Thursday, August 25, 2016

Venezuela is not longer a democracy

http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/220426/oas-chief-almagro-%E2%80%98venezuela-is-no-longer-a-democracy%E2%80%99
WASHINGTON — The head of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, openly denounced corruption and violence in Venezuela yesterday, saying a 14-year prison term for an opposition leader there marked the “end of democracy” in the country.
In an eight-page open letter to hardline Popular Will leader Leopoldo López, Almagro criticized Venezuela’s climate of “intimidation.”
The OAS chief also denounced threats against those working to recall left-wing President Nicolás Maduro.
“No regional or subregional forum can ignore the reality that today in Venezuela there is no democracy or rule of law,” Almagro said, calling López a “friend.”
“Under no circumstances should power be used... to prevent the sovereign will of the people from being expressed.”
The former Uruguayan foreign minister said Venezuelans are a “victim of bullying.”
The Venezuelan government “seeks to maintain its power and deny the people the right to make decisions through voting, by resorting to violence against those who demonstrate or hold other opinions,” Almagro said.
“It has crossed a line, which means it is the end of democracy.”
On August 12, Venezuela’s court of appeals upheld a 14-year sentence for López that was handed down after a closed-door trial. The sentence was strongly condemned by the European Union, the United Nations and the United States.
López, one of Maduro’s most hardline opponents whose stance has excacerbated divisions among the opposition coalition, had repeatedly declared himself innocent of the crime for which he was convicted — inciting violence at anti-government protests in 2014 that left 43 dead.
Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, is gripped by recession that has contributed to severe shortages of food, medicine and basic goods that have triggered violence and looting.
Maduro blames the recession on wealthy business magnates and “imperialist foes” he says are conspiring against his government.
The opposition is racing to force a referendum to recall Maduro from office, blaming him for the crisis and mishandling the state-led economy.
According to the Constitution, a successful recall vote this year would trigger a presidential election that the opposition would likely win. But an opposition victory in a recall referendum next year would result only in Vice-President Aristóbulo Istúriz — a Socialist Party stalwart — replacing Maduro until his term ends in early 2019.
Election officials already stretched out the first phase of the recall effort — verifying submitted signatures from one percent of voters to authorize the second petition drive — into a months-long ordeal.
The government has been accused of dragging its feet while stopping short of actually denying the recall effort.
Earlier this month, 15 members of the OAS called on Venezuela to act “without delay” to clear the way for the election.
Almagro recently branded Maduro a “petty dictator” and in an ongoing war of words said Venezuela had suffered an “alteration of constitutional order” and called for OAS members to invoke Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to suspend the country from the bloc, the issue remains under review.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

U.S. agents arrest members of Venezuelan President's family in Haiti

By Kay Guerrero and Claudia Dominguez, CNN
Two members of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's family are arrested
A DEA source says they were arrested in Haiti as they prepared to finalize drug deal
One of the men was raised by Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores; the other one is her nephew (CNN)

U.S. federal agents have detained two members of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's family in Haiti, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration source who participated in the arrest.
The two men, identified as Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores Freites, were arrested Tuesday night in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince as they were preparing to finalize a deal that would have allowed them to transport 800 kilograms of drugs to the United States, the source said.
One of the men was raised by Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores; the other is her nephew.
Information about the arrest was corroborated by Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration who has contacts that are high-level federal law enforcement officials.
During the arrest, both men had Venezuelan diplomatic passports and openly identified themselves as the son and nephew of Flores, maintaining that they had diplomatic immunity, Vigil said.

CNN contacted Haitian authorities to ask about the arrest, but officials there said they were not involved in the raid. The Venezuelan government has not responded to requests for comment.

Maduro and Flores married in July 2013, several months after he was sworn in as Venezuela's President on the heels of the death of longtime leader Hugo Chavez.
But they'd been a couple for years, and both of them were members of Chavez' inner circle. During Chavez' final years in office, Maduro was vice president and foreign minister; Flores was the attorney general.
Now, rather than going by the title of first lady, Flores uses the term "first fighter" to describe her role.

CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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Case against Venezuelan Leopoldo Lopez fabricated, ex-prosecutor says

Case against Venezuelan opposition leader fabricated, ex-prosecutor says

By Ray Sanchez, CNN

White House calls for the release of Leopoldo Lopez

Ex-prosecutor: Case against Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez "invented"

Government blamed Lopez for violence during 2014 protests, but security forces also accused (CNN)The Venezuelan government fabricated evidence against opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, said a former prosecutor who handled the case against the popular politician.

Ex-prosecutor Franklin Nieves, who fled Venezuela last week, told CNN en Español on Tuesday that "100% of the investigation was invented" around false evidence in a sham prosecution allegedly orchestrated by President Nicolas Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, the head of the National Assembly.

Lopez was sentenced last month to nearly 14 years in prison and immediately took to social media to say, "This sentence is not only against me, but it attempts to bring down the spirits of everyone who is fighting to have a better country," according to his verified Twitter account.

Nieves said in an interview that he received orders from government officials to arrest Lopez two days before a 2014 opposition march.

He told CNN's Fernando del Rincon, "They jailed him because they fear his leadership."

The former prosecutor said that "after examining each and every piece of evidence it was shown that this person had at no point made even a single call to violence."

Video from anti-government protests where Lopez spoke show him "always calling on his supporters to remain calm," Nieves said.

Witnesses made false statements against Lopez, who was not permitted to adequately defend himself, said Nieves.

Venezuela's Ministry of Communications and Information has not responded to CNN requests for comment, but the nation's ombudsman, Tarek William Saab, told CNN that Nieves should have made his allegations during the trial and not afterward and Venezuela's chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Diaz, denied that Nieves was pressured to go after Lopez.

But Nieves said that the actions against Lopez are not uncommon in Venezuela.

"There are innumerable cases in which people were investigated and innocent people detained," he said.

Nieves said he had not spoken out earlier "out of fear" and because of the "pressure exerted" by superiors to get prosecutors to act "on the whims" of the government.

Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, said Nieves' accusations highlight the state of justice of Venezuela.

"Justice has been kidnapped, with the regime's henchmen unfairly making accusations against, imprisoning, torturing and persecuting the leaders who represent hope in Venezuela," she said.

Nieves' comments come one week after defense attorneys for Lopez appealed the sentence against the 44-year-old economist.

Human rights activists and the U.S. government decried the sentence against Lopez.

The court said Lopez committed serious crimes, according to Venezuelan state news agency AVN -- public instigation, vandalism, arson and criminal conspiracy.

But legal proceedings were a sham, Human Rights Watch said.

"The baseless conviction ... exposes the extreme deterioration of the rule of law in Venezuela," the rights group said in a statement. "The trials involved egregious due process violations and failed to provide evidence linking the accused to a crime."

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said last month that the conviction "deeply troubled" her and called on the Venezuelan government to protect democracy and human rights.

In a four-page letter after his sentencing, Lopez said he was writing from the military jail of Ramo Verde. He urged all Venezuelans to instigate a "democratic rebirth" by making their voices heard in the country's next parliamentary elections.

The accusations against Lopez stem from opposition street protests in February 2014 that turned deadly. Dozens of people were killed, and hundreds injured.

Maduro, the handpicked successor to the late President Hugo Chavez, blamed Lopez, accusing him of terrorism and murder. Lopez was already a strong government critic before Chavez's death in March 2013.

In 2008, Chavez's government banned Lopez, a former mayor, from running for office.

Venezuela set to sentence opposition leader Lopez

But much of the violence at the 2014 protests stemmed from security forces, which also arrested hundreds, Human Rights Watch said. Security forces were accused of torture and abuse.

"The government has also tolerated and collaborated with pro-government armed groups of civilians," the group said.

Lopez briefly went into hiding but then turned himself in to authorities. He used social media to rally supporters who met him on the occasion.

A court said last month that Lopez's involvement in protests was part of a plan for a coup d'etat.

In June, Lopez went on a 30-day hunger strike in prison to demand congressional elections. The government has agreed to the demand, and elections are scheduled for December.

CNN's Osmary Hernandez and Arthur Brice contributed to this report.


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Monday, June 22, 2015

Let them eat Chavismo

Food and Venezuela
Let them eat Chavismo
The UN honours Venezuela for curbing hunger—which is actually getting worse
Jun 20th 2015

NEWS that the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had given Venezuela a diploma for its “notable and exceptional” efforts to curb hunger did not reach Joseína Rodríguez. Recently unemployed, and living with her family in a farm outhouse in the south-west of the country, she was too busy working out where her next meal was coming from.
“Joseína” (not her real name) helps run one of the community councils that are the building blocks of the “socialist revolution” set up by the late President Hugo Chávez. “Chávez used to say that with the revolution everything would keep getting better,” she sighs. “I don’t know why this president (his successor, Nicolás Maduro) hasn’t kept the promise.” Sitting on an upturned bucket in the dusty yard of a farm that was taken over (before Chávez) by its workers, she says she used to work making meals for her neighbours, but stopped “because they can’t pay the prices I have to charge.” Staples reaching her community via the main state-subsidised food network cover only 200 of the 1,000 families who are supposed to benefit.
The word “hunger” has been heard a lot in Caracas lately, mostly thanks to a hunger strike by Leopoldo López, the jailed opposition leader, and dozens of his supporters. Their demands—that political prisoners be freed, and a date set for parliamentary elections with foreign observers watching—have so far been ignored. This week some Brazilian senators were the latest senior foreign visitors to back the detainees.
So the UN plaudit was a relief for the government. According to the FAO, which presented the diploma on June 8th, Venezuela is one of 72 countries that have reached the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the percentage of their populations suffering from hunger. But the prize, based on government data up to 2012, comes amid growing evidence that the trend has reversed.
In his speech to the FAO, Vice-president Jorge Arreaza cited the government’s claim that 95% of Venezuelans eat three meals a day. But in a survey carried out last year by three leading universities, more than 11% said they ate just twice a day or less.   
The FAO said it saw no reason to doubt the statistics it used. But many of the numbers needed for a full evaluation have not been published for years. The central bank has issued no monthly inflation or food scarcity figures for 2015. In November, even by official accounts a minimum wage only bought 76% of the food required for the average family. Independent estimates suggest three-and-a-half minimum wages are now required. About 40% of those in work get the minimum wage or less.
Marianella Herrera, a nutritionist at the Fundación Bengoa, a private foundation, calls official data partial and inconsistent. “Other studies show an increase in malnutrition,” she says. “Children are showing up in hospital emergency wards with severe malnutrition, and some are dying because of a lack of basic supplies.” The government’s own figures, which show it reached the UN target for reducing malnutrition in children by 2008, indicate that by 2013 Venezuela was close to crossing the line again, in the opposite direction.
Joseína finds it a mercy that local authorities help where central agencies fail. “Last week they brought chicken, the week before it was milk.” Another lifeline comes from plantain from local farms and occasionally fish. Getting to a supermarket takes an hour and a half by motorcycle-taxi and bus; queues are long. “Sometimes when we get to the door, nothing is left.”

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Letter to Peter Maurer - President of the International Committee of the Red Cross

Letter to Peter Maurer - President of the International Committee of the Red Cross

We understand that the Geneva Convention and its protocols are the cornerstone of international humanitarian law, actually our country face a system that has encouraged, and allowed, barbarism against civilians and militaries, 57 Venezuelans have been murdered protesting peacefully against the extermination laws, there are over 100 political prisoners. Right now, politicians and students prisoners have 150 hours in hunger strike demanding their immediate release.
We are writing this letter to you to urgently request to the Assembly and Council presence of the ICRC in Venezuela in order to visit and assist all political prisoners, students, tweeters and military victims of bloody repression, because you are guardians of international law. 
We think your visit will be the beginning of the end of the persecution and repression against Venezuelan citizens, in compliance with the Geneva Convention signed in 1949 , because today all our human rights in Venezuela are being violated.
We are young Venezuelans who are suffering constant repression attacks in the streets, in and out of our universities, workplaces and, we also fear the health of our friends who are unjustly deprived of their freedom, due to procedural delays, forcing their families to get naked (1), conducting violent searches, and subhuman prison spaces as "The Grave" and "The Tigrito".
Sending this letter we fear for our lives, and our families could be at risk for exposing the situation to you.
WE ASK THE PRESENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS IN VENEZUELA
Atte. Pacifist Movement ResistenciaV58
Caracas, June 2, 2015
@ResisteciaV58
(1) When someone visits them, the visitor, in many cases, is forced to get naked.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub

Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub
By José de Córdoba and Juan Forero
Wall Street Journal
May 18, 2015
U.S. prosecutors are investigating several high-ranking Venezuelan officials, including the president of the country's congress, on suspicion that they have turned the country into a global hub for cocaine trafficking and money laundering, according to more than a dozen people familiar with the probes.
An elite unit of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington and federal prosecutors in New York and Miami are building cases using evidence provided by former cocaine traffickers, informants who were once close to top Venezuelan officials and defectors from the Venezuelan military, these people say.
A leading target, according to a Justice Department official and other American authorities, is National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, considered the country's second most-powerful man.
"There is extensive evidence to justify that he is one of the heads, if not the head, of the cartel," said the Justice Department official, speaking of a group of military officers and top officials suspected of being involved in the drug trade. "He certainly is a main target."
Representatives of Mr. Cabello and other officials didn't return phone calls and emails requesting comment. In the past, Venezuelan authorities have rejected allegations of high-ranking involvement in the drug trade as an attempt by the U.S. to destabilize the leftist government in Caracas.
In an appearance on state television Wednesday, Mr. Cabello said he solicited a court-ordered travel ban on 22 executives and journalists from three Venezuelan news outlets that he has sued for publishing stories about the drug allegations earlier this year. "They accuse me of being a drug trafficker without a single piece of evidence and now I'm the bad guy," Mr. Cabello said. "I feel offended, and none of them even said they're sorry."
The Obama administration isn't directing or coordinating the investigations, which are being run by federal prosecutors who have wide leeway to target criminal suspects. But if the probes result in publicly disclosed indictments of Mr. Cabello and others, the resulting furor in Venezuela would likely plunge relations between the two countries into their most serious crisis since the late populist Hugo Chávez took office 16 years ago.
"It would be seismic," said a U.S. official, of the expected Venezuelan reaction. "They will blame a vast right-wing conspiracy."
U.S. authorities say they are far along in their investigations. But they say any indictments that may result might be sealed, making them secret until authorities can make arrests-something that would be difficult if not impossible unless the suspects travel abroad.
The investigations are a response to an explosion in drug trafficking in the oil-rich country, U.S. officials say. Under pressure in Colombia, where authorities aggressively battled the drug trade with $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2000, many Colombian traffickers moved operations to neighboring Venezuela, where U.S. law-enforcement officials say they found a government and military eager to permit and ultimately control cocaine smuggling through the country.
"Most of the high-end traffickers moved to Venezuela in that time," said Joaquín Pérez, a Miami attorney who represents key Colombian traffickers who have acknowledged operating out of Venezuela.
Venezuela doesn't produce coca, the leaf used to make cocaine, nor does it manufacture the drug. But the U.S. estimates that nearly a third of the cocaine produced in other Andean countries, about 275 tons, now moves through Venezuela annually.
Prosecutors aren't targeting President Nicolás Maduro, who has been in power since Mr. Chávez's death two years ago. U.S. law-enforcement officials say they view several other Venezuelan officials and military officers as the de facto leaders of drug-trafficking organizations that use Venezuela as a launchpad for cocaine shipments to the U.S. as well as Europe.
'A Criminal Organization'
"It is a criminal organization," said the Justice Department official, referring to certain members of the upper echelons of the Venezuelan government and military.
Mildred Camero, who had been Mr. Chávez's drug czar until being forced out abruptly in 2005, said Venezuela has "a government of narcotraffickers and money launderers." She recently collaborated on a book, "Chavismo, Narcotrafficking and Militarism," in which she alleged that drug-related corruption had penetrated the state, naming more than a dozen officials, including nine generals, who allegedly worked with smugglers.
Law-enforcement officials in the U.S. said that they have accelerated their investigations in the past two years, a period that has seen Venezuela's economy worsen dramatically. Rampant crime has spiked, making Venezuela the continent's most violent country and spurring people to emigrate.
