El Nacional is reporting today that a document from the Departamendo de Aviacion de Citgo [Citgo Aviation Department] corresponding to 2008-2009 shows that high-ranking Venezuelan officials routinely used taxpayer-funded aircraft for personal trips.

The document provides evidence that a host of people used PDVSA-owned private jets (ultimately bankrolled by the Venezuelan taxpayer), including:

  • Presidents from other countries
  • The family members of Venezuelan cabinet ministers
  • A Citgo executive, who used a plane for regular travel between his two homes in the United States

In 2009 alone, the unnecessary flights cost a total of $418,401.

More specifically, the document outlines the following events involving the aircraft, which are supposed to be used for official business only:

  • Operacion Alba: President Hugo Chavez gave Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya personal and unrestricted use of a Falcon 2000 airplane (YV1496), which Zelaya used a total of 12 times between July 4 and 14 of 2009. One of his cabinet ministers, Enrique Flores, used the plane four times on July 18 and 19 to fly between Managua, Nicaragua and San Jose, Costa Rica. Total cost to Venezuela: $134,421.
  • Rafael Ramirez’s Family Vacation: Then-Minister of Energy and Oil Rafael Ramirez took his family on vacation to Eagle, Colorado on January 4 of 2009 aboard a Falcon 2000. Six days later, the same plane picked the Ramirez family home in Colorado and stopped over in Houston, Texas on its route back to Venezuela. Total cost to Venezuela: $94,961.
  • Fantasy Island: The same document details flights to exotic locations around the world, including Hawaii, Australia and Qatar. On April 20, 2009, Citgo president Alejandro Granado and his wife flew from Fort Lauderdale, Florida (where they have a house) to Houston, Texas. Four days later, the couple flew from Houston to Honolulu, Hawaii; five days later, they continued their journey to Sydney, Australia, then to Melbourne, where they stayed until May 2. They then returned to Fort Lauderdale, stopping in each destination they visited on their way to Melbourne. Total cost to Venezuela: $192.090. Granado’s mother also used the same airplane frequently, flying between Barquisimeto, Venezuela and her son’s two homes in either Houston or Fort Lauderdale. Between January and August of 2009, Granado flew 69 times between his homes in Fort Lauderdale and Houston.
  • Paris: The then-PDVSA president, Eulogio del Pino, flew to Paris with his wife on March 23, 2009 from Aruba. The couple was met in the French capital by Ruben Figuera, and the party then flew to Doha, Qatar. The next day, they all flew to Bilbao, Spain, finally returning to Venezuela on March 27. Total cost to Venezuela: $131,750.

Maduro: IMF President Has “Spaghetti for Brains”

Speaking on a television show aired on TELESUR said that IMF chief Christine Lagarde has “spaghetti for brains” after Lagarde used a similar metaphor to describe South American economic integration.

During a visit to Chile today, Lagarde said that South American international business co-operation and integration resembled “a spaghetti bowl” or “lasagna”, given all of the different layers and intricacies involved in creating the kind of unified economic zone UNASUR aspires to build.

For some reason, Maduro took extreme offence to the comment, and said:

She’s so disrespectful. She’s a French woman with American mentality. It’s a shame. You really can’t expect any less… [the IMF] is responsible for the hunger of countries around the world, of financial theft (…) of the massacres and killings of the 1990s, the lost decade.
The one who has spaghetti for brains is Mrs. Lagarde.

During the same interview, Maduro said that Colombian ex-President Alvaro Uribe was terrified of Hugo Chavez, and that he was an enemy “of Venezuela and of history”. Maduro said:

[Pointing to a UNASUR document] Look at whose signature we have here. Alvero Uribe Velez. Sprinkle some holy water around the study, because I’ve said his name (…) [He was] an enemy of Venezuela, of Bolivar and of history. But look, he signed right here.
I’m going to tell you a little story. But don’t tell anyone. Uribe was terrified of Chavez. Se le caian las medias [literally, “his socks came off”; meaning, “he was terrified”] whenever he saw him, so he would say that he was a great American leader. There’s never been a leader like him here. He was the Bolivar of the 21st century. Uribe used to say to Chavez, “I know this is how it is”. You can’t lie to me now; he was terrified whenever he saw Chavez.

Finally, a picture of Maduro, Diosdado Cabello, and Cilia Flores enjoying a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the woods:

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