Photo: El Estímulo retrieved

This piece is part of the investigation that got Armando.Info blocked. We’ve been following this story closely since four of their journalists had to leave the country. Here’s the article by Roberto Deniz now in English.

The companies supplying the Venezuelan government’s main social (and clientelist) program are in Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula’s coast emirates. Although moving from Mexico to Hong Kong seems epic in geographic terms, the business didn’t change hands: it’s still controlled by Colombian businessmen Alex Nain Saab Morán and Álvaro Pulido Vargas, who have been handling a sizable part of publicly funded food imports since 2016. It’s ‘round the world for a stew.

Just five months ago, on April 6, 2018, a letter from the Group Grand Limited reached the office of Aviation Major General Giuseppe Yoffreda Yorio, chairman of the Venezuelan Corporation of Foreign Commerce (Corpovex). The company asked the State entity responsible for public imports to cede “the financial rights corresponding to contract N° CPVX-CJ-CONT-0086-2017” in favor of Mulberry Proje Yatirim A.S., created in Istanbul, Turkey.

As Armando.Info has revealed in various reports, Group Grand Limited, registered in Hong Kong, is one of the judicial fronts behind which Colombian businessmen Alex Nain Saab Morán and Álvaro Pulido Vargas hide, and it has made the pair of partners virtually omnipresent in one business: supplying the main social program of Nicolás Maduro’s government, the Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAP). As we’ll see below, Mulberry Proje Yatirim A.S. is another piece of the same scheme.

Initially created by the government to work as production groups to guarantee food supply, the CLAP has been relegated in practice to the intermittent and clientelist distribution of boxes and bags with basic food products imported from various countries. That’s how they’ve become a source of business for a handful of businessmen; for low-income sectors, however, they’re one of the few alternatives to mitigate the chronic shortage of food hitting Venezuela.

Group Grand Limited has made the pair of partners virtually omnipresent in one business: supplying the main social program of Nicolás Maduro’s government.

Group Grand Limited’s letter to Corpovex was signed by Andreína Fuentes Mazzei, in her role as legal representative but, as it turns out, Fuentes Mazzei has also served for years as executive in Caracas’ Global Construction Fund, which is part of a conglomerate of the same name in Colombia, Spain, Ecuador and Malta. Alex Saab and Álvaro Pulido started their career in the Global Construction Fund, still thriving today, as contractors for chavismo after they reached an agreement in 2011 to raise a social housing project in Valles del Tuy, southwest of Caracas.

Fuentes Mazzei’s connection with Group Grand Limited isn’t the only indication that the debt assignment from that Turkish company, Mulberry Proje Yatirim, was an endogamic operation between sister companies. In other words: from Saab-Pulido to Saab-Pulido.

Mulberry Proje Yatirim is represented by Betsy Besirée Mata Pereda, who appears as manager of Salva Foods 2015, a Venezuelan company handling the CLAP Stores that President Maduro promotes since 2017. Salva Foods 2015 belongs to Carlos Rolando Lizcano Manrique, also a Colombian businessman, with business ties to Alex Saab and Álvaro Pulido established through Group Grand Limited itself. So everything stays in the family.

Me with myself

When the “cession of financial rights” in favor of Turkish company Mulberry Proje Yatirim was proposed, Group Grand Limited had two contracts with the government and was, perhaps, the main intermediary for CLAP imports. The letter to Corpovex, for instance, talked about the sale of 11.5 million CLAP boxes for the United Corporation of Productive and Food Services (Cuspal), attached to the Food Ministry.

Long before that, in late 2016, Group Grand Limited received what would be its first contract as food importer: the purchase of ten million combos for $340 million agreed with Táchira’s Governor’s Office, back then under Army Captain José Gregorio Vielma Mora, a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). A millionaire business was born, always benefitting the same people and it’s still growing. In the end, Group Grand Limited was also chosen by the Health Ministry to import medicines, this time from India.

A millionaire business was born, always benefitting the same people and it’s still growing.