The deepening crisis has made it easier for U.S. authorities to recruit informants, say those working to enlist people close to top Venezuelan officials. Colombian and Venezuelan drug traffickers have also arrived in the U.S., eager to provide information on Venezuelan officials in exchange for sentencing leniency and residency, U.S. officials say.
"Since the turmoil in Venezuela, we've had greater success in building these cases," said a federal prosecutor from New York's Eastern District who works on Venezuelan cases.
In January, U.S. investigators made a major catch when naval captain Leamsy Salazar defected and was brought to Washington. Mr. Salazar, who has said he headed Mr. Cabello's security detail, told U.S. authorities that he witnessed Mr. Cabello supervise the launch of a large shipment of cocaine from Venezuela's Paraguaná peninsula, people familiar with the case say.
Mr. Cabello has publicly railed against his former bodyguard, saying he didn't head his security detail and calling him "an infiltrator" who has no proof of his involvement in drug trafficking. "Our conscience is totally clear," he said in a radio interview.
Rafael Isea is another defector who has been talking to investigators, people familiar with the matter say. A former Venezuelan deputy finance minister and governor of Aragua state, Mr. Isea fled Venezuela in 2013. People familiar with the case say Mr. Isea has told investigators that Walid Makled, a drug kingpin now in prison, paid off former Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami to get drug shipments through Venezuela.
Almost a year after leaving the country, Mr. Isea was accused of committing "financial irregularities" during his days as governor by Venezuela's attorney general, and by Mr. El Aissami, who succeeded him as governor of Aragua.
"Today, Rafael Isea, that bandit and traitor, is a refugee in Washington where he has entered a program for protected witnesses in exchange for worthless information against Venezuela," Mr. El Aissami said recently on Venezuelan television.
Mr. Isea has rejected the accusations as false, politically motivated and meant to discredit him.
In addition to Mr. El Aissami, other powerful officials under investigation include Hugo Carvajal, a former director of military intelligence; Nestor Reverol, the head of the National Guard; Jose David Cabello, Mr. Cabello's brother, who is the industry minister and heads the country's tax collection agency; and Gen. Luis Motta Dominguez, a National Guard general in charge of central Venezuela, say a half-dozen officials and people familiar with the investigations.
Calls and emails seeking comment from several government ministries as well as the president's office went unanswered. Some officials have taken to social media to ridicule the U.S. investigations. A Twitter account in the name of Gen. Motta Dominguez earlier this year said: "We all know that whoever wants his green card and live in the US to visit Disney can just pick his leader and accuse him of being a narco. DEA tours will attend to them."
Recruiting Defectors
To build cases, U.S. law-enforcement officials work with Venezuelan exiles and others to locate and recruit disaffected Venezuelans.
"We get people out of Venezuela, and we meet with them in Panama, Curaçao, Bogotá," said a former intelligence operative who works with U.S. officials to recruit and debrief Venezuelans who have evidence of links between Venezuelan officials and the drug trade.
Former Venezuelan military officers and others living outside the country provide help by contacting their former comrades and urging them to defect, the recruiter said. If the defector can provide useful information, the recruiter said, he is flown to the U.S. and a new life.
"What does the U.S. want?" said the recruiter, who has been working Venezuelan cases since 2008. "The U.S. wants proof, evidence of relations between politicians, military officers and functionaries with drug traffickers and terrorist groups."
Recently, at Washington's posh Capital Grille restaurant, a few blocks from Congress, a Venezuelan operative working with a U.S. law enforcement agency took a call from a middleman for a high-level official in Caracas seeking to trade information for favorable treatment from the U.S.
"Tell him I'll meet him in Panama next week," said the operative, interrupting a lunch of oysters and steak.
The biggest target is 52-year-old Mr. Cabello, a former army lieutenant who forged a close link in the military academy with Mr. Chávez when the two played on the same baseball team. When Mr. Chávez launched an unsuccessful 1992 coup, Mr. Cabello led a four-tank column that attacked the presidential palace in downtown Caracas.
Mr. Cabello has been minister of public works and housing, which also gave him control of the airports and ports, as well as minister of the interior and vice president. He was also president for a few hours in April 2002 when Mr. Chávez was briefly ousted in a failed coup.
Many analysts and politicians in Venezuela say they believe Mr. Cabello's power rivals that of Mr. Maduro and is rooted in his influence among Venezuela's generals.
