28.3.13

CVG Ferrominera, Juhua Group, Astrup Fearnley, RB Metalloyd, Crown Venture, DBS & HSBC in a multimillion dollar corruption racket











London - A source sent a sampling of iron ore transactions between companies above, which show corruption at the highest levels of Venezuela's CVG Ferrominera, as well as illegal payments made to its officials using DBS Bank and HSBC.

I have sent information requests to the parties involved and will be publishing documents, email exchanges, etc., in the next few days.

27.3.13

Los Guisos de Eva Golinger: Parte II


Londres - El 23 de noviembre de 2010, publiqué un articulo titulado "Los Guisos de Eva Golinger", en el cual exponía a la gringa tarifada esa en todo su corrupto esplendor revolucionario.

Ha pasado un tiempo desde entonces, durante el cual he sabido que la Golinger se regresó a su país (EEUU) a dar a luz a un hijo, ya que supuestamente su vida corría peligro en la Venezuela Bolivariana de su amado líder, protector y benefactor. Supe también que Russia Today, el TELESUR de Vladimir Putin, la había contratado para un programa de televisión. También me dijeron las malas lenguas que el canal de Putin estaba corriendo con todos los gastos de la Golinger en Nueva York.

Lo cierto del caso es que mas allá de los rumores y chismes encontré hoy en la base de datos de propiedades de Nueva York, que la Golinger se compró un apartamento en Brooklyn, por $372.000. El registro da cuenta de la transacción el 9 de noviembre de 2010, a las 5:23 PM.

Para el momento de la publicación de la primera parte de esta serie, Golinger llevaba algunos años ya trabajando en Venezuela, a tiempo completo, como propagandista del régimen del difunto caudillo, y para aquel momento había devengado, según el IVSS, BsF 44.752. Es menester recordar que ya en aquella fecha Golinger había admitido haberse comprado un apartamento en la Alta Florida en Caracas, valorado en 400 millones de Bolívares. Imaginen, estimados lectores, mi sorpresa, cuando me entero que además del apartamento en Caracas, resulta que la Golinger se compró otro, en Nueva York.

Por tanto, la pregunta es muy sencilla: de dónde sacó $372.000 para pagar un piso en Nueva York, si para la fecha lo que llevaba cotizado era BsF 44.752, es decir, unos $10.000?

La propaganda desde luego que da para todo, por cuanto Golinger ha cotizado hasta hoy, según el IVSS, BsF 208.787,07, lo cual al cambio actual son unos $33.000.

Como se explica que un ingreso de $33.000 dé para pagar hipotecas de 400 millones de Bolívares en Caracas y además pagar $372.000 de contado por un apartamento en Nueva York?

23.3.13

Nicolas Maduro ganará sobrado las elecciones del 14 abril en Venezuela


Londres - En el 2007, el difunto caudillo (menos mal!), perdió las elecciones de la enmienda constitucional. Los opinadores de oficio dijeron entonces que la derrota había sido producto del activismo del emergente movimiento estudiantil, el cual se movilizó y organizó no pocas demostraciones y protestas debido, principalmente, al cierre de RCTV. Ese fue, concluyeron los expertos, el factor determinante en la primera derrota oficial sufrida por Chavez. Como no vivo en un entorno donde atribuirse crédito por este o aquel acto es el pasatiempo predilecto, pues rechacé la especie, y lo hice basado en lo que creo fue un análisis desapasionado de la situación, y en números.

La enmienda que Chavez propuso, comentada aqui por varios colegas, era un asalto al estatus quo chavista. La enmienda propuesta, de haber sido aprobada, le hubiera quitado todo el poder a los chavistas, que ya ejercían algún poder ejecutivo, e iba a concentrar todo, aún más, en manos de Chavez, quien hubiese podido re-ordenar la división geopolítica del país, nombrar, o remover a quien fuese, donde fuese, hubiese sido electo o no, hubiese puesto a la milicia bolivariana (directamente dependiente de las ordenas de y sólo de Chavez) en el mismo rango jerárquico y ejecutivo que las fuerzas armadas, es decir, el bicho quiso auto nombrarse emperador. Qué sucedió entonces? Tres millones de chavistas se quedaron en sus casas. Ese domingo, 2 de diciembre de 2007, tres millones de chavistas no fueron a votar por su dios. Por qué? Por los estudiantes y sus marchas? A otro con esas pajas. No salieron a votar, por que la maquinaria de movilización del voto chavista no se activó ese día. Y por qué no se activó, siendo que la enmienda era tan importante para el golpista? Por una razón muy simple: vieron peligrar sus cargos, futuro, acceso a dineros públicos, es decir, fin de la piñata. La enmienda de Chavez era contra todo el poder constituido, menos el suyo. Y por ello, y sólo por ello, perdió.

Hay que analizar ahora las circunstancias que rodean la elección del 14 de abril. A varios días de celebrarse, no temo en afirmar que Capriles va a perder, y por paliza. Por qué lo digo? Por la misma razón que Chavez perdió en el 2007. Aquellos que vieron su futuro en peligro en el 2007 deben estar pensando ahora: "si no voto por Maduro, se me acaba la manguangua." Mas allá de los sentimientos que puedan albergar los chavistas por la muerte de su caudillo, que los hay, lo cierto es que el estatus quo debe mantenerse en el poder para poder darle continuidad al proyecto chavista. Esta vez está en juego el pescuezo de muchos, y los ingresos de millones, de ambos bandos ojo. Esta vez la maquinaria de movilización del voto va a funcionar como nunca. Es más, no me extrañaría que Maduro saque el 14 de abril más votos de los que sacó Chavez el 7 de octubre, por cuanto la motivación aparte de sentimental, es monetaria, es personal.

