A Vast Corruption Network

Photo: El Nuevo Siglo retrieved

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions against 10 individuals and 13 companies tied to Nicolás’ regime and the web of corruption that characterizes the purchase and distribution of food for the Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAPs). The Treasury sanctioned the main CLAP supplies, the pair of Colombian businessmen Alex Saab and Álvaro Pulido Vargas, accusing them of leading “a vast corruption network” with a “global network of shell companies” to import food. They also sanctioned Saab’s sons and Pulido Vargas’ step-son, who’s not the only step-son in the list, because Walter, Yosser and Yoswal Gavidia Flores, sons of Cilia Flores (Nicolás’ wife) were also sanctioned, as well as Yosser’s partner, Mariana Staudinger. Former Táchira governor José Gregorio Vielma Mora also entered the OFAC list. “The corruption network that operates the CLAP program has allowed Maduro and his family members to steal from the Venezuelan people.  They use food as a form of social control, to reward political supporters and punish opponents, all the while pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars through a number of fraudulent schemes,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

A man can’t live on CLAP only

Alex Saab Morán and Álvaro Pulido Vargas were accused of eight crimes in the Southern District of Florida with a charge of conspiracy and money laundering. The accusation alleges the loss of over $350 million, and estimates that between 2011 and 2015, Saab and Pulido conspired to launder the product of a bribery scheme from bank accounts in Venezuela and accounts in the U.S. Before the CLAP boxes, this pair got a contract to build low-cost homes in Valles del Tuy, importing pre-made houses from Ecuador, taking advantage of the government-controlled foreign exchange rate. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Saab and Pulido declared fake import documents (of assets and materials they never brought to the country,) and bribed officials to get those documents approved. This case was investigated by the Ecuadorian Prosecutor’s Office for suspicions of money laundering, fake exports and overbilling, but Saab and Pulido cleared that obstacle. Saab told El Tiempo in Bogota that he rejected “this persecution,” claiming that the only goal of the U.S. is asphyxiating Nicolás. You’ll find much information about him and Pulido in Armando.info: four of its journalists had to leave Venezuela after being persecuted for investigating these schemes.

The non-country

  • ANC-imposed Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab presented a balance of the Prosecutor’s Office actions against drug trafficking: 8,604 accusations, 3,203 guilty verdicts and 22 arrest warrants. After several stories about his accomplishments, he didn’t mention the involvement of State security bodies in drug trafficking.
  • Nicolás’ variety show this Thursday included a visit to the National Pantheon for the 200th anniversary of the battle of Pantano de Vargas, a commemoration for the 43rd anniversary of the murder of Jorge and Delcy Rodríguez’s father, whom he called “one of the most brilliant leaders of our nation” and the disregard for the new Treasury sanctions.
  • “To the empire I say, not even a million sanctions will stop the CLAPs,” said Nicolás last night, claiming that the sanctions denote “despair” and warning the U.S.: “Prepare for new defeats because the CLAPs are in Venezuela to stay.” Except he didn’t say how or at what cost. In any case, official media focused last installation of the 25th Sao Paulo Forum in Caracas, a propaganda even.
  • Óscar Meza, head of Cendas, said that the price of the food basket for June was Bs. 2,635,578, a 2.8% increase compared with May: “65.6 minimum wages are needed to buy the food basket for June. $328.19 in June against a $5 minimum wage per month,” said Meza, adding that our minimum wage is four times lower than Cuba.
  • Without a sense of opportunity (and without explaining who financed the $200,000 of his lobbyist in Washington,) yesterday Henri Falcón proposed “Oil for food,” a mechanism to sell oil with the condition that the money is exclusively used for acquiring food,medicines and essential goods, demanding that it be managed by UN agencies with assistance for NGOs such as the Red Cross.

Let’s talk about human rights

  • The hearing of Twitter user Pedro Jaimes (@AeroMateo), arrested a year and 75 days ago for tweeting the presidential plane’s route (an information that’s available online,) was postponed for an eighth time this Thursday. That’s how they keep him imprisoned in the Helicoide after being tortured.
  • The Spanish-Venezuela María Auxiliadora Delgado Tabosky has been imprisoned in DGCIM headquarters for four months, although her release warrant was issued almost 50 days ago, according to her brother Osman Delgado: “She’s in a three-square meter cell without any kind of sunlight (…) sometimes she’s in handcuffs for four or five days,” Delgado denounced.
  • The National Bureau for the Defense of Socio-Economic Rights (SUNDDE) issued a preventive measure for 189 schools in the country and ordered them to freeze tuition prices until they study and approve the cost structure, in accordance with the Framework Law on Fair Prices.

A dead inmate per day

The Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons (OVP) said in the balance for the first half of the year, that 57% of Venezuelan jails are controlled by “pranes” and that the Prisons Ministry only controls 43% of them. Humberto Prado reported that 59 inmates have died thus far in 2019, 61% of them due to health problems, with afflictions such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, malaria, dehydration and respiratory failure, although in the eight years the Prisons Ministry has existed, most inmate deaths have involved the use of firearms. The OVP says that Iris Varela’s administration has been chaotic, because there’s still overcrowding, procedural delays, idleness, corruption, violence, health issues, and drug and weapons trafficking, according to Prado. In the last 20 years, 7,200 prisoners have died in the country’s jails: a dead prisoner per day under absolute State custody.

We, the migrants

  • The figures of Chile’s Immigration Department and International Police reveal that illegal entries to that nation quadrupled between 2015 and 2018, emphasizing the explosive appearance of Venezuelans in the data, which lead the records this year with 1,536 cases.
  • The Peruvian Institute of Statistics (INEI) revealed some keys of the census on the Venezuelan population in that country: 76.8% entered in 2018; out of every 100 Venezuelans, 53 are men and 48 are women; 94.7% said that they want to stay living in the country; only 11.5% have a work contract and 91.5% of resident Venezuelans don’t have health insurance.
  • Brazil said that the number of asylum requests filed by Venezuelans increased by 245% in the last year, according to the report “Refugio en Números,” issued by the Justice Ministry, representing 53% of the total of foreign asylum seekers, as well as the 7% of those who did it last year.
  • At least 250 Venezuelans judicially demanded the government of Trinidad and Tobago to reopen the registration process to obtain a formal stay permit.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Representatives approved the law to grant Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The resolution must go through the Senate for its final approval.
  • Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno announced that he signed a decree to demand visas from Venezuelans entering the country. On Monday, he’ll submit to the National Assembly the reform of the Law of Human Mobility to complement his decree.

After two years and a half in power, Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló announced his resignation, effective on August 2nd, due to the scandal unleashed by the publication of his conversation in a private chat where he insulted political rivals, journalists, artists and members of the LGBTI community. The Puerto Rican civil society have offered an impressive example of citizen power, all things considered.

 

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