Slow-motion Embezzlement

Your daily briefing for Saturday, May 12, 2018. Translated by Javier Liendo.

The imposed prosecutor general, Tarek William Saab, announced that they’re investigating PDVSA’s embezzlement with overpriced sales in food and electrical supply imports. The people of El Pitazo said that back in August 2016: they published an investigation about this satellite PDVSA office Saab just recently discovered. Created in 2009 for international purchases, in a 4-year period they made contracts by tampering with the SAP system to incorporate new providers. The purchases were made from Venezuela by simulating that they were being executed from the Netherlands and at least 32 companies took part in the process, including four that belong to Roberto Rincón and Abraham Shiera, prosecuted in the U.S. for paying bribes to obtain contracts. The Prosecutor’s Office will request their extradition and the capital damage they caused is estimated at US$ 1,1 billion.

If he wants the speed of his investigative process to improve, perhaps Saab could read El País’ article about how PDVSA looters continued their money-laundering operations even after a cause was opened against them, so that Chinese companies graced with PDVSA’s awards would pay their commissions in Panama, with the help of a high executive of the Banca Privada d’Andorra, Pablo Laplana, who offered this possibility to Diego Salazar, Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado, among others.

New fees, worse contraction

According to a report released yesterday in Lima, the IMF predicts that Venezuela’s financial setback in 2019 will be 15%, after “a cumulative contraction of 35% between 2014 and 2017,” adding that the humanitarian crisis is intensifying with growing shortages of basic products, the collapse of the health system and high crime rates.

Besides, the Central Bank of Venezuela published the fees that banking institutions may charge for their operations, as follows:

  • Monthly account maintenance: Bs. 500
  • Use of same-bank ATMs: Bs. 3,600.
  • Rejected operations (insufficient funds, wrong password, etc.): Bs. 6,500
  • Withdrawal operations will have a 5% charge on the amount withdrawn
  • Requests for new debit cards: Bs. 12,700
  • New check books: 25 checks (Bs. 62,200) and 50 checks (Bs. 125,000)
  • Returned checks: Bs. 202,900 for natural persons and Bs. 405,800 for legal persons
  • Inter-bank transfers: Bs. 6,500. Same-bank transfers: Bs. 2,500

By the way, next Monday, May 14, will be a non banking day!

The disaster

While Metro de Caracas considers a fare price increase after keeping the turnstiles open for two weeks, Bloomberg reported yesterday that ConocoPhillips took over PDVSA’s assets in Bonaire and submitted judicial warrants to do the same in Curacao and Aruba, an acquisition that limits PDVSA’s capacity to export oil to the U.S., China and India. “This is a complete disaster,” said professor Francisco Monaldi, adding that “Conoco’s situation, such as it is, with PDVSA incapable of using storage tanks in the Caribbean, is worse than existing U.S. sanctions.” PDVSA is redirecting shipments to its poorly-equipped ports in Venezuela, which causes a bottleneck for ships in the main maritime terminals. The company now has limited loading capacity. In any case, PDVSA has already notified its clients that all of its oil exports will be in FOB shipments (“Free on Board”: buyers are responsible of all tariffs and insurance associated with the transport of crude from the terminal to the final destination) as a legal safeguard against possible confiscations by ConocoPhillips and other companies pursuing debt-related actions. Jose and Guaraguao terminals in Anzoátegui are expected to handle 75% of crude exports starting this week.

Who’s crazy?

Using State resources, Nicolás increased the pace of his campaign and yesterday, he visited Portuguesa, Trujillo and Sucre states, with limited events in each one of them, speaking not as the man responsible for this crisis, but as an emerging candidate. That’s why he mentioned the urgency of making big economic changes and claimed that “Voting for me is voting for freedom, peace and sovereignty,” while he approved funds for failed projects, promised a better (and more frequent) distribution of CLAP boxes and the building of more housing units to be allocated through the carnet de la patria. “Imperialism is crazy, crazy, deranged imperialism,” he said sarcastically in Trujillo and added “Go away, bloody Imperialism!”

But the effort of using public resources for the campaign also includes vice-president El Aissami handing over housing units in Margarita, and Defense minister Vladimir Padrino López, showing soldiers carrying CLAP boxes which they’ll distribute before elections.

A video of a PoliCaracas officers shooting a dog during a protest in La Guairita went viral. According to Jenny Oropeza, the officer is Franklin Carrera, chief bodyguard for mayor Jorge Rodríguez. When he shot the dog, there was a baby nearby. The dog is stable even though he punctured his lung. The head of CICPC announced that he’ll investigate the officer.


  • With native communities leading the list of the most vulnerable groups in Venezuela (with epidemics, hunger, etc.), the government disseminated the repatriation of a stone as an achievement. More evil than cynicism. At Cepal, Foreign minister Jorge Arreaza claimed that the government protects the people through its social policies.
  • Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said in Budapest: “With regime change, which will happen and will happen very soon, the Venezuelan economy, with a bit of good government, will quickly rise again and the opportunities for Colombia are enormous.”
  • Carlos Trujillo, U.S. ambassador before the OAS, said that they’re committed “to make everything in their hands” so that Venezuela recovers its democracy and called for more aggressive sanctions against the government. In here, the U.S. Embassy issued an alert for possible protests before and after May 20.
  • A demobilized ELN trooper testified in the trial of a member of that guerrilla’s national direction and confirmed ELN presence in Apure. Two days ago, lawmaker Américo de Grazia denounced that the ELN was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of a group of miners in Bolívar.
  • The attack on two universities in Managua early in the morning yesterday, with a total of three deaths and at least 10 people wounded, increased tensions in Nicaragua. The UN Human Rights Office and the IACHR called for the government to allow access to their representatives to assess the evidence about the death of thousands of citizens in the protests.
  • In the IACHR hearings, civil society representatives denounced human rights violations committed by Venezuelan soldiers, a practice used “as a tool of repression and political persecution,” with over 7,000 people accused of military crimes in 2017. The IACHR pointed out that civilians can’t be tried by military tribunals during peacetime.
  • The IACHR urged the Venezuelan government to respect all of people’s positions and rights during the May 20 process.

The maestro Rafael Cadenas was awarded the Reina Sofía prize for Ibero American Poetry, the genre’s most prestigious ward in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. The maestro usually attends most literary events in this city, with a calm step, and reacts to readings and flattery with almost childish gestures. The people of Autores Venezolanos and the Team Poetero created the National Contest of Young Poetry in his name three years ago. The 88-year old maestro gives us another huge smile to conclude the week. There are civilian heroes, legacies that only need to be printed and read. ¡Grande, Cadenas!

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.