Spain’s ABC is reporting today Andorran authorities are investigating high-ranking PSUV officials over their alleged involvement in a money laundering scheme worth €1.4 billion (approximately US$ 1.6 billion) that used one of the country’s banks, the Banca Privada D’Andorra. The scheme was allegedly in effect from 2006-2012, and appears to have been headed by PDVSA, the state-run oil company.
The Banca Privada D’Andorra has been under investigation since March of this year, when authorities first claimed to have discovered irregularities at the institution involving Venezuelan funds.
The newspaper cites legal paperwork sent to authorities in the United States and Venezuela back in May stemming from the investigation, and claims that Andorran authorities are investigating 24 people in connection with the scheme. While ABC did not provide the names on the individuals on the list, it did say that former PDVSA head and current ambassador to the United Nations Rafael Ramirez is not named in the document.
The documents ABC assessed appear to signal a connection between the money laundering scheme and a Sino-Venezuelan fund created in 2007 called the Fondo de Cooperacion Binacional [Bilateral Cooperation Fund]. The fund was originally created to allow China to provide credit for investments in Venezuela.
Diego Salazar Paid €154 million for Unclear Reasons
One of the Venezuela entities suspect of being involved in money laundering through the Banca Privada d’Andorra belongs to Diego Salazar, one of Rafael Ramirez’s cousins. According to ABC, the entity received payments exceeding €154 million from five Chinese companies for “assessment services”, although there are no invoices or detailed documentation to explain exactly what the services rendered were.
ABC points out that the sums deposited in the suspect accounts are worth approximately 10-15% of the total sum of contracts awarded to Chinese firms for oil-extraction related projects. The publication also points out that even though the contracts were awarded for projects in Venezuela, the money was deposited in the Andorran bank.
On October 21, the Wall Street Journal published and article in which it alleged that Venezuelan government and PDVSA officials were involved in money laundering operations, possibly in reference to the same activities highlighted in the ABC article. In that article, the Wall Street Journal claims that Diego Salazar asked for $150 million in kickbacks from a Spanish construction company bidding on a project in Venezuela.
According to ABC, another document related to the investigation points out that the money entering the suspect accounts “presumably has a criminal origin [related to] political corruption of Venezuelan state officials”.
Cabello Refuses to Meet European Parliament Members
National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello dismissed the possibility of meeting with European Parliament members currently in Venezuela on an “exploratory” mission to assess the situation in the country, saying that he would never meet with anyone who “goes around the world insulting out country”.
Speaking on his weekly television show last night, Cabello said:
Those European deputies came to Venezuela only to poke their noses in things that don’t concern them.
The European representatives will be in Venezuela until Saturday, and appeared to be scheduled to meet with Cabello at some point.
Maduro Promises to Save Mustache if Home Goal Not Met
Speaking at an event earlier today in Yaracuy, Maduro said that if his government did not meet the goal of handing over its 1 millionth home by the end of the year, he would shave his iconic mustache.
Below, a video of Maduro’s comments, along with my translation:
Maduro:We should reach the 1 million home mark this year. We’re handing over more than 400,000 homes today — excuse me, this year. And I told the Ministry, “if by December 31 I haven’t handed over the one millionth home, I will punish myself by shaving my mustache”, so that everyone will know that I didn’t deliver. Do you agree? Ok, well, I’m going to do it. My mustache depends on you, Minister
Opposition Remains Confident in December Win
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) held a press conference yesterday in which it expressed its total confidence in a victory at the December 6 parliamentary elections, citing numerous polling firms that place the opposition bloc in a healthy lead over the PSUV.
The head of the MUD, Jesus Torrealba, summarized his opinion of the PSUV position at the moment:
Like a tortoise that’s on its back, and it can’t figure out how to save itself.
As evidence, the MUD provided a number of polls conducted by some of the nation’s top firms, all of which appear to agree that the opposition has a sizable lead over the PSUV. The MUD cited the following recent polls:
- Consultores 21: 55% for opposition, 22% for PSUV
- Datanalisis: 48.2% for opposition, 29.5% for PSUV
- More Consulting: 47.9% for opposition, 22.1% for PSUV
- Hinterlaces: 63.44% for opposition, 36.56% for PSUV
Henry Ramos Allup, a prominent opposition figure, said that the latest figures are reflective of a the fact that the Maduro government has lost approximately 32% support since the start of the year, and that Maduro can only count on the support of about 20% of Venezuelans today.
When asked about the opposition’s willingness to work with the government in the event of a victory in parliament, Allup said:
Circumstances will force us into a dialogue, but it won’t be forced. Maduro won’t be the one to set the agenda. The government needs to quit it with the arrogance.
Enrique Marquez, one of the heads of the MUD campaign, said that the figures point to an opposition victory not only in total votes, but also in parliamentary seats.
Economic Crisis Could Last Into 2018
Economist Alejandro Grisanti spoke at an Ecoanalitica economic forum and said that the economic crisis affecting the country could last into 2018, given its severity. Grisanti summarized his views in the following way:
I’m a pessimist when it comes to next year, but really optimistic for 2018. 2016 will be as difficult as this year.
Grianti estimated that the fall in Venezuela’s GDP between 2014 and 2016 will be 22%, and that Venezuela is the only country to suffer from such a devastating loss of economic power outside of war.
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