25.12.12

Merry & Happy Christmas from Alek Boyd's Blog


London 14.12.12 - Most of the investigations I have published this year relate to individuals and companies with unsavory connections to brutal regimes, whose actions would have gone otherwise unnoticed. Exposing criminals like Chavez and members of his cabal is difficult and expensive. In this spirit, donations to the website would be very much appreciated. A gift of $50 or $5,000 would make a significant difference, both technically and substantively, in pursuing more transparency in Venezuela, Paraguay, and even the UK. Any gift is welcome. Please be assured of the absolute discretion of your contribution.  In the same vein, please avoid special requests in exchange for donations: my integrity is not for sale.

 

20.12.12

Derwick Associates y su "comunicado" en El Nacional

Londres 20.12.2012 - Hace algunos años los idiotas de North American Opinion Research estimaron propicio publicar una "participación  publica" en Últimas Noticias. En aquella ocasion, fui acusado, entre otra cosas, de vilipendiar a Hugo Chavez, Diosdado Cabello y Nicolás Maduro, y de difamar a banqueros y cooperativistas, de esos que le echan burda de bola y se hacen multi-billonarios en pocos años.

Demás está decir que las solicitudes hechas por esos individuos en aquella oportunidad, de investigar los dizque "hechos ilícitos" que me atribuían, no llegaron a ningún lado, debido a que toda la información que publiqué al respecto estaba soportada por evidencia irrefutable, que indicaba que North American Opinion Research era poco más que una empresa de maletín.

Traigo todo esto a colación, pues hace un par de dias, otro grupo de imbéciles, al frente de otra empresa de maletin (Derwick Associates), publicó, esta vez en El Nacional, un "comunicado a la opinión publica", en el cual hacen una serie de señalamientos, igual de infundados y risibles a los que hicieran con anterioridad los bichitos de North American Opinion Research.

En esta ocasión soy dizque agente de una "campaña de difamación en contra de Derwick Associates", que estaría siendo orquestada por Oscar Garcia Mendoza. En esta supuesta conspiración galáctica contra el dizque buen nombre (¿en dónde?) de los imberbes de Derwick Associates, me estaría acompañando Steven Bodzin, antiguo corresponsal de Bloomberg, y Cesar Batiz, periodista reconocido internacionalmente de Últimas Noticias.

En realidad, quien quiera que esté asesorando a Derwick Associates, le está haciendo una maldad a esos pobres muchachos. Si el propósito primordial de los directivos de Derwick es defender su dizque honor mancillado, lo peor que pueden hacer es andar acusando a periodistas, y blogueros, y mandando cartas de amenazas legales de un abogado gringo, que ni siquiera es capaz de enviar sus misivas en el idioma apropiado. Lo peor que pueden hacer, es estar demandando en cortes americanas, donde cada una de sus aseveraciones va a ser cuestionada, y el culebrón que se inventaron va a exponer, tanto a ellos como a sus abogados dizque atrinca, a todo tipo de contra demandas.

Si Venezuela fuera un país donde imperase el estado de derecho, el comunicado de Derwick con postura inquisidora, daría pie a una serie de acciones legales en su contra, como por ejemplo:
  • Cesar Batiz podría demandar, por difamación.
  • Ditto Últimas Noticias.
  • Steven Bodzin, si así lo decidiese, podría demandar por difamación.
  • Alek Boyd, si así lo decidiese, podría demandar por difamación.
  • Oscar García Mendoza podría demandar por difamación.
  • El estado venezolano, ante las gravísimas denuncias hechas por Cesar Batiz, podría demandar a Derwick Associates por enriquecimiento ilícito, sobreprecio en contratos públicos, incumplimiento de contratos, sub-contratación, etc. 
  • La Fiscalía General podría iniciar investigaciones penales sobre los directivos de Derwick. 
  • La Superintendencia de Bancos podría iniciar investigaciones sobre movimientos ilícitos de capital al extranjero por parte de Derwick. 
  • Los entes públicos a los cuales Batiz solicitó información sobre contratos con Derwick iniciarían acciones para publicar, inmediatamente, todo lo relativo a los contratos con esa empresa.
  • El Tribunal Supremo declararía ilegales excusas ridículas de confidencialidad, relacionadas a negativas de revelar información sobre contratos donde están en juego miles de millones de dólares del erario público.
  • La policía política investigaría las relaciones personales, y profesionales entre altos funcionarios del chavismo y directivos de Derwick.
  • La Asamblea Nacional nombraría una comisión investigadora para determinar si las contrataciones entre Derwick y diferentes entes del estado venezolano fueron hechas en el marco de leyes vigentes.
  • El Ministerio de Interior y Justicia exigiría al Instituto de Puertos y Aeropuertos todos los records de vuelos de aeronaves asociadas u operadas por Derwick, para determinar la identidad de todos los pasajeros que han utilizado dichas aeronaves.
  • La CVG demandaría a Derwick, por incumplimiento de contratos.
  • Bariven podría demandar a Derwick, por incumplimiento de contratos.
  • PDVSA podría demandar a Derwick, por incumplimiento de contratos.
  • La Fiscalía General iniciaría una investigación interna para determinar la razón por la cual la solicitud de averiguación hecha por el editor del diario Últimas Noticias no ha prosperado.
  • La Asamblea Nacional interpelaría, entre otros, a Hugo Chavez, a Rafael Ramirez, a Nervis Villalobos, a Luis Pulido, a Javier Alvarado, a Rodolfo Sanz.
En suma, la lista previa no es exhaustiva, un escándalo de corrupción de estas dimensiones, no pasaría desapercibido, y lo más probable para los recién vestidos de Derwick, repito en un país democrático donde imperase el estado de derecho, sería probablemente cárcel, muchos años de cárcel. Sería embargo de bienes, congelamiento de cuentas, etc. En Venezuela, sin embargo, un periodista haciendo su trabajo, que no es otro que reportar asuntos de interés publico, es objeto de intimidaciones, de presiones de todo tipo, no solo de los timadores a quienes ha expuesto, sino del alto gobierno, de ministerios, de la policía política, y de medios de comunicación privados que se venden al mejor postor, como El Nacional, que publica "comunicados" pagos en paginas de sociedad.

Venezuela dista mucho de ser un estado de derecho. Es un conuco, controlado por un megalómano golpista y apátrida, donde individuos de escasísimo intelecto devienen en multimillonarios de la noche a la mañana. Lo hemos visto, a todo nivel, desde que Chavez llego al poder. Fernandez Barrueco, Arne Chacon, Wilmer Ruperti, los dizque banqueros, Eva Golinger, chofer de autobus como ungido... Es un estado vergonzoso de cosas, por cuanto indica que quienes "triunfan" en la Venezuela actual, quienes se imponen, no son los más aptos, sino los más amorales, los más corruptos, los más ineptos, los más sucios. Y esa chusma de gente obra con absoluta impunidad en Venezuela. Pero ahora les ha dado por dar el salto a la escena internacional, y con la bola de billete que se han robado pues pueden contratar todo tipo de servicios, de relacionistas públicos y bufetes neoyorquinos, para que dizque les laven una imagen que no tienen, que nunca han tenido.