Julio Rodriguez, a retired colonel who knows Mr. Cabello from their days at Venezuela's military academy, says that of 96 lieutenant colonels commanding battalions in Venezuela today, Mr. Cabello has close ties to 46.
The stocky and bull-necked Mr. Cabello, who often sports the standard Chavista uniform of red shirt and tri-color windbreaker in the red, yellow and blue of the Venezuelan flag, is host of a television program, "Hitting With the Sledge Hammer," on state television, in which he uses telephone intercepts of opponents to attack and embarrass them. Mr. Rodriguez said he believes Mr. Cabello will never make any kind of a deal with the U.S. "Diosdado is a kamikaze," he said. "He will never surrender."
U.S. investigators have painstakingly built cases against Venezuelan officials by using information gathered from criminal cases brought in the U.S. In Miami, people familiar with the matter say a key building block in the investigations involved a drug-smuggling ring run by Roberto Mendez Hurtado. A Colombian, Mr. Mendez Hurtado moved cocaine into Apure state in western Venezuela and, according to those familiar with his case, had met with high-ranking Venezuelan officials. The cocaine was then taken by boat or flown directly to islands in the Caribbean before reaching American shores.
Mr. Mendez Hurtado pleaded guilty in Miami federal court and received a 19-year prison term in 2014. People close to that investigation say that Mr. Mendez Hurtado and his fellow traffickers wouldn't have been able to operate without paying off a string of top military officers and government officials.
"The involvement of top officials in the National Guard and in the government of Venezuela in drug trafficking is very clear," said a former Venezuelan National Guard officer who served in intelligence and in anti-narcotics and left the country last year frightened by the overwhelming corruption he saw daily.
"Everyone feels pressured," he said. "Sooner or later everyone surrenders to drug trafficking."
In another case, in Brooklyn, prosecutors have learned about the intricacies of the drug trade in Venezuela after breaking up a cocaine-smuggling ring led by Luis Frank Tello,who pleaded guilty, court documents show. The cocaine was brought in across the border from Colombia and, with the help of National Guard officers, shipped north, sometimes from the airport in Venezuela's second-largest city, Maracaibo.
The U.S. investigations of Venezuelan officials have been going on for years, though investigators have sometimes been thwarted by politics.
In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department put three top aides to then-President Chávez on a blacklist and froze any assets they might have in the U.S. Among the three was Mr. Carvajal, known as "El Pollo," or the Chicken, then the head of military intelligence. The U.S. acted after extensive evidence surfaced earlier that year in the computers of a dead Colombian guerrilla commander of burgeoning cocaine-for-arms exchanges between the rebels and top Venezuelan generals and officials, according to the U.S. and Colombian governments.
In 2010, Manhattan prosecutors unsealed the indictment of Mr. Makled, the Venezuelan drug dealer accused of shipping tons of cocaine to the U.S. through the country's main seaport of Puerto Cabello, which he allegedly controlled. Mr. Makled, who had been captured in Colombia, boasted of having 40 Venezuelan generals on his payroll.
"All my business associates are generals," Mr. Makled said then to an associate in correspondence seen by The Wall Street Journal. "I'm telling you we dispatched 300,000 kilos of coke. I couldn't have done it without the top of the government."
DEA agents interviewed Mr. Makled in a Colombian prison as they prepared to extradite him to New York. But instead, Colombia extradited him in 2011 to Venezuela, where he was convicted of drug trafficking. This February, he was sentenced to 14 years and six months in jail.
Last July, American counter-drug officials nearly nabbed Mr. Carvajal, who had been indicted in Miami and New York on drug charges and detained in Aruba at the American government's behest. But Dutch authorities released him to Venezuela, arguing that he had diplomatic immunity.
Upon Mr. Carvajal's release, President Maduro praised the former intelligence chief as a dedicated anti-drug fighter who had set a worlds' record capturing drug capos.
The U.S. is also gathering information from bankers and financiers who handle the money for top Venezuelan officials. Since last year, people familiar with the matter say the U.S. government has revoked the visas of at least 56 Venezuelans, including bankers and financiers whose identities haven't been made public. Some have sought to cooperate with investigators in order to regain access to the U.S.
"They are flipping all these money brokers," said a lawyer who is representing two Venezuelan financiers who have had their visas revoked. "The information is coming in very rapidly.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

