One day we’ll have tough investigative media…like Nicaragua does.


Nicaragua’s Confidencial magazine has the scoop on corruption in Albanisa – Alba de Nicaragua, S.A. – a binational firm created with Venezuelan state capital. Though Albanisa  has expanded to sectors as varied as power generation, agro-exporting, construction, forestry, hotels and even private TV, its backbone is as an oil firm…in fact, the firm manages the remarkable feat of being a loss making oil company. The firm lost $20 million last year on $400 million in sales – big bucks at Nicaragua’s scale.

How did they manage that? By selling subsidized oil and products at cost and then allowing well-connected partners to sell them on at profit, while running losses in all other activities. Even the PSF-reduct that is the Council on Hemispheric Affairs is horrified.

The thing that got me from the Confidencial report, though, is this:

 Esta semana, una copia en Excel de las cuentas de la contabilidad de la empresa que cubren los años 2007 y 2008, más ocho meses de operaciones del 2009. Después de comprobar la veracidad de la información contable con más de cinco fuentes especializadas, Confidencial decidió poner a disposición del público las cuentas y balances de Albanisa, algunas de las cuales como las cuentas SIFO fueron elaboradas por los propios auditores de PDVSA (emphasis added.)

Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles…there are still magazines running actual investigative stories, verifying their leaks with experts and writing the reports…but only in Nicaragua.

Algún día, con suerte, llegaremos a ese nivel de desarrollo…

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  1. Let me hazard a cynical explanation: Venezuela has always been far more Socialist than Nicaragua, even when the Sandinistas were first in power and Carlos Andres was launching his 1989 shock.

    As far as I know, Nicaragua is a normal country where enterprise produces money, it is taxed, that finances the government. As far as I my memory reaches, Venezuela has been a petrostate where oil is produced by the State, that then finances everything else. Basically, the State more or less owns, or controls, or holds the buttered side of the toast for everything and everyone.

    Venezuela is and has always been a Socialist country. More than Nicaragua, even when it was nominally a satellite of the Soviet Union. When this situation gets changed, expect real journalism to take place in Venezuelan mainstream media.

    • Perhaps it’s not about how much the government controls, but how much they let those not controlled be free. For example, Corimón at one point was one of the most important industrial conglomerates of latin america, a success based on competitive, best business practices.

    • Not even close. Nicaraguan political history after independence till right before WWII was continual conflict between the elites of Granada and Leon. Within a context of large power disputes due to the strategic location of the country as a possible interoceanic canal. The liberal-conservative dynamic was only broken by us intervention and the absolute rule of the Somoza family for 50 years. Like a certain early 20th century Venezuelan tyrant the Somozas ran the country like their own farm. The Sandinistas inherited from Somoza a large part of the private sector, an authoritarian political tradition, and no real democratic institutions.
      The Nicaraguan democratic opposition to Somoza and the Sandinistas actually took inspiration in the Venezuelan democratic model post-Perez Jimenez. And figures like Pedro Joaquin Chamorro were very close to CAP.

      • I stand corrected.

        But I did not say that Nicaragua was perfect or that it had a long story of democracy like Venezuela. Or that AD and Copei were undemocratic. Or that they did not help and inspire pro-democracy movements all over our Continent.

        It’s that the petrostate changes the game in intended and unintended manners, for private industry, such as magazines and journals, and makes Venezuela a Socialist country, in the sense that most means of production of foreign currency are State-owned, like it or not. Some like it hugely, like the now 14-year incumbent of Miraflores.

        • Well, the Somoza family was the single largest landowner, factory owner, and employer (in and out of government). That was followed by the Sandinistas who took what Somoza had and tried to expropriate anything else. Added up, that is 60 years of continual history of obeying one boss and having little democratic tradition. Small wonder, that Ortega is doing what he is doing.

  2. The thing is, in Venezuela a person can practically throw a stone and hit a scandal (corruption, incompetence, criminality) that would be considered of major proportions in a normal country. The problem is not the capacity to uncover the rot. The problem is a system that is not responsive or accountable to the truth. As a reporter, I might seriously wonder, with all the risk that reporting entails, and the poor pay and job security: why bother? Why not “report” instead, for example, for the Ministry of Justice. Stay at your desk, keep your eyes closed, collect a decent salary, hang out with respectable-looking people, and retire early.

    An opportunity to change all that has arrived.

    • Totally agree. Ultimas Noticias uncovered the CAAEZ, and nothing happened there. Chavez absolved the major culprit (Antonio Albarran) and nothing happened there. And what about Pudreval and the many other scandals? Any luck there? No. The scandals are out there, the sad thing is that there are so many scandals, that nobody cares anymore. Everybody is jaded.

    • That’s a likely explanation. We are inured to corruption. To corruption being huge and the corrupt shameless and very sure that nobody will punish them because “everyone” does it. In my humble opinion there’s opportunity for this because there’s a Petrostate.

  3. Yeah this may have come out in Nicaragua but nothing’s going to come of it. I think the difference between Nicaragua and Venezuela is that Nicaraguan media isn’t as frightened and coerced into not investigating these things. However, with 70% approval ratings and a booming economy no one in Nicaragua will pay this article much attention. While 14 years of chavismo is pretty bad just imagine having the same bloke for over a decade and then reelecting the idiot to six years and counting. Then you have Nicaragua.

    • Think one difference is that Nicaraguans had 2 consecutive dictatorships of 50 and 12 years and fought two bloody civil wars, people are polarized and view the stakes as high so they aren’t scared of publishing. To illlustrate look no further than the co-author of these pieces, Carlos Chamorro. His father Pedro Joaquin was a longtime Somoza opponent, newspaper publisher, friend of CAP’s and was murdered by Somoza cronies. Paper burned to the ground. His mother is Violeta Chamorro – who you all know what happened with CAP. Carlos used to publish the Sandinista Daily in the 80’s, one sister the oppositon La Prensa, his brother was a Contra Director and their uncle published another pro-Sandinista paper. The Sandinistas censored and shut down La Prensa all the time. 20 years later this Chamorro is an anti-Ortegista. ..Throughout all these conflicts one constant, Nicaraguan papers have a tradition of publishing and suffering even the worst consequences.. ..

  4. Off topic, Quico, but you’ve been getting around:

    IHT is no surprise:

    NYT is kinda surprising:

    But a Canadian weekly mentioning you as a source?! Nice.

    “If you’re poor in Venezuela, you pay a big price to be visible as an opposition supporter,” says Francisco Toro, a Venezuelan political affairs blogger and columnist now based in Montreal. “The economy is so state-dependent and the state is not at all shy about shutting off the flow of benefits to those that don’t support Chávez personally.”


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