of the things I have found to be most remarkable in the Maletagate
scandal is the reaction by Argentinean and Venezuelan politicians to
the detention of the four men in Miami accused of being agents for the
Government of Venezuela. Remarkable, because it shows little common
sense or criteria to react the way they have done.
begin with, the focus has been on the fact that the men accused of
being unregistered agents mentioned the fact that the money was going
to a candidate, unnamed, who could lose the election if this was
revealed. While it is obvious that they are referring to Mrs. Kirchner,
that is not the point of the accusation at all. But somehow they have
managed to revive that issue to the point that the Argentinean Congress
is back to investigation the case and today the prosecutor in that
country actually said that none other than Mr. Antonini, the $800,000
man, was at the Argentinean Presidential Palace
two days after being stopped at customs and at a time when both
President Chávez and Kirchner were there together. I tend not to
believe in such things being coincidental.
Hugo Chavez in particular was a little bit loose with his tongue also,
when he said that he had infiltrated US intelligence services, but the
men jailed were not part of this. Jeez, he is thus saying his
Government is guilty of having unregistered agents but as far as the
President of Venezuela knows (he can’t know them all, no?) these are
not his. Not precisely a good defense. On the contrary the US
Prosecutor could use Chavez’ statements to back up his case.
there is the Argentinean Government from Mrs. Kirchner to the Foreign
Minister overreacting. Mrs. Kirchner was dumb to play ignorant and
blame the “Empire” and so was Mr. Kirchner who had promised not to be
too visible to speak out in the case. But it is even worse to call on
the US Ambassador when they don’t know yet all of what will be shown in
the videos ad tapes on the case. So far, it has been quite juicy and
when the trial begins it will be something out of a Bourne identity
movie from the sounds of it so far.
no explanation is given to the early details of the $800,000 in cash.
They were in a suitcase, carried by Antonini, in a plane chartered by a
joint oil venture between the two countries. Such venture has yet to
don anything but it affords jet planes from Buenos Aires to Caracas.
Such flights are regular and filled with high Government and PDVSA
officials. The flights land in the middle of the night at a national
airport. Antonini is caught with a suitcase with US$ 800,000 in cash,
but leaves all the money behind. And Argentinean authorities don’t ask
him any questions and allow him to leave three days later. And of
course, there is the infamous visit to the Presidential Palace.
none of the above needs explanation it is part of the daily operations
of these Governments. If you saw this in a movie, it would seem to far
those accusing the US of setting these people up have ignored all
ethical bounds. First of all, the men charged are some of the leading
nouveau rich of the Boli bourgeois, heavily rumored to be associated to
the Government, from which they have derived their newfound wealth.
They are far from being revolutionaries, living it up in Miami, owning
very expensive homes, jets and cars, with many being active
participants in car racing. Not exactly the spitting image of Che
Guevara fighting for the revolution in the jungle.
worse, while these men have also dealt with the sale of weapons to the
Venezuelan military and police, a business not famous for being too
clean and certainly full of commissions, where the biggest corruption
scandals in the country’s history have taken place.
was supposedly defending the “self-determination” of the people, and
referred to those detained as legitimate businessmen who are his
personal friends. Which shows that the Governor has little idea about
what ethics and common sense tell you he should behave.
Yanez says these are his friends. That’s fine. But then, it turns out
these friends have contracted repeatedly with his Governorship for
police weapons, something that Gov. Yanez seems to see no conflict of
interest with. Furthermore, Mr. Kauffman, his friend and contractor,
happens to have paid Mr. Yanez’ vacation last August at the fancy Llao
Llao Hotel in Bariloche, Argentina, where Mr. Yanez was spending what
he surely believes were well deserved vacation days. But he does not
seem to see the violation of all ethical rules in having his “friend”
and his “contractor” Carlos Kauffman paying for his room and those of
his kids as well as the nanny taking care of them. You have to love
these revolutionaries, who promote cooperatives, community spirit and
sacrifice, while traveling the world in the lap of luxury, paid by the
people who just happen to participate in contracts with your state.
that is the most bothersome thing, that these people don’t seem to see
the inconsistencies and incoherence between what they preach and what
they do. There is nothing defensible at how these men charged in the US
have become super rich in the last eight years. These guys have so much
money that they open five year CD’s with a US bank for US$ 25 million!
They have mansions with docks in Key Biscayne, Ferraris’ and Citation
jets which cost 4 or 5 million dollars and who knows how much to
maintain each month.
goes on then at lower levels? If the ethical guidelines from the top
are lacking, what can one expect from those below? For example, when
Gov. Yanez goes on his official trips abroad, does he get unlimited
stipends from the State at the official rate of exchange? And does he
pay back the amount not spent with local currency, pocketing the
difference? And other than his claim that he is a great speaker, much
in demand, why does the Governor of a small and backwards state like
Cojedes need to travel so much?
and on, but you get the picture. In a country with no visible checks
and balances, those in power see no conflicts of interest in all this.
It is the evil Empire that is to blame.
the Evil Empire has little to do with this. The fault goes directly
with Chavez’ attitude towards all this. Despite making corruption the
focus of his 1998 campaign he has allowed levels of corruption unseen
in the country’s history, which seemed hard to beat. The Comptroller
was recently reelected for another seven years despite not bringing to
Court any of the mayor corruption cases, some of which were so obvious
that anyone could see them. He has also allowed the rise of the corrupt
boli bourgeois, which not only have accumulated remarkable wealth, but
who flaunt it both here and abroad. Thus, the “old” oligarchy is being
slowly replaced by these new guys, who are moving into Country Club and
who have accumulated fortunes which are orders of magnitudes above
those of the traditional Venezuelan oligarchy. And anytime anyone is
caught because of their arrogant and careless behavior, the result is
total denial at all levels.
By now, even the most ardent cheerleaders of the revolution have begun to smell how rotten the whole thing is. What they fail to understand is that in the past it was checks and balances that maintained corruption in check, even if it had to be fought everywhere all the time. Chavez, much like some leaders of the IVth. Republic, has not imposed the ethical line needed from above. In the absence of any watchdogs and with the autocrat asking for total loyalty, we have reached a new low level in ethical standards and corruption levels have reached previously unimaginable magnitudes.
All in the name of the poor and the silly revolution.