Although it is already a systematic pattern that the opposition’s leading layer cannibalizes itself when the coup’s agenda fails, this time, both because of the nature of its internal conflict and its scope, the wall of cross accusations may lead to a new configuration of the political map for the year 2020, thereby compromising the momentum of the regime change headed by the figure of Juan Guaidó.
THE INITIAL SHOT AND THE AFTERMATH OF THE “CUCUTAZO”
On November 26, the self-proclaimed Juan Guaidó fired his diplomatic emissary in Colombia in a public letter to the Venezuelan oil businessman and former government minister of Carlos Andrés Pérez and Luis Herrera Campins, Humberto Calderón Berti.
“We have decided to make changes in relation to our foreign policy in order to achieve the objectives set by our legitimate government,” said the letter signed by the president of the National Assembly in contempt, without going into greater detail.
The information generated an immediate stir in public opinion as it was the first official removal of a “diplomatic” position appointed by Guaidó. The measure was interpreted not only as a symptom of the political differences between the operators of regime change, but as the manifestation of a deeper struggle.
In June of this year, the medium of the Venezuelan ultra-right, PanAm Post, published a report revealing that two delegates from Guaidó (Rossana Barrera and Kevin Rojas) embezzled “humanitarian aid” funds that were intended to pay for lodging and food for the military deserters who joined the operation on February 23 at the Colombian-Venezuelan border.
— MV (@Mision_Verdad) June 17, 2019
The scandal was a kind of continuous chapter of the picture of poisoning with scopolamine (burundanga) in which the deputy of the Guaidó party, Freddy Superlano, and his cousin, Carlos Salinas, were immersed when they hired prostitutes in the city of Cúcuta on the same February 23.
At the time, the Minister of Communication Jorge Rodríguez said that Freddy Superlano had a sum of $ 250,000 in his possession, based on a photographic and audiovisual record that showed the deputy of Popular Will with the paid companions.
Carlos Salinas died of drug poisoning at the Penelope Motel in Cúcuta, making the event the central issue of public opinion. The discontent of the anti-Chavista base for the failure of the “humanitarian aid” operation of February 23, found its biggest peak in the Superlano scandal.
When the scandal was uncovered, Calderón Berti filed a formal complaint with the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office as a result of the irregular handling of the funds, decoupling with said action from the managers appointed by Guaidó (under the First Justice party) for the control and distribution of the alleged “humanitarian aid”.
This case of corruption was an important eroding factor of the weak leadership of the self-proclaimed president of Popular Will (Voluntad Popular).
Once “dismissed”, in what can be interpreted as an adjustment of accounts for not defending Guaidó at the time, Calderón Berti assumed a vengeful tone. Becoming the figure most covered by the anti-Chavista media, the former minister affirmed at a press conference that, indeed, there were “adulterated invoices, expense reports without receipts, (misappropriation of) living expenses and some other resources”, referring to complaints against the intimate circle of Guaidó.
But the oil entrepreneur went further: he referred to Monómeros, a subsidiary of the state-owned Pequiven on Colombian soil, a company that was kidnapped and transferred to Guaidó as one of the first heavy movements of the regime change operation.
Primero Juan Guaidó saca del juego de la repartición de activos venezolanos al copeyano Humberto Calderón Berti.
Luego, este publica una carta en la que expresa su descontento con el manejo de la filial de Pequiven, Monómeros Colombo-Venezolanos https://t.co/w7FuIN4yhy
— MV (@Mision_Verdad) December 2, 2019
Berti contradicted the narrative that the kidnapping of said company was aimed at its protection. Specifically, he said : “In Monómeros we wanted to make an example of what a different Venezuela will be, professionals were suggested that I did not know and when we saw the references they all came from the petrochemical sector. What did the parties do? They reached out and put unqualified and low-reputation people who were later taken out but the damage was already done. ”
Berti delved into details: “I witnessed a meeting of Monomeros in which there were political leaders mistreating professional managers. I stopped it and left in protest because they did not deserve to be treated that way. It was intended to make partisan and politicized the management of Monomeros and I didn’t agree with that. “
These statements represent a heavy blow to Guaido and his already weakened credibility as the supposed moral renewal of the Venezuelan political class. The self-proclaimed responded to Calderón Berti by denying the accusations, demonstrating that the vendetta between the two had been cooking since February 23. However, the damage was already done: to the case of corruption of the “Cucutazo” the one of Monomers was added, causing the erosion of the leadership of the local head of the coup.
