The Fonden Papers Chapter II: Visiting Pajaritos and getting the Fonden Papers

August 27, 2011

About two weeks ago I told the story of Deputy Carlos Ramos of the National assembly who provided us with an excel spreadsheet of the projects financed by Fonden after I wrote to him. The sequence of how this spreadsheet came about was somewhat unclear, the Congressman saying that there was some US$ 29 billion, give or take a billion simply missing. He made this discovery when he added all of the numbers provided by the Minister of Finance and realizing the total was different, the Minister saying US$ 69 billion had been approved for projects, but the addition of the numbers totaling only about US$ 40 billion.

Quico at Caracas Chronicles then decided to call the Deputy’s assistant to see if we could obtain the original information. But it just so happens that XXIst. Century Socialism, uses XIXth. or XXth. Century tools. There isn’t a scanner to turn the 30 or so pages turned in by Minister of Finance Giordani to the National Assembly into digital form, thus, unless Quico, who lives 2,448 miles away from Caracas, could drop by and pick them up, he (and we) were out of luck. Fortunately, the Devil had to go to Caracas and could go get the papers.

Thus began my trek to the Pajaritos building. The building (pictured above) is actually called the Jose Maria Vargas building, but nobody calls it that, everybody calls it Pajaritos, the name of the “Esquina” (corner) where the building is. I made the mistake of showing up five minutes past noon, which meant that I could not enter the building. (The building is shared by the administrative offices of the Judiciary and the National Assembly, each has its own reception, which opens into the same hall, you can get into the Judiciary at any time, but not to the Assembly between noon and 1:30 PM)

I called Deputy’s Ramos office and they told me they would come down and give me the info we had requested. Waiting there was an experience in itself, I could not go in, but the guy in the mortuary suit that controlled the people allowed a few ladies, buddies and officials to go through. While I waited (He asked me three times what I was doing standing around there, I studied the dozens of people who showed up looking for help. Quite an experience, from Guajiro indians to students wanting to talk to their Deputy, mostly to see if they could get some money (preferably cash).

Finally, the extremely efficient assistant of the Deputy came down and gave me a folder with copy of all the material. You can find the projects all here. Essentially, the story is that Deputy Ramos, as a member of the Comptroller’s Commission, requested on April 6th. that Giordani give him a full list of projects approved not only for the development fund Fonden, but also for the Chinese fund, the Fondo Chino. On April 28th. Minister Giordani sends the info to the head of the Comptroller’s Commission, Hector Navarro and on August 2nd. Deputy Ramos sent Giordani a letter asking about the fact that there seems to be some US$ 29 billion missing from the project list.

The problem is that, as you can see in the link, Minister Giordani provided the complete list of 140 projects, giving the name, the Ministry, the amount awarded, the amount disbursed over the years and the amount disbursed in 2010 (Which is actually the only thing the Deputy was asking for) But Giordani sent all of of the info, and when you add up the total amounts approved and disbursed historically, the information provided says that projects were awarded some US$ 69.446 billion (down to the cent as Quico shows) of which US$ 66.057 billion has been disbursed and US$ 9.621 billion was disbursed in 2010.

Except…that if you create an Excel spreadsheet put all 140 numbers and add it all up, the total is “only” US$ 29 billion short, as discovered by Deputy Ramos. Now the Deputy is asking for even more information, including who got the contracts for each project.

It’s interesting to note that the total given  by Giordani is roughly what was contributed by the Venezuelan Central Bank, under the screwed up concept of excess reserves, and PDVSA, whose contributions are now set by law, as shown in the Table below, where I have used all public sources from the BCV, Fonden and PDVSA to come up with the grand total of US$ 69.80 billion contributed to Fonden.

We can speculate all we want: Were projects removed from the list? Was the total simply faked? Was this intentional? Was it sloppiness? Can they provide the information or they just don’t have it? Is the money somewhere else? Is the money missing?

But no matter what, the point is the same, US$ 29 billion is currently “missing” or unaccounted for from the parallel fund Fonden, which is managed by Chavez and Giordani at will and in an extremely discretionary fashion. (They used part of the money to buy a new Embassy in Russia, for example)

This would be a scandal in any country in the world, but apart from Deputy Ramos and a couple of nutty bloggers, it just seems to have not even induced a yawn in Venezuelan politics.