In both agreements with the Venezuelan government for the supply of CLAP boxes, the representative for Group Grand Limited before the authorities was Andreína Fuentes Mazzei, the same who signed the letter to Corpovex. Alex Saab’s son, Shadi Nain Saab Certain, appeared as the company’s director until February 24, 2017. Also, in the registration documents, the company’s contact address is the same as that of the Global Construction Fund in Caracas. Shadi Saab was replaced by Javier Ernesto Betancourt Valle, a Colombian lawyer, former consul of his country in New York, whose name will come up later in this stew with a company from the United Arab Emirates. Álvaro Pulido Vargas’s son was briefly the representative for Group Grand Limited’s Mexican branch, opened and shut down in 2017.

The Istanbul Connection

Although the company was registered on May 7, 2015, Betsy Mata joined the board of the Turkish Mulberry Proje Yatirim A.S. just a few months ago. The contact phone number on the registration documents in Istanbul is from Caracas. The documents also reveal this company’s connection with a British company called Mulberry Capital Partners Limited. It doesn’t seem casual that the apparent epicenter of the CLAP business was moved to Turkey. In fact, it can seem natural, and not because the Saab last name leads back to ancestors in the Middle East: for the past few months, financial intelligence units in at least four American countries are investigating the flow of money behind the CLAP business after Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz, recently removed by Maduro and in exile, denounced in August last year that Group Grand Limited was managed by Alex Saab and Álvaro Pulido on behalf of the Venezuelan president himself. “We have investigations on the food bags distributed in Venezuela, the CLAP, a Mexican company, registered in Mexico on behalf of two people. The company’s name is Group Grand Limited, allegedly owned by the President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro,” said Ortega Díaz.

The message caused a wave and authorities of various countries started moving.

But we also have to account for Nicolás Maduro’s political pragmatism, who in a matter of months has tightened his ties with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seeking an ally to avoid financial sanctions imposed by the Trump administration last year.

The CLAP boxes themselves reflect the close ties and for months, some of the eleven products in the boxes have Turkish labels.

“We’ve brought a full document detailing all opportunities for investment. It’s the first scenario where Venezuela issues a detailed investment proposal,” said Maduro in July from Istanbul before Turkish businessmen. In October 2017, both presidents installed in Ankara the “second mixed inter-government committee” and since then, Venezuelan officials have been travelling to Turkey. In November last year, it was Finance Minister Simón Zerpa’s turn, and in January this year, Delcy Rodríguez, National Constituent Assembly Speaker and now executive vice-president, along with former Foreign Commerce Minister José Gregorio Vielma Mora, visited the Eurasian nation. Results didn’t take long. On August 31, two presidential decrees officialized the ties between State-owned companies Minerven and Carbozulia and Turkish companies for the creation of two “mixed companies.” Previously, in July, the Venezuelan government confirmed to the news agency Reuters that they’re refining in Turkey the gold extracted from the Orinoco Mining Arc, in the south of the country. That very month, Food Minister Luis Medina Ramírez announced on Twitter that he’d met in Caracas with executives of Yayla, which he called the “Turkish agrofood giant,” with whom he agreed on the “cooperation in the supply of food and support for agricultural production.” The CLAP boxes themselves reflect the close ties and for months, some of the eleven products in the boxes have Turkish labels that end up in Venezuelan homes after the government sells those combos at subsidized prices.

Betsy Mata didn’t reply to a request for comments for this report. However, databases specialized in international trade, such as Panjiva, give clues about the role played by Mulberry Proje Yatirim in the CLAP business. According to those records, the Turkish company is the intermediary for the Venezuelan government in food imports, just like Group Grand Limited was since 2016. The information confirms that Mulberry Proje Yatirim buys merchandise from Rice & Beans or El Sardinero, both well-known Mexican providers which Group Grand Limited also regularly resorted to, in order to purchase shipments that keep sailing from the Veracruz port, like before.

Mexican authorities detected that between 2016 and 2017, only the company El Sardinero issued “tax invoices” on behalf of Group Grand Limited for almost $240 million. “Between April 2016 and August 2017, Group Grand Limited sent international transfers from Hong Kong to five different companies in Mexico,” says the document. The report mentions Asasi Food FZC, a company created in the United Arab Emirates, another CLAP intermediary that has been rising almost a the same time that Group Grand Limited was vanishing from the business and its Mexican branch (the one that originated Prosecutor Ortega Díaz’s complaint in 2017) started the liquidation process.

