Archive for December 12th, 2007

Maletagate scandal hits the fan again as US charges four as acting illegaly as foreign agents on behalf of the Venezuelan Government

December 12, 2007
The US Department of Justice announced
today
that three Venezuelans and one Uruguayan were arrested yesterday on
charges of acting and conspiring to act as agents of the Venezuelan Government
without notifying the US Attorney General as required by law. A fifth person is
being sought in connection with the charges. They face up to ten years in
prison and up to US$ 250,000 in fines. The Venezuelans are Antonio Jose Canchica Gomez (at large), Moises Maionica , Franklin Duran and Carlos Kauffman. The Uruguayan is Rodolfo Edgardo Wanseele Paciello.
The charges relate the now infamous maletagate and Guido
Antonini; the case of the Venezuelan caught trying to go into Argentina with
US$ 800,000 in cash in a suitcase. According to the charges the money was to be
used for the campaign of an unnamed candidate, likely to be Mrs. Kirchner that
was sworn in yesterday.

The charges allege that the men participated in a conspiracy
acting as agents of the Venezuelan Government to get Antonini to hide as well
as not reveal the origin of the US$ 800,000 in cash. It also says that the defendants named
various high-ranking officials, including the Vice President Jorge Rodriguez
and members of both the intelligence police and the Ministry of Justice.
According to the details of the complaint filed in Florida Court against the five men:

—On August 17, 2007, Duran, Kauffman and Maionica entered the US. Six days later they met with Antonini where Duran advised Antonini that he had spoken to a high ranking member of the intelligence police (DISIP) and told him both the Venezuelan and Argentinean Government would pursue him if he did not say the US$ 800,000 belonged to him.At that meeting Kauffmann advised Antonini that his future course of action might put his life at risk. Maionica advised him that PDVSA would pay all his expenses and financial penalties relating to the case.

—On Aug 27, 2007, Mainioca, Duran and another individual met again with Antonini. At this meeting Duran warned Antonini that revealing the objective of the money may result in the loss of the election by the candidate and both Venezuela and Argentina wanted the “mess to be solved so that the truth would not come out”. At this meeting, Duran identified the person who brough on board the plane the US$ 800,000 as the assistant to the CEO of PDVSA (Rafael Ramirez)

—On Aug 29, 2007 Duran spoke with Antonini on the phone and asked for a power of attorney and told hyim the matter was being handled at the top of the Venezuelan Government.

—On Sept. 16, 2007 Mainioca spoke with Antonini and told him that his involvement in the case began with a three way call between the office of the Vice President of Venezuela, the DISP and Mainioca, at which he was assigned this mission.

—On Oct. 4th. 2007, Mainioca told Antonini that an emissary was being sent to him and he should personally tell the emissary what Antonini required to participate in the conspiracy. Later he gave him the code word for identification.

—On Oct. 28th.2007, Rodolfo Wanseele drove Antonio Jose Canchica to a meeting with Antonini at which the latter acknowledged the code word and told Antonini that he would be helped. Antonini was told he was the last link in the chain.

—On Nov. 6 2007, Mainioca advised Antonini that a man from DISIP named Arvelo would call him. On the same day Arvelo called Antonini and told him Antonini’s concerns were being addressed.

—On December 11, 2007 Mainioca, Duran and another individual met with Antonini and held discussions on how to create a false paper trail to conceal the true source of the US$ 800,000 in cash.

Clearly, Antonini was cooperating with the FBI throughout all of this.

Very interesting and damaging stuff indicating the levels of corruption in Venezuela, this goes all the way to the top as expected.

For Chavismo, not much seemed to happen with the No victory on Dec. 2nd.

December 12, 2007

It is as if December 2nd. and the defeat of the
Constitutional reform was somehow an accident, which as the days go by
becomes more and more irrelevant to the autocrat and his cronies.
Almost every act and every statement by Government officials seems to
ignore the serious damage to the process by that defeat, even if it was
not necessarily a glorious victory for the opposition. What’s
interesting is that this may actually be working in the opposition’s
favor for once, as the people want the Government to solve their
problems and a large fraction was actually punishing Chavez by
rejecting the reform, which to many of them represents a vaporous
concept for their daily lives.