Por mucho que el Capriles diga que va a mantener las misiones, eso no cuenta para los chavistas. Por mucho que prometa que va a mejorar esto o aquello, lo cierto es que en el universo chavista nadie le cree. Los que hasta ahora habían demostrado apatía política, pero cobraban sus reales por esta o aquella misión, esta vez van a ir a votar, pues saben que si no lo hacen pueden perder las dádivas del estado. El voto no será por Maduro, será por la continuidad del populismo y de la regaladera de billete, será, finalmente, por la continuidad de la forma de gobernar de Chavez. El voto no es Maduro contra Capriles, sino Capriles contra lo que Chavez representó: las misiones, las pensiones, Capriles contra electrodomésticos regalados, Capriles contra casas, Capriles contra la anarquía absoluta promovida durante 14 años por Chavez, Capriles contra el narcotrafico reinante en la más altas esferas del chavismo, Capriles contra los pranes, no digo Capriles contra la corrupción puesto que él mismo tiene algunas respuestas que dar, por ejemplo, con respecto a sus relaciones con individuos como los Castillo Bozo, pero ese es asunto de otra entrega. Es decir, Capriles contra el despelote imperante, Capriles contra el chavismo, en un país como Venezuela? Contra eso Capriles no tiene, ni tendrá, vida.

Maduro va a ganar, de calle, de ello no me queda la menor duda. Tiene que ganar además, para que más temprano que tarde los chavistas, como no sucedió con su líder, sufran, de verdad verdad, las consecuencias de sus actos.

21.3.13

Rogues Gallery

Who is that, posing with the Big Dog?

Why that would be Orlando Castro, convicted felon and money launderer from Venezuela.



Is that the Big Dog again?

Who are those, posing with him?

Why they would be the Osorios (Amarilis and Claudio), about to be convicted fraudsters, also from Venezuela.

Is that the same couple?

Next to the "world's most elegant First Lady"?

Nahh...


I think it is!

For here is Claudio Osorio, again, posing with the "world's most powerful man".

So what else is out there? Is it a Democrats-only thing? That of posing with Venezuelan criminals? I must have misplaced pics of Osorio and Pelosi, and Hillary, and the videos... Damn! Alas it isn't a Democrats-only thing, how unfair of me.

Here's Al Cardenas, Republican, Chairman of ACU,  who says "you've got to be consistent", as he is, consistently taking money from the worse Venezuelan Boligarchs.

Is he the only case among Republicans?

No. He is not. For who is that, next to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera? Oh, that would be that squeaky clean banker, who has made "distinguished contributions" to American society and was given some sort of medal in Congress...

Marcos Rubio and Connie Mack were also part of the "several congressional colleagues" that praised and recognised "leaders" such as David Osio.

But is that all?

It isn't. Those are the Osorios, again, with Jeb Bush et al!

One thing is clear: ill gotten money gets you noticed, on both sides of the aisle, at the very top of American power circles and politics.

Fanny Kertzman y Alek Boyd en Semana: Los presos politícos de Chávez

Londres - Semana, una de las publicaciones más importantes de Colombia, publicó ayer un articulo en el cual participé como co-autor junto a Fanny Kertzman, quien estuvo al frente del DIAN y fue Embajadora de Colombia en Canada. Me llena de orgullo ser publicado en Semana junto a importantes columnistas, y por ello reproduzco a continuación algo sobre una parte del legado de Hugo Chavez de la que nadie está hablando.


Los presos políticos de Chávez

Por Fanny Kertzman y Alek Boyd


OPINIÓNMás de cien personas han pasado por los calabozos de Hugo Chávez. Muchos cumplieron la pena, pero todavía hay muchos adentro.

Los presos políticos de Chávez. .
.
El 13 de diciembre de 2004 fue capturado en Caracas el guerrillero de las Farc y hoy negociador de paz, Rodrigo Granda en una operación conjunta de la Guardia Nacional y la Fuerza Pública colombiana. Quien comandó la operación por parte de Venezuela fue el teniente coronel Humberto Quintero, quien era comandante de la Unidad Anti-extorsión y secuestros GAES del estado Táchira. Chávez ordenó detener a Quintero el 12 de enero de 2005, acusado de traición a la patria, abuso de autoridad, ofensas al decoro militar y privación ilegitimad de libertad. Quintero fue torturado de acuerdo a Wikileaks.  Fue condenado a  3 años y 8 meses, pero pagó 4 años y 3 meses, mas de lo que estipulaba la condena. Fue liberado el 30 de abril de 2009.  

No han corrido con tan buena suerte los ex comisarios de la Policía Metropolitana de Caracas Ivan Simonovis, Henry Vivas y Lazaro Forero. Acusados de complicidad en homicidio intencional y lesiones personales gravísimas en los  hechos ocurridos el 11 de abril de 2002, el seudo golpe que llevaría a la breve remoción de Hugo Chavez de la presidencia de Venezuela. Simonovis fue arrestado el 22 de noviembre de 2004, mientras que Rivas y Forero fueron arrestados el 3 de diciembre de ese mismo año. Fueron acusados de la muerte de tres personas durante los confusos hechos en que murieron 19 personas, muy posiblemente a manos de francotiradores y miembros de la milicia chavista. 

Su caso ha pasado a ser uno de los más emblemáticos de la era chavista. El juicio, en el cual se realizaron 231 audiencias, duró 3 años y 14 días, aun cuando la ley venezolana estipula que el juicio debe celebrarse en un solo día, y si es necesario debe continuar de forma consecutiva hasta su conclusión en los días siguientes. No obstante la incapacidad de la fiscalía de establecer culpabilidad, mas de 190 testigos declararon a favor de los inculpados, y las múltiples violaciones al debido proceso, los comisarios fueron condenados a 30 años de cárcel. El caso es un viacrucis de abusos, atropellos y violaciones a todas las normas legales vigentes en Venezuela,

El caso de la juez Maria Afiuni es el mas dramático y simbólico. Afiuni era  jueza del tribunal 31 de primera instancia de Caracas. Según el Codigo Penal venezolano (art. 230), ninguna persona imputada de un hecho punible puede ser privada de su libertad por más de dos años sin que se le escuche en audiencia.  Afiuni debía celebrar el 8 de diciembre de 2009 una audiencia preliminar del caso contra Eligio Cedeño, preso en los calabozos de la DISIP y acusado de fraude financiero. Debido a tácticas dilatorias similares a las empleadas en el caso de los comisarios (negativa del Ministerio Público a presentarse en audiencias), la jueza Afiuni pospuso la misma para el 10 de diciembre, cuando, basada en el Codigo Penal vigente y en opinión oficial del Grupo de Trabajo sobre la Detención Arbitraria de las Naciones Unidas, decidió suspender la medida preventiva de mantener preso a Cedeño, quien para el momento ya llevaba 2 años y 10 meses privado de libertad. 