“Arabia Felix” for some

Asasi Food FZC is also involved in the scheme run by Alex Saab and Álvaro Pulido. Sources say that, just like Group Grand Limited ceded financial rights to Mulberry Proje Yatirim, it also did it in favor of Asasi Food FZC. Although we couldn’t confirm that version, we did find a primary link between the duo of Colombian businessmen and the company in the United Arab Emirates.

The plan to feed the poor in Venezuela, officialized by Maduro in March 2016, ends up benefiting a company nominally registered in one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

The link lies in the financial file for Salva Foods 2015, the Venezuelan company responsible for the CLAP Stores. Those documents detail a failed attempt to sell Salva Foods 2015 to Asasi Food FZC. “Annulment of sale to Asasi Food FZC,” says a handwritten sheet in the book of shareholders and almost lost among the rest of the documents. In that transaction, Asasi Food FZC was represented by Jorge Wuerms, a Panamanian citizen, and Javier Betancourt, the Colombian lawyer who replaced Alex Saab’s son as head of Group Grand Limited. “Asasi Food FZC is a company that seeks to satisfy the basic needs of humanity through agroindustrial development,” the company explains on its website.

Although the sale failed, Asasi Food FZC’s involvement in the CLAP business was recorded in Panjiva, in addition to the financial transactions detected by Mexican authorities. Asasi Food FZC bought food from Mexican industries that it later sold to the Venezuelan government. Some of those providers were El Sardinero, Molinos de Azteca de Chalco and Grupo Brandon; this year, the latter became the main supplier of the powdered milk that arrives to Venezuela in CLAP boxes, even though it’s completely unknown in the Mexican milk industry, and despite the poor nutritional quality shown by some of their products after they were analyzed by the Central University of Venezuela’s Institute of Food Science and Technology by request of Armando.Info.

Sources familiar with the business say that Asasi Food FZC’s financial transactions were made through the bank Noor Capital PSC, also from the United Arab Emirates.

Salva Foods 2015’s file shows another failed sale attempt. The owner, Carlos Lizcano, also tried to sell the company responsible for the CLAP Stores to L&L Inversiones SAS, a Colombian company also owned by Lizcano and which, according to importgenius.com, was a supplier for Abastos Bicentenario in 2015, the same supermarket network that would later be replaced by the CLAP Stores. Additionally, by the end of last year, L&L Inversiones SAS sent merchandise to Salva Foods 2015 itself.

Last May, Carlos Lizcano, who has ignored all requests for comment, ended up transferring Salva Foods 2015’s shareholding majority to another company also represented by him, but registered in Abu Dhabi, one of the seven arab emirates on the Persian Gulf coast, thousands of kilometers from Venezuela. Right before the sale of shares, Salva Foods 2015’s capital rose from two billion bolívares fuertes (currently two million bolívares soberanos, or about $30,000 at the official rate) to 50 billion bolívares fuertes (50 million bolívares soberanos, almost $850,000 at the official rate) which were ultimately shared between Mezedes Holding Ltd, with 65.97%, and Carlos Lizcano, with 34.02%.

Abu Dhabi’s business records confirm that Mezedes Holding Ltd was created on April 2018, just four months after that letter in which Group Grand Limited ceded its financial rights to the company in Turkey. This is evidence, at least, that the plan to feed the poor in Venezuela, officialized by Maduro in March 2016, ends up benefiting a company nominally registered in one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

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57 COMMENTS

    • Is ANYONE surprised to read this? Don’t think so. I am assuming that the low quality powdered milk product referenced in the article is the infamous MALK that I have read about.

      • UCV did a study on several “milk” brands distributed in the crap bag. Not only they didn’t meet the nutritional value of milk but the protein they had was equivalent of that of fororo (which is made of corn), THAT’S NO MILK.

  1. There are a couple of things in the article which are confusing. Third paragraph states that Group Grand Limited is registered in Hong Kong, and this is apparently confirmed when we read later:- “Between April 2016 and August 2017, Group Grand Limited sent international transfers from Hong Kong to five different companies in Mexico.”
    So the company is registered in Hong Kong, and was already registered in Hong Kong, when the storm broke in August 2017.
    However, when we read Ortega’s account above, she states “We have investigations on the food bags distributed in Venezuela, the CLAP, a Mexican company, registered in Mexico on behalf of two people. The company’s name is Group Grand Limited…”

    To add further to this confusion, we also read that “Álvaro Pulido Vargas’s son was briefly the representative for Group Grand Limited’s Mexican branch, opened and shut down in 2017.”

