9,621,334,845.49 vs. 314

Carlos Ramos, Unsung Hero

Nine billion

Six-hundred and twenty-one million

Three hundred and thirty four thousand

Eight-hundred and forty five dollars

and forty-nine cents.

That, according to new revelations from Mérida National Assembly member Carlos Ramos, is how many US dollars Fonden spent last year.

Off budget, with no parliamentary authorization, no oversight, no auditing. Nothing.

Three hundred and fourteen.

That’s the article in Venezuela’s constitution explicitly forbidding spending that is not approved by the National Assembly.

Let’s be clear: Miguel Octavio’s scoop on Fonden spending – with a big assist from assembly-man Ramos –  is a big deal.

It’s still developing. It’s far from fully fleshed out. And the mainstream media hasn’t caught on at all yet.

Congressman Ramos culled the figures from the a report made by Finance Minister Jorge Giordani – on paper, no electronic version available – directly to the National Assembly’s chairman, Fernando Soto Rojas.

They’re the first specific, official figures on the government’s Black Budget I’ve seen yet. And I’ve been looking for these for years.

The report, stunningly, contains a $29 billion tabulation error in accounting for all Fonden spending since its inception – the sum reported for Fonden’s total spending is $29 billion lower than the sum of the spending for projects Fonden claims to have funded. So we’re still dealing with hapless chavista math on a pretty basic level. Still and all, screwed up as it is, this is the closest I’ve seen anyone get to an official report on how much Fonden spends.

And it’s a lot.

Even figured at the (laughable) official rate, the figures Giordani unwittingly put in the public sphere show that almost 18% of government’s spending in 2010 flew in the face of the constitution’s Article 314. And if you go by the more realistic black market rate, you have to face up to the fact that over a third of government spending is just out-and-out unconstitutional. These are not small numbers.

I’ll have a lot more to say on these figures in days to come. For now, though, I’ll just note that this is Exhibit A for why it’s so important to have an active oppo bench in the National Assembly. A single, relatively obscure congressman was able to get hold of figures the rest of us have been scrounging around looking for for many years.

It’s the kind of thing that almost, almost, makes me hopeful.

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