La acción de Afiuni tuvo consecuencias inmediatas. Tan sólo 20 minutos después de que Cedeño recobrara su libertad, unos 10 agentes del SEBIN (servicio de inteligencia de Chavez) se presentaron en el tribunal y arrestaron a Maria Afiuni sin presentar una orden judicial, ni explicar cual era el motivo de la detención, o qué   autoridad había ordenado dicho arresto. El siguiente dia, 11 de diciembre, Chavez acuso a Afiuni de  ser una “bandida” en una de sus muchas cadenas nacionales, y exigió a sus autoridades judiciales 30 años de cárcel.

Han pasado unos 3 años y 3 meses desde que arrestaron, ilegalmente, a la jueza Maria Afiuni. El Codigo Penal actual sigue conteniendo la previsión de 2 años como periodo máximo permitido para estar en prisión previa a la sentencia. No obstante Afiuni sigue privada de su libertad. El caso le ha dado la vuelta al mundo, y es causa de criticas constantes al régimen del recién fallecido caudillo. La jueza Afiuni fue violada en la cárcel, tuvo que abortar posteriormente, y ha sido sometida a todo tipo de ataques y humillaciones por parte de presas a quienes ella misma condenó como juez. Para rematar le diagnosticaron un cáncer. Su situación es de tal precariedad que hasta el apólogo de Chavez, Noam Chomsky, pidió públicamente su libertad. En este momento tiene casa por cárcel.

Los casos descritos son algunos de los más conocidos, no por ello los únicos. Hay muchos más, como Franklin Brito, encarcelado después de que sus tierras fueran expropiadas, que murió en una huelga de hambre. La persecución de la que fue objeto el político Biagio Pilieri, enjuiciado tres veces por la misma causa, o a Otto Gebauer, quien fue condenado a más de 12 años de presidio por la dizque “desaparición forzosa” de Chavez en abril de 2002.

Muchos han cumplido condenas y hay muchos todavía presos: el agente Erasmo Bolívar y otros cuatro policias, condenados por homicidio y lesiones en una marcha oposicionista, tres personas condenadas por supuestamente haber participado en el atentado al fiscal Danilo Anderson, el empresario Gustavo Arraiz que antes era de la entraña de Chávez, el economista Antonio Márquez -ex director de la Comisión de Valores- que no cometió ningún delito, Mario Ricardo 
Dickson Gutierrez también de la Comisión de Valores, César Ramón Medina y César Camejo Blanco. A ninguno de estos dos se les ha iniciado juicio pese a estar presos desde 2010 y 2011 respectivamente. 

Sobre el caso Afiuni, ver el informe de la Human Rights Foundation.

20.3.13

Reputation management David Osio style

From left: David Osio, Andres Coles, and
Congressman David Rivera.
London - Yesterday, out of the blue, I got a call from someone I respect, and whose professional integrity I have no reason to doubt. He was asked about me (whether I was a pen for hire), by a third party (Italo Pizzolante), who, it would appear, acts as a spin doctor for David Osio. The reason? My writings about how Al Cardenas and FTI Consulting have struck gold with Venezuelan criminals and businessmen of extremely dubious credentials. It continues to fascinate me, how some people manage to keep defying the rule of law and/or outright violating it, and be generally referred to as "do-gooders, respectable, and successful" in circles that by education, sophistication, and access to information should really know better.

Case in point: David Osio. This gentleman was recently given some sort of recognition for his "distinguished contribution", or that's what Congressman David Rivera press release said anyway:
Washington, DC- Today Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) and several congressional colleagues will welcome more than two dozen Venezuelan-American leaders to the United States Congress in Washington D.C. for a ceremony in recognition of their distinguished contributions. 
“April 19, 2012 marks the 202nd anniversary of the beginning of Venezuela’s movement toward independence from Spain.  This date offers a fitting opportunity to highlight the great contributions that Hispanics of Venezuelan descent have made to the United States and the diverse fabric of American society.  We are proud to be honoring more than two dozen Venezuelan-American leaders who are at the top of their field in areas including medicine, business, arts and culture, journalism and activism for democracy, in recognition of their outstanding and distinguished works,” Congressman Rivera said. 
The awards ceremony will take place at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday in the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Room, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.
From left: Rivera, Osio and Ros-Lehtinen.
Among the "several congressional colleagues" doing the "recognition" were Connie Mack and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, perhaps the two more hawkish -vis-a-vis the Chavez regime- Republican politicians in America. So there they were, up in The Hill, happily, laughing, all cuddly and posing for pictures with David Osio. Did their staff did any due diligence on the list of "Venezuelan-American leaders" that were to be honoured? What "distinguished contributions" has David Osio specifically done?

Before getting the call yesterday, I sent an email to David Osio directly, for I have been reading up about his financial activities, and have some questions to ask, mainly about the sort of anti money laundering compliance he's put in place. For the record, he did reply, acknowledging receipt of my email and CCing a couple of his employees meant to deal with my concerns (still waiting).

In any case, Google returns some really interesting stuff about Osio's operations. His group, called DAVOS but totally unrelated to its homonymous Swiss city, seems to be a provider of financial services. It has offices in various jurisdictions, it claims to provide tax efficient solutions to its presumed wealthy target clientele, claims to do so transparently, and it also claims to have $2.8 billion under management. That's a substantial amount, so I thought relevant to ask what guarantees were in place in case, erm, their promised 3% return on CDs goes the Allen Stanford, or Francisco Illarramendi, way.

Despite transparency claims, there's hardly a name in DAVOS's website, apart from that of founder / owner (DAVid OSio). One has to look in DAVOS's leaflet to find management names: Gustavo Rivas, Mauro Nannini, Rafael Tinoco and Andres Coles. No bios. Anywhere.

There's nothing wrong in not posting bankers details online, after what's happened in the last few years. But the questions remain: are these people authorised to do what they do? If so, by which authorities, from what jurisdiction? What financial entity from the jurisdictions where they operate ensures, for instance, that DAVOS complies with due diligence, know your client and, above all, checks on politically exposed persons? Is the legitimacy of origin of every last dollar, from the $2.8 billion pot DAVOS claims to manage, been checked? Their leaflet about AML seems to have been lifted from various other sources (without attribution).