    If Group Grand Limited had a BRANCH in Mexico, then it was not a “Mexican company, registered in Mexico”.

    The distincion is important. By definition, a branch is owned by its parent company, in this case Group Grand Limited registered in Hong Kong. The only ownership information visible in Mexico would refer to this parent company.

    If on the other hand there was a Mexican company registered in Mexico, then the ownership documentation would refer to the shareholders of that Mexican company. If there was only one owner, being a Hong Kong company, then the owner would have to declare the Mexican entity to be either a subsidiary or a branch. These entities have different legal obligations and liability exposure, but in either instance, the entity would NOT BE a Mexican Company, registered in Mexico. Back in August 2017, Ortega was widely reported as having said that “Group Grand Limited was registered in Mexico under the names Rodolfo Reyes, Alvaro Pulido Vargas and Alex Saab, but that Maduro was the real owner.”

    It may just be that Ortega was spouting nonsense, but while I might expect many laypersons to fail to understand the difference between, on the one hand, a branch or subsidiary of a Hong Kong company and, on the other hand, a Mexican-registered company, this is not an error that I would expect from anyone with legal training.

    So the question really comes down to: What evidence is there that Maduro had any connection at all to Group Grand Limited? He evidently was not a named shareholder in a Mexican-registered private limited company, if you believe Ortega’s statements from last year, so where is the proof of a connection? Is there evidence of payments made from Group Grand Limited into a bank account over which Maduro has control?

    I cannot see any smoking gun here at all, as far as Maduro is concerned. There is just an as yet unproven allegation made by Ortega. I can’t even see clear evidence of illegal activity by Group Grand Limited, although the whole thing smells decidedly fishy. What am I missing?

    • What’s next? “I can’t see any actual proof that the economic measures of the duly and democratically elected Chavist regime are causing any substantial problems for El Pueblo in acquiring nutriment and medical care in Venezuela”?

      You really just can’t stop being the apologist for Chavismo, can you? Do you write for Aporrea too?

  2. “What am I missing”–in the dizzying legal entanglements mentioned/more existing, you’re missing the final testaferros of the big fish real owners/major beneficiary accounts hidden in countless financial secrecy tax havens reaping billions of $ stolen from Venezuelan public coffers/Pueblo over time. These real final beneficiaries can be discovered by Kroll/et. al. specialized firms, although AI has done an exceptional investigative job scratching the surface with limited resources.

    • You are probably right. My point is that there is no evidence here that they are testaferros. There isn’t even clear evidence here that they have been gouging out large margins on their conveniently secured business oportunity, although I am sure from other sources that they have. There is no evidence on how they secured this business opportunity, although I don’t doubt that it was secured through a corrupt arrangement with someone in power. And there is no evidence at all presented here that Maduro has a finger in this particular pie, unless you take at face value the statements made by Ortega – that model of honesty, justice and truth who defended Venezuela over the Afiuni case and banged up Leopoldo Lopez. Ortega alleges that Maduro is the real owner of Group Grand Limited. That’s it. That’s the only evidence published to date.

      • no proof of price gouging? have you seen what they pass as milk? http://efectococuyo.com/principales/leche-de-los-clap-no-es-nutritiva-segun-investigacion-de-armando-info/ it doesn’t matter what price they are charging for it, because anything over 0 cents is a ripoff.

        And if Saab has nothing to do with the government, why are they so desperate to shut down investigations on it? http://espaciopublico.ong/prohiben-a-armando-info-publicar-sobre-alex-nain-saab/

        Lastly, food importing guisos aren’t new, the one that made the most noise was the pudreval case.

        • Please read what I actually wrote. I KNOW that there is price gouging. Articles on the quality of CLAP products have appeared IN VENEZUELA since at least February 2017. In August 2017, because of the Postar Intertrade investigation, it was widely reported that the CLAP providers were taking a margin of 112% of the cost of the goods. In February 2018, within days of the Armando Info report on milk quality, their story went viral. This is all old news; it can’t be stuffed back into the horse. My comments were about the evidence presented in THIS ARTICLE. If the aim of the regime was to limit the distribution of THIS information IN THIS ARTICLE, it has suffered the “Streisand effect” on steroids, because the entire article has been reproduced in Aporrea! See my reference late in the thread.