Desafortunadamente, para quienes deben sus fortunas a la dedocracia chavista, aquí afuera las cosas no han llegado aun a ese estado de descomposición. Hampones de cuello blanco hay por todos lados, pero aquí, cuando los descubren, como hizo Cesar Batiz, les quitan hasta los calzoncillos Calvin Klein, como de hecho le sucedió en España al bicho cuya finca en Toledo compraron los directivos de Derwick por €22,79 millones. Aquí afuera todo se sabe, cada vez es más difícil esconder dinero mal habido, y tarde o temprano, sea el FBI, o el Departamento del Tesoro de los EEUU, u otras entidades en Europa, la justicia terminará por imponerse.

Lo que les queda a los adolescentes de Derwick es quedarse en Venezuela, y jugar al malo, al "yo soy el más arrecho en esta verga" allá donde pueden. Sus amenazas, allende las fronteras, ni asustan ni lograran silenciar a nadie.

9.12.12

FBI looking at Derwick Associates

London 09.12.2012 - Ultimas Noticias, Venezuela's most-read newspaper let's not forget, published today another article about Derwick Associates by Cesar Batiz, loosely translated as "FBI looking at Venezuelan company". Batiz is the investigative reporter who was recently recognised  for his series of articles exposing overpricing -in the hundreds of millions of dollars- by three companies that had been contracted by the Venezuelan State to solve the power crisis. One of those three companies is Derwick Associates.


In his latest instalment, Batiz comments on information that Steven Bodzin and I shared with him, about U.S. agencies -such as Treasury, Homeland Security, State- and the FBI, phishing for information about Derwick Associates and its American partners in Google. As I explained, it is rather easy to find out who visits this blog, and how visitors get here, just by accessing the blog's visits' statistics. Thus, since I started writing about Derwick, back in October, I have seen an increase of visits from those agencies, and have tweeted about it. This picked Batiz's interest, so he did the only right thing to do, and sent a request for comment to Derwick. From there, things have taken expected and entirely predictable turns.

As Batiz reports today, Derwick Associates denies any knowledge about U.S. Federal Agencies looking for information about them. It would be silly to think that they would admit otherwise, but the question had to be asked. Derwick repeated again a number of preposterous allegations about being victimised by some sort of global defamation campaign, orchestrated from the office of Oscar Garcia Mendoza. Derwick Associates went further in its reply to Batiz, and claimed that I am a proxy of Garcia Mendoza. This merits further probing.

Since Batiz first published about it on August 2011, Derwick Associates and its Kasowitz Benson Torres Friedman lawyers have been sending threatening letters to most of the people who, at one time or another, have made comments and / or written about Batiz's work. Batiz, and Ultimas Noticias, are the origin of Derwick's PR nightmare. But only last week did Hector Torres (New York-based Derwick's lawyer) send one of his letters to Batiz, who is based in Caracas. Torres' letter was in English, perhaps no one has explained to Mr Torres that Venezuela's official language is Spanish. It would seem that Mr Torres due diligence on his clients is not up to par either, but more on that later.

I have taken a keen interest in Derwick Associates. To be perfectly frank, it fascinates me how a bunch of inexperienced kids managed to get 12 contracts from the Chavez regime. This is not some fluke, the odd contract here or there. No. This is über dedocracy we are talking about. In fact, Derwick claims in its lawsuit against Garcia Mendoza that they participated in 25 bidding processes, of which they got 12 contracts. That is to say, a fly-by-night, without credible track record anywhere managed to win half the bids the Venezuelan State allegedly put out to solve the electricity crisis nationwide? When I put this to Batiz, he said "whoa, 25 bidding processes? Where? Licitamail (website that lists Venezuelan public bids) didn't even publish information about 25 calls for bids!"

Derwick Associates' N229DA Falcon 2000
So I have been doing some digging, and found, for instance, that Derwick Associates appears as airplane operator in Spain's Official Gazette (Boletin Official del Estado). There are reports in the Spanish press about Derwick's CEO, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, awe-inspiring, four-day-celebrations, 500-guests wedding, attended by people that arrived in 20 private jets. I passed all that info to Batiz, and he fetched Derwick's Falcon 2000  N-plate (pictured) from a source. With that it was easy to find further info (page 153), and some flight logs. There's also the bit about the 1,600-hectares hunting farm that Derwick Associates allegedly bought in Toledo (Spain) from (now jailed) conman Gerardo Diaz Ferran. I have been trying to get my hands on documents related to this purchase, to clear some doubts as per role of Alejandro Betancourt's mother and others in the operation, but have met with a rather hostile and totally uncooperative registrar in Registro de la Propiedad de Escalona, who simply refused to send documentation -which is far from secret- from the registry.

Every attempt made to date by Batiz, and Ultimas Noticias' editor, to get more information about the contracts between Derwick and PDVSA, CORPOELEC, and EDC has been met with silence by Derwick and official stonewalling. Derwick's argument to Batiz is that it can not reveal content of contracts for confidentiality reasons, which is simply bullshit: there's not a single piece of current legislation in Venezuela that allows public institutions to spend public funds contracting with Venezuelan companies that permits confidentiality clauses. It is unknown just how much public money it got in total, what is crystal clear is that the Derwick boys are burning it, in all manner of fancy toys, like there's no tomorrow, properly grotesque nouveau rich behaviour. Moreover, these parvenues might just have provided involuntarily plausible explanations of the alleged overpricing.

Despite all its seemingly ill-gotten wealth, however, Derwick Associates has a huge PR problem. It draw -unnecessarily- much attention to itself when it sued Oscar Garcia Mendoza in a Florida court, and started threatening bloggers and journalists all over the place. Its tactics have been idiotic, to put it mildly. Some clueless SEO hacks have been busy registering -on Derwick's behalf- dozens of domains that include the names of Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt Lopez and Pedro Trebbau Lopez in it (such as leopoldoalejandrobetancourtlopez.org). Variations of same domain names -including Derwick- have also been registered (such as pedrotrebbaulopezderwick.com). In general, all websites contain information that has no relation whatsoever to Derwick's only known line of business. But what's that lot trying to hide, that they need so many fake websites with totally irrelevant information? Then, there's their lawyers' letters, when that fails, they send halfwit spin-doctors to deal with the issue. When that fails, they openly admit they are trying to delete information from Wikipedia!

Derwick is now claiming, without explicitly mentioning my name, that I am a proxy of Oscar Garcia Mendoza. Derwick has also mentioned this blog as part of a "defamation campaign". Derwick's Wikipedia editor (FinanceReferee) diligently informed yesterday about an amendment to the original claim, filed on Friday. How did he/she know so quickly that Derwick had filed an amendment? More evidence, if that was ever needed, of the utter unreliability of Wikipedia, amenable to editing by all sorts of disreputable characters.

As of this writing, I must be the only person who is yet to receive a threatening letter from Mr Torres and / or his clients. I actually look forward to any form of communication from Derwick Associates, which if I get will be replying here. The further Derwick Associates carries on with its kill-a-mosquito-with-a-bazooka strategy, while ignoring Batiz's perfectly valid questions, the worse it'll turn out for them. Their claims of proven track record, experience, business methods and so on have been grossly exaggerated and just don't stack up. It was very easy to double check Betancourt's and Trebbau's work experience claims with Venezuela's National Insurance contributions database (IVSS). There's loads of evidence to expose Derwick Associates as liars just a click away. If the Derwick boys are stupid or ignorant enough to insist in having their day in an independent court of law, in America, their non-existent reputation, and their sudden wealth, will be damaged forevermore.