A report of commercial intelligence to which the Venezuelan research portal La Tabla had access, gives an account of the catastrophe that has involved the Guaidó management of the Monómeros company. The company has accumulated 20 million dollars in losses, has lost 90% of its participation in the international market, in addition to adding exceptional operating expenses of 3 million dollars that have contributed little to the viability of the subsidiary.
It was the Treasury Department that had a significant influence on the paralysis of the company with its round of sanctions against PDVSA in 2017 and 2019. It first blocked its access to the capital market and then, in January 2019, prohibited any commercial and financial operation with any company linked to the United States.
In June, a Calderón Berti administration resulted in a special Treasury license for the company to operate without restrictions, once the forced change in its management layer crystallized in favor of the “managers” of Guaidó. According to Berti and the new management, with this license the company would finally recover. This obviously did not happen.
The operational destruction of this Venezuelan subsidiary is the practical result of the combination of crippling sanctions with the illegal administration of a corrupt elite to which Washington granted legal belligerence to seize Venezuelan assets.
The Monómeros case allows us to infer that a similar devaluation has occurred with Citgo and other Venezuelan assets looted by the regime change operators. Consequently, Berti’s statements have had a strong impact on the credibility of the managers of the continued coup, but above all, on his narrative of “protecting Venezuelan assets” from the “corruption of the Maduro regime.”
THERE IS MUCH MORE
This crossing of accusations and confrontations would logically be transferred to the National Assembly (AN).
A report by (anti-Chavista news portal) Armando.info presented evidences of a group of anti-Chavista deputies lobbying to intercede before various venues (the case of the Prosecutor General of Colombia) for the benefit of businessmen Carlos Lizcano and Alex Saab, allegedly related as corrupt actors in the importation of CLAP boxes .
Throughout 2019, the Treasury Department has launched an intense public opinion campaign with the aim of legitimizing its crippling sanctions against the Venezuelan state’s food program, pointing to Saab as “Maduro’s frontman.” In that line of action, Armando.Info serves as a communication arm of the blockade and economic-financial siege operations against the Bolivarian Republic. They are in charge of predisposing the climate of opinion so that the sanctions against Venezuela are normalized and acquire a temporary logic.
The deputies named in the report are Luis Parra (First Justice), Conrado Pérez (First Justice), Richard Arteaga (Popular Will), José Brito (First Justice), Chaim Bucaram (A New Time), Adolfo Superlano (Change), José Pirela (Vente Venezuela), Guillermo Luces (Popular Will), William Barrientos (A New Time) and Héctor Vargas (A New Time).
The lobby was assembled, according to the media, from the Comptroller’s Committee of the AN, which is chaired by Freddy Superlano. The news report generated a clash of declarations in public opinion, precipitating that the ruling layer of the anti-Chavista parties be separated from the deputies seats, arguing for disowning them and the execution of internal investigation processes and expelings.
If the Armando.Info report aimed to crystallize a two-way media coup (against the Bolivarian government and the opposition), that goal would last just a short time.
Deputy José Brito, speaking on behalf of the accused, denied the accusations of the media and accused Guaidó of corrupting and embezzling the funds of “humanitarian aid.” Brito referred to a “rebellion” within the AN in which 70 deputies would converge, but not before threatening to withdraw his support from Guaidó at the time of his re-election as head of the AN in 2020. He also accused him of corruption and of not rendering accounts of the funds delivered from various foreign sources.
Although each party assumed its own personal defense, it was Brito who monopolized the media attention with a speech openly challenging Guaidó’s leadership. Officially, his role as a factor in the unity of the different tendencies of anti-Chavismo is in crisis.
El diputado José Brito, acusado de corrupción, ventiló detalles que embarran aún más la imagen del "interinato" de Juan Guaidó.https://t.co/VPENUmvGSa
— MV (@Mision_Verdad) December 4, 2019
Brito denounced Guaidó for having frontmen who have channeled and then misused foreign resources. “La Tabla” reported that these supporters in the intimate Guaidó circle would be Kennedy Bolívar, Rafael Rojas Saavedra, Marco Aurelio Quiñones and Rafael Ángel Domínguez. All, since 2018, have demanded the opening of the so-called “humanitarian channel” and have been linked to figures from Miami politics (as in the cases of Marco Rubio and Luis Almagro).