  3. Further to my comment above, I note that the author of the article seems to make much of the change in capital of Salva Foods 2015, just prior to a change of ownership. A 25-fold increase in capital is certainly unusual, but in this instance might not actually signify very much. If Salva Foods had been depreciating its Venezuelan asset base denominated in Bolivares, without re-appraisal to account for hyper-inflation, then by May of last year, its balance sheet would reflect a grossly undervalued asset base. Any re-appraisal or actual disposal of some of those assets would almost certainly crystalize a large capital gain in Bolivares relative to book value. Such re-appraisal is routine before any legal change of ownership, even in honest businesses. In this instance, ironically, if the company really is involved in a cosy scheme which secures a margin on a massive guaranteed revenue stream, then the book value of the company is only a tiny fraction of its true value, most of which is intangible.

    Again, the article is very thin in terms of any hard evidence of illegal actions. If moving registered offices around to benefit from lower taxes (and probably to hide hard currency payments in this instance) were illegal then the directors of Starbucks would have been banged up years ago.

    • Question is: is this a full translation of EVERYTHING they have. It just looks like an outline without much analysis. Need to see the dots connected a bit better. Maybe this is a dataset they feel confident publishing at the moment, and they have suspicions of where this might lead, but they are not ready to publish everything they have yet or this very much is a work in progress. Hopefully there are more bombshells to come.

  4. “I cannot see any smoking gun here at all, as far as Maduro is concerned. There is just an as yet unproven allegation made by Ortega. I can’t even see clear evidence of illegal activity by Group Grand Limited, although the whole thing smells decidedly fishy. What am I missing?”

    I agree in general with your assessment about the usefulness of tying Maduro directly to this scheme though I believe the investigative work of Armando.Info is still very valuable from the standpoint of connecting all the dots. With US sanctions in place in an attempt to strangle this regime from every angle possible, such information might be useful to US authorities tracking the movement of funds between Venezuela and the rest of the world. While some of the companies mentioned may exist only to serve a single client or specific contract and can therefore be shut down without much blowback, others most surely are doing business on a global scale with many clients. That usually implies a reliance on US banking services at some point in the transaction chain. If they’re defying the US sanctions by participating in prohibited activities with the Venezulean government, they may soon have to make a choice between continuing to facilitate the regime’s needs, and their own.

    I’ve stated before, and am still hopeful, that this sort of investigative journalism will be expanded to include the close family members of high-ranking regime officials who are most definitely moving funds overseas via scams that include their relatives.

    • We can live in hope, but I am quite certain that US sanctions are most definitely not intended to inhibit the import of food and medicines. Their main intent is to prevent an increase in Venezuelan indebtedness. I also know from an old fraud case that Abu Dhabi is one of those countries where it is extremely difficult to abstract banking information, no doubt the reason it was one of the countries chosen in this instance. Turkey has been the subject of several reports which have described it as the money-laundering centre of Europe – an accusation strongly denied by its government.
      None of my comments were intended to be critical of AI. They did a great job – and are now paying the price for that.

      • “I also know from an old fraud case that Abu Dhabi is one of those countries where it is extremely difficult to abstract banking information, no doubt the reason it was one of the countries chosen in this instance.”

        You’re making my case with that comment and others.

        I don’t doubt that importing food and medicines is not on the list of sanctioned activities, but laundering ill-gotten gains, I would assume, most surely is. Such convoluted structural schemes in business are often designed not to just avoid taxes, but to evade taxes and hide gains that otherwise might be seized by vigilant authorities.

  5. Also missing, the logic of: importing CLAP ingredients (ketchup/inferior tortilla corn flower/disgusting imitation salty-tasting “milk”/etc.), from faraway high-transport-cost Mexico, instead of producing them locally in Venezuela, or importing them from nearby Colombia. All similar to: during the paro petrolero importing unleaded gasoline through a Hong Kong office-front headed by a nephew of then-PDVSA pres. RA, at 2x the intl’ price, for $ hundreds mill. overcharge/scam; or importing flour/grains through an Italian office-front to be shipped to Cuba, and there trans-loaded to Cuban cargo ships, to eventually be shipped to Venezuela; or….

