Photo: Radio Televisión Martí retrieved
On Wednesday, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) included among its most wanted fugitives Nicolás’s economic vice-president, Tareck El Aissami, accusing him of international drug trafficking. ICE posted on Twitter a link to El Aissami’s police record, in which it recommends refraining from trying to capture him spontaneously and to inform authorities instead. El Aissami was accused at the beginning of the year in a federal court in New York for violating the sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department when he hired U.S. companies to travel in private jets for international flights. Before that criminal accusation, he had already been sanctioned under the Kingpin Act, for allegedly playing a leading role in international drug trafficking. Businessman Samark López is included among ICE’s ten most wanted fugitives. He’s accused of being El Aissami’s frontman. López issued a clarification this afternoon that doesn’t clarify anything.
One crisis for another
Tareck El Aissami’s “Wanted” tab represents a very serious reputation crisis for Nicolás’s government. It’s not the first time that chavismo, faced with such a complex scenario, diverts public attention to an issue that victimizes them or where they can make more noise by acting collectively. Taking advantage of the road paved by party Avanzada Progresista, Nicolás’s vice-president Delcy Rodríguez decided to accuse Juan Guaidó of being allegedly involved in a “crime gang organized with Canadian company Crystallex.” According to her, the goal is to strip Venezuela of Citgo’s assets, in association with the United States government. He said that the attorney appointed by Guaidó, José Ignacio Hernández, carried out an alleged, “material and procedural fraud to remove sovereign immunity rights and to take this case to a U.S. court.”
The needed clarification
In 2008, Hugo Chávez began a wave of expropriations that, a decade later, meant dozens of lawsuits before organizations such as the World Bank and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which have issued sentences in favor of the plaintiffs. One of the cases is that of Canadian mining company Crystallex, which by 2008 had been operating for six years at Las Cristinas mine. In March 2017, the World Bank court ordered Venezuela to give about $1.2 billion (plus interest) to Crystallex in compensation for the confiscation of the mine. Before the non-cancellation of the debt, the Canadian miner went to court in Delaware to associate the pending compensation with the Citgo refinery, as an asset of the debtor country in the United States. The court supported the lawsuit. This was exclusively the responsibility of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás.
Tarek by Tareck
The prosecutor imposed by the ANC, Tarek William Saab, followed Delcy Rodríguez’s lead and announced the start of a criminal investigation, “on the occasion of the stateless participation of an official imposter in a U.S. trial against PDVSA,” stating that ” José Ignacio Hernández acted fraudulently before a court to favor the Citgo embargo.” Saab says that Hernández was hired in the past by Crystallex, “in order to use his legal arguments against the allegations presented by PDVSA, which constitutes an act of treason.” Another explanation is worthwhile: in the case of Crystallex, José Ignacio Hernández acted as an independent expert witness; not as a lawyer for one of the parties, but as a university professor. In addition, last March he refrained from participating in that case precisely to avoid the conflict of interests that Avanzada Progresista accused him of. Nicolás’s government only copied Avanzada Progresista.
Order in the matter
Alejandro Grisanti explained that Crystallex would need to apply for a license to the U.S. sanctions on PDVSA before being able to take control of Citgo’s shares because, by the time the ad hoc board began to intervene in the case (February 2019) there was no possibility of introducing new allegations in favor of the republic. Grisanti added that they asked the Trump administration to issue an executive order to protect Citgo from seizure: “The worst thing that can happen at the end (of Nicolás’s government) is to not protect Venezuela’s assets,” he said. Later, there was a statement on the Office of the President’s account on Twitter, explaining that the Delaware court will allow Guaidó’s team to “reopen the judicial debate on the case from its inception.”
Cocoa and Netflix
Nicolás’s variety program covered today his government’s imaginary achievements with cocoa, including an invitation to businessmen to work with him, “so that the industry strengthens.” He had time to denounce the existence of corruption mafias that prevent businessmen from exporting freely (surprise!) and with them the announcement of a “new export table that solves all the problems.” There were compliments for governor Héctor Rodríguez (chavismo’s potential candidate) and an apology for the erroneous prejudices about the show about Bolívar on Netflix. Yes, he talked about Netflix when a subscription doubles the Venezuelan minimum wage in dollars. Before he repeated the allegations by Delcy and Tarek (not mentioning the other Tareck), he asked Jorge Rodríguez to create a super production about our independence war, an urgent priority.
– First Vice-President of the National Assembly Stalin González announced that they have started the fifth round of dialogue, saying that the opposition insists on the search for a constitutional exit.
– The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) projected the decline of the Venezuelan economy during 2019 at -23%. They only ones that accompany us in the condition of contraction: Nicaragua at 5%, and Argentina at 1.8%.
– A shipment of 34 tons of medicine and medical supplies from the Italian Red Cross arrived in the country to help 650,000 people for a year.
– There were explosions yesterday afternoon at Cavim headquarters. Authorities said it was a “controlled explosion of ammunition and defective explosives.”
– The instrument of ratification of the TIAR has already been sent to the OAS and the Secretary General, Luis Almagro, acknowledged its formal reception. Now the notification of re-entry is due to the other countries that endorse the treaty.
Taking care of your business
Meduza, an online Russian newspaper, investigated the presence and reasons of permanence of Russians in Venezuela. Apparently, there are many more who monitor Russian commercial interests “because the country is in ruins (…) No normal person would invest their money there. Only Rosneft and Rostec in all their splendor can do it, because Rosoboronexport supplied weapons,” says an interviewee referring to the Russian state export agency. There’s also data on mercenaries who recruited informants, former soldiers who worked as security guards and trainers of militiamen and groups, who expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of trust and discipline of those talents of Nicolás. The phrase is very hard: “Russian businessmen interested in the infrastructure of Venezuela and its minerals have not paid attention to either the country’s humanitarian crisis or its protests,” emphasizing that in the Orinoco Mining Arc, chavismo not only allows illegal gold mining but also encourages it: an ounce of gold here is cheaper than anywhere else in the world. According to the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, that nation has invested more than $4 billion in the Venezuelan economy since 2002.
The testimony that Tareck El Aissami released tonight is excellent! Some genius in his communication team had to suggest the idea to compare him with the Caroní River (you know: strength, perseverance, etc.); and another genius recorded the testimony with the Caroní in the background, prioritizing the sound of the river’s flow over the weak and sharp voice of El Aissami. The only words in his favor are said without looking at the camera and making mistakes. He speaks of loyalty to all, but not to himself, and that is also a message. The true, “infamous aggression against him” was committed by his communication team.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.