A publication of DAVOS, aptly named Davos Observer, claims that the group got something called "Best Offshore Corporate Services Provider - Switzerland 2012." Go ahead and google it. Try and find a similar, grand sounding award, in any year, to another company, anywhere else. The award was allegedly given by "The New Europe Industry Awards". Google again. I found a puff piece about DAVOS in a magazine called The New Europe. It's meant to be published by a company called Chase Publishing in the UK. I traced an email and sent a message to "The New Europe" publishers:
To whom it may concern,
Your publication "The New Europe" is cited in relation to the "Best Offshore Corporate Services Provider - Switzerland 2012" to Davos Financial Group.
See: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/davos-financial-group-received-international-181600752.html
The New Europe website published an interview with Davos Financial Group execs, entitled "Davos Financial: The personal touch" on 29 May 2012.
Since news about the award seem to be, exclusively, press releases related to Davos Financial Group, I would like to ask if you could comment on the following:
1) What kind of an award is that?
2) Since when are those recognitions being awarded?
3) On what basis / criteria is the prize awarded?
4) Who are the judging authorities / personalities that take award decisions?
5) Are you able to provide an electronic copy of The New Europe publication (Dec. 2012) in which the news about "Best Offshore Corporate Services Provider - Switzerland 2012" were announced?
6) Since your website (theneweurope.co.uk) seems defunct, could you comment on whether your publication is made available to readers exclusively in hard copy?
My intention is to establish the existence of that award and the veracity of news related to it.
I haven't heard from "The New Europe". Note that "news" about the "award" reprinted in Yahoo Finance do not explicitly clarify that Yahoo Finance is not responsible for its contents, as Reuters does.

But oddities don't stop there, for there's also that other press release where DAVOS claims to have sponsored an artist called Peter Aerschmann. I called Peter, who told me that DAVOS sponsored the space where he was exhibiting, but he "didn't get any money for it." I also found in a Swiss registry that David Osio's powers over D. Société financière (Suisse) SA have been revoked ("Les pouvoirs de Osio David J.sont radiés.") Société financière is still named as a bank with which DAVOS works.

But coming back to yesterday's call, I have seen that, in the past, Osio has employed Derwick-like tactics to silence his critics. Interestingly, Pizzolante Comunicaciones (PR firm acting on behalf of Osio) tried to get to me through that contact referred to before, and law firm Lydecker Diaz LLC (responsible for getting venepiramides.blogspot.com, wikianticorrupcion.org, expedientepublico.org y vlinea.com to remove info about Osio) has been visiting this blog recently. As I said yesterday to my contact, if there's nothing untoward in DAVOS's operations the best way of dealing with my, or anyone else's, doubts / criticisms is to be open and address concerns promptly and honestly. Using intermediaries, third parties, lawyers and spin doctors is never a good strategy, and sending legal threats to journalists and bloggers generally motivates people to dig and write more.

TBC...

14.3.13

ACU Chairman Al Cardenas & FTI Consulting strike gold with Hugo Chavez's Cronies

29-year old, billionaire (?), Pedro Trebbau-Lopez. 
London - ACU Chairman Al Cardenas’s web of relationships with Hugo Chavez’s cronies goes back for years and extends to defence of individuals involved in fraud, theft, and money laundering. The day before yesterday, prior to posting an article further exposing the connections between Cardenas and some of Venezuela's most corrupt  Boligarchs, I emailed Cardenas and his PR person at the ACU (Laura Rigas) requesting comments. They both read my emails but chose not to reply. As a blogger trying to report objectively, I felt I had to give them the chance to defend their professional relationship with the men behind Derwick Associates. Next I sent a request for comment to Joseph DeMaria, attorney at Tew Cardenas law firm, representing Pedro Trebbau-Lopez and Alejandro Betancourt-Lopez in the $300-million lawsuit against Banco Venezolano de Credito, and freemarket think tank CEDICE-Libertad's Oscar Garcia Mendoza and Rafael Alfonzo.

DeMaria did reply, saying:

Mr Boyd. I will refer to the public record.

I, and not Mr. Cardenas,am the attorney who was hired as litigation counsel for Mr. Betancourt and Mr. Trebbau. My firm has never represented Derwick in this litigation. When I was hired earlier this year, I was hired to represent these two individuals. And that is who I have appeared for in this case.

Further despite your constant reference to Mr. Cardenas in connection with this litigation, he does not provide any litigation services in this matter. The litigation is handled exclusively by me and my litigation team.

I hope this clears up any confusion you may have had about how this litigation is being handled.

So, I stand corrected. Mr. Cardenas’s firm isn’t representing Derwick Associates, it is instead representing the two listed owners of Derwick Associates: recently-minted billionaires (?) Messrs. Trebbau-Lopez and Betancourt-Lopez. Cardenas’s firm represents the owners of Derwick Associates, not Derwick Associates itself.

The Tew Cardenas law firm has 23 attorneys in total. It isn’t some 500-attorney firm. It is a boutique. Cardenas is founder and principal of Tew Cardenas. Mr. DeMaria's claim, that Mr. Cardenas has nothing to do with either Derwick Associates and/or its principals, as far as litigation is strictly concerned, may be true. But how many of the firm’s clients does he actually ever represent? He is the rainmaker and chief salesman. Who got the contract, Mr. DeMaria? My sources in Venezuela state that Cardenas himself made the sale, that Cardenas was fully aware of the provenance of Derwick's fortune, and he saw an opportunity to make a killing in fees, and possibly get a lobbying contract. Can Cardenas actually say he has never met anyone from Derwick Associates before? In fact, the Derwick boys’ choice of venue in Florida (an odd choice if you consider the anti-Chavez sentiment of any Florida jury) had a lot to do with the phrase purportedly used by Cardenas during the sale: “I don’t lose cases in my own back yard.”

