Ongoing Controls, Ongoing Scam

Your daily briefing for Friday, August 3, 2018. Translated by Javier Liendo.

Photo: Diario La Nación

This Thursday, the ANC approved the constituent decree derogating the Law on Foreign Exchange Crimes proposed by Nicolás on July 25. Tareck El Aissami also proposed scrapping an article from the Law of the Central Bank that prevented citizens from using foreign currency freely. According to El Aissami, the decree, which was unanimously approved, authorizes economic actors “to resort to exchange houses duly authorized by the executive to perform any exchange operation transparently, legally and safely,” a segment that clearly shows that foreign exchange controls are still in place. The only body with the capacity to derogate a law is the National Assembly, so experts deem this presidential decree as illegal. Additionally, several details are missing (from the price per dollar that will be used by exchange houses, going through transaction caps, up to whether DICOM remains in force) which the Central Bank has to work on. AN Finance Committee lawmaker José Guerra thinks that the measure won’t eliminate exchange controls, instead creating a dual market. A detail: the black market dollar was unaffected by these developments.

Much more important

The total sum embezzled from Venezuela as consequence of corruption would be between $350 and $400 billion, according to the National Assembly’s Comptrollership Committee’s estimates. They reached this amount with investigations on cases such as Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Odebrecht, the electric system and the Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAP), among others. Freddy Superlano, head of the Committee, said that they started an investigation on credit lines and foreign currency that were granted to Venezuelan companies with deceased executives, among them Eaton Global, Comercializadora Servivens, Inversiones Integrales Total Group and Multiserv Trade. These companies received preferential dollars and turned them into bolivars through the black market; for this case alone, the Committee estimates a $10 billion loss. Superlano said that “the task would be easier” if they had access to public information such as financial records, SENIAT and SAIME. In any case, all the information they manage to collect (including the potential testimony of former chavista authorities) will be sent to international bodies so they open investigations that lead to capturing the culprits.

Farmers in Miraflores

On Wednesday, the National Guard prevented a peaceful farmers’ march from reaching Miraflores, but Nicolás met with some of them yesterday, with a huge banner in the background saying: “Together we sow more.” The detail is that there were many more complaints than acknowledgements, including the 19 imprisoned farmers, so Nicolás, as if he had any authority to do it, claimed that if it were necessary, he’ll decree that those cases be dropped; and in view of complaints that “agrarian judges backtrack on the handover process of lands granted by Chávez and give them back to landowners,” Nicolás ordered that “the behavior of all agrarian judges in the country” must be reviewed. The farmers denounced their setbacks amidst the “socialist” process, denounced that “agro-narcos” are in control of the land, the military intimidation they suffer, and also complained about the State’s land ownership which has turned productive lands into graveyards. They demanded the intervention of Pequivén and Agropatria (just like Nicolás asked for a list of all corrupt officials to fire them) but they still identified as chavistas. The same Nicolás who said on Monday that the opposition doesn’t exist, criticized them yesterday for “refusing the dialogue” he proposed, for their stubborn non-cooperation. He asked for understanding for the slow rhythm he set for the reach of economic measures.

Briefs and serious

  • Natives from Tascabaña II (Anzoátegui) found an oil spill of more than three kilometers in the Maracapana river. The spill originates from the PDVSA Caico Seco 6 storage plant and even though it affects over ten thousand people and might also affect the Guanipa river, authorities haven’t said a word yet.
  • Lawmaker Ismael León denounced that regional police of Guárico State, by order of governor José Vásquez, attacked a peaceful march coordinated by priest Lenin Bastidas, who was arrested (along with other people) and was apparently placed under Prosecutor’s Office custody already.
  • Víctor Márquez, head of the UCV’s Professors Association, said that the Frente Amplio Venezuela Libre will create a committee to support peaceful protests across the country and promote a national strike “in defense of citizens’ living and working conditions.”
  • Imposed Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab offered a kind of balance for his year in office, convinced of being a champion of the fight against corruption. Sadly, he forgot to explain how many of the people accused and prosecuted were PSUV militants, how many of them held offices of free appointment and removal, how many engaged in corruption by the action or omission of their superiors or how many of those actions could’ve been prevented with transparency in the handling of public funds.
  • The trial against Nicolás called by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice in exile started yesterday. The trial seeks to determine whether he committed acts of corruption related with the Odebrecht case. Luisa Ortega Díaz, responsible for presenting the accusation and the witnesses, spoke yesterday of more than $35 billion and over 2.3 billion euros that Venezuela paid Odebrecht for unfinished works and explained how Nicolás bypassed the legislation to directly adjudicate enormous works to Odebrecht, without any sort of public contest.

We, migrants

During the presentation of a decree benefitting people registered in the administrative migrant records (over 442,000 people,) President Juan Manuel Santos insisted on the need of opening a humanitarian corridor to assist the population, emphasizing his “condemnation for the Venezuelan regime’s actions that have caused this humanitarian crisis.” For Santos, the problems created by our diaspora are felt across Latin America, due to “a regime that doesn’t listen and seems to be in a state of utter denial because it doesn’t listen nor acts”; that’s why he added: “the entire world is increasingly consternated” with what’s happening in Venezuela because its citizens “are starving to death and dying of diseases for lack of medicines.” The two-year special stay permit decreed yesterday will allow migrants to study, work and get medical attention. Meanwhile, Chile expressed its concern for the $50 that the government’s charging to legalize (place a seal) the criminal records certificate. According to Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero, this measure negatively affects Chile’s immigration policy, and the budget of Venezuelans living there.

We go on.

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.