    • Stuff does not come in from Colombia since 400 tonnes of CLAP boxes were confiscated in Cartagena by the Colombian authorities who declared them unfit for human consumption. Stuff cannot be produced in Venezuela under the present regime for all the reasons you already know about. If it could, then CLAP boxes wouldn’t be necessary. As I wrote earlier, I know from other sources that these guys are gouging out large margins – and providing inferior quality stuff to maximise those margins. You can argue that the regime would only tolerate the continuation of such appallingly bad business if some of their members are getting a large piece of it. OK, it is probably true. But having seen the monumental stupidity of these guys close-up, I have little confidence that I can distinguish between incompetence and corruption without the benefit of any evidence.

      • True to a point. Polar produces Harina Pan both in Venezuela/Colombia; pasta/rice/ketchup are produced in Venezuela; but, the point is, that local production means local guisos are discoverable, and, perhaps as important, as Corrales just said in the NYT (finally, the truth), the Regime wants to destroy the Ven. middle class/social/productive fabric, to remain unchallenged, as was done by the Bolsheviks/Cuba.

    • Also missing, the logic of: importing CLAP ingredients (ketchup/inferior tortilla corn flower/disgusting imitation salty-tasting “milk”/etc.), from faraway high-transport-cost Mexico, instead of producing them locally in Venezuela….
      Quick answer: Chavista policies have led to a fall in Venezuelan agricultural production. Maize/corn and rice are most notable for their fall.

      Maize Production, Metric Tons.
      2014 2,306,741
      2015 1,439,875
      2016 1,465,379

      Rice Production, Metric Tons
      2014 1,158,056
      2015 802,015
      2016 276,633

      FAO Stat: Crops.

      • Not the real answer, but contributory; and, FAO lying statistics are probably way overstated by the lying Regime, which is the FAO source, and even worse statistics for 2017 aren’t even available. Rice bachaqueado is even available in Caracas from nearer-by Guyana/Brasil, but these countries are too close for comfort.

        • FAO lying statistics are probably way overstated by the lying Regime, which is the FAO source

          Yes, the Regime gives FAO its statistics. Gustavo Coronel has documented the FAO’s giving the regime undeserved awards for the regime’s food policy.

          Like the FAO, the World Bank gets Venezuelan stats from the Regime. The Regime, being aware that the whole world is aware of Chavezuela’s economic collapse, realizes that false economic stats would be counter productive, so hasn’t given the World Bank any economics stats for several years.

          OTOH, the Regime has given the World Bank false stats for Infant Deaths/Infant Mortality for 2016. Last year the Health Minister was fired for releasing data that showed there had been a 30% increase in Infant Deaths from 2015 to 2016. World Bank data for 2016 shows a small decrease in Infant Deaths/Infant Mortality. Not very believable.

        • Twice I have tried to post a comparison between Carlos Machado Allison’s stats and FAO stats. Both times, CC has spammed my comment. I will try this time with only Carlos Machado Allison’s take.

          What surprised me is that Carlos Machado Allison and and the FAO are in close agreement on the percentage decline in per capita in plant-based (CMA) or crop (FAO) production from 1998 to 2016.
          Carlos Machado Allison is getting on in years, but is still considered the go-to guy when it comes to Venezuelan agriculture.Carlos Machado Allison: “Es brutal el atraso tecnológico en el sistema agroalimentario”

          Según mis cálculos, que se ajustan bastante a los de Fedeagro y al resto de los gremios, en 1998 la producción agrícola vegetal era de 780 kilogramos por persona al año, y en 2016 fue de 500 kilogramos.
          My translation: According to my calculations, which are adjusted to take into account those of Fedeagro and the rest of the producer associations, in 1998 the plant-based agricultural production was 780 kilograms per person per year, and in 2016 it was 500 kilograms

          That is a decline of 35.9% in per capita plant-based (vegetal) production from 1998 to 2016, according to Carlos Machado Allison.