Al Cardenas (right) with R. Fernandez
Barrueco (left).
But let’s discuss a different white collar criminal from Chavez’s circle: Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, another Boligarch billionaire who went from parking cars as a valet to being a major Chavez contractor and money launderer. He is another Venezuelan previously represented by Tew Cardenas in a tussle with the Drug Enforcement Agency. DeMaria was Fernandez Barrueco's counsel then. So, again, is this another person unknown to Cardenas? Can anyone buy DeMaria's argument that Cardenas -founder and principal of Tew Cardenas- is completely unaware and removed from what his junior partners are doing in representation of his law firm? Mr. DeMaria's argument flies in the face of photo ops where the ACU Chairman appears all chummy with this criminal (see picture). But it does not end there. In the same soiree when Cardenas was posing for pictures with Fernandez Barrueco, FTI Consulting's top dogs -Neal Hochberg, Matias Mora Simoes, Jack Dunn IV, Frank Holder and Erik Miller- were also present, which would suggest that both Cardenas and FTI Consulting have been pitching, and getting, substantial business contracts from Venezuela’s worst for a few years now. And guess who the Derwick boys hired to do their “image consulting”? You guessed it: FTI Consulting.

But why stop there? Tew Cardenas is currently representing none other than David Osio of Davos International Bank. This is a household name when discussing the Chavez government corruption and fraud. And once more, it turns out Mr. DeMaria has been retained as the legal counsel for David Osio, in a lawsuit initiated by former partners Rodrigo Fernandez and Andres Sotillo. Is DeMaria going to argue now that Cardenas has nothing to do with this either? Venezuelan financial bloggers claimed in the past that Osio was FTI Consulting's “representative” in Caracas, so a bit of context is in order, for those unaware of "banker" David Osio.

David Osio.
David Osio is one of a handful financial operators that have defrauded the Venezuelan people in the hundreds of millions. He is involved in the ponzi scheme set up by Francisco Illarramendi, in which approximately $550 million worth of pension money belonging to Venezuela’s oil workers disappeared (with the help of David Osio’s banks). In that case in particular, Moris Beracha, another former client of FTI Consulting, paid bribes to a PDVSA official using Osio's financial network. But that is not Osío first financial faux pas. Back in the day, his time at Banco Latino International during the Venezuelan banking crisis in the 1990s was questioned, as well as his actions at Global Bank and Dollar Savings Bank, for which the Office of Thrift Supervision ruled his activities as illegal. In association with others he forged documents to steal “considerable amounts” of money -belonging to Enrique Delfino- whose heirs, expecting funds to be part of their estate, realised that funds trusted to Osio had vanished and took him to court. Osio helped Gonzalo Tirado get chavista clients for Allen Stanford's ponzi scheme. Osio has also been involved in countless illegal transactions to help PDVSA officials, chavista ministers and members of the Bolibourgeoisie --Derwick Associates purportedly among them-- siphon and launder billions. For said operations, Osio would have made millions in commissions and is believed  to have used Goldman Sachs, Bank Bauer, JP Morgan, UBS, CF Monaco, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions as part of his laundering operation. Osio also appears to have run into trouble in Switzerland, in relation to operations of D Société Financière Suisse S.A., another vehicle he used to move PDVSA's millions. Osio used to operate in Miami, with Mauro Nannini, but due to the lawsuit Tew Cardenas is handling he decided to close shop and move north, to New York City, where Andres Coles is looking after his interests. Osio’s financial network spans Venezuela, Panama, Mexico, Brazil, Portugal, the U.S., Switzerland, Antigua & Barbuda, even New Zealand. Fernandez and Sotillo, his former partners, claim that Osio even used his own mother to allegedly perpetrate a multi-million dollar fraud.

Andres Coles, Osio's man in NY
There is enough here for a book about corruption in Venezuela, one of the legacies of Hugo Chavez we will have to deal with for years to come. I post this as yet another example of the kind of Venezuelan clients Tew Cardenas is taking on, regularly. I risk sounding like a broken record here, but the United States' authorities would do well investigating the activities of David Osio, its relations to FTI Consulting and Tew Cardenas, and how Venezuelan crooks like Fernandez Barrueco, Beracha, Trebbau-Lopez, Betancourt-Lopez and Osio are abusing the system -with FTI's and Cardenas's help, and using stream of commerce and financial markets to launder their ill gotten fortunes. Despite what Mr. DeMaria claims, Al Cardenas seems to be up to his neck in all this. It is his prerogative to do so, of course, but the moral position of his ACU-GOP leader public persona is untenable.

13.3.13

On the Eve of CPAC, ACU Chair Al Cardenas Participates in the Persecution of Venezuela's Key Civil Society Leaders

Al Cardenas and his protegé Marco Rubio.
London - The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the most important event of the American political right, begins tomorrow. The event is sponsored and organized by the American Conservative Union, which is led by Florida GOP leader Al Cardenas.  Sadly, the ACU chairman (pictured with his pupil Marco Rubio) is the principal partner of the Tew Cardenas law firm, counsel for one of the most corrupt group of businessmen in Venezuela: Derwick Associates. But what makes Cardenas's association with Derwick Associates' owners Pedro Trebbau-Lopez and Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt-Lopez go beyond boundless greed is its participation in a major lawsuit against two of the most important opposition figures in Venezuela.

Tew Cardenas's targets are the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Venezuela's premier free-market think-tank, CEDICE-Libertad. These two men have spent the better part of the last 14 years fighting against the Chavez government's slide into autocracy. One of them is a banker, Oscar Garcia Mendoza. The other is a businessman, Rafael Alfonzo.

Al Cardenas (right) with criminal Ricardo
Fernandez Barrueco (left). 
In February I sent this information to a number of American news outlets. PJ Media and The Daily Caller replied, both interested in running the story. Unfortunately, after agreeing to publish the article with details about Cardenas's hypocrisy, they both backtracked. I understand they don't want to get dragged into legal disputes, but am saddened nonetheless by this. Hopefully those attending CPAC will have a moment to ask Al Cardenas why his firm is representing perhaps the most corrupt group of boligarchs to have come out of Chavez's Venezuela.  When I began looking into this story I learned a problematic new factoid: Cardenas has done this before, when he represented Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco (both pictured above), another Chavez crony who, in less than a decade, went from parking cars to having a fortune of $1.6 billion.

