National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello spoke today on a number of topics, including Maduro’s meeting with President Obama during the Summit of the Americas, and the upcoming parliamentary elections.
On The Maduro/Obama Meeting in Panama
Cabello said that the meeting between the Venezuela and U.S. leaders was not a coincidence; rather, it had been planned. In his typical aggressive fashion, Cabello took the opportunity to criticize the opposition:
Yesterday, they [the opposition] insisted – you know, at the end of the day President Maduro met with President Obama. Here in Venezuela, the strongest opposition supporters said that it had been an informal and casual meeting. It probably was informal, but it doesn’t casual. It’s not like they said, “Hey, what’s up? Let’s talk for a bit.” It was a planned thing. It was not a coincidence that they met and spoke.
Yesterday, Maduro described the meeting briefly, saying that it lasted about ten minutes and that it had been cordial.
This is part of the effort President Maduro is making. It’s important to remember that President Maduro did not go to Panama to defend chavismo: he went to defend all Venezuelans from all political affiliations, because a threat of that nature is extremely serious.
On the Parliamentary Elections
Cabello said that “there is no doubt at all” that the opposition would try to instigate violence before, during or after the parliamentary elections. He also said that the efforts to destroy the country would be financed by foreign enemies in Spain, Miami, and Bogota. Cabello explained:
It’s good that all these movements from around the world are paying attention to these parliamentary elections and that they will help us, because the international cerco [roughly, “hunt”]… [it is made of] an axis that goes through Spain, then through Miami, then to Bogota, and then comes back to Venezuela with a lot of financing, lots of money and no scruples.
Cabello also said that while the PSUV was working within the law to prepare for the election, the opposition was working hard to create “new episodes of violence”.
On the Banca d’Andorra Money Laundering Allegations
Finally, Cabello spoke on recent allegations by United States authorities that billions of dollars had been laundered by corrupt Venezuelan officials through the Banca Privada D’Andorra. After days of silence from the government, the issue was brought up before the National Assembly by deputy Julio Montoya, who demanded and investigation be launched into the matter.
When asked if the investigation was undergoing, Cabello suggested that it was Montoya’s responsibility to find evidence of the possible crime and bring it to the National Assembly. Cabello said:
We opened up an investigation in the assembly and asked the deputy who filed the complaint, [Julio] Montoya, that he bring us the evidence, [and] up to now he hasn’t brought us even one piece of evidence.
On the Drug Cartel Allegations
Earlier this year, a former high-ranking bodyguard to both Chavez and Cabello named Leamsy Salazar defected to the United States and accused Cabello of being the leader of a drug cartel. It is widely believed that Salazar is working with U.S. law enforcement agents in an investigation into Cabello and the supposed Cartel de Los Soles.
Cabello had harsh words for Salazar, claiming that he had no evidence against him:
He [Salazar] is a person who, beyond betraying Diosdado, betrayed Commander Chavez and, I think, his own life…
He does not have, nor will he ever have, any evidence to link me to – can you imagine it? – something so absurd [as] as drug cartel.
He also said that he was planning to take legal action against any media organization that reported on the story, suggesting a large conspiracy against him at play:
When [a story like this] comes and it’s politically motivated and its intention is to cause harm, it’s totally and absolutely on purpose and planned. You publish the story in Madrid, it’s copied in Miami and then it’s reported in Venezuela as if it were true.
Gov’t Admits Disappointing Production at State-owned Companies
The Ministry of Nutrition’s memoria y cuenta [annual report] for 2014 was presented before the National Assembly, and includes a number of statistics that show state-owned industries posted disappointing production numbers last year. Below, some of the numbers for food-producing indsutries:
- Diana (cooking oil, margarine, lard, soap): Produced 124,282 tonnes of product, down 25% from 2013 and 35% from 2012. Diana met 76% of its 2014 production goal.
- Lacteos Los Andes (milk, powdered milk): Produced 265,933 tonnes of product, down 11% from 2013 and 21% from 2012.
The same document partially blames the lack of production on the difficulty by producers to gain access to foreign currency for imports, a fact that has been long been highlighted by the country’s economists.
The annual report from the Ministry of Industry included similarly disappointing numbers for the country’s technology firms.
Maduro Used Body Double at Summit
Part of Maduro’s entourage to the Summit of the Americas this past weekend included body doubles of him and his wife, Cilia Flores. The man and woman, who bears some resemblance to Maduro and the first lady, were used to distract gathering crowds of reporters. Below, an image of the doubles:
And a video of them in action. Note the real Maduro slipping into a waiting SUV at the end of the video: