Juan Carlos Castillo, a manager at a “U.S.-based logistics company”, pleaded guilty yesterday to bribing an official at the state-owned PDVSA oil company in order to win contracts for his company. The PDVSA official, a man named Jose Orlando Camacho, also pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.
The two guilty pleas came before United States federal judge Nancy K. Johnson in Houston.
According to Reuters, Camacho had previously pleaded guilty in July 2017 to the charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, also through PDVSA.
Reuters points out that a total of fourteen people have pleaded guilty so far as a result of a Justice Department investigation into corrupt dealings at the oil company which began in December 2015. The same investigation has resulted in charges against four other individuals, but their cases are still ongoing.
According to the Midland Reporter-Telegram:
As part of his guilty plea, unsealed Thursday, Camacho admitted that while employed at PDVSA, he accepted bribes from Castillo and his company and conspired with him to launder the proceeds.
Following a general strike at the company in 2002-2003, Chavez purged PDVSA 18,000 professionals for their involvement in the strike.
In the subsequent years, Chavez prioritized stacking the company with loyalists over individuals with qualifications and professional experience, leading to PDVSA’s ongoing collapse. The company’s decay was helped along by massive corruption, which resulted in the embezzlement of at least $11 billion between 2004 and 2014 alone.
Two Arrested for Mocking Maduro in Video
Two Merida state firefighters have been arrested for uploading a video to YouTube in which they mock Maduro by comparing him to a donkey. Below, the video along with my translation:
Man Recording: Good evening, colleagues. As you can see, we’re being visited by President [Nicolas] Maduro Moros, here in Apartaderos’ 8th [Fire] Station. He’s doing an inspection. As you can see, President Maduro is walking down the hallway here doing the inspection, and telling us about how the station looks, and he’s making comments about this station in Merida state.
As you can see, he’s veryfying if the grass is in good order or not. He can see that the grass is good, and that’s the only good thing we’ve got here in this station. He’s also verifying, as you can see, checking out if the chair is good or not.
Mr. Maduro, please go ahead and inspect the rest of the facility! This was, Mr. Maduro. Go ahead. Go into the washroom so you can see how it looks. As you can see, the president is inspecting the station. He’s going to the kitchen to see in what condition it is.
He’s not very talkative. He’s a little shy. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re asking too much of him.
The president is leaving now. We await his comments about his visit.
News of the detentions came from a local journalist named Isnardo Bravo.
Alfredo Romero, the head of the Foro Penal Venezolano (FPV), confirmed later in the day that one of the two detained is named Ricardo Pierto.
The men were arrested last night by officers with the General Directorate for Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM).
Maduro’s name rhymes with the Spanish word for donkey (“burro”), a fact that has helped to earn him the nickname “Maburro”.
Maduro Gives Beijing Bigger Stake in Oil Project
The Chinese government announced today that Maduro has sold a 9.9% share of a joint oil venture to China, raising Beijing’s stake in the Sinovesa oil project to 49.9%.
Sinovesa is the name of a joint venture between Caracas and Beijing in which the countries cooperate to produce “tar-like crude” oil in Venezuela’s Orinoco belt.
China also announced today that it had signed other agreements with Maduro, including another project in the Orinoco belt.
Earlier, reports surfaced online claiming that Beijing had also offered Maduro a $5 billion credit line, but that report was not substantiated in today’s press note from the Chinese government.
Despite fiery rhetoric extolling the importance of sovereignty and national self-reliance, Maduro has grown increasingly reliant on Chinese cash to keep his authoritarian government in power.
In total, China has given Caracas approximately $50 billion in loans in recent years.
Confusion as Some Workers Report Universal Salary Reception
El Nacional is reporting today that some workers are reporting that their businesses appear to have been received a universal salary for all of its workers, meaning that everyone in the organization was paid exactly the same amount regardless of their actual salaries.
The newspaper claims to have spoken to employees at ten different organizations, both public and private, all of whom claimed to have experienced the same phenomenon.
According to the newspaper, the measure appears to be taking effect given the fact that companies cannot afford to pay out the 3,000% salary increase that Maduro decreed back in late August. According to the newspaper:
In light of the salary increase imposed by Nicolas Maduro, some organizations do not have the capacity to cover their workers’ salaries while respecting the [rates] that had been previously established, while others do not know what the new salary is. As a consequence, [all workers] have received the same salary.
It is not clear at this time if this measure was deliberately implemented by the regime, or if it is meant to be permanent.
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