“Lately, food is a better business than drugs,” retired Gen. Cliver Alcala.

Back in July we wrote extensively about what seemed as an important move by one of the country’s main power groups. The Military strengthened its link with the Executive, as General Vladimir Padrino López was appointed as a sort of Prime Minister. Later, Padrino López named a bunch of men in olive green to a sort of parallel cabinet to control the whole food distribution chain.

There were two ways of interpreting those events. The hopeful reading was that the Armed Forces had had it with the nonsensical way chavismo was running the country. The darker view was the one Hannah Dreier and Josh Goodman from the AP just uncovered in this soul-grinding piece: Maduro’s plan to maintain power was centered on letting the army steal as much as they wanted.

The institutionalizing of the proverbial “100 bolos pal fresco” in maxi-corrupt chavista terms.

So, were to start?

From the top, I guess.

One South American businessman said he paid millions in kickbacks to Venezuelan officials as the hunger crisis worsened, including $8 million to people who work for the current food minister, Gen. Rodolfo Marco Torres. The businessman insisted on speaking anonymously because he did not want to acknowledge participating in corruption.

Last July, he struggled to get Marco Torres’s attention as a ship full of yellow corn waited to dock.

“This boat has been waiting for 20 days,” he wrote in text messages seen by AP.

“What’s the problem?” responded Marco Torres.”

It was clear what was the problem. The kickbacks weren’t juicy enough.

And just how big are those kickbacks? Here’s a taste.

Bank documents from the businessman’s country show that he was a big supplier, receiving at least $131 million in contracts from Venezuelan food ministers between 2012 and 2015…

…For example, his $52 million contract for the yellow corn was drawn up to be charged at more than double the market rate at the time, suggesting a potential overpayment of more than $20 million for that deal alone.”

And then, there’s the good old Cadivi guiso, these never get old.

One major scam involves the strict currency controls that have been a hallmark of the administration. The government gives out a limited amount of coveted U.S. currency at a rate of 10 bolivars to the dollar. Almost everyone else has to buy dollars on the ever more expensive black market, currently at 3,000 bolivars to the dollar.”

Just a lucky few get the licenses to import food and benefit from the coveted 10 bolivar rate. People like General Osorio and Co.

Some contracts go to companies that have no experience dealing in food or seem to exist only on paper. Financial documents obtained by AP show that Marco Torres gave Panama-registered company Atlas Systems International a $4.6 million contract to import pasta. Atlas has all the hallmarks of a shell company, including no known assets and the use of secretive shares to hide the identity of the company’s true owners. Another government food supplier, J.A. Comercio de Generos Alimenticios, lists on its website a non-existent address on a narrow, partially paved street in an industrial city near Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The two companies transferred more than $5.5 million in U.S. dollars in 2012 and 2013 to a Geneva account controlled by two young Venezuelans, according to bank and internal company documents seen by AP. The Venezuelans were Jesus Marquina Parra and Nestor Marquina Parra, brothers-in-law of the then-food minister, Gen. Carlos Osorio. Efforts to reach the brothers were unsuccessful.

Osorio is no longer food minister, but has an even more important role in overseeing food. He was promoted in September to inspector general of the armed forces, with the mission of ensuring transparency in the military’s management of the nation’s food supply.

: )

The whole scheme seems to be set up to spread wealth, unevenly of course, across the whole armed institution, from the top ranking General who now can afford the Hatteras he had been eyeing for a while, to your regular roadblock grunt who’ll be able to buy a couple more empanadas for lunch: the world’s largest bozal de arepa.

I’m just going to drop the link here again so you can click through and read the whole thing.

These are the Spoils of the Economic War, and when you see who is reaping them… well, just let’s say that whoever’s waiting for a military uprising: mejor que espere sentado.

(Final note, if there are any patriots out there who wish to cooperate with some additional info on this developing story, para nadie es un secreto that Hannah is on Twitter — @hannahdreier.)