US targets Andorra bank with laundering PdV funds

US targets Andorra bank with laundering PdV funds
11 Mar 2015, 5.18 pm GMT

Caracas, 11 March (Argus) — The US Treasury Department yesterday charged an Andorra-based bank of laundering around $2bn siphoned off of Venezuela´s state-owned oil company PdV.

The accusation by the department´s financial crimes enforcement network (FinCEN) that a senior manager at Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA) laundered the funds comes amid a wider escalation of tension between Washington and Caracas.

The Venezuelan foreign ministry and PdV have not commented on the accusation.

FinCen named BPA "a foreign financial institution of primary money laundering concern" under the US Patriot Act "based on information indicating that, for several years, high-level managers at BPA have knowingly facilitated transactions on behalf of third–party money launderers acting on behalf of transnational criminal organizations."

FinCEN also accused the bank of laundering money for Russian and Chinese organized crime groups.

The money-laundering charge followed the 9 March issuance of a US executive order that implements and expands US sanctions on senior Venezuelan government officials for human rights violations and corruption.

The sanctions revoke the US visas of the officials and freeze their US assets. Around 60 Venezuelan officials have been targeted under the sanctions.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro swiftly lambasted the new order, and named two of seven targeted officials as cabinet ministers. Caracas has also imposed a new visa requirement for US citizens visiting Venezuela, and ordered the curtailment of US diplomatic staff.

Some US companies with technical service contracts with PdV are pulling US employees out of Venezuela until the visa rules are clarified.

The National Andorran Finance Institute (INAF), the Spanish government entity that oversees the financial sector in Andorra, yesterday intervened on behalf of BPA and its subsidiary Banco de Madrid to guarantee operations.

In one of his now-nightly television broadcasts, Maduro yesterday requested that the national assembly grant him special powers, hinting that he may use them to suspend constitutional guarantees.

The assembly, which is controlled by the ruling PSUV party, is likely to grant the special powers today.

Venezuela´s oil-based economy is expected to contract by 7pc in 2015. Annual inflation is approaching triple digits, and shortages of basic goods are widespread.

Venezuela exported 680,000 b/d to the US in December 2014, down from 852,000 b/d in July 2014, according to most recent data from the US Energy Information Administration.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Obama is protecting Venezuelan citizens against Maduro's dictatorship

Thank you president Obama, for this Executive Order... USA the only country talking about Human Rights Violations, and protecting Venezuelan cititizens from the abuse of Maduro's dictatorship!
Thanks again!!

For Immediate Release March 09, 2015
FACT SHEET: Venezuela Executive Order
President Obama today issued a new Executive Order (E.O.) declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.  The targeted sanctions in the E.O. implement the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, which the President signed on December 18, 2014, and also go beyond the requirements of this legislation.
We are committed to advancing respect for human rights, safeguarding democratic institutions, and protecting the U.S. financial system from the illicit financial flows from public corruption in Venezuela.
This new authority is aimed at persons involved in or responsible for the erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to antigovernment protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of antigovernment protestors, as well as the significant public corruption by senior government officials in Venezuela.  The E.O. does not target the people or the economy of Venezuela.
Specifically, the E.O. targets those determined by the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State, to be involved in:
  • actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions;
  • significant acts of violence or conduct that constitutes a serious abuse or violation of human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests in Venezuela in or since February 2014;
  • actions that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or peaceful assembly; or
  • public corruption by senior officials within the Government of Venezuela. 