Hopefully, we will help bring the issue more into the spotlight.

And again, kudos to the Deputy and his efficient and diligent assistant!

51 Responses to “The Fonden Papers Chapter II: Visiting Pajaritos and getting the Fonden Papers”

  1. m_astera Says:

    Miguel Octavio-

    All you need to do, to ensure that I will not comment on your site, you have done. Politely, fuck you and the horse you rode in on. Look it up.

    Michael Astera

  2. albionoldboy Says:

    How can it be missing (the money) when it all belongs to Chavez? whenever he does anything he says himself, not Venezuela, “‘I’m spending, I’m buying I’m giving” all the money is his, so how can he steal from himself?

    Chavez owns Venezuela, lock stock and barrel, he decides who are Venezuela’s friends and foes, what is Venezuela’s history, what books to read,who are are Venezuela’s heroes, what to teach in schools etc.

    If that’s not a dictatorship what is?

  3. Francisco Toro Says:

    I really can’t wait to see Giordani’s response to Ramos’s follow-up questions. Is he going to try to BS his way out of it, or is he just going to ignore it?

  4. JMA Says:

    As an example, if U.S. $29 billion were to simply disappear or go unaccounted for in the U.S. federal budget, all hell would break lose. It would be in the papers and in the news. The party not in power would make sure that there was a huge scandal, and call for an investigation. Of course, thanks to the separation of powers, that cannot ever happen. Moreover, the executive branch of government does not have direct access to the federal budget. It is all administered by the appropriate agencies. Hell, even the White House normal day to day operations budget is not managed by the president; he can’t control it or even modify it. That would be done by congress. I wouldn’t go as far as claiming that there is no corruption in the U.S., just that it is very damn difficult for it to happen, and if you get caught, you are fried. Venezuela is an extremely bizarre country. No doubt about that. Normally, the missing of $29 billion should raise hairs in every two-legged being. Not in Venezuela. Meanwhile, opposition candidates can only produce statements like “I will be the youngest president of Venezuela” (Is that a problem-solving skill?) “I will be the first woman president of Venezuela” (Why is that relevant in the face of country-destroying crisis?) “In my government, Colombians won’t need a visa to enter the country” (Not that that was much of a deterrent. Also, talk about priorities), or “We will decentralize and unify the country” (Is that the most important thing to do?). If they have any good ideas of what is needed to do to rebuild the country, they sure are keeping them to themselves. The country is fast approaching an implosion. Perhaps, it is what is needed because as it stands, it is not recuperable. I don’t know, but optimistic I am not. Also, the monetary reserves are going down abruptly, the government bought an additional $4 billion in arms to Russia, more rotten food was discovered (160.000 T), and in August, 454 people entered Caracas’ morgue. Nobody has said much about these events. A bizarre and non-viable country, indeed.

  5. deananash Says:

    Miguel, another awesome post. You continually, clearly and concisely lay out the evidence for future historians to examine.

    Chavez won’t get his due in this life – even his current illness isn’t adequate punishment. But perhaps, just perhaps, another culture or even future generations of Venezuelans will be spared the same fate, by learning from the grave errors of the current generations of Venezuelans.

  6. firepigette Says:

    deananash:

    “Chavez won’t get his due in this life”

    oh but he is already is collecting….have you seen his face lately?

  7. Carlos Says:

    It is unbelievable.
    On the one hand, there is a big difference of 29 Billions between the money received in FONDEN (70B) and the money paid by FONDEN in projects (40B).
    On the other hand, an this is worst, in the 29Billions there are projects estimated over 1 Billion each that just says (COMISION MIXTA CUBA-VENEZUELA).
    Big money was spent in defense but the report is more specific about it(Sukoy jet fighters, navy patrols, etc etc.) . Also a couple of military manufacturing premises. Were the gun factories built? And… 10 Millions for Belorussia to train 40 cadets. 250.000 dollars each?? More than a Master+PHD at Harvard or MIT!!!
    This is the most dramatic example of wealth destruction in a country: 70 billions, 10 times the current BCV liquid foreign funds, were destroyed in FONDEN with almost no benefit for citizens. In just 5 years.

  8. A_Antonio Says:

    “Thus began my trek to”… boldly go where 29 billions go.

