The infighting gripping the ruling PSUV party manifested itself last night in the arrest of two high-ranking party members, Eulogio del Pino and Nelson Martinez, both of whom were taken into custody during the overnight hours on allegations of corruption. The arrests mark the latest in a series of public spats between party pillars, which has in the past several months included former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz and UN ambassador Rafael Ramirez.
Del Pino and Martinez ran the country’s oil industry–which is effectively the only industry left in Venezuela–since 2013. Del Pino served as president of the state-owned PDVSA oil company from September 2014 to August of this year, when he was appointed Minister of Oil and Mining. He served in that position until this past weekend, when he was replaced by National Guard Major General Manuel Quevedo. Martinez had been president of PDVSA since August of this year.
The arrests were confirmed by attorney general Tareck William Saab, who said earlier today that the two men were arrested as part of an operation that involved “a series of arrests”. Saab made clear that the two arrests were not isolated, but rather part of a larger investigation into widespread corruption in the country’s oil industry.
Saab said that the two men are suspected of having engaged in corrupt activities that cost PDVSA the equivalent of 15,700 barrels of oil per day starting in 2015. The attorney general touted the arrests by saying the following:
These types of actions [the arrests] strengthen democracy (…) We’re dealing with the interests of unscrupulous businesses men and managers who placed themselves at the margin of the law.
Martinez was charged with four crimes, while Del Pino was charged with five.
Del Pino, Martinez Played Role of Loyal Servants Til the End
Both Del Pino and Martinez played the role of loyal servants to Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution til the end, making their arrest all the more surprising.
Just four days ago, Martinez directed a warm message to Maduro through his Twitter account, which you can see below:
President [Nicolas Maduro], I am thankful for your trust and support in the months during which you gave me the reigns of [PDVSA]. You can always count on my revolutionary commitment!
Del Pino posted a similar message on his account the same day:
Thank you president [Nicolas Maduro] for having granted me the honour of placing me by your side during these difficult years full of attacks. I will always be loyal to you and to Commander Chavez. Alongside the oil workers, we will overcome all of these issues. We will survive, and we will be victorious!
The fact that both men openly voiced their loyalty to Maduro just days before they were arrested is likely a sign that neither one of them suspected that they were being targeted for detention.
Del Pino Speaks in Pre-Recorded Message
In a dramatic development, Del Pino released two videos through his Twitter account this afternoon in which he responds to his arrest. Del Pino’s words suggest that the videos were recorded some time prior to his arrest in anticipation of the event.
In the video, Del Pino speaks vaguely about “rumours” that he has been hearing foreshadowing his arrest. He says that he warned Maduro about the rumours, and that Maduro told him to not be concerned because they were the product of the so-called “psychological war” that the country’s enemies are allegedly waging on the regime.
Del Pino ends the video with a plea for the regime to grant him the right to a defense.
Below, the first video along with my translation:
Del Pino: This is Eulogio del Pino speaking. If you are listening to this recording, it is because all of the rumours that I have been hearing about a series of accusations involving my time at [PDVSA] have come true. I told President Nicolas Maduro about these rumours, and he told me to not fall prey to the psychological war waged those who have betrayed the revolution and destroyed PDVSA.
However, I want to go on the record to say that I am very proud to be on a list of sanctioned [PSUV officials] put together by the imperialist government of Canada. I am on this list alongside President Nicolas Maduro, whom I admire greatly, as well as others compatriots who have headed this revolution.
Now that I have become victim to this unjustified attack as well as the Canadian sanctions, which are totally illegal, I want to be given the right to defend myself, something that the Canadians did not give me. I want to be able to explain each and every one of the decisions that I took [as president of PDVSA].
To all of the workers of [PDVSA]: I feel very proud of you. Thank you all for sharing your time with me for all those years in PDVSA…
The second video, along with my translation, is below:
Del Pino: [To the PDVSA workers] never be ashamed of your work. This attack against the industry, against PDVSA, is totally unjustified. We understand that there are deviations. We brought attention to these using our internal mechanisms, and there were investigations conducted into these deviations. This does not mean that PDVSA workers are corrupt, or that they have ruined the industry. The industry has experienced some difficult years, years of the lowest prices that we’ve experienced in the history of the oil industry. However, we have resisted.
During this cycle [of low prices], in contrast to previous low cycles during the Fourth Republic [the political era before Chavez], we’ve put our nation and our people first, because we are in a Bolviarian oil revolution. Before taking care of our own equipment, we made sure that medicine and food were reaching the people of Venezuela. Our worry has always been that [the people of Venezuela] could get these resources so that we could be where we are today, in this proud revolution.
To all of you, I say the following: I take full responsibility, as our beloved commander Chavez did. I will be here. I hope that the revolution will grant me the right to a legitimate defense.
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