Cardenas is, of course, entitled to make a living representing whatever criminals and crooks, but is it really kosher for the conservative movement to ennoble him as their anointed leader, when his firm is persecuting Venezuela's battered opposition?

Recently former Bush appointee Otto Reich coauthored (with Ezequiel Vazquez-Ger) a brilliant article in Cardenas's back yard, Miami, about Derwick Associates and their corruption. However, given Derwick's  penchant for threatening to sue anyone who writes about them, Reich intelligently didn't mention Cardenas or Derwick by name, instead he wrote:
"In Chávez’s Venezuela, however, a politically favored group (some with no previous experience in complex sectors such as energy and finance) were able to accumulate, sometimes in four years, fortunes that allow them to purchase luxury mansions in the U.S., extravagant estates in Europe, the costliest private jets and automobiles, exceptional racehorses and more."
Reich and Vazquez have bravely denounced corruption on the right side of the aisle. The key question now is: will those at CPAC ask for their house to be put in order on this issue? While the Venezuelan opposition is increasingly the target of more attacks, the Derwick thugs celebrate weddings in the U.S. and line the pockets of so called beacons of the conservative movement.

12.3.13

On Hugo Chavez's death...

My views on Hugo Chavez's death for the BBC's World Have Your Say: radio discussion with Gabriela Torres, producer for BBC Mundo, and Julia Buxton, Bradford University's professor of Peace Studies.



Podcast can also heard by visiting this page.


10.3.13

The Chavez Legacy

8.3.13

Occupying Hugo Chavez's Legacy @ Russia Today

So I was participating in a debate about Chavez....


As I was warming up and getting into my stride, I thought it would be cool to throw hacks-for-rent off balance by bringing up a very valid point about Chavez's legacy...

Next thing you know, they kicked me out of the program. Note that no mention of my sudden disappearance is made by presenter Peter Lavelle.

The title of this story could be: Occupying Chavez's legacy @ Russia Today

7.3.13

Putin's Russia Today & freedom of expression

London - So today, I was taking part in a debate on Chavez's legacy for Cross Talk, a program of Russia Today. I thought it would be good, since we were discussing Chavez's legacy, to bring up Maria Afiuni, after all she is as part of the legacy as much as Barrio Adentro, right? How silly of me... Russia Today, you see, is Putin's "news" channel. It follows that its editorial line must comply with the Kremlin's diktats. Any deviation from it, any attempt to exercise freedom of expression fully is met with dismissal, as I found out today.

As I was, basically, ridiculing the arguments of a couple of propaganda hacks (Alex Main, former Venezuela Information Office agent now with Weisbrot's CEPR, and George Ciccariello-Maher, a Drexler "assistant professor" who's been cheering for Chavez for donkey's years), I decided to put a sign in front of me (pictured), during the first break. At that point, presenter Peter Lavelle said that I had to remove the sign, as the debate was about Chavez's legacy. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to argue my case about Maria Afiuni, who IS part of that legacy.

In the last two days I have been asked to comment on Chavez's death for the BBC World Service, BBC News, BBC's World Have Your Say and BBC's Radio 5. In the last two programs, two other "professors" made untenable claims, along the lines of that there was true independence of institutions in Venezuela (Julia Buxton dixit), or that Chavez had won 14 free, fair and transparent elections in Venezuela (believes Mike Gonzalez). Today, it was the turn of "assistant professor" Ciccariello-Maher, who said that thanks to Chavez, Venezuela's disenfranchised had access to health and education for the first time. Neither could provide coherent explanations to my factual counterarguments of course.

So what is it with these "professors"? Why are they incapable of accepting a simple fact of life, that of human fallibility? In their opinion everything Chavez did was good. No mention of coup d'etats, deaths, political persecution, human rights violations, associations with rogue regimes and narco terrorist organizations will ever be heard from this lot. I find myself more and more at ease accepting, in all honesty, the positives that Chavez had. Furthermore, any mature person, any individual who's not blinded by ideology, knows that every human being has positive aspects as well as negative ones. In appraising Hugo Chavez's legacy, it's perfectly fine to commend his poverty alleviation populist programs, his popularity and charisma, his towering persona in our country's political arena and so on. If I can accept that, without qualms or hesitation, why is it that these "professors" can't bring themselves to even acknowledge, for instance, Chavez's militarism and authoritarian disposition, or his indefensible relations with Fidel Castro and Bahsar al-Assad, or his support for FARC, or his jailing a judge for actually doing her work? What kind of example are these academics trying to give, and, more importantly, how can they expect respect with such adolescent and intellectually dishonest behaviour? Thinking about it I came up with the hashtag #ideologytrumpsobjectivity.

Coming back to Cross Talk, I don't know whether they will dare to broadcast  my participation in the program, until I was kicked out that is. I hope they do. But I realise they're in an impossible to win situation. If they do air the program, their kicking me out after I put the sign up asking for Maria Afiuni's and Pussy Riot's freedom, is likely to go viral, thus a PR disaster. If they decide to edit out my participation completely, and pretend that it never happened, that is also a PR disaster, for then it will be impossible to claim that they are an objective news provider where freedom of expression can be exercised fully.

It's one of those: A4 cardboard? 20 pence; marker? £1; ride to TV studio? paid for; getting kicked out of Putin's propaganda channel for putting up a sign asking for innocent political prisoners to be freed? priceless!

6.3.13

Hugo Chavez's legacy? Utter failure

Caricature from The Times, 7 Mar. 2013
London - With the news of Hugo Chavez's passing inundating the world's media, his life and legacy will be the topic of many debates. Having been blogging about Venezuela since 2002, I thought I could venture my views. Hugo Chavez was not this, somewhat benign guy, who had his heart in the right place but couldn't overcome what I will call "Venezuelanness", read a people with a pretty anarchic outlook and general disregard for rule of law, order, and authority.

For me, after 14 years of his rule, Chavez has been an utter and absolute failure. A disaster to an otherwise semi-dysfunctional democracy. A Frankenstein of a political duopoly that did not know how to develop. I could bore readers with statistics on the economy, crime, prison deaths, human rights violations and so on, but I won't. Chavez's legacy, the one with which 29 million of us will have to deal with for generations to come, is one of hatred. Hatred that just wasn't there. Hatred that was incited, as a state policy, from the highest office. Hatred among Venezuelans, that was not seen, or experienced, since the times of the independence war, when Bolivar and Boves were battling each other to extermination. 

