, also know how to read a balance sheet. And their take seems to be that, whatever the politics of the situation, the sheer scale of the creative accounting and regulatory non-compliance at Banco Federal was so spectacular, it’s just about possible that both sides are right: the government definitely wants control of Globovisión, but that doesn’t change the fact that Banco Federal’s books are unadulterated Magical Realism and fail the most elementary of smell tests.

All of which suggests Mezerhane’s extradition-request/asylum-application in the U.S. is the hot potato of the year for U.S. courts, as far as Latin American diplomacy is concerned. Because while the guy is certainly being politically persecuted, all signs point to him being a massive crook as well. Indeed, the government’s claim that he has $750 million swindled dollars to his name is not even outside the realm of the imaginable. Care to be the judge in that case?

If the gringos do refuse to extradite him – and the political pressure in the U.S. against extraditing such a high-profile Chávez opponent back to Venezuela will be immense – then Mezerhane’s full tactical genius will be vindicated: from where I sit, it sure looks like he’s perfected the art of leveraging his antichavismo as a kind of extradition insurance for himself. 

Think of it: just a few million dollars spent financing a small, loss-making TV channel bought Nelson Mezerhane the kind of untouchability the likes of Allen Stanford and Bernie Madoff would’ve given almost anything for!

That guy is smart

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