Yesterday, news broke via National Assembly deputy Jose Guerra that the Maduro regime had obtained a $5 billion loan illegally on December 29, apparently through a Chinese banking institution and without the input or approval from the national legislature. The move is illegal because according to the Venezuelan Constitution, all matters pertaining to the public debt – including matters pertaining to loans – must be debated and approved by the National Assembly.
According to the article, the loan is in the form of physical bearer bonds, which are essentially pieces of paper that hold a certain amount of monetary value. Bearer bonds are anonymous and impossible to trace since the bond is owned by whoever happens to be holding it at the time. In this case, the bonds were marked “physical”, meaning that they were physically printed out and are presumably in the process of being delivered to Venezuela.
Russ Dallen, an economist with the Venezuela Opportunity Fund, told the Latin American Herald Tribune that “most developed nations” do not deal with physical bearer bonds, choosing instead to handle computerized transactions.
Dallen also pointed out that due to the ease with which they can be carried and transferred, bearer bonds are extremely desirable in certain situations:
[Bearer bonds] are a favorite of drug dealers, money launderers and others who seek anonymity as well as a way to move large amounts of cash internationally in just a briefcase.
Dallen explained that the entire $5 billion loan could easily be moved about in a single briefcase, whereas that same amount of money would be considerably bulkier to transport in actual currency notes.
The news is concerning given the highly corrupt nature of the PSUV. Last week, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a consortium of journalists, activists and academics who specialize on corruption, named Maduro the “Man of the Year” for being the most corrupt world leader in 2016.
In another example of the massive corruption plaguing Venezuela through PSUV rule, a parliamentary commission headed by PSUV deputy Ricardo Sanguino found that the government had been “very permissive” to a corruption scheme that embezzled $20 billion through the government’s currency exchange system between 2011 and 2013.
The loan adds to Venezuela’s ballooning foreign debt, which now totals $31 billion.
Details on Loan Scarce
El Nacional published an article today in which it cites sources “connected to the Ministry of Finance” as saying that the Maduro regime asked 80 banks for the loan until it finally found one willing to provide it: Haitong International Securities. The bonds have an interest rate of 6.5% and mature in 20 years.
PSUV Officially a Minority Party
The head of the Datanalisis polling firm, Antonio Gil Yepez, announced today that the PSUV had officially become a minority party, enjoying the support of only 18% of voters.
According to Globovision, Yepez said:
Indepents are currently at 45% [support], while the opposition are around 27% and the PSUV only add up to 18%.
Yepez also said that only 20% of Venezuelans consider themselves to be chavista. The distinction between support for the PSUV and support for chavismo is important, because while chavismo refers to the overarching political philosophy of the late Hugo Chavez, the PSUV is only a political party that currently claims to embody that philosophy. In other words, it is possible for an individual to consider herself a chavista but not a supporter of the PSUV.
The support figures are a new low for the PSUV. Yepez pointed out that when Chavez died in early 2013, the PSUV enjoyed the support for 40% of voters.
Flores, Cabello Lead National Assembly Absences
El Pitazo has compiled statistics on attendance at the National Assembly for 2016. The statistics are based on a total of 83 parliamentary sessions which took place from January to December of last year.
According to the website,the deputy with the most absences was Cilia Flores (PSUV) with 73, meaning that she was absent for 88% of the time. The deputy with the second worst attendance was PSUV vice-president Diosado Cabello, who was absent for 72 sessions, or 87% of the time.
Flores rose to infamy in 2016 after two of her nephews were convicted of attempting to smuggle cocaine into the United States in November. The two men are waiting sentencing.
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