        • What do FAO stats tell us? If you sum up Venezuela’s Crop production in 1998 and 2016, you get per capita production of 695 kilos in 1998 versus 345 kilos in 2016- a much per capita bigger decline than Carlos Machado Allison. One problem with those figures is that raw sugar cane accounts for about 50% of tonnage Crop production in 1998 and about 30% of Crop production in 2016- and there is a big difference between tons of sugar cane versus tons of sugar.

          For “sugar cane” production in Crops, I substituted in “Sugar Raw Centrifugal” from Crops processed. There is “Sugar Raw Centrifugal” only up through 2014. As there is an average ratio of 0.071 between “Sugar Raw Centrifugal” and “sugar cane,” I used that ratio to estimate “Sugar Raw Centrifugal” for 2016. Doing that substitution, you get 375 kilos per capita Crops processed in 1998 versus 247 kilos per capita in 2016.

          Compare:
          Carlos Machado Allison: plant-based production per capita, kilos
          1998 750
          2016 500

          FAO adjusted Crop production per capita (substitute raw sugar for sugar cane), kilos
          1998 375
          2016 247

          While the FAO figure for kilos per capita of Crops production is different from Carlos Machado Allison’s kilos per capita of Plant-based production , the percentage reduction in per capita FAO Crop production from 1998 to 2016 is rather similar: 35.9% for Carlos Machado Allison and a decline of 34.1% for my adjusted FAO figure.

          That informs me that the FAO production stats for Venezuela are fairly accurate- at least the ones that have been posted so far. Note that the disagreement that Gustavo Coronel had with the FAO wasn’t about accuracy of production stats, but about the FAO giving the Regime undeserved kudos for its food policy.

          The FAO doesn’t have 2017 production figures for Venezuela- nor does it have 2017 production figures for Colombia.

          FAO Stats: Crops
          I am leaving out the link for FAO “Crops processed.” to get by the spam filter, but you should be able to readily locate it. If on the Crops page, click on Data.

    • Did you know there was never really 57 Heinz varieties, which was the basis for the name “Heinz 57?”

      Heinz was on an elevated train in NYC or London, and if I remember the story correctly, he saw a billboard for a shoe store that had 57 styles. He liked the number and just took it.

  6. Klepto-Narco Cubazuela.

    Ignorant. Uneducated. THIEVES in charge.

    Corrupt, clueless, Pueblo-People,
    In charge.

    Enjoy. Haitizuela, for decades to come.

  7. Zombies. Retards. Complicit. Corrupt. El Bravo Pueblo.

    We should all feel guilty for how STUPID AND RETARDED that CORRUPT, Kleptozuelan Zombie “Pueblo: is.

    Yes, they are. BRUTOS.

  8. For colombian interests to buy and resell food packages made up of goods bought in Mexico and turkey for delivery in venezuela there is no reason to set up an intricate corporate structure with companies in hong kong, mexico, Turkey, UAE ……, to do so , the whole complexity of the set up seems ridicolously rendundant when much simpler structure would do unless you are trying to hide something unsavory ………if the newsmen who point out these corporate relationships are then made the subject of official regime persecution thats a smoking gun of something that the regime doesnt want investigated ……..!! Hong kong companies can have branches or affiliates in Mexico or begin with one and then transform the branch into an affiliate without too much hassle… or people may get confused as to the exact legal nature of the relationship between the hong kong master company and the entity that represents its interests in Mexico without changing the substantive nature of the commercial and financial bonds binding the two. The whole thing stinks and there seems to be a lot of interest on the part of the colombian interests and their partner to hide the trail of their business transactions with the regime , for reasons that are obvious and need little explanation…..

    • With respect, Bill, this is not a particularly complicated structure. Corporate structures are determined by at least five drivers even in honest businesses. Tax exposure, control, meeting host country restrictions on legal requirements to trade, limiting liabilities, and, especially in the case of companies which are not publicly quoted, legal restrictions on shareholders imposed by any of the countries involved. This often leads to corporate structure diagrams which look like plans for central heating systems. (And on a minor point of information you can change a Branch into a wholly owned Subsidiary to limit liability, but you cannot change it into an Affiliate without a change of ownership. )

      In this instance, the only thing that can be proved in a court of law from the structural information is that it is incestuous. Everything else is difficult to prove.