5.12.12

Diaz Ferran detenido por blanqueo de dinero. ¿Y qué de Derwick?

Londres 05.12.12 - Reporta El País de España sobre la detención de Gerardo Diaz Ferrán por blanqueo de dinero. Curioso, no? Gerardo Diaz Ferrán. Viajes Marsans. Derwick Associates. Los dos primeros temas han llenado, y continúan llenando, las paginas de actualidad de los diarios mas importantes de España. Una estafa de millones de euros, desaparecidos, o despilfarrados, en aventuras de un megalómano irresponsable. Miles de trabajadores a quienes no se les podrá pagar lo adeudado. Luego el tercer tema, Derwick Associates. Aunque desconocido en España, presente en las paginas de los mas importantes medios de Venezuela, la tierra del caudillo Hugo Chavez. Cientos de millones de dolares, producto de sobreprecios en la venta al estado de plantas generadoras de electricidad, igualmente desaparecidos. ¿Cómo se relacionan estos tres temas? Pasemos al despilfarro.

Administración Concursal de Viajes Marsans. Embarga bienes e inmuebles que eran propiedad de Diaz Ferrán, y los liquida, a través de subasta publica. Uno de esos bienes, la Finca El Alamín, ubicada en Toledo, fue adquirida por Derwick Associates, por €25 millones. Al respecto de las “normas aplicables a toda oferta de la propuesta del plan de liquidación”, la Administración Concursal publica en su portal web lo siguiente (ver punto 5):
“El pago del precio fijado para la adjudicación o venta de cada uno de los bienes se realizará mediante ingreso (efectivo, transferencia “Banco de España” o cheque bancario) en la cuenta intervenida por la Administración Concursal, abierta a nombre de VIAJES MARSANS S.A.-ADMINISTRACIÓN CONCURSAL, que se facilitará a los interesados.”
El pago “para la adjudicación o venta” de bienes puede hacerse de tres formas: efectivo, transferencia “Banco de España” o cheque. Seria tonto pensar que alguien va a pagar €25 millones en efectivo. Las transferencias “Banco de España” ocurren, según tenemos entendido, de la siguiente forma: el banco del comprador (Derwick) transfiere al banco del vendedor (Administración Concursal) la cantidad acordada. Ambos bancos poseen cuentas de tesorería en el Banco de España, el cual, procesa internamente la transferencia de una cuenta a otra. La otra forma de pago aceptable, según la Administración Concursal, es a través de cheque.

En cualquier caso, tanto el banco del comprador, como el del vendedor y el Banco de España están obligados a cumplir una serie de normativas legales para impedir el blanqueo de capitales. Cabe preguntarse entonces: ¿han cumplido los bancos descritos con las obligaciones legales del caso? ¿No es motivo de atención acaso que una empresa, que se registró en España en enero de 2011 con apenas €10.000, pueda pagar €25 millones por una finca? Los hechos sugieren que ni las autoridades de la Administración Concursal, ni los bancos involucrados, cuestionaron el origen de los fondos de Derwick Associates, cuyos dueños, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez y Pedro Trebbau, apenas pasan de los 30.

En Venezuela, no solo la prensa cuestiona el sobreprecio multimillonario en los contratos entre Derwick Associates y PDVSA, la Electricidad de Caracas, Corpoelec y la Corporación Venezolana de Guayana. Hasta el recién designado Ministro para la Energía Eléctrica, Hector Navarro, dizque ha recibido instrucciones de Hugo Chavez para examinar las múltiples denuncias sobre los contratos entre Derwick Associates y el estado venezolano.

Mientras eso pasa en Venezuela, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez contrata en España a la hija del Marqués de Griñón para que le organize la boda, algunos diarios reportaron sobre los 20 jets privados, llegados desde Venezuela para transportar desde tequeños hasta bandas de reggaeton, 500 invitados, 4 días de ostentosa celebración, mas acorde con el más burdo y obsceno nuevoriquismo que con la discreción típica de las clases adineradas de siempre. Luego Betancourt Lopez se da un baño de legitimidad en la iglesia de San Jerónimo El Real, paga finca y todo lo demás con dinero supuestamente mal habido, y nadie se pregunta: ¿y de dónde saca la pasta este tío?

1.12.12

Whatever happened to CVG's $500-million held in Gazprombank?

London 01.12.12 - The image on the right is the first page, of what sources alleged to be a two-page fax, sent by Alejandro Betancourt to buyers of steelmaker Corporación Venezolana de Guayana (CVG). Its contents are quite self explanatory:  date (Sep 04 09), time (06:36pm), name of sender (Alejandro Betancourt), fax number from where it was sent (58-212-9777399), and instructions to buyers to pay / transfer into a Gazprombank  account.

El Universal journalist, Joseph Poliszuk, reported on both the fax and a request for a penal investigation filed with Bolivar state Attorney's Office, questioning former head of CVG Rodolfo Sanz's propriety in dealing with millions of public funds. Venezuela's Attorney General's Office admitted the request, and appointed Public Prosecutor Pedro Buitrago to investigate the issue. Journalist Cesar Batiz, from Ultimas Noticias, went further, and was able to establish in his expose about Derwick Associates that the same fax number was used by "Javier Andres Alvarado Pardi, son of the former president of the EDC and former vice minister of Electricity Development."

The allegation that Sanz, on behalf on CVG, has been mismanaging public funds held in a Gazprombank account in Lebanon does not seem to be supported by the evidence provided, in my opinion. Central to the allegations, is the fax above. Do note, however, that it instructs buyers to pay into an account (30 111 840 900 0000 05861) belonging to Gazprombank Invest (Lebanon) SAL in Moscow, not in Lebanon, as has been argued in nearly all reports about this issue. The swift code provided, GAZPRUMM, belongs to Gazprombank in Moscow. Therefore any investigation into the alleged disappearance of $500 million worth of CVG funds should start in Putin's fiefdom.

But then I found an annual report from Gazprombank, from 2009, with an entry (page 68) about a $200-million "Pre-export financing for product delivery" line of credit to CVG. It corresponds with statements to the effect made by Sanz, about a $200-million line of credit with the "market's lowest interest" at 8.8%. 

So the questions are: 
  1. did Sanz settle with Gazprombank the $200-million + interest debt?
  2. If yes, how much was finally paid?
  3. If not, why it hasn't, considering allegations that about $500-million were allegedly paid into designated account by buyers?
  4. How much is left in the account?
  5. Why was that document sent from Alejandro Betancourt's fax, is it because he was / is Gazprombank's representative in Venezuela, as claimed by Sanz, and by Betancourt?
  6. What does Sanz & Betancourt have to say about it?
  7. Have Sanz & Betancourt been summoned by the Prosecutor to explain their  actions & involvement?
  8. Given that Gazprombank is now, officially, a partner of the Venezuelan State in a joint venture, what's it take in all this?
  9. In light of point 8, is Derwick's Alejandro Betancourt still Gazprom's and Gazprombank's representative for the "Andean region"?
  10. What's the status of the investigation?

26.11.12

Is the Bank of Spain laundering Derwick Associates' money?

