Archive for November 6th, 2007

The hidden history of Venezuela by Moises Naim

November 6, 2007

Moises Naim, who was Minister of Development from 1989 to 1992, is
Editor of Foreign Policy and wrote the book “
Illicit: How drug smugglers,
traffickers and copycats are hijacking the Global Economy

wrote the article below in Madrid’s El Pais about how Venezuela is becoming a
center for globalized criminal activity thanks to corruption and the lack of
enforcement. This is another achievement of the robolution that is actually
hard to understand: How Chavez has simply ignored crime and corruption and
allowed it to grow uncontrolled during his nine years in office. Given his
military background and the goodwill with which he arrived in office I actually
thought these would be two areas where there may be progress. I was very wrong,
as corruption has proliferated and crime has tripled since Chavez took office. This
permissiveness has also propelled the country into the ranks of most favored
nation for international criminal syndicates as Dr. Naim so clearly explains

The hidden history of Venezuela by Moises Naim

As the world debates between horror and admiration, the changes that Hugo Chavez is imposing in Venezuela, other
transformations less visible but equally profound are taking place in that
country. Venezuela
has become a major center of operations for the criminal networks that operate
internationally. What most attracts these foreign traffickers of Venezuela is
not the local markets; what they love are the excellent conditions offered as a
basis for managing their criminals businesses. Crossroads between South
America, the Caribbean, North America and Europe, the Venezuela’s location
is ideal. Borders? Long, depopulated and porous. It’s financial system? Large
and easy to evade government controls for those who need it.
Telecommunications, ports and airports? The best that oil can buy. Levels of
corruption of politicians, soldiers, judges and policemen? Venezuela occupies a
shameful position at number 162 on the list of Transparency International,
which ranks 179 countries according to their level of corruption. Has President
Chavez shown any interest in the face of these international networks in his
eight years in power? Not much.

While this situation has so far been invisible to world public opinion, it has
not been for those fighting transnational crime. They are not interested neither
in Venezuela nor in Chavez’ policies, but in the fact that from that country the
tentacles of these criminals global networks are irradiated to the rest of the
world. And the numbers speak for themselves: in 2003 75 tons of cocaine left
Venezuela; this year it is estimated that 276 tons will leave the country. Before,
the main target were the United States and the Caribbean; Now Europe is
increasingly the target with technical stops in African countries like Guinea-Bissau,
where there has recently emerged a community of Venezuelans and Colombians.

A senior Dutch police officer told me that he and his European colleagues spend
more time in Caracas than in Bogota, and that many of the major heads of
criminal cartels now operate with impunity – and effectiveness – from
Venezuela. And traffickers are not only Colombians: there are also Asians and
Europeans and even from Belarus, a country that President Chavez has paid
particular attention to and visited several times.

Venezuela also appears on all of the lists of havens for money laundering. And
money moves from Venezuela not only through electronic interbank transfers: the
combination of private jets, suitcases full of money and diplomatic immunity
has opened up new possibilities. Recently, a member of the so-called Bolivarian
bourgeoisie or boliburguesía-the new group of mega rich that has emerged in
recent years, was discovered at the customs office in Buenos Aires with at
least one of these bags. Discovered, but not arrested, because he was traveling
with a group of senior members of President Nestor Kirchner´s Government. Just
a few weeks ago, in Uruguay the illegal trafficking of arms and ammunition by
Venezuelans which were thus trying to avoid the embargo imposed on Iran by the
Security Council of the UN was denounced. The Colombian guerrillas do not seem
to have major problems in obtaining the weapons they need, many of them through
Venezuela. Someone is selling them to them.

Diamond exploiters are doing equally well. “Venezuela is allowing massive
smuggling of diamonds and the country should be expelled from the Kimberley
Process”, recommended in a recent report by Global Witness and Partnership
Africa. The Kimberley Process is the mechanism sponsored by the UN to combat
the smuggling of so-called blood diamonds. Venezuela is in the first division
of the illegal trade in people and is one of the countries which gives less
protection to human beings trafficked involuntarily, especially women. It is
also a major hub for transshipments of Chinese citizens and from the Middle
East en route to other destinations and who obtain Venezuelans passports in a
matter of hours. But never free.

The great paradox of this terrible story is that, despite the constant
denunciations of President Chavez against globalization, the revolution has not
been able to avoid that Venezuela suffer its worst consequences. These criminal
gangs are globalizing Venezuela. But this is a globalization that depends on
corruption, crime and death. The hidden history of Venezuela may end up being
much more important in determining the future of my suffering country that Hugo