  • The E.O. also authorizes the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State, to target any person determined:
  • to be a current or former leader of an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in any activity described in the E.O. or of an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked or frozen pursuant to the E.O.; or
  • to be a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela;
  • Individuals designated or identified for the imposition of sanctions under this E.O., including the seven individuals that have been listed today in the Annex of this E.O., will have  their property and interests in property in the United States blocked or frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from doing business with them.  The E.O. also suspends the entry into the United States of individuals meeting the criteria for economic sanctions.
  • We will continue to work closely with others in the region to support greater political expression in Venezuela, and to encourage the Venezuelan government to live up to its shared commitment, as articulated in the OAS Charter, the Inter American Democratic Charter, and other relevant instruments related to democracy and human rights. 

The President imposed sanctions on the following seven individuals listed in the Annex to the E.O.:
1.      Antonio José Benavides Torres: Commander of the Strategic Region for the Integral Defense (REDI) of the Central Region of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and former Director of Operations for Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard (GNB).
Benavides Torres is a former leader of the GNB, an entity whose members have engaged in significant acts of violence or conduct that constitutes a serious abuse or violation of human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests in Venezuela in or since February 2014.  In various cities in Venezuela, members of the GNB used force against peaceful protestors and journalists, including severe physical violence, sexual assault, and firearms.
2.      Gustavo Enrique González López: Director General of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and President of Venezuela’s Strategic Center of Security and Protection of the Homeland (CESPPA).
González López is responsible for or complicit in, or responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, or has participated in, directly or indirectly, significant acts of violence or conduct that constitutes a serious abuse or violation of human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests in Venezuela in or since February 2014.  As Director General of SEBIN, he was associated with the surveillance of Venezuelan government opposition leaders. 
Under the direction of González López, SEBIN has had a prominent role in the repressive actions against the civil population during the protests in Venezuela.  In addition to causing numerous injuries, the personnel of SEBIN have committed hundreds of forced entries and extrajudicial detentions in Venezuela. 
3.      Justo José Noguera Pietri: President of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana (CVG), a state-owned entity, and former General Commander of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard (GNB).
Noguera Pietri is a former leader of the GNB, an entity whose members have engaged in significant acts of violence or conduct that constitutes a serious abuse or violation of human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests in Venezuela in or since February 2014.  In various cities in Venezuela, members of the GNB used excessive force to repress protestors and journalists, including severe physical violence, sexual assault, and firearms.
4.      Katherine Nayarith Haringhton Padron: national level prosecutor of the 20th District Office of Venezuela’s Public Ministry.
Haringhton Padron, in her capacity as a prosecutor, has charged several opposition members, including former National Assembly legislator Maria Corina Machado and, as of February 2015, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma Diaz, with the crime of conspiracy related to alleged assassination/coup plots based on implausible - and in some cases fabricated - information. The evidence used in support of the charges against Machado and others was, at least in part, based on fraudulent emails.
5.      Manuel Eduardo Pérez Urdaneta: Director of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Police.
Pérez Urdaneta is a current leader of the Bolivarian National Police, an entity whose members have engaged in significant acts of violence or conduct that constitutes a serious abuse or violation of human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests in Venezuela in or since February 2014.  For example, members of the National Police used severe physical force against peaceful protesters and journalists in various cities in Venezuela, including firing live ammunition.
6.      Manuel Gregorio Bernal Martínez : Chief of the 31st Armored Brigade of Caracas of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Army and former Director General of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN).
Bernal Martínez was the head of SEBIN on February 12, 2014, when officials fired their weapons on protestors killing two individuals near the Attorney General’s Office.
7.      Miguel Alcides Vivas Landino: Inspector General of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and former Commander of the Strategic Region for the Integral Defense (REDI) of the Andes Region of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Armed Forces.
Vivas Landino is responsible for or complicit in, or responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, or has participated in, directly or indirectly, significant acts of violence or conduct that constitutes a serious abuse or violation of human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests in Venezuela in or since February 2014.

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