  9. Bruni Says:

    Miguel, it is not clear for me who did what on the 29 Billions. Was Deputy Ramos the first to realize the 29 missing billions or were you (or Quico) the one (s) that found out with the spreadsheet?

    • Francisco Toro Says:

      Giordani of course didn’t give the assembly an electronic version of his answers, only a print-out. Deputy Ramos gets credit for manually recreating the spreadsheet in Excel, checking the sums, and realizing they were off.

      Just to be sure, I double-checked Ramos’s tabulation. And the guy is right, Giordani is off by 29.3 billion (on the resources assigned column – $28.5 on the “actually spent” column…)

      • JMA Says:

        Excuse mi ignorance Francisco, but which institution is in charge to audit Fonden? Does the Contraloria General de la Republica exert any comptrolling function over those funds?

  10. Miguel Octavio Says:

    It was Deputy Ramos, he gets the credit for realizing it and for giving us the info and tge details.

  11. CharlesC Says:

    And-as someone mentioned last week -where’s the Press People
    now that the story is out here – maybe someone should call
    the Colombian press?

  12. Glenn Says:

    Let’s just hope Ramos can continue to serve in freedom

  13. jau Says:

    Who is this deputy ramos? We should all give money towards his security because Giordani/Chavez will not accept some lesser fellow asking bold questions like “where is the money?”.

    • CharlesC Says:

      What if -one of Chavez’s relatives were to “come out” and
      speak some truths about the corruption of Chavez family
      for example? Something to hope for..

  14. Roger Says:

    That’s like 50 to 70 Thousand Malatins! Also, I assume this is all USD cash from off shore banks as there is no paper trail. So Far!

  15. Ira Says:

    As always, Miguel, you show yourself to be a genius. The problem I have with your reporting is that you neverto dumb it down for the masses in an alternate form.

    In other words, your blog here has to be condensed to THREE SENTENCES for the average Venezuelan to absorb. They’re not going to read 10 paragraphs.

    And I say that’s the problem with the entire opposition in general:

    Chavez talks to the people as if they were total morons, and it works time and time again. Why does the opposition possibly think they can win by talking to them any differently?

  16. moctavio Says:

    I will be happy if the oppo picks on the topic, the “people” dont read my blog, my audience is different, but I try to say something hoping they will pick it up.

    • deananash Says:

      Ira’s right, and Miguel doesn’t have to be the one to create the dumbed-down lesson. The “three strikes, you’re out, Chavez!” chant is a perfect example of what Ira is saying about communicating on their level.

      I’m nowhere near proficient in Spanish, but in English I might say something like this:

      “Now we know where the ________________(insert favorite, unfunded, unfinished project here) went. $29 Billion would have bought “X” number of them…

      Or this:

      “Who stole your $1,000???” OR, “Where’s my $1,000??? (1,000 x Venezuela’s population equals about 29 Billion)

      I’m sure that you all can think of much better.

      I’ve long suggested that you ridicule Chavez personally, but with his illness, that is going to be much harder to do. However, his failed programs, of which there are SOOOO MANY, are fair game. I’d PLAN NOW and begin a marketing campaign that ties all the different scandals under ONE umbrella theme.

      Then, POUND that home, FOREVER. Just because you’re tired of it, doesn’t mean that everyone else has even heard it. A great example is former U.S. President Reagan’s question to all Americans during the 1980 campaign: “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?”

      He could talk about anything and still end up at that question. Perhaps your question could be:

      “Do we really want to end up like Cuba?”

      Then, whether you’re talking about housing, jobs, income, electricity, security, politics, whatever, you could always close with that line.

    • JMA Says:

      Sorry, Miguel. The opposition is busy walking the runway, kissing babies and hugging old ladies. No time for those nuances you write about.

  17. metodex Says:

    As i said 2 weeks ago, let’s keep an eye on the deputy and everyone involved in this. I know FT or MO won’t have any problem since they live outside. Also, let’s hope the deputy’s car doesn’t blow up with him inside.

    El Dorado has been found and nobody cares. If THIS doesn’t get big, nothing will. It’ll get buried with the food and Makled and other government wiping topics.

    My only F-U is to the Venezuelan media and oppo polititians.

