An Argentinian court is investigation allegations that a man connected with the government of former president Cristina Kirchner laundered money in a scheme that involved a Venezuelan state-owned company called SUVINCA. Juan Jose Levy, who Argentina media claim has “links” to the former Argentinian Minister of Planning, had approximately $20 million seized from suspicious bank accounts by a court in the country yesterday.
According to Argentinian media, Levy is connected to a company called ESME. During the Kirchner administration, ESME received a $90 million contract from SUVINCA, which is owned by the Venezuelan state, for the purchase of personal hygiene and cleaning products. ESME charged SUVINCA 60% above the market price for the contract, and once the money had been transferred, SUVINCA cancelled the delivery of the merchandise.
Levy is also under investigation for two other suspicious dealings involving Venezuela: one involving a sale of medical eqipment to Venezuela worth $12 million, and another involving a sale of television equipment to Venezuela. The television equipment was allegedly bought from a Chinese provider using Argentinian state funds, and involved CANTV, the state-owned Venezuelan telecommunications company.
The National Assembly’s Permanent Comptroller Commission is currently investigating the transfer of over $10 billion from Venezuela to Argentina between 2007-2015.
La Patilla Exposes Massive Waste Under Jaua, Chavez
La Patilla published an article today in which it exposes one instance of what appears to be massive government incompetence and waste involving Elias Jaua and the Chavez administration.
Elias Jaua was the Minister of Agriculture in 2009. That year, he came to Chavez with a proposal: Jaua requested $348.6 million for a project that would increase chicken and egg production in the country. The project involved the Empresa Mixta Avicola del Alba, a state-owned company, with cooperation from the Argentinian government. The money would come from the Fondo Chino [Chinese Fund], a fund the Venezuelan government created with Chinese financing to act as a type of slush fund for government projects.
Jaua’s project had a projected timeline of 2009-2015, and was broken down in the following way:
- Phase I (2009-2010) would produce 175 million eggs and 15,000 tonnes of chicken meat that year.
- Phase II (2011-2015) would add 105,000 tonnes of chicken meat per year by 2015, and another 175 million eggs.
Jaua claimed that the money requested was needed to build 32 chicken-holding facilities, 2 reproduction farms, 2 incubation facilities, 16 hatcheries and 24 egg-laying warehouses.
La Patilla points out that by 2013, the project had essentially evaporated, and that the Ministry of Agriculture’s official report to the National Assembly that year – a 329 page document – contained a single mention of the project. That year, the project produced just 2,000 tons of chicken meat (only 3.6% of the yearly target) and 6,080 egg cartons (only 1% of the yearly target).
La Patilla has a thorough description of the project here, in Spanish, along with the original project proposal presented to Chavez by Jaua.
Maduro Orders Halt to Mobile, Internet Prices
Two weeks ago, CANTV – the state owned telecommunications company – published a list of updated internet and mobile phone prices that were scheduled to come into effect on August 1. Some plans increased in price by over 1000%, and some cost more than 50% of a the average worker’s income for an entire month. CANTV’s announcement was met with widespread discontent by Venezuelans struggling to tread water in the economic crisis affecting the country.
Last night, CONATEL – the government agency that oversees the telecommunications industry in the country – announced that the price increases would not go into effect on direct orders from Maduro himself. CONATEL issued a statement which reads:
The National Telecommunications Commission is making it known to telecommunication service operators, subscribers and the population in general that under instructions from the President of the Republic, Nicolas Maduro Moros, price increases to all telecommunications services throughout the territory of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are halted.
The President of the Republic has instructed the immediate formation of a working group to be made up [service] operators and related public entities to review all of the issues connected to providing services and developing the telecommunications and technology sector, which is a strategic engine of the Bolivarian Economic Agenda.
President Maduro will not stop working to guarantee the right to the democratization of access to information and communication technologies for the Venezuelan people. The working group with the telecommunications sector will meet this next Monday, August 1, 2016.
Paraguay Refuses to Recognize Venezuela MERCOSUR Presidency
Paraguay officially stepped down today as the president of the MERCOSUR sub-regional trade bloc. As per the organization’s own rules, the rotating presidency must now go to Venezuela. However, in response to the Maduro administration’s continued human rights violations, Paraguay refuses to acknowledge Venezuela’s presidency, and has called for a meeting of the organization to arrange for the presidency to go to Argentina instead.
Earlier today, Paraguayan Foreign Affairs Minister Eladio Loizaga said:
For us, [Venezuela’s] de facto presidency is one that Paraguay does not recognize as one.
Loizaga also said that he hopes to meet with the MERCOSUR delegations from Brazil and Argentina in the new few days in order to to arrange a way for Argentina to become the president of the organization.
Aside from its spotty human rights record, the Venezuelan economy is by far the worst in all of South America, with an inflation rate that is expected to hit at least 700% this year and a chronic shortage of food, medicine and other basic necessities due to years of mismanagement and corruption.
MERCOSUR’s permanent members are Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Suriname have the status of “associate countries”.
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