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  1. So, are you saying that every time I buy food I’m paying a mayor tax to these olive-green assholes? My hate for those guys is at a peak right know.

    I’ve seen them coming to the lines of food to take part of the food with them. No one dares to tell them anything because they are always wearing the crowd control gear and are better fed than anyone in the line anyway. But even that is low-level corruption, now this article is telling us that Maduro putted them in charge to do exactly that so they don’t get any funny government-overthrowing ideas, and they turned it into this huge business more profitable than the drug business they are already in charge of.

    Osea, they are profiting from the hunger!, all this suffering, the malnourished babies, that Kevin guy the NYT reported, my family and friends…

    Man, these people… 🙁

    • “…they are profiting from the hunger!”

      Chavismo as a whole is profitting at the expense of EVERYTHING in Venezuela, THAT has been their plan since 1992 when the 4 fiasco, and THAT was the plan since castro ordered the traitorous marxist garbage to stir and drive the riots during the 27-february before.

  2. The picture this paints is that dwindling funds are allocated for food imports, but upwards of half of said monies are raked off in graft and kickbacks to simply get the food (if there is any) delivered, then a next round of kick backs to get it unloaded at the docks, then a whole other system of corruption and rake offs once the food gets distributed, and eventually a few ears of 100 million in corn reaches the market place, but that too is filched by green uniforms leaving the pueblo to scavenge the road for scraps. As the remaining dough runs out – and it is – the little grub making it to the marketplace will simply never get past the security forces, who will eat it all. Hardly sounds sustainable.

  3. “The darker view was (…) just uncovered in this soul-grinding piece”.

    Are you fucking kidding me??

    Hannah Dreier and Josh Goodman are the last journalists who’ve learned about this crap. We’ve known this for YEARS. Going Kevin McCallister on this issue just because it’s been raised in English looks pretty funny to me.

    • putting in my 2 cents on the subject ….. err my 100 Bolivars. Gabe, If you knew – cause it was so widely reported in Spanish, then shame on you for keeping it only in Spanish. English, whether you like it or not is most inclusive of the worlds languages. I read articles on Venezuela (in english) from the Indian Times, to Aljazeera, and of course most of the major US outlets. Point being, If you want the world to know, English is a good way to spread the word. And I might say, the Latin Countries as a group do not seem to concerned over Venezuela’s implosion. Finally, so what, if these journalists are last as you say, they reported on the AP for god sake. That is like gold for PR

      • So: the US will do what now? Do you think the US or the UK o Australia or perhaps New Zealand will do anything about this? The EU perhaps?
        The article was good, but it is one more, this time in a foreign language the vast majority of Venezuelans does not use.

        • I am confused? Do you (and Gabe, et al) want the world to know what is going on? Or is it some elitist thought that only Venezuelans and the “Spanish speaking world” need know? Gabe stated that “just because it’s been raised in English”, implying what? That the Militaries pillaging of the little food that is imported, is well known in the Spanish language world IS ENOUGH – yes?, and you say basically – So what, (that the article) is in english – the “vast majority of Venezuelans” do not know english, so who cares what a half billion people (potentially) read. Since they are not going to do a damn thing. Well the other half billion people in Latin and Central America (in my view) do not seem to care a damn either.

      • Cut it out Quico. You know he’s right. Leave it to the gringa to uncover this? Give me a break. Then you come out with your hollier than thou crap. Why don’t you provide us with full disclosure of your beliefs? You know, you are clueless about the military and law enforcement. Deja el ad hominem

        • While Venezuela is being raped and pillaged, it seems that Ed and others are more concerned with which messenger gets the credit. Might want to put aside your white biases (or is it women – gringa, or Western – the AP) and concentrate on what is important. Your homeland. Just saying

  4. In litigation before a US court the court required the parties to provide expert information on the average size of the ‘overprice’ foreign suppliers of foodstuff to Venezuela had to charge to pay certain ‘intermediaries’ their commission fee……. The answer: about 30%. This was a couple of years ago , maybe the standard fee has grown higher…….now that the military are into the game…!!

    Also several years ago a milk processing and distribution company was left without domestic supplies after the govt expropiated the local milk farms on which they depended ,causing their production to fall precipitously .Their only source of powdered milk became a Govt monopoly created to centralize milk imports . After one year of operation the Monopoly demanded that the company route all its purchases thru an intermediary company run by retired army officers whose only job was to re invoice the milk delivered to the processing company after skimming their intermediary fees .

    A year later the Monopoly called the processing company to tell them that their supplies were being cut off for lack of payment . when they protested that as ordered they had paid the middle men the full price of the supplies they were told that such money had not been paid to the Monopoly and that it was the processing companys responsability to make up for the middle mens shortfall in payments .Moreover that their trucks would be withdrawn their permit to carry products about the country .

    What I do believe is that this corruption does not affect all military equally, there is no love lost between the GNB and the army for instance, the latter often insisting that because the latter control civilian movements they take advantage of that to collect and impose bribes on all those under their control !!

    Saw a TV interview of an army sargeant pointing angrily at a group of GNB some 20 meters away in a cross border station while saying (angrily) that the GNB were all crooks and that they had been sent to see if they could stop the bleeding of all the smuggling the GNB were allowing …. The Sargeants face was fudged to make him unrecogizable and he was surrounded by his men , arms extended towards the GNB group..!! Dont think that represents a general attitude in the army but there are certainly tensions inside the army about the subject….even if the crooks enjoy the govts protection….!!

  5. You are really fucked up, when the army let themselves criminalize on such a scale. Western Europe, US, etc. has huge problems with criminal bankers, who help in tax evasion, invent overly risky products, etc. There are a lot of problems with kickbacks in arms sales for example in Chile. But an army, which profitizes on food shortages of the population they allegedly protect is soo obviously morally repugnant.

    • You are right. And I have no idea what the answer can be. The military in Venezuela were always highly corrupted but this has reached completely new levels.
      I do not know from history what country has got out of massive military corruption into something decent just by itself.

      Nazi Germany’s leaders were highly corrupt and perverse but they were defeated by a coalition.
      And then: what are we going to do with the hundreds of thousands of guys who know of no productive work and are currently military-guardia nacionales and similar stuff?

      I see nasty dictatorships like Pinochet’s, where there was also corruption, up to Pinochet himself (see his wife) but in general most of the military were rather clean, weren’t they when it came to money? The same with the Apartheid regime. Even the military during Soviet times…

      These guys really cannot be differentiated from common thugs who on purpose pretended to be for the poor.

      • Greater parts of the armed forces participate in a trade of loyality to the criminal regimes for better opportunities to profitize on the food shortage of the population.

        We all find this shocking. But is it unique? Rethinking, I contradict, what I was trying to say above.

        In Post WW2 Germany until the 70ties there was a myth of non-involvement of the Wehrmacht (army) in crimes against mankind. The oficial line was that the army just were into war and the SS commited all the crimes. We now know that this was a lie. In reality, the Wehrmacht perpetrated the most repugnant crimes as mass-executions, evictions of whole villages of civillians, most notably in Greece, Yugoslavia and Ukrania. It was a non topic in the 50ties, because there were many more german men members of the Wehrmacht than of the SS.
        The important point of the coming to terms with the fascist past was the acceptance among the germans of the following generations, that a huge part of their parents and grandparents actively participated in obvious crimes against humanity during facsism.

        A criminal Government can distort the ethics of a whole society. The Dreyer/Goodman story shows at which low levels institutions as the army has fallen.
        This is huge in my book. If internal institutions has been corroded to such lows, I would be ok with something, I did not see as an option for all these years.

        Intervention of external forces.

        Unfortunatedly this would be very hard to sell in US, Western Europe and Latin America. But more due to lack of information than reason, me starts to think.