  18. Kepler Says:

    Why don’t you send this piece of information to Panorama or El Tiempo in Colombia?
    It seems it’s our neighbours who have to publish about it for some time before our journalists manage to do something about it, always with big “THE COLOMBIAN NEWSPAPER X IS SAYING”

  19. m_astera Says:

    Canuck-

    “remember that m_astera is among the fringe element”

    Which would make you comfortably among the herd element mooing from inside the barn, no? How’s the air in there? Has anyone shoveled it out lately?

    As to my comment, either several of my recent posts have been deleted and censored by moctavio, or someone else has been editing his blog.

    Anyway, it was a comment to him that I didn’t expect to see posted here, and has nothing to do with the subject of the essay. If I have wrongly accused him I will apologize. We shall see.

    • Kepler Says:

      Michael,
      I have written here and some comments were gone. It was not Miguel who did it. I later realised: on one occassion I put two links and that goes into moderation automatically and Miguel doesn’t have a secretary and he gets a lot a lot of traffic and spam. On another it was a link, although uncontroversial, that had some weird pattern (I think it had to do with sex, like in devil sex crement). On another occasion I reliased it was something else.

      Miguel is the last person to censor. Even if someone censored me in his/her blog I would respect that, it’s their bloody right. A blog is like a house. Freedom of expression? Then go and create your own blog. I won’t comment on this anymore as it is OT.

      Please, chill out.

    • extorres Says:

      I think an apology is in order, regardless…

    • A_Antonio Says:

      I recommended to m_astera checking for Malware or computer virus.
      Also I recommend do not interact or make clicks over the advertisements, if appear, in this blog.
      In Spain appears a lot of advertizing, all of them suggesting to click, or put some info on the advertizing.
      Maybe I am little crazy, but maybe the advertizing is paid by Venezuelan Government or some of the associate from China, to track the participants in this blog.

  20. island canuck Says:

    “Canuck-

    “remember that m_astera is among the fringe element”

    Which would make you comfortably among the herd element mooing from inside the barn, no? How’s the air in there? Has anyone shoveled it out lately?”

    Michael you are certainly among the “fringe” element.

    All anyone has to do is Google your name or nic & see the comments you have written to know that you are definitely in need of a reality check.

    Just your comment above shows that you consider yourself “enlightened” while the rest of us are just uninformed.

    If you are the only one marching out of step it’s time for a reevaluation.

  21. Kepler Says:

    OK, guys, let’s focus on Miguel’s post. Pleeeeease!

    I think Colombian journalists should get into this, as Venezuelan journalists will be less inclined to do so…a pity but that is the situation

  22. yves Says:

    Congrats, Miguel.

    … We thought that Colombia beat them all with our Nule monstrous
    swindle of Cundinamarca’s public funds, but $29 billions missing is
    akin to a major insult to each individual in Venez !

    Colombians are reacting somewhat (not as strongly as I’d wished) at
    this scandal, but still, the reaction is there across the country and
    will never stop until they get most of the money back and the culprits
    jailed.

    From Colombia, heartfully.

  23. island canuck Says:

    Miguel:

    Is this significant?

    Suspenden transferencia de las acciones de la BVC
    A través de la Resolución 141, la Superintendencia determinó la necesidad de que los activos propiedad de diversas casas de bolsa y sociedades de corretaje de valores se mantengan por un período de al menos dos años en garantía.

    http://www.eluniversal.com/2011/08/29/suspenden-transferencia-de-las-acciones-de-la-bvc.shtml

    • moctavio Says:

      Not really, I guess they are trying to make sure nobody transfers it, but given that the Bolsa is dead, the value of a seat in the exchange is very small.

  24. Pedro Says:

    Check this out Miguel:

  25. Juancho Says:

    Cono. I just hate it when 29 billion goes missing. I don’t think this possibly can be a real figure. Even in the rebolution. But one thing is for certain: the very moment any gold gets repatriated to the Motherland, we can color said oro gone. Se va.

    It might be a curious piece of investigative journalism to set up beforehand some kind of monitoring system for that gold, something to try and keep the accounting and location of the actual bloques somewhat transparent. Granted this is totally impossible, but merely talking about doing so would cause a big ass pelea. Or get somebody shot. . .

    As Hugo slips from power expect the looting to get far worse.

    Juancho


  26. […] sources” for contributions to Fonden, including the Central bank and PDVSA, for some years my “OLD” table in this post, had errors of as much as one billion dollars, small change for the revolution. Here is the summary […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,012 other followers

%d bloggers like this: