The president of Venezuela’s National Assembly (AN), Jorge Rodríguez, reported that the authorities have arrested 19 people within the framework of the Nicolás Maduro administration’s anti-corruption drive. This was announced this Tuesday, March 21, during a session in Parliament, where Rodríguez further proposed a revision of anti-corruption laws to make them more severe.
“This investigation is just beginning and it is an exemplary response that will not [just] remain in words, since the law will apply to anyone who is involved,” Rodríguez stated. “I propose that the internal policy commission of the AN engage in the review of all the existing laws of Venezuela against corruption, one by one, to have more energetic punishments so that no one can evade it.”
The AN president said that presidents Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, notably, have combated administrative corruption in Venezuela in recent history. He added that during the governments of the Fourth Republic, there were close to 30 cases of embezzlement of public funds in almost 40 years, yet “not a single person imprisoned” for serious cases of corruption. Only mentioning the most recent scandals from 1984 to 1999, Rodríguez began to list some of the most outstanding cases:
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- Leopoldo Sucre Figarella, called the czar of corruption of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana (CVG), was awarded a contract for $35 billion, of which he pocketed $11 billion. “Convictions, zero,” Rodríguez noted.
- Pedro Tinoco, former president of the Central Bank of Venezuela in the 1990s, gave himself so-called “zero coupon bonds” for the benefit of his banks and fellow owners of other banks, at the expense of the most vulnerable people, no less than two years after the Caracazo uprising of 1989. “Convictions, zero,” the deputy again noted. “He continued to be president of the BCV and Minister of Finance in order to continue stealing. Tinoco himself recognized the private debt as public debt, he recognized the private external debt at 7.50 bolivars per dollar, when the dollar was in the street at 46 bolivars per dollar and it continued to rise, they had to devalue the currency for that reason.”
- “How many years in jail did Vinicio Carrera pay for the Chispa—Osma highway that he never built?” Rodríguez wondered.
- In 1987, Jaime Lusinchi, who was president at the time, refinanced the external debt for $30 billion with the International Monetary Fund, indebting all Venezuelans for more than 100 years, then claimed that the banking sector deceived him. “Tell me if this did not merit at least a motion of censure from the Congress of that time,” Rodríguez said. “Today we know how much they charged and who refinanced that debt, and today we know that there is no country in the world that has received more adverse refinancing conditions for that debt than Venezuela.”
- He also mentioned that Antonio Ledezma, when mayor of Caracas, gave a contract to an alleged Chinese company for $8 billion to manage the South Cemetery, “and that company—which never existed—tried to charge me when I took office from Caracas.”
- The $100-million African corn scandals during the government of Luis Herrera. “Convictions, zero,” Rodríguez noted once again.
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- The Sierra Nevada Ship of former president, Carlos Andrés Pérez, stole $400 million, “but there was no conviction for it,” the PSUV deputy stated.
- The bankrupted Banco Progreso and Banco Latino, represented by Gustavo Gómez López, received aid that amounted to $90 billion, “but there was not a single conviction either. They took that money,” Rodríguez added, neglecting to mention that they all moved to Miami to live like kings.
- Black Friday (in reference to the sudden devaluation of February 1983, when the bolivar against the dollar jumped from 4.30:1 to 7.50:1 in just a few hours, without the country being sieged, blockaded, or sanctioned, as Venezuela currently is); “convictions, zero.”
- Carlos Andrés Pérez and his lover Cecilia Matos had joint accounts for $1.2 billion; “Zero convictions.”
- The robbery of the Banco de los Trabajadores by Eleazar Pinto, Carlos Andrés Pérez, and Carlos Ortega, for 1.8 billion bolivars (approx. $400 million); “Convictions, none, zero,” Rodríguez continued.
- Diego Arria, who bought 72 buses with cardboard floors for $600 million bolivars (at the time, $200 million); “Zero convictions,” said the AN president. “A parody on the comedy television show Radio Rochela was their only punishment.”
- The company Cemento Andino, involved in a $1 billion fraud, whose manager was William Dávila. “Convicted? No, he was later elected deputy,” Rodríguez noted.
- The bankruptcy and sale of Viasa (former Venezuelan flag carrier airline), turned into scrap, where it is estimated that the state lost $12 billion. It is also estimated that the commissions paid were $1.75 billion, where Carlos Andrés Pérez also gave away CANTV and Electricidad de Caracas.
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Rodríguez also recalled that the foundation of the Justice First (Primero Justicia, or PJ) political party was carried out using money from PDVSA, with a check signed by the mother of Leopoldo López, being a director of the company, noting that those responsible for it were Leopoldo López, Henrique Capriles Radonski, and Julio Borges.
“Caldera, Lusinchi, Carlos Andrés Pérez, [no arrests]. The only ones that have confronted corruption in a decisive way have been Chávez and Maduro,” stated Rodríguez. “Give me a single name that has confronted corruption in a more decisive way.”
Although there is no official list of detainees, through various media sources—such as Últimas Noticias and La Tabla—it has been possible to find out about the arrests of:
- Joselit Ramírez, president of the National Superintendence of Crypto-assets (Sunacrip), allegedly involved in the disappearance of $3 billion.
- Hugbel Roa, deputy of the National Assembly for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), allegedly involved in “acts of corruption in the oil industry.”
- Antonio Pérez Suárez, vice president of trade and quality supply at PDVSA, according to information from Reuters and other private media. In a statement issued by the Ministry for Defense on Tuesday, it is reported that “some military professionals” who were serving on a commission at PDVSA “violated the legal order” and have surrendered to the authorities.
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- Pedro Hernández, mayor of the Santos Michelena municipality (Las Tejerías), Aragua state. He is being investigated for his alleged links with the criminal organization founded by Carlos Enrique Gómez Rodríguez (“El Conejo”).
- Judges Cristóbal Cornieles (president of the Criminal Judicial Circuit of Caracas) and José Maximino Márquez García (anti-terrorist judge), allegedly involved in the January 9 release of Oswaldo José Cheremos Carrasquel, accused of supplying weapons of war to the organization criminal El Tren del Llano, in addition to Jorwis Bracho Gómez, Falcón state control judge, for separate allegations.
- One of the Perdomo brothers, owner of the private construction company HP, for alleged money laundering using falsified construction development plans in the Las Mercedes neighborhood in Caracas (Baruta municipality). Local authorities in Baruta municipality might be next in line for new detentions, according to local media.
Information of other arrests has circulated in different media, but they have been unofficial and unconfirmed.
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Venezuelan parliament unanimously approved the request made by the Supreme Court of Justice to waive the parliamentary immunity of Hugbel Roa, a deputy and former minister for higher education, in order to continue the trial against him for alleged acts of corruption.
The request was presented by the president of the PSUV bench, Deputy Diosdado Cabello, who presented an urgent motion. “The Public Ministry has started the investigation,” said Cabello, “and includes a deputy from the bench of the revolution, complying with what is established in the Constitution.”
Earlier, the AN approved the Draft Agreement in Support of the Investigation and Fight against Corruption undertaken by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
(Ultimas Noticias and Alba Ciudad) with Orinoco Tribune content
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
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