      We can SPECULATE on the following:-
      (i) that its design is intended to mask the proportion of total CLAP business that benefits the same shareholders by dividing the business of the same holding company between two subs. Comparing contract sizes with total CLAP business, I am guessing that they have at least a third of the total business. The Corpovex accounts would be very interesting reading.
      (ii) The sudden close-down of the Mexican entity, (Branch, Subsidiary or whatever the hell it was) was spurred by the international investigation announced by Colombian authorities in August of 2017, which specifically included liaison with the Mexican authorities over CLAP corruption and money laundering.
      (iii) Abu Dhabi was probably chosen as a cut-out in the holding scheme because of its banking laws. Turkey might have been chosen because of the alleged laxity of its application of money-laundering controls OR because Maduro specifically pressured the official owners to use Turkey for his political agenda, given Maduro’s continuing attempts to secure Erdogan as an ally.

      That’s all I get from the info available.
      As for the newsmen being made the subject of regime prosecution, it really does look like there is a major CHAOTIC component in all this. As I pointed out above, CONATEL went after Armando Info long after most of the juicy information on CLAP profit gouging and low quality product substitution was already in circulation in Venezuela and abroad. The same thing applies to Ortega’s allegations that Group Grand Limited was really owned by Maduro. (She made this allegation in August 2017, but failed to produce any evidence of it in the Maduro “impeachment hearing” later. Despite her claims, she concentrated on the Oldebrecht connection.) So the only thing added by the structural information in the present article is the relative scale of highly profitable CLAP business controlled by Saab and Pulido, which many might think to be an obscenely large percentage of the total. This information has now been repeated in full in an article in Aporrea as I mentioned above. So I am at a loss to understand who is pulling what strings to make stuff happen, and who is doing what to whom.

      I am however starting to suspect that:-
      (a) there is a large and growing faction of Chavistas writing for Aporrea which HATES Maduro. (As well as the astonishing appearance of the AI investigation results in Aporrea, including a repeat of Ortega’s allegatinos against Maduro, a previous but still recent article, by a conspiracy nutjob called Heck, suggests that this “egocentric, greedy and manipulatable character”, i.e. Maduro, was chosen by anti-Chavistas deliberately to destroy the legacy of Chavez. The Aporrea section ” Anticorrupción y Contraloría Social ” is now filled with articles about government corruption. )

      and (b) that it might actually have been Saab himself who used his court order from early 2018 to bring pressure on CONATEL to suppress the AI investigations, rather than it being a “government decision”.

      In either event, I think it is a good sign that Aporrea has just responded to the Venezuelan courts and to CONATEL with a clear statement of kiss-my-ass. It is a declaration of war from a large block of ideological Chavistas. I think that Aporrea has now developed an editorial policy of going after Maduro. I doubt if they are looking for a restoration of democracy; they want a palace coup, I suspect, to pursue Fidelista aims with more effectiveness and less corruption. I have bought popcorn and await developments on this one with interest.

      • Did you ever hear the expression “Brevity is a virtue?”

        I’m not going to dispute any knowledge and insight you have on the issues, but your posts are just too long and not effectively imparting that knowledge and insight to the rest of us.

        They read like a history test.

        Mind you, I BELIEVE in your knowledge, objectivity and sincerity, but I just don’t have the time.

        I recommend a lot more posts from you, but shorter ones!

        You have a lot to teach us, but those long posts just aren’t doing it.

        • OK Ira. Brevity may be a virtue but it takes longer to write a short explanatory post than a long one.
          Summary for you…
          * Group Grand Limited is an incestuous orgy, but this info here only proves they have a bigger share of the clap than the rest of the poxed swingers in the party.
          * CONATEL action and the court ban against Armando Info journalists leaving the country was a masterclass in futile clusterfuck. It has backfired big time. Streisand Effect on steroids.
          * Aporrea has reproduced the AI story in full, showing the finger to the Venezuelan courts who banned AI from publication of further aggravated defamation of that reclusive benefactor, Mr Saab, who never inhaled.
          *Aporrea is now trying to fuck Maduro – a traitor to the chavista cause chosen by the oligarchia imperialista just to make chavismo look bad.
          * Buy popcorn. Wait for Series 2 on Netflix, when the palace coup is revealed.

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