  6. As mentioned some time ago here on this Blog, as the oil bonanza/mega-indebtedness/massive military equipment purchase funds dried up, what was left, or “donde lo hay”, were funds for food, minimal medicines, and from the “Arco Minero”, which were placed in the hands of the Military to keep them quiet/content. This is old news. The question now is, are the funds left going forward to be enough to keep a hungry/sometimes starving population in line(s) long enough to subject them to complete Cubanization, or, will a general uprising/select Military uprising intercede first….?

  7. The ultimate plan for the chavernment: to solve the food crisis (caused by CIA sabotage or international bank conspiracy), the hungry urban masses will be settled in new lands carved from the jungle. You might think this is a copy. of the Khmer Rouge program, which kiiled 1/3 of all Cambodians. But no – the “settlements” are death camps only, to get rid of useless mouths that consume oil revenue the régime wants.

  8. But the cretins that still support the regime can only present a single excuse for all of this:



    “buenos mal que gentusas comos lo de esta pagina no piensan en algun dia dominar este pais porque me imagino cuanto mas cinturones de miseria tendriamos? como que si fue poco lo que dejo la tal IV republica, y valla que yo tengo memoria .”

  9. I don’t think the food distribution control was given to the army with the purpose of paying them but rather to keep them well fed. After all, as long as the army is well fed it won’t matter if the rest of the population is starving to death.

    And this is the real resource curse. The people becoe superflous. Unlike Cube, where Raul needs the people to work the Sugar cane fields and hotels, in Venezuela all the Oligarcs need is PVDSA and the Army. In fact, they would be better served if a good chunk of the unproductive population just dropped dead and stopped using resources.

  10. I think that the main merit of this NYT article is not what it uncovered ( we have long known about this corruption in the way food is bought handled and distributed in Venezuela) , but rather in the way it presents the facts so that they become alive in the eyes of the millions that read their article, and specially in the way it highlights how atrociously the regime has acted to bribe the military into lending its support to its much despised and hated rule…!!

      • My apologies Francisco , I should really be more carefully about the accuracy of my attributions , precisely because what I meant to extoll was the journalistic virtues of the piece, and in journalism attribution is fundamental ….!!

  11. Speaking of the military, I had an old friend, a high level guardsman stationed in Caracas, tell me during a Christmas visit that he has never seen things so bad in the Caracas area. According to him, he’ll be surprised if the wheels don’t come off completely by February.

    My sra has long said that the government takes care of its supporters in Caracas first and foremost because their numbers alone are enough to “tumbar” the government.

    I’ll believe it when it happens.

  12. Los anuncios de compras militares ayer por Maduro is all smoke and mirrors. Those orderes made in 2014 and include a lot of Chinese radars and C2 systems, a lot of Chinese jet trainer and light attack aircraft, and ten Russian attack helicopters. That’s it.

  13. “The theft extends to the very end of the food supply chain,”

    And from the very beginning. Hannah’s article is great. Yet it doesn’t really expose the total spectrum of Venezuela’s Galactic Corruption in it’s true astronomical proportions. Besides the facts that it’s not just with food, but with every freaking product.. imports and PDVSA oil, Finance (BCV..) , you name it.. Yes, we know the military are also thoroughly corrupt, at all levels, as this post clarifies even more, and they’ve chosen Food over Drugs as the preferred scam these days. ( They probably also fear the DEA from the USA, besides easier, higher profits).

    But it’s not just food, and it’s not just the entire spectrum of the military:

    Sticking to food, I personally know the owner of one of the few honest producers left in in Venezuela: the largest turkey producer, raising the birds, packaging them, trucking them, and selling them wholesale to supermarkets. He has to import lots of equipment and materials, somehow.. By the time the product hits the shelves – (60% less production than a couple years ago..- then a good part is stolen ( at every stage, Theft is at record-breaking levels, thousands of turkeys disappear every week, even equipment and feed are stolen) .. He’s had to pay countless bribes left and right, deal with threats, and extortion, at every stage. From getting dollars and permits for imports, to the int’l shipping, as detailed by Hannah, to corrupt customs clearance, local transport, and local distribution in supermarkets and such, of whatever’s left.. Then getting paid is another nightmare of course, letters of credit, or else..