To close an unforgettable day, it was announced that the opposition deputy Leandro Dominguez had his briefcase stolen with 20 thousand euros in cash, presumably at the hands of his trusted taxi driver.
The sum of the so-called “Cucutazo”, the case of corruption in Monómeros and the publication of ArmandoInfo, result in the definitive erosion of the Guaidó leadership, the weakening of the credibility of the AN and enormous reputational damage to countries and centers of global and regional power that supported the coup against Venezuela.
On the periphery of this circular firing squad among anti-Chavista figures, another unique case arose: the false “Supreme Court of Justice in exile” accused other “magistrates” of wanting to install a fictitious court of the same characteristics. A disaster.
A MINI “CIVIL WAR”: CONCLUSIONS FOR 2020
Faced with the wave of scandals that led to high-impact crossfire, USAID tried to detach itself by arguing that neither Guaidó nor the other coup managers have directly managed financial resources.
According to the USAID website, “since October 2017, USAID has given more than $ 158 million in aid for use within Venezuela. Of that amount, only $ 30 million has been earmarked for humanitarian assistance through local and international organizations” , according to Voice of America.
This contrasts with an inescapable truth: in a USAID memorandum to the US Congress, dated July 11 of this year, obtained by The Times, it is assumed that all money (diverted from aid funds for Central America) “will go to Guaidó and his faction (…) to pay their salaries, air tickets, training in good governance, propaganda, technical assistance to hold elections and other democracy building projects.”
#DatoMV Todo el dinero de los fondos de ayuda para Centroamérica de la USAID se destinaron “a Guaidó y su facción para pagar sus salarios, pasajes aéreos, capacitación, propaganda, asistencia técnica y otros proyectos de construcción de la democracia”. pic.twitter.com/qlP5m5RlUn
— MV (@Mision_Verdad) December 4, 2019
Crises and fractures in the opposition are cyclical. However, this time, it cannot be classified as just another conflict of interest.
The situation has covered a “civil war” on a micro scale, where media infrastructure, dirty war operations and institutional influence channels (both local and international), have been transformed into artillery instruments for a generalized confrontation that can lead to a collapse of regime change traction.
This “civil war” has officially led anti-Chavismo, into four diffuse and contradictory factions: the extreme right represented by María Corina who advocates a US intervention, the moderate trend that participates in the National Dialogue Table proposed by Chavismo, a sector of deputies aligned against Guaidó (the 70 rebels of Brito), but also against the sector of María Corina Machado and the moderates, and the fraction of Guaidó that is composed of segments of each of these divisions.
All these factors are against Guaidó and facing off against each other.
This deep confrontation has move beyond the borders. Proof of this was the second meeting of the TIAR consultation body, held in Bogotá on December 3, where the imposition of travel restrictions and “financial sanctions” to senior Venezuelan officials, including President Nicolás Maduro, was agreed upon in an attempt to strengthen the diplomatic and financial fence against Venezuela.
The internal collapse of the opposition left the meeting in an informative background, imposing a limit on its capacity for action and reversal of the Venezuelan situation, where Chavismo closes the year with a dominant position.
The “civil war” in anti-Chavismo results in the isolation of international support that the coup had at the beginning of the operation. Internally, it undermines Guaidó’s leadership, erodes the credibility of anti-Chavista parties and expands favorable conditions for the National Dialogue Table to crystallize hegemonic agreements based on the political and economic stability of the country.
Meanwhile, the US electoral landscape imposes high political and economic costs on a military intervention on Venezuelan soil, which directly affects opposition sectors that based their political capital on that promise.
The “civil war” so promised by Guaido at the beginning of 2019 is being experienced by the leadership of anti-Chavismo in its own flesh, and is one from which only those few who promote it benefit.
Featured image: Juan Guaidó has been confronted by a faction of 70 anti-Chavez parliamentarians who demand accountability from Parliament’s resources (Photo: CNN in Spanish)
Translated by JRE/EF
Misión Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution
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