That a book like Casto Ocando’s “Chavistas en el Imperio” (Chavistas in the Empire) can be published and have very little impact in the daily Venezuelan media, is evidence of how low Venezuela has fallen as a society. Anywhere else, Ocando’s detailed account and information would have become the subject of daily accusations of corruption, which would have forced the Venezuelan Prosecutor’s office to open a myriad of investigations.
But not in the corrupt Venezuela that Chavez and Chavismo have helped create.
Perhaps nothing summarizes better the book, as Ocando’s revelation in the introduction, that Chavez spent US$ 300 million in propaganda in the US during his first ten years in power. Thus, while Chávez was accusing Washington of trying to destabilize Venezuela, he was outspending Bush and Obama in promoting his revolution. And his buddies in Government, were always (or are?) trying to make friends in the US, to defend their money, their properties and even guarantee protection sometime in the future.
In fact, the promotion was not only of the revolution, but even paying companies in the US to regularly show that Venezuela’s economic numbers were doing well. ironically, while Chávez formed the Venezuelan Information Office and Eva Golinger was hired to show the US was conspiring in Venezuela, there was proof of all the money being spent very directly by the Venezuelan Government to promote itself in the US and very little proof was ever shown that the US was doing the same thing in Venezuela or elsewhere.
And while I know most of the stories, given what I have done with this blog for too many years, there is something very pleasing about seeing it all in one place, publicly, from electoral shenaghinans, to the purchase of properties in the “Imperio” by the same people who were pledging their allegiance to the XXIst. Century Socialist revolution. How, when faced between the choice of “Imperio” or Chavismo, so many of them have chosen the Imperio, so as to guarantee the use of their ill gotten money.
And Casto’s book is not a “fun” book. I think to plow through it and enjoy all the details you have to be interested in the subject, like I am. And in the middle of it, there are many pointers to many stories that remain untold today, as Ocando provides, not only the names of those involved in enriching themselves, but the names of the companies they used, their “partners”, links to property registers and connections that, in my case, help me understand better some of the things that went on in Venezuela.
And some anecdotes are priceless, like that of Maduro trying to buy three first class tickets in American Airlines at Kennedy Airport with cash. I think I remember that story vaguely, but to think that Chavez’ dumb son, now President of Venezuela tried that, is truly priceless.
And it is all in there, how Illaramendi was caught, the Bandes people, Ramos de La Rosa. Remarkably, some, like Arne Chacón were busted first in Venezuela, but their destruction had wide ranging effects in the luxurious properties they had set up in the US.
In the end, the book just tells us how Chavismo went from corruption to drugs, joining forces with the FARC, the Iranians and drug cartels, showing that Chávez was willing to allow anything to his buddies in order for the revolution to survive.
But while we see why Chavismo liked the “Imperio” and enjoyed it, it was their capitalist, corrupt side, I wish Ocando had devoted sometime to why the US Government has not made use more public use of the information brought by those Chavistas, like Andrade and Aponte Aponte have given the US Government. Is that information being used? Because in the end, we have seen a lot of Chavistas being protected on the US side of the world, but we have seen little of the use of that information to subvert the regime and the revolution.
What is the strategy? Is there a strategy?
I don’t see one, I do hope there is one. If you are into this subject, buy the book. Even if you know a lot about it like me, you will be surprised, but more importantly, most of the info is right there.