London 26.11.2012 - The "unacceptable face of capitalism", otherwise reported as involvement of some of the world's "most reputed" private financial institutions in money laundering, and aiding and abetting with terrorists, is shocking enough. But what if I were to give an example where boardroom greed is not part of the equation? What if I were to show that a Central Bank, of one European country, neglected its anti-money-laundering responsibilities, by clearing ill-gotten proceeds from extremely dubious characters starring in corruption rackets? What if I were to show that judicial authorities have disregarded anti-money-laundering legislation? Hard to believe? Think again.

In 2010, Viajes Marsans declared it was insolvent. The group's commercial activities were stopped. Madrid's 12th Mercantile Court took over the process of dissolution. This was followed by a ruling against a previous move -by disgraced owner Gerardo Diaz Ferran- of selling his conglomerate to Posibilitum Business. Once all assets had been seized by Madrid's Judge Ana María Gallego, an auction process was launched. And that's when things start getting really interesting. Note the following information for parties willing to bid in the auction (point no. 5):
El pago del precio fijado para la adjudicación o venta de cada uno de los bienes se realizará mediante ingreso (efectivo, transferencia “Banco de España” o cheque bancario) en la cuenta intervenida por la Administración Concursal, abierta a nombre de VIAJES MARSANS S.A.-ADMINISTRACIÓN CONCURSAL, que se facilitará a los interesados. En el caso de que la Administración Concursal aceptara un pago aplazado, éste será garantizado y con los costes financieros, incluido el descuento financiero, a cargo del comprador. [bold added]
Translation of relevant part: "... (cash, "Bank of Spain" transfer or check) payment shall be made into account seized by administrator, to Viajes Marsans S.A Administrators, whose details shall be given to interested parties."

Finca El Alamín, Gerardo Diaz Ferrán's former hunting
retreat purchased by Derwick Associates for €24 mil.
One of Diaz Ferrán's assets up for sale was a 1,600 hectares hunting farm, which reports in the Spanish press indicate was purchased by Derwick Associates. Another source reports that Alejandro Betancourt, who nowadays counts on the daughter of one of -paraphrasing Hugo Chavez-  Spain's most rancid oligarchs as his wedding planner, had indeed bought El Alamín (pictured).

But what does this mean in practical terms? Madrid's 12th Mercantile Court acts as administrators of Viajes Marsans, and auctioned a number of assets. Winning bids from participating parties had to be settled in one of three possible ways (cash, transfer, or check). The winning bid for the farm in question is cited as €24 million. It is unlikely that Derwick Associates paid for it in cash. That leaves bank transfer or check. It must be borne in mind that Derwick Associates incorporated in Spain 13th January 2011 with a capital of €10,000, and there it was, sometime later, offering €24 million in a sealed envelope.

So Madrid's 12th Mercantile Court accepts Derwick Associates winning bid, and proceeds to either:

1) process a €24 million transfer, from Derwick's account to the special-purpose account controlled by the administrator, whereby funds have to be cleared by THE Bank of Spain;

2) pay into its own special-purpose administrator's account a €24 million check from Derwick, whose bank is legally-bound to have done relevant due diligence.

Whichever way the payment was processed, there's legislation in Spain against money laundering. There's also a financial intelligence unit of sorts, responsible for ensuring that banks enforce a number of obligations in that respect. There's even explicit criminalisation of money-laundering in the Penal Code. The law leaves no room for interpretation: money laundering is illegal, and Cesar Batiz's excellent exposes in Ultimas Noticias leave little doubt as to the propriety of Derwick Associates contracts with the Chavez regime.

What is astonishing about this, IMO, is that transaction didn't happen in cash between private parties (as is often the case in Spain), but rather it was a public auction, controlled by judicial authorities, acting as administrators of assets seized from a fraudster. The thought of said administrators disregarding legislation to prevent money laundering is beyond shocking. But what makes it even more so, is that the Bank of Spain (i.e. the Central Bank), as the clearing institution behind all such transactions, could have also failed in establishing the legitimacy of Derwick Associates' funds. So what, if anything, is Mr. Eduardo Torres-Dulce doing about it? If the enforcers are failing, what hope is left for Spain?

23.11.12

Smartmatic's charm offensive

London 23.11.2012 - Opened my email the other day, and found a LinkedIn invitation from Paul Babic, Smartmatic's Chief Marketing Officer. Just imagine my expression, after all the things I have written about Smartmatic over the years. I thought it was a slip, a case of sending something to the wrong person, though I did reply, with "Hi Paul, did you really sent me an invite to connect?", expecting to never hear from him again. But it got better. Paul did reply, saying "Yes, Alek. I know we don't know each other personally, but we may have the opportunity to meet in the future. Cheers, Paul" At this point, I thought, anything could be expected, so I decided to play along.

My next message was: "Actually Paul, I am glad that you have made this overture, for, as I am sure you can imagine, I have a ton of questions to ask about Smartmatic. As a marketing man, you'll probably know better than me the costs of bad PR. Smartmatic's actions in that front have been poorly, well below par, for a multinational corporation claiming to be a "world-class operation". So how about getting this conversation started, and dealing head-front with the many legitimate criticism that I and others have raised over the years?"

To which this is what Paul replied: "Alek, in all fairness to you, I am afraid I would not be in a position to address your questions about Smartmatic. My involvement within the organization has been limited to product development and management, and more recently to business strategy. The PR side of marketing you refer to is not part of my function. However, if you would be interested in a conversation about how electronic voting (among other technologies) can benefit democracy, that is a discussion I would be very interested in having. I can share with you some of my own experiences (and all future challenges I anticipate this industry will go through), and I am sure you would be able to share many of your own."

So here we have an admission, by Smartmatic's CMO, that the "PR side of marketing [I] refer to is not part of [his] function." A marketing guy in charge of "product development and management" is not something out of the ordinary, is it? However, have a look at this comment in the Smartmatic article The Hill published recently. Could the Paul who wrote that reply to my article, be the same Paul who is now throwing a charm offensive? I would hate to think that this is another crude attempt from Smartmatic's marketing office.

Anyway, I did send another comment: "Apologies for the delayed reply Paul. I think you have hit the nail with the claim about how electronic voting can benefit democracy, in fact, I am going to blog about it and try to assess the topic objectively. Hopefully you'll want to move the discussion to a more public venue."

Paul said in his next reply "There have been some very good implementations, as well as some very bad ones. (The same applies to paper-based elections, by the way, some of which have worked very well and some have failed completely.)"

Mmm, "very good implementations" eh? And "paper-based elections" that "have failed completely." Shall I start with very good implementations of electronic voting? Where might that be? I'd say in countries where all parties to an election can audit the entire system, as and when they please. Is that the case of Venezuela, a place that Smartmatic flags as one of its success stories? I don't think so. Is that the case in the Philippines? Filipinos don't seem to think so either. So to which success could Mr Babic possibly be referring to?

A voting system, electronic or otherwise, is as good, or as bad, as those executing it, implementing it, as those in charge of it, as those making use of it. All of Smartmatic's involvements in elections around the world have been marred with controversy, when not with outright accusations of vote rigging. All of them. Regardless of location, culture, language, and people using the system. Chicago? A fiasco. Ditto Venezuela and the Philippines.

So where's your successful example of "very good implementation" of electronic voting Mr Smartmatic's CMO? Be very precise in your next answer, if you could. And what's with the asking where I'm based? Why is that relevant?

21.11.12

Derwick’s Digital Strategy: Keeping Up Appearances on Park Avenue

London 21.11.2012 - Derwick's little adventure gets more interesting the deeper I dig. What we have here is a Venezuelan company accused of corruption in Ultimas Noticias, and in other published Venezuelan media such as El Universal, El Mundo, Analitica, Reporte, Sexto Poder and numerous blogs. Yet they haven't touched any major publications. Why are the Derwick gang not suing Batiz and Ultimas Noticias? Batiz actually won an award for his reporting on Derwick's fraud. Perhaps Derwick realizes that the owner, Miguel Angel Capriles, is a very powerful and untouchable Chavez ally, going against him would probably cause Derwick's dissolution in an internecine chavista legal war they just can't win.

Or perhaps it is something else, entirely. In my last blog post, I referred to how they may be using their lawsuit to nail a Chavez government critic. But it also addresses another problem.

What they are likely afraid of is that their private bankers and money managers in the financial capitals could be getting a little restless about holding their accounts. After all, who wants to manage accounts from Venezuelans with dubious reputations? In the past, American banks have paid a high price for laundering ill-gotten South American wealth. So why sue Batiz, Reporte, or Ultimas Noticias--in Venezuela or Florida-- if they know they would lose? Instead, why not sue a rather unknown website that's yet to establish its crediblity? This way they can point to the lawsuit, and tell any banker doing KYC: "you see, we have clean hands, we are victims of a conspiracy and a court determined that." That way they can lay to rest any concerns for their reputations in the future, and point to hundreds of millions of dollars in profits and say it is all squeaky clean profits, made in less than three years of honest work.

Betancourt, Trebbau, Convit, Romero Lazo, and their partners evidently don't care about what's published in Spanish. But they are terrified of a breach in the digital divide between English and Spanish. Exposure abroad could mean no more weekends on the yacht in St. Tropez, no more brunches at the Knickerbocker Club, no more weddings in Ocala to show off the new helicopter to their cousins. What matters to them is what ends up in the English-speaking media, and I think there is a pattern here.

The evidence suggests it: reputed fellow bloggers deleting posts, other bloggers that have written about it emailing me asking for advice owing to legal concerns, while yet others already in the crosshairs of Derwick. So, bloggers writing in English, get threatening letters from millionaire New York lawyer Hector Torres. Meanwhile, Ultimas Noticias and Cesar Batiz are simply invisible to them.

Well, I have translated one of the Ultimas Noticias articles for the world to read.  I include it below, and hope it is reprinted far and wide so that Derwick can cease its preposterous claims of a defamation campaign by some website, and can instead begin to address the elephant in the room: the allegations below aren’t from some ad hominem website, it is a thorough report from Venezuela's largest selling-newspaper. And it led to formal petitions from the newspaper for a thorough criminal investigation.

But putting aside the many criminal allegations against the Derwick boys, matters of freedom of speech and the silencing of whistleblowers is something near and dear to my heart. Due to my exercising freedom of speech on issues -like this one- about my country, I was once the target of the Mayor of London. Well, guess what? Views similar to mine on Livingstone had been vindicated.

In my next update I shall go through the lawsuit point by point. I do not know if Oscar Garcia Mendoza and his bank are behind Wiki Anti-Corruption, but regardless of that, what is undeniable is that the burden of proof is on Derwick, it needs to prove that the allegations against them are not true. This Kasowitz lawsuit is sure to be the focus of many stories, and I want to get ahead of it. Hector Torres's clients aren't building powerplants in Denmark, they are doing so in a narco-state, with a government ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world. And their subcontractor, ProEnergy Services, seems to restrict its work mostly to dodgy dictatorships.

Just yesterday a new twist: two Caracas publications, La Razón and 6to Poder, reported that new Electricity Minister, Hector Navarro, has been asked directly by President Hugo Chavez to investigate the corruption scandal related to Derwick and its directors. Oh dear.

I have been talking about the Derwick fraud to Cesar Batiz and other sources. One of the highlights thus far has been intellectual heavyweight Moises Naim tweeting my last report to his 51,981 followers. Derwick sued Oscar Garcia simply for tweeting a link. What is Derwick going to do now—sue Moises Naim too?

But perhaps more gripping, since I started writing about Derwick, my blog is being visited often by the FBI, Homeland Security, Dept. of Treasury, Dept. of State. I haven't seen this many visits from US. government domains since my other site, vcrisis.com, used to get in excess of a 150.000 visits a month. This may explain their fixation with silencing anyone who has written about their exploits in English.


Cable pelao en la electricidad
César Batiz* / Últimas Noticias (Venezuela) - 07/08/11

The lack of experience did not prevent a firm from receiving 12 contracts for electrical work in 14 months. EDC, CVG, and PDVSA awarded the firm major projects in the midst of the power crisis. The firm has failed in five cases to meet the delivery date. Derwick Associates is registered in Barbados, Venezuela, and Spain.

A company incorporated in Venezuela in October 2009, without any kind of experience in executing projects either for the public or private sector, received 12 contracts in 14 months for the construction of electrical works, including five that played a crucial role in ensuring electrical service to Caracas. Derwick Associates Venezuela, whose directors are young, with an average age of under 30, began to install one generator for La Electricidad de Caracas (EDC) in Picure, in the state of Vargas, on October 2, 2009.

It appears from the website of the National Contractor Registry (RNC) that as of that date, Derwick was not registered as a company under the laws of the country.  That registration took place on October 28, 2009, according to the commercial record. Less than a month later, the company signed another contract with the EDC for a job in La Raisa, state of Miranda.

From March to December 2010, a period during which the electrical emergency decree issued by President Hugo Chávez Frías was in effect, Derwick won four contracts with the EDC, including Guarenas I and II, and five more with PDVSA and one with the Venezuelan Guayana Corporation (CVG), for a total of 12, five of which were supposed to be completed before this month. The only information available about the cost of the projects, which can be found in press reports and on the website of the Ministry of Electric Power, is that Picure cost a total of $130 million for 134 MW, and Guarenas cost a total of $211 million for 156 MW.

Silence

Últimas Noticias wanted to know the details of the contracts, to which end we delivered a letter on 6 July at the headquarters of the National Electricity Corporation (Corpoelec) with a right to petition and timely response. An unsuccessful attempt was also made to interview the directors of the company. The only one who responded was the former president of the EDC, former vice minister, and current president of Bariven, Javier Alvarado Ochoa, but he did so via Elizabeth Moran, his communications adviser. She said that between 2007 and 2008 Corpoelec hired ProEnergy Services, a U.S. firm, to perform the electrical work.

According to Alvarado's account, by order of PDVSA a Venezuelan firm had to participate in carrying out the projects executed by ProEnergy. For this reason they entered into an association with Derwick. Ultimas Noticias wrote to Brett Bettinger, representative of ProEnergy, asking him about his relationship with Derwick. He suggested that we pose the questions to the Venezuelan company. Advisors to Corpoelec and engineers involved in the projects, whose names are being withheld, confirm that Derwick subcontracted to ProEnergy.

Young

On its website Derwick describes itself as an organization "with a wide range of capabilities." "It's American," said a worker who works on The Raisa's projects. The same company has three names. In Barbados, where it was registered in May 2009, the company is identified as Derwick Associates Corporation. In Venezuela it is called Derwick Associates Venezuela, while in Madrid it is Derwick Associates International SRL.

In all cases the names and relationships are consistent. In the register in Barbados, Pedro Trebbau Lopez, Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, Domingo X. Guzman De Frutos Lopez, and Edgar Romero Lazo are listed as directors. Trebbau, Betancourt, and Guzman live in La Lagunita, according to the Maisanta database. Their average age is under 30. The oldest of them, Leopoldo Alejandro, or just Alejandro, as he prefers to be called, at 31 years old runs Derwick Venezuela, sharing the role of director with Trebbau and Iker Candina, the only one in the group who is over 50.

According to the register in Barbados, the secretary of Derwick is Trident Corporate Services (Barbados) Limited, a fund company that operates in tax havens in the Caribbean. The Spanish subsidiary of Derwick is on calle Príncipe de Vergara, Madrid. The journalist Sandra La Fuente, who helped with this report, went to that address. She spoke over the intercom with a man who had a Venezuelan accent. She asked him if it was the headquarters of Derwick. The man said no, and said that it was his residence.

Rented

Derwick's first headquarters in Venezuela was The Pyramid Building, 2nd floor, suite 202, in Prados del Este, according to the mercantile records. The office is empty. The owner of the property is Edgard Romero Nava, ex-president of Fedecámaras and father of Derwick director Edgar Romero Lazo. Romero Nava said that for a year and half the office was rented to a U.S. company whose name he did not remember [added ProEnergy anyone?]. He noted that the lessee was not Derwick and said he was unaware that his son was a director of Derwick, as shown in the Barbados register.

In mid 2010, National Guard officials visited the site in search of the previous tenants, who were gone. Romero Nava confirmed this, but was not in the country when it happened. Ultimas Noticias knew that on April 29 of last year, the president of the Union of University Professional Workers of Venalum, Manuel Diaz, submitted to the Senior Prosecutor of the state of Bolivar a request to investigate former Minister Rodolfo Sanz, who sent a fax from number 212 -977-7399 to companies purchasing metal produced by the CVG, requesting that sum of money involved in the transactions, a total of $500 million, be deposited in an account at Gazprom Bank of Lebanon.

Diaz notes in the complaint that the phone number from which the fax was sent on September 4, 2009, belonged “to a private individual named Alejandro Betancourt.” A journalist from El Universal, Joseph Politzuk, tracked the number as part of a report published in June 2010 on the Gazprom Bank case. Upon checking it, he discovered that the address was none other than the same one that is registered as the headquarters of Derwick at the moment in the first commercial register.

"They told me that it was the office of Alejandro Betancourt, who was an advisor to Minister Sanz," notes Politzuk. By June of last year, the directors of the company had already moved to the new headquarters in the PH of the Kyra building in Campo Alegre, Chacao municipality. In March, five months after winning his first contract, they paid BsF 4,800,000 ($ 1,116,279.06) for the property, according to the land register.

Power relations

But the new headquarters does not blot out other data in the story. 212-977-7399 was the same number that Javier Andres Alvarado Pardi, son of the former president of the EDC and former vice minister of Electricity Development, used when he exported a 1959 Porshe from the Dominican Republic to the U.S., as reflected on the website www.importgenius.com. Javier Andrés also listed, as an emergency contact address, the same building and floor where the original headquarters of Derwick were located, and where fax sent to CVG buyers was attributed to Betancourt. Furthermore, on Facebook, Alvarado is friends with Betancourt, Trebbau, and Guzman, among others.

The coincidences do not stop there. Sanz and Derwick are not only linked by a fax sent in September 2009 from the location where the company's Venezuelan headquarters would be established a month later. The only power plant designed by Sidor, under the command of the former minister and member of Estado Mayor Electrico (see note tomorrow in El Mundo Economia y Negocios), began to be installed by Derwick in March 2010, with equipment, according to statements made to the press by Sanz, sold by Gazprom, the Russian energy company, which owns the Bank of Lebanon.

Five months earlier, in October 2009, when Derwick was awarded the first of the 12 contracts, the president of the EDC was Alvarado Ochoa, who also lived in La Lagunita, according to the Maisanta database. The same official, on February 12, 2010, was appointed Deputy Minister of Electricity Development. On February 15, 2010, when the electrical shielding of Caracas was announced, Alvarado Ochoa had responsibility for all works that were required to achieve that goal. All the thermoelectrical work, other than the Termocentro Complex Generator (of which Duro Felguera was put in charge) and the two barges with generators, was awarded to Derwick.

Trampas eléctricas - Parte II - por César Batiz

 




Constitutional Law

Article 51 of the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela provides for the right of petition and timely response. The failure of public officials to comply with this requirement can lead to penalties and suspension of their functions. Ultimas Noticias sent a letter to Minister Ali Rodriguez and the Communication Director of Corpoelec, Nelly Trujillo, and has yet to receive a reply. In the case of Derwick, we made attempts through various intermediaries to speak with Betancourt, Trebbau, and Romero Lazo. Only Guzman phoned us and asked us on July 28 to submit a list of questions. At press time, he had not yet answered our questions. For his part, Javier Alvarado did not clarify the relationship between her son Javier Andrés and the boys.

Waiting for Megawatts

The installation of 1,344 megawatts of power generation in seven states remained in the hands of a single company, Derwick Associates Corporation. In some cases, such as those contracted by PDVSA, the projects have been stalled for several months owing to non-payment.

The same as the Aban Pearl

The firm listed as secretary of Derwick in the Barbados register (see documents on the web), Trident Corporate, served the same function for Petromarine Energy Services, the company from which PDVSA leased the Aban Pearl, the semi-submersible that after experiencing a near-shipwreck in August 2009 in Trinidad sank in May 2010 in the Gulf of Paria.


19.11.12

Hugo Chavez using proxies to prosecute critics in US Courts

London 19.11.2011 - Imagine a rock solid, private bank, led by a reputed and prudent banker. While much of our world is yet to come out of a financial crisis caused by irresponsible bankers, who were ultimately bailed out at huge cost to taxpayers, there's this guy in Venezuela, trying to avoid a government-led raid on his bank's funds. His name is Oscar Garcia Mendoza, the bank he directs Banco Venezolano de Crédito (BVC), and the assault he's trying to fend unprecedented. Since 2011, Venezuela's Central Bank has been lowering reserves requirement (or liquidity ratio). The aim is to free cash held with the Central Bank, so that private banks can in turn purchase government bonds issued to fund housing projects (Misión Vivienda). In four separate issues since 2011, the Chavez regime has raised in excess of $9 billion from Venezuela's private banks. So far, so capitalist, right? Not quite, financial institutions that refuse to risk it with Chavez bonds are effectively penalised by an unexplainable increase in liquidity ratio.

Garcia Mendoza leads the only “non-compliant” bank. He is challenging the punitive measure in Venezuela's kangaroo courts. So what's Chavez to do, with the oddity of a responsible banker, trying to protect his clients' money? He will probably be made an example, just like RCTV. Locally, there's not a single chance that chavista judges will rule in his favor. But how about assets and funds held abroad? Enter Derwick Associates.

Derwick Associates shot to fame in August 2011, when Cesar Batiz, an investigative journalist working at Ultimas Noticias (Venezuela's largest newspaper), exposed Derwick's inexperience and lack of track record, in relation to 12 public contracts for procurement and installation of power plants awarded by the Chavez regime in a 14-month period. In September 2011, Batiz published a second article, where he exposed overpricing in the contracts. Two days later, the editor of Ultimas Noticias, Eliazar Diaz Rangel, formally requested that the Venezuela's Comptroller's Office launch an investigation into the affair. The story was to take another twist though: a telecom impresario tried to bribe Batiz, offering hush money and shares of CodigoVenezuela.com, a site critical of the Chavez administration. Batiz then introduced his own FOIA-like request with the Supreme Court, after failing to get any information about contracts from chavista officials. Predictably, judges quickly dismissed Batiz’s request.

So why would an obscure, fly-by-night company have the temerity to sue Venezuela's most solid bank and its CEO? In Florida? How come none of the other parties that have either republished, or expanded on Batiz's original investigation, been sued by Derwick anywhere? The corruption trail goes cold once it reaches the Chavez government. Other investigations related to previous corruption scandals led nowhere. Prior to the Derwick caper, its founder, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, was the star in a different scandal involving a “lost” $500 million wire. His fax number was used to issue the instructions to wire $500 million worth of payments to a numbered-account in Gazprom Bank Lebanon controlled by Rodolfo Sanz, former head of Corporacion Venezolana de Guayana. Betancourt’s Gazprom connections already speak volumes about the man.

The most plausible explanation, in my opinion, is that Team Chavez is orchestrating the whole thing, for financial and political reasons. The first clue, is the decision by Venezuela's Central Bank to target “non-compliant” banks, read Garcia Mendoza's, by imposing a 6-point liquidity ratio increase, forcing a huge spike in cash held by the Central Bank. Refusal to purchase Mision Vivienda-bonds could, potentially, end up costing Garcia Mendoza's bank hundreds of millions in loss revenue from funds that could have otherwise been used for more sound investments with higher returns. Purchase of bonds is equally risky, for what official institution will guarantee funds and returns if the regime decides to default, or renege his debt with Venezuelan banks? A no-win situation.

The second clue to this working hypothesis are statements from Jose Vicente Rangel, former VP of Venezuela, trusted advisor and confidant of the caudillo, taking Derwick's accusations against the banker at face value, repeating it almost verbatim. It would appear that chavismo has already taken sides in this dispute. Rangel, however, went further, and announced that Derwick would also sue Garcia Mendoza and Venezolano de Crédito in Venezuela. How can he be privy to such information, when not even those accused by Derwick in the Florida lawsuit are aware of legal actions against them in Venezuela? Rangel is a Chavez enforcer and Venezuelans know that Rangel’s TV programs are a taste of what the government is thinking and where the sabres are rattling.

Garcia Mendoza could well find himself in the near future with a besieged bank on its way to expropriation. The $300 million defamation suit is likely to fail, inasmuch as truth is a defense to libel, and Team Derwick has a lot to lose in any discovery process -their connections to Davos International Bank may surface. With their lawsuit, Derwick has unnecessarily alerted the American authorities that they want high profile attention. American authorities would do well investigating Derwick Associates sudden wealth and use of US stream of commerce instead. The lawsuit has opened a wide door for that. Special attention should also be paid to Chavez attempts at using the US judiciary to: a) corner his critics, and b) misappropriate millions of dollars through proxies. If the Venezuelan State is afflicted by a housing crisis, which it is, surely the solution, after nearly a decade of record oil prices, ought not be to raid private banks. The whole thing is a disgusting travesty, monetary mechanisms used in perverse ways to punish, an abuse of courts' roles. Beyond probable violations to recently revised Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Derwick was incorporated in Florida after all and has business relations with American companies (ProEnergy Services and FTI Consulting for instance), it seems unthinkable that individuals with such disreputable credentials can take advantage of the US legal system to advance their fraudulent agendas under the guise of defending their reputations.

Cesar Batiz collaborated with this article.

24.10.12

Cangrejo electoral en Venezuela, parte II

Ali v Frazier (1971)
Londres, 24.10.2012 - El mundo del boxeo contó con una figura que trascendió sus límites, hasta aquellos momentos. Un púgil sin precedentes en la historia de los pesos pesados, que logró captar la atención de muchos, incluso de aquellos no aficionados al boxeo. Muhammad Alí es, sin duda, único, y en sus tiempos no había deportista en el mundo que le hiciera sombra.

Su actitud irreverente y su verbo incendiario le ganaron no pocos problemas. Aun cuando nadie ponía en duda su extraordinario talento en el cuadrilátero, fuera de el su actitud no era la más respetuosa. Durante su carrera, Alí reivindicó derechos individuales, civiles y políticos, cosa que muy pocos deportistas, y ciertamente ningún púgil, había logrado hasta su arribo en escena.

Su carrera fue un rosario de peleas extraordinarias la mayoría de las veces. Y entre ellas, quizás las más significativas, fueron sus tres combates contra Joe Frazier. A diferencia de Alí, Frazier era un individuo relativamente introvertido, humilde, sin ínfulas de grandeza, quien ni pretendía, ni perseguía ser el centro de atención. Lo suyo era el boxeo, y nada más. Quizás por ello las peleas entre Alí y Frazier cautivaron al mundo, pues no se trataba sólo de dos púgiles, sino de dos formas diametralmente opuestas de pelear, de vivir, de ser, de expresarse, tanto dentro como fuera del ring. Mientras Alí era todo un show, Frazier era más bien parco y aburrido.

Traigo todo esto a colación por que me parece apropiado para explicar un tanto la situación de Venezuela, post 7/O. De un lado tenemos a Hugo Chavez, el Alí de nuestra historia, y del otro a Capriles / la MUD, nuestro Frazier. Alí retó a Frazier y viceversa, pero siempre, antes de entrar en el cuadrilátero a medirse, se establecían reglas claras, las cuales ambos púgiles aceptaban. Pues bien, en el ring en el que se ha convertido el asunto electoral en Venezuela, tenemos que nuestro Alí nombra al referee, nombra a los jueces, nombra las reglas y / o las cambia, y ni el referee, ni los jueces, ni nuestro Frazier dicen absolutamente nada. Este estado deplorable de cosas es difícil de aceptar, por cuanto nadie, en su sano juicio, se mete en una pelea con Alí sin saber a qué atenerse.

Capriles fue electo candidato presidencial con aprox. 1,8 millones de votos, en un proceso de primarias en el que participaron aprox. 2,9 millones de personas. El proceso fue producto del acuerdo político entre los partidos de oposición agrupados en la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD). Luego de una intensa campaña electoral, Capriles obtuvo un poco más de 6,5 millones de votos en la elección presidencial.

En su empeño, comprensible, de eliminar en la medida de lo posible en el electorado el miedo a sufragar o a la creación de nuevas listas estilo Tascón, con las cuales el régimen pudiese pasar factura, la MUD, y su candidato, nos repitieron hasta la saciedad que el sistema electoral "había sido suficientemente auditado." El argumento oficial era que cuestionar al arbitro (CNE) y las condiciones, aparte de fútil, iría en detrimento de las posibilidades de ganar.

El colega Juan Nagel, de Caracas Chronicles, ha definido el discurso de la oposición, refiriendose al intento de Capriles de hacerse pasar como un Chavez light, como inelegible ("unelectable"). Al respecto, Juan hace un valioso llamado a que la MUD se abra a otras voces, que pudiesen en un momento determinado ayudar a definir estrategias. Aun cuando encuentro loable dichos llamados, entiendo que mientras la oposición siga liderada por quienes la lideran nada de eso va a suceder, por cuanto nuevas voces, y nuevas propuestas, son vistas como amenazas al poder constituido. En subsiguientes discusiones, Juan argumenta que el problema no es el liderazgo de oposición, ni su actitud genuflexa ante el CNE, y sobre ello no podría estar en mayor desacuerdo con él.

Estrategia, por Roberto Weil
He allí el gran problema, en opinión de quien escribe, por cuanto las supuestas posibilidades de ganar nunca existieron, nunca han existido, y mientras sigamos en esta actitud, nunca van a existir. Aupar a nuestro púgil a que se meta en el cuadrilátero, con una venda y un brazo amarrado, a que le den una coñamentazón, sabiendo que en cualquier momento y sin preaviso le cambian las reglas, es peor que una estupidez, es una actitud total y absolutamente irresponsable. Y nada de lo que diga nuestro púgil, o cómo lo diga, va a cambiar el resultado, pues ha de enfrentarse al mismo contrincante, con todo su arsenal, en desigualdad de condiciones, con todo en su contra. Lo primero que hay que lograr es un acuerdo sobre las reglas. En nuestro caso eso significa total transparencia de todos los aspectos del sistema electoral. El REP, a pesar de lo que diga la UCAB, no se audita propiamente desde el 2005, cuando CAPEL solicitó al CNE las direcciones de unas 12.000 personas para comprobar si existian o no, y el CNE se negó a entregar los detalles. Hasta los ineptos del Centro Carter han recomendado hacer una auditoría al REP (list to field, field to list) para comprobar si el numero de inscritos es fiable. Igual debe hacerse con las Smartmatics, codigos fuente, software, protocolos de comunicaciones, captahuellas, etc.

Es imperativo. No podemos seguir votando con un CNE que hace lo que le da la gana, cuando le da la gana, y además le permite a nuestro contrincante usar todos los poderes y recursos del estado en nuestra contra, y esperar otro resultado. Alguien famoso describió esa actitud como locura, el esperar obtener resultados distintos haciendo siempre lo mismo. Tenemos que exigir condiciones, tenemos que exigir transparencia, y tenemos que auditar el sistema como nos dé la gana. Lo que se nos dijo, sobre el sistema electoral, es mentira. Lo que se nos dijo sobre la presencia de testigos en el 100% de los centros, es mentira. Nos llevaron como borregos al matadero, y se supone que no nos rebelemos ante tamaña irresponsabilidad? Se supone que sigamos apoyando a un liderazgo incapaz, que por dos veces nos ha hecho lo mismo? Se supone que aceptemos pasivamente que se nos tilde de radicales, por reclamar lo que dice la ley?

Hugo Chavez se puede permitir el lujo de tener algunos congresistas de oposición, y algunos estados y alcaldías gobernados por opositores. Pero lo que la MUD y sus líderes no han querido entender, o lo han hecho y no lo admiten, es que Hugo Chavez no va a permitir que otra persona detente la presidencia de Venezuela mientras él viva. La MUD y sus líderes no tienen la potestad de adjudicarse los 6,5 millones de votos opositores, por cuanto el combinado de los inscritos en los partidos políticos que la conforman, probablemente no llegue a un tercio de ese numero. La MUD y sus líderes no tienen por que mentirle al electorado en cuanto a la realidad electoral, por cuanto mentirle, se ha demostrado, no logra los resultados deseados.

Lo preocupante del asunto es que quienes criticamos la estrategia fracasada de la MUD somos descritos como radicales. Muchos en la oposición aceptan sin cuestionamiento los dictámenes de la MUD, como si de un dogma se tratase. No hay mayor discusión de ideas, ni disposición de hacerlo: lo que mandan los ungidos es lo que hay, y punto. Es un espejo de lo que sucede en el chavismo, sólo que allá hay un solo jefe y aqui hay varios, que se reciclan una y otra vez.

En la historia entre Alí y Frazier, Alí se impuso dos veces. Si la oposición en Venezuela quiere abrigar la posibilidad de un triunfo, debe exigir condiciones.

19.10.12

The Hill & Smartmatic, part II

London 19.10.2012 - Fortunately The Hill is open to dissenting views. Here's my riposte to Smartmatic CEO's bullshit op-ed about Venezuelan electoral transparency. And here's a bit of a backgrounder, for context, so everyone can share a laugh at Mugica's preposterous claims. He can claim all right that his company is efficient -at ensuring electoral victories for his paymasters; he can claim all right that his company has won juicy contracts in the developing world; he can claim all right that his company has developed the ultimately, untested and unaudited electoral technology. But transparent? After running away from a CFIUS investigation? The perfect partner for fair elections, based on its deeply flawed record in Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico, and the Philippines? He has got to have lost the plot.

The Hill washing Smartmatic's face?

London 19.10.2012 - Below the kind of op-ed The Hill should have published, instead of giving tribune to crooks like Smartmatic's Antonio Mugica.

We Got Away With Fraud in Venezuela, But What About Here?

16.10.12

Derwick Associates & ProEnergy Services

London 16.10.2012 - Further to my two previous posts about Derwick Associates (see here, and here) I sent my last to a few sources in Venezuela, one of which pointed me in a rather interesting direction. It would appear that after all FTI Consulting is going to make a killing with Derwick Associates, if indeed they are involved.

The whole thing came about after repeated power blackouts left much of the country in darkness, so Chavez instructed his minions to solve the problem. Cue in Derwick Associates, meant to have been contracted by various Venezuelan public institutions to install power plants across Venezuela.



A visit to their website lists a number of projects, and contracting institutions (CVG, CORPOELEC, and PDVSA), namely:
  1. CVG - Sidor A
  2. CVG - Sidor B
  3. La Raisa I 
  4. La Raisa II
  5. Guarenas I
  6. Guarenas II 
  7. Picure
  8. Dual Fuel Conversion in Margarita
  9. Las Morochas 
  10. Barinas I
  11. Furrial 
  12. Morichal 
Now, check out, the EPC projects page of ProEnergy Services, and pay special attention to the names of the projects:
ProEnergy Services | Experience Our Energy


Barinas, El Furrial, Guarenas, La Raisa, La Raisa II, Las Morochas, CVG - Sidor A & B, Morichal... So, does that mean that Derwick Associates is getting contracts -without bidding or oversight- through its web of corrupt chavista officials, and then subcontracts ProEnergy to carry out the projects? That could be kosher, but then again, there's this thing called The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, which, in no uncertain terms, makes it unlawful to either make payments to foreign officials, or to assist in activities that could lead other parties to corrupt foreign officials. The blurb sums it up quite nicely:
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq. ("FCPA"), was enacted for the purpose of making it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Specifically, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA prohibit the willful use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of any offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value to any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity, induce the foreign official to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty, or to secure any improper advantage in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.
Then there's also the Money Laundering Control Act that, while more specific to banking related issues, also criminalises transactions in which US companies profit from unlawful activities abroad. Now, Derwick Associates has, according to Cesar Batiz, overcharged the Venezuelan state in the hundreds of millions of dollars, it has been reported that said overcharge could be of up to $1.5-billion, that is to say, Derwick Associates has engaged in activities that are unlawful in Venezuela (pdf).

So how does that leave ProEnergy Services? And, what will US authorities do about it?