While I have
found extreme Chavistas to be obviously disappointed by their defeat,
there is a sense of relief among those that never supported Chávez and
those who were at some point sympathetic to his project in the past. It is as if a new future had opened up in which the Government
would be forced to talk to the other side, to Govern for all. But no
such luck, the divisiveness continues, as witnessed by the extreme
statement by the Minister of the Interior and Justice who said today that “There can be no national reconciliation without the reform”.

That’s
it. There are two Venezuela’s and it is Chavismo’s will never to accept
the other, whether via democratic means or not. Even worse, he sees no
possibility of a dialogue. No possibility of even talking to each
other. Thus, the inescapable conclusion seems to be that if democracy
will not determine how the Government will govern, if dialogue is
impossible, if policies will only be implemented for “one side”, what
are we suppose to do then? Collective Hara Kiri? Divide the country in two? Civil War?

But the people seem to be calling for something different. And not giving it to them may be the worst path for Chavismo.
And
despite the fact that the main spark for the rejection to the reform
was the proposal to have Chavez be reelected indefinitely, Government
spokesmen have had no qualms or shame in saying and admitting that it was
only that part of the reform that mattered. The Mayor of Liberator
District said it clearly today:
“ Within the Government we are looking for the legal and constitutional
mechanisms to allow the reelection of President Chavez in 2012”. So much for accepting the democratic will of the people!!!

That’s
it. That is all that mattered. The rest as we all knew was simply
fluff. The No did not win; the Si suffered a minor setback. For now…

And if the Government does not want to recognize the democratic victory of the No on Dec. 2nd. it is actually continuing to implement a full court press against democracy and the people. By controlling the flow of foreign currency, it has managed to shutdown newspaper Correo del Caroni in Guayana, one of the oldest in the country. What a simple way to censure, no?
Moreover, in
order to block one of the most important tools of the student movement
in its mobilizations, the telecom regulator Conatel issued this week new
regulations for SMS messages
, making telcos “responsible” for the content
of SMS messages, forbidding “texts that promote crime or contain
messages which contain unsolicited information or advertising”. Just
think, one pro-Chavez student receiving the “wrong” message can stop
the whole student movement on its tracks if these regulations are
implemented. (On Dec. 2nd., the student movement sent a massive sms calling for students to go and vote at 2 PM)

Add
to this physical attacks on Cardinal Urosa, the order to capture former Governor Enrique Mendoza who
quietly and with little visibility engineered the victory of the No in
Miranda state, Chavez suggesting he will block foreign currency to
Colombian imports if he feels like it, the spat with Guyana, ignoring
the request for an Amnesty Bill this Christmas and even suggesting that the calls for reconciliation are part of a destabilization plan and you get the picture.The No did not really win, or it just does not matter in an autocracy.

Not much seems to have happened to Chavismo on Dec. 2nd.

But
the truth is it did. It was not a resounding victory by the opposition,
but it was a victory. Part of what was one day the pro-Chavez vote
abstained or voted against Chavismo. Add to that the opposition voters
who did not go and vote because they did not believe their vote will be
counted and the numbers may be even larger next time. Calling the
victory s h i t does not help either and neither does maintaining the
level of confrontation within and outside Venezuela.

And
the problems are not going away, shortages, inflation and crime are
still there. The change in time has turned out to be a pain in the neck
for workers getting home in the dark at 6 PM and seeing no benefit from
it. And on January 1st, there will be the conversion to the
Bolivar Fuerte, which will create only confusion in the population who
has been sold the idea that this conversion will somehow be a panacea
in which they will have the same amount of money in their pockets, but
everything will be cheaper. Sure, just wait!

But there will be no such luck and unless the autocrat admits that he suffered a significant defeat on Dec. 2nd.
and there is some form of introspection as to its causes, the future of
the Chavista process may be truly in question. If the first quarter of 2008
is spent in submitting a new constitutional reform as the Bolivar Fuerte proves to be
a failure in holding back inflation, the people will turn even more against the Government, making
the 2008 regional elections and a possible constitutional reform
referendum certain victories for the disorganized Venezuelan
opposition.
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