All else remains irrelevant, mere side shows. It is inaccurate to say, as many now do, that Chavez brought health care to poor people, as much as it is to say that he nationalised oil. It is untenable to argue that Venezuela is an "illiteracy free" territory. It is preposterous to praise community groups in barrios as a sign of enlightened democratic empowerment of the disenfranchised, when the rights of the minority, in this case the opposition, are systematically trampled as a matter of state policy. Don't take my word for it, just pick any report from the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, HRW, the EU, or even ILO. It is ignorant, in the extreme, to contend that since Chavez has won many elections, and that since there's lack of evidence of ballot stuffing, elections in Venezuela are free and fair. 

Chavez, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez once clairvoyantly said, was a man who had the chance of changing our country for the better, and decided instead to gallop like the deranged and resentful megalomaniac he was in the complete opposite direction. And after 14 years and the largest income that our petro state has ever seen, Ronald Reagan's poignant question becomes all too relevant: are Venezuelans better off today than they were 14 years ago? The answer is: absolutely not. There's more crime, there's more violence, there's hardly an institution capable of dispensing justice, there are no places to go get redress, there are fewer businesses so finding work is much more difficult, the country's infrastructure is crumbling, the state is heavily indebted, the value of our currency is lower, the inflation is out of control, the country is perilously dependent on imports as local businesses have been persecuted to the point of near extinction, there are thousands of Cubans in strategic positions, drug dealing has permeated the top echelons of military power, our country under Chavez has but broken relations with every democratic and advanced state and has forged instead relations with pariah states and leaders whose relationships have cost us billions, in sum, for every positive thing Chavez may have done, there are dozens of negative actions that leaves us in the red. Had Chavez not taken over PDVSA it would be producing in excess of 3.3 MBD with about 40,000 employees. Instead, it is producing less than 2.5 MBD -even importing gasoline to meet local demand- and its staff has increased to over 100,000 employees, ergo less money to get out from the hole.

Hugo Chavez with his friend Bashar al-Assad
Our country was never a model of democracy, but among other Latin American nations ravaged by continuous military coups in the second half of the XX century, it was an example. Our country, let me remind you readers, was centre stage in suspending from OAS both Trujillo's hard right dictatorship and Fidel Castro's hard left one. Our country's diplomats were key in liberating political prisoners from Pinochet's Chile. Our country was a net recipient of immigrants, not only those who were running away from the Second World War but also those escaping brutal dictatorships in the region. Who emigrates to Venezuela nowadays? Who sets up businesses and risks it going now? I'll tell you who: thugs from Iran, Zimbabwe, Libya, Sudan, Bolivia, Colombia, Nicaragua, communist Cuba, Russia, and China that's who. Our country, for instance, received a bunch of Basque terrorists after an agreement between Carlos Andres Perez and Spanish Premier Felipe Gonzalez, that, for years, were kept monitored and on check. Nowadays they work in the highest offices, are protected by the Chavez regime, and have even been naturalised. The US spends billions helping Colombia struggle with FARC's narco terrorism, while Chavez used to give them money, sanctuary, and support. That's what our country has become, a gangsters' paradise. In the words of former Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN, Diego Arria, Chavez put early on a big neon sign that read: Venezuela is open for business, all criminals welcome.

No amount of Barrio Adentro hyperbole is going to mask the destitute state of affairs brought about by chavismo. Equally, no amount of make believe "disenfranchised empowerment" humbug will change the fact that, within chavismo, democracy is, quite simply, non existent. It was Chavez who decided all relevant matters. It was Chavez who appointed, recycled, empowered and demoted. No one else. Not even "the people". The fact that his movement has not produced one single figure head capable of taking his mantle is the biggest testament to the failure of chavismo's authoritarian personality cult. 

Thus, going back to Chavez's legacy, I know what will it be. My poor countrymen will probably feel that Chavez spoke for them, felt for them, and tried to improve their lot. They will certainly say that only Chavez treated them as equals and wanted to give them, rightfully, their place in our society. But that will not make the legacy any less negative. Devolving dignity to the poor will fly in the face of supporting the FARC, the Colombian narco terrorist organisation. Poverty alleviation populist programs will fly in the face of near absolute infrastructure collapse, diminished industrial capacity, and increased indebtedness. Chavez's trademark anti American rhetoric will fly in the face of the fact that he kept during all his rule a de-facto free trade agreement with the USA, in whose market most of our oil is sold and whose resulting income funded his desires of a Bolivarian revolution of global proportions. All talk against capitalism as the root of all evil will fly in the face of stories of Boli-bourgeoisie, a class of thugs styled on Russia's oligarchs who became wealthy beyond measure thanks to the rampant corruption of Hugo Chavez and officials of his regime. All talk about socialism will fly in the face of his militarism and weapons acquisitions. All talk about his "humanitarian intentions" will fly in the face of a prison system ruled by prisoners from within and legal cases such as that of Maria Afiuni. All talk of sovereignty and independence, after what's gone on in Havana, well that'll be indefensible. 

After the news of Chavez death pass, and international attention refocuses on other issues, we will have to pick up the pieces and try to mend our ravaged nation. Hugo Chavez's chapter in history will not be written by foreign correspondents, and assorted apologists but by Venezuelans, and after all is said and done I predict he will become an example of what not to do, a misstep, a resentful putschist that should never have been allowed near power. The losers never get to write history, and Chavez singlehandedly lost perhaps the best opportunity our country has ever had to develop.

Hugo Chavez is dead

Hugo Chavez is dead. As per my thoughts: I feel as Chileans must have felt, when Pinochet was voted out; as Egyptians felt, when Mubarak was ousted; as Libyans, when Gaddafi was killed; as Paraguayans, when Lugo was kicked out; as Americans, when Obama won and Brits when Tony Blair returned Labour back to power.