    But the massive corruption, bribes and mordidas is not just by the military.

    In the food supply chain, corruption encompasses the civil population as well. Granted, less organized, and profits from theft not as large, but many regular workers or business people are also culpable and involved, or at least complicit. For my Turkey friend, it starts at the ports, where he has to bribe customs guys, stevedores, and even regular administration employees for paperwork. Then read Hannah’s article.. And that’s just the import part. In his Vzla’s farms, he faces tons of obstacles and corruption starting with the “incubadoras” where they steal even the eggs, regular employees, not the military. Permits to run things? PAY. Local transportation” PAY, and not always just to military personnel. Overnight parking? “Una vainita ahi pal’ fresco?” Regular ‘wachyman’ not the military. Also, workers’ unions: “cuanto hay pa eso? The sindicato bosses, always asking for their cuts: non-military crooks. Safety/quality inspections of the birds? Same thing: “bajate de la mula, pana”. Non- military people. Bank transactions? Same,, Supermarket owners and wholesalers? “chamo, ven que te explico como e’ la vaina’..) then bachaqueros,, etc, etc.

    The entire food supply chain is corrupt at all levels.

    But it far transcends the filthy military. The regular, civil population is often guilty as well.

  14. “Pobre carajo.”

    Such a Venezuelan thing to do, wrapping up an argument in a schoolyard taunt. All that’s missing is calling him “bobo”.

  15. “These are the Spoils of the Economic War, and when you see who is reaping them… well, just let’s say that whoever’s waiting for a military uprising: mejor que espere sentado.”

    All the thread just to claim, again, that the generals won’t do a thing because they’ve been bought or are natural-born criminals and thus Venezuela shouldn’t expect ANYTHING from the only corps that have the weapons to fight chavismo? Or is it just to find a way to agree with the pathetic excuse of the MUD that Venezuela will have to wait God-knows-how-many years to get rid of the chavista scourge just because the only valid way to do so are the “Tibizay-certified-elections-everything-else-won’t-be-recognized”?

    Time in Venezuela isn’t measured in days, it’s measured in corpses, everybody knows that the generals are there precisely for their stupid loyalty to the regime, thus the middle commands are the ones to be addressed to assist with the regime’s ousting, and there’s a truckload of proof that the middle commands in the military have been pursued and attacked from both the regime and the MUD in an attempt to keep this charade going.

    • To talk of ‘the army’ as if they constituted a totally cohesive group of people held together by their profesional ties to an united hierarchy of blind command and obedience is to mischaracterize the atomized nature of what passes for ‘an army’ in todays Venezuela . !! More accurate to think of them as an archipielago of different groups and interests , sometimes allied sometimes divided by all sort of personal profesional or changing interests !! who sometimes work and sometimes fight each other , each of them , basically isolated from the rest by fear of being betrayed by the others ……it is very difficult under such conditions for them to launch a coup ……for the most part they are not heroes but ordinary men, more beaurcrats than wannabe patriotic warriors.

      There is also a dearth of middle commands , you have a huge number of generals , some troops (less that what many thing) and very few officers in the middle …..!

      The thing is if there is ever one bold man among them who raises the flag of revolt and the rest think that he might be succesful they will all in an instant join him , rolling snow ball style and make a succesful coup , they have to be prodded by special circumstances into breaking our of their fears… , it can happen any moment but it can also not happen at all ….., the greater the crisis the more likely that one such man may appear and make things happen, but it is not the corruption or sleazyness of a few generals that will protect the regime from getting toppled , it is the lack of unity and trust among those groups that make up the ‘army’ that now exists.


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