It's, I think, a mix of joy, sadness, hope, excitement and expectation, above all, expectation. For let us not forget, chavistas, which is the people that surrounded Hugo Chavez for the last few years, are still, pretty much in command: they've got all the fire power, and all the money. They are still taking cues from America's longest dictatorship, while Colombian narco terrorists and drug traffickers have permeated to the highest reaches of the Venezuelan army. Criminals run the show in Venezuela, literally. That's the legacy we'll have to deal with.

Hugo Chavez is dead, alas Venezuela is still in the dark.

3.3.13

The Miami Herald v Derwick Associates

London - Well, well. At last, a major publication in the U.S. of A has echoed the catalogue of reports I have posted in this blog denouncing rampant corruption, and money laundering by a handful of Venezuelan thugs, and their American partners. Today, The Miami Herald published a piece by Otto Reich, former Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Ezequiel Vazquez-Ger, about, guess who? Derwick Associates. Reich and Vazquez-Ger were careful of not mentioning any names, explicitly, so that possible letters to The Miami Herald by attack-lawyer Hector Torres will not impede publication, but all necessary references are there.

I have been tipped that the latest twist in the saga is that Al Cardenas's law firm, Tew Law, that defended criminal Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco in the past, and has been contracted by Derwick Associates in its spurious defamation case against Oscar Garcia Mendoza, is now also doing the bidding for David Osío, yet another banker Bolivarian thug deeply involved in money laundering for quite some time now. In addition, Osío's financial company, Davos International Bank, is allegedly involved in a ponzi scheme that cost PDVSA an estimated $500 million (Moris Beracha, another notorious money launderer from Venezuela, also took part in this gig).

So what do we have here? A true who's who of Venezuela's Boligarchs and their 2.0 version -Bolichicos- using basically the same lawyers (Cardenas et al) and the same PR firm (FTI Consulting). Is that a coincidence, or sheer stupidity? If one of the parties mentioned is found at fault, a domino effect is likely to bring the rest down, as all of them are connected through illegal financial transactions. And if there was ever a doubt that the Chavez regime is behind all this, one only needs to look at how Venezuela's Banks Superintendency (SUDEBAN),  inexplicably, appears to have taken sides in a matter well beyond its remit. Interesting times ahead.

Below, Reich's and Vazquez-Ger's article in full.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and his U.S. business partners

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/02/v-fullstory/3262092/venezuelas-hugo-chavez-and-his.html

Venezuela is immersed in a political and economic tragedy of catastrophic proportions. As a result of Hugo Chávez’s “21st Century Socialism,” food and other essentials are increasingly scarce, while violence and crime rise exponentially.

The country’s top rulers include people designated as “drug kingpins” by the U.S. Treasury Department, as well as civilians and military officers more interested in acquiring personal wealth than in the administration of civil institutions. It should be no surprise, therefore, that some unscrupulous Venezuelans have made enormous fortunes there recently.

The Venezuelan slur for the beneficiaries of this 21st Century chaos is “Boliburgueses” or “Bolichicos.” A rough English translation of the words from the Spanish would be “Boligarchs,” and “Young Boligarchs,” for the new oligarchy that always accompanies revolutions allegedly carried out in the name of the exploited.

In a free economy, like ours, an entrepreneur can accumulate, after much effort and competition, a multimillion-dollar fortune if he or she can create a product or service that people are willing to buy. For example, according to Forbes Magazine, the founder and former CEO of Yahoo, Jerry Yang, has a fortune estimated at $1.2 billion while Aubrey McClendon, co-founder of Chesapeake Energy, the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer, has a fortune estimated at $1.1 billion. No reasonable person in the United States would shun those successful executives and others even more prosperous — for example, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, or the late Apple founder Steve Jobs.

In Chávez’s Venezuela, however, a politically favored group (some with no previous experience in complex sectors such as energy and finance) were able to accumulate, sometimes in four years, fortunes that allow them to purchase luxury mansions in the U.S., extravagant estates in Europe, the costliest private jets and automobiles, exceptional racehorses and more.

The exact amount of the fortunes is impossible to estimate, since they were obtained illegitimately and are being hidden by witting or unwitting bankers, mostly overseas.

How does this affect the United States and why should we care?

Because most of the culprits live in or come regularly to this country. They do not pay U.S. taxes on most of their wealth because they only bring in the “few” millions required to maintain their profligate lifestyles. They use U.S. banks to move money and to maintain their extravagant properties. They are aided by prominent public relations consultants, law firms, “private investigation” agencies and tax specialists that help clean up their image and protect their assets but that also intimidate those who might expose their clients.

To cover their tracks and attempt to enjoy the privilege of living in our country, some Boligarchs have launched lawsuits against honest Venezuelan businessmen in American courts. The purpose is to create a smokescreen to hide behind, and prevent the U.S. government from expelling the real offenders. Accustomed to the arrogance of power in their country, they believe that money trumps the law.

Some of their lawyers send threatening letters to journalists and news outlets, to block negative reports about their clients. Apparently, this is what one does when the major cause of the country’s destruction rests on one’s shoulders.

It is essential to point out that the majority of Venezuelans who have come to our shores seeking refuge are honest victims of the Chavista kleptocracy.

Merely having made money in Venezuela does not make one dishonest.

As for the term “Boligarchs,” Venezuelans refer to those who have wittingly benefited from the looting of their nation, who have amassed fortunes exceeding $1-2 billion, in many cases, from illegitimate awards of government contracts, from kickbacks and other gifts to government officials and from other unethical and immoral activities.

The destruction of Venezuelan society is the result of the Venezuelans’ own actions: Those that for the past 14 years have governed by failed policies based on Marxist ideology and class hatred. Those who did not dare speak out in time against the authoritarianism and thievery of Chávez and his cronies. And those who disregarded any sense of morality and instead exploited the absence of the rule of law to build huge fortunes on the backs of their fellow countrymen.

The United States does not bear the responsibility for the Venezuelan tragedy.

But we would be complicit if we remained silent to the looting, especially when we know where much of the money is, and that many of these looters are today enjoying the peace and security that the rule of law underpins in our country.

The U.S. government must stop providing refuge to Chávez’s business partners in the United States. Federal officials know who they are.

Otto Reich is a former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs and U.S. ambassador in Venezuela. Ezequiel Vazquez-Ger is a member of the nonprofit organization Americas Forum for Freedom and Prosperity.