From Poyais To Andorra: A Tradition Of Venezuelan Fraud

April 14, 2015


Meet Gregor MacGregor, a Scottish military officer, adventurer and hero of Venezuela’s Independence War, who joined the fight against Spain in 1811 and quickly became a general of the Venezuelan Army by 1812, marrying a cousin of Simón Bolívar. Later MacGregor fought in Colombia, the Caribbean and Central America. In 1820 MacGregor was named to the Constituent Congress in Cucuta, but rather than go there, he went to attack the Spanish city of Portobelo in Panama, failing in the attempt. From there, MacGregor went to Nicaragua, where he met the Poyais (Payas in Spanish) indians and signed with them a treaty to colonize their territory.

And here is where his life became interesting and he pioneered the now long tradition of fraud related to Venezuela: MacGregor moved to Great Britain in 1820 and claimed to be the Cacique and Prince of Poyais, a country that did not even exist. The country was supposedly located in the Bay of Honduras and reportedly King Frederic Augustus I of the Mosquito Shore and Nation had bestowed the land to him. In reality, the land supposedly bestowed on him by King Frederic had been plied away from him with alcohol and consisted of four run down buildings, which were surrounded by swamps and there were no riches whatsoever.

But MacGregor convinced everyone that his fake country of Poyais was full of riches.To help his cause, he had a book Published called “Sketch of the Mosquito Shore, including the Territory of Poyais”, which you can read in google archives, supposedly written by a certain Captain Thomas Strangeways. The book described the wonderful and rich country of Poyais, rich in metals, wood, indigo, animals, trees, offering the enterprising European a unique opportunity for investment and work. The book claimed remarkable opportunities that could turn an investment of 150 pounds into 1,000 in one year or recoup your investment in a coffee plantation in only five years.

And then came the first scam, the issuance of bank notes by the Bank of Poyais, offering to pay “one hard dollar after sight”


in the option of the Government of Poyais. He also sold land at one schilling per acre in cash, sold in perfectly square plots of 540 acres.

But being the true pioneer that he was, MacGregor issued bonds in the amount of 200,000 pounds. The bonds were reportedly sold at 80% of its face value at a rate which some sources claim was 3%, while others say 6%. But this graph of the evolution of the price of the bonds clearly indicates 3% bonds:

PDF-2MacGregor was so daring, that he even sent seven boats of settlers to Poyais, knowing that he would be found out for sure. When the few settlers that survived came back in 1823, London papers reported the fraud and MacGregor fled to France.

And in France he simply started again, reportedly raising another 1.1 million pounds in new money. He was briefly jailed in France, but acquitted. MacGregor did not even try to pay any of the investors, he simply pocketed the money and eventually moved to the French countryside to enjoy life, while continuing to try to peddle land in the country of Poyais.

By 1838 MacGregor had ran out of funds and returned to Venezuela, where he asked for a pension, the Venezuela nationality and his old military position and rank. He was reinstated as Division General and was eventually buried with honors in the Panteon Nacional along with Simón Bolívar

As with so many other Venezuelan crooks and fraudsters, MacGregor suffered no moral punishment from Venezuela, welcomed back with open arms and buried with honors. Thus was born a tradition that has continued from Poyais to Andorra and from the time of our war of Independence to that of Chavismo.

Added: A reader sends this picture of a certificate for a Puyaisian land grant


Hat Tip for idea : Eduardo

58 Responses to “From Poyais To Andorra: A Tradition Of Venezuelan Fraud”

  1. Milan Hau Says:

    Come back, I miss youuuuuuuuuuu

  2. GeronL Says:

    I hear they want to nationalize food distribution now. lol.

  3. Mick Says:

    1.4 million ounces of gold for $1 billion. Isn’t that less than $800 an ounce? Plus interest payments!

    • Island Canuck Says:

      Actually based on the math it’s only US$715 per ounce.

      But when you are desperate you’ll do anything.

      Maybe they should have gone to the Gold & Silver Pawnshop in Las Vegas. 🙂

      • Ira Says:

        Hey–you just reminded me that I haven’t seen that show in a long time. Not even repeats.

        It must have been cancelled.

        • Island Canuck Says:

          It’s still running here in Venezuela on the History channel with new episodes. They even have a new game show.

  4. jak Says:

    Hate to post something so off subject, maybe Miguel can put it into a new post but read this fiction!!

    My first thoughts were to short these but on a reread what stands out are
    “and is negotiating with Reliance Industries”

    “would purchase half of Venezuela’s output when it more than doubles to 6 million bpd by 2019 with the help of its long-term investment plan of $143.7 billion”.
    Now they could make more money selling the drugs that will appear to make this happen. I won’t even divide $143.7B by 4 years I would crack up.

    “Earlier, Malaysia’s Petronas had sold its 11% stake in the project to PDVSA” Petronas found a sucker….. Oh! PDVSA!

    “You can find oil at a depth of only 3,000 feet”
    Actually you can find it at +4 feet at the gas stationfor less investment.

    “The Indian government has encouraged oil refiners to reduce their excessive dependence on traditional oil suppliers such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran” Because of the world excess?

    “and have stepped up purchases from countries such as Mexico, Iraq and Venezuela”
    The more f#&ked up producers.

    And the cream de la cream, “The reporter travelled to Venezuela on an invitation from PDVSA”
    Himangshu Watts, ET Bureau. Now there is honesty.

  5. MasterBlog Says:

    Reblogged this on MasterBlog en Español and commented:
    Los #guisos tienen una larga historia en #Venezuela.

  6. Floyd Says:

    “..there is a long tradition of looking the other way with regards to fraud and corruption in Venezuela.”

    The problem now is that almost everyone is participating in it, one way or another. By working for the Dictortship (over 3 Million Enchufados, 32 putrid “Ministerios”) or by accepting all the freebies, bribes, and kickbacks, which have become a way of living.

    With the Adecos/Copeyanos there was a LOT of corruption too. Just like in many countries, Brazil, etc.

    But not virtually everyone was stealing, and they are now! Down to the campesinos, obreros, sindicalistas, amas-de-casa: all are in it.

    Or they would have so much cash, with such low “salaries”, and tolerate to spend the day standing in queues, praying for chicken or toilet paper. If they weren’t bribed and corrupt in many ways, it would have exploded a long time ago.

    • Super Says:

      Totally agree. If everyone wasn’t trading with the enemy we would have been gotten rid of these criminals a long time ago. But the problem is, as you say, that everyone is too used to all the freebies they’ve been receiving these long 15 years…

  7. Super Says:

    Miguel thanks so much for this! I honestly did not know about him.

    What is incredible is that even on the old PDVSA ‘s article on him it does not even mention the subsequent story of the swindle! And this is the old PDVSA-intevep! So yes, there is a long tradition of looking the other way with regards to fraud and corruption in Venezuela.

  8. mariamarinarocolonna Says:

    The sad thing, as I see it, is that our collective culture does not realize how corrupt it is, and thins includes citizens without a public office. For instance: we pay a public officer to get our drivers licence without having to go to the Vehicle and Transport Administration offices to get it, and the same goes for our identity card, and the same goes for favors that are paid in order to get what is lawful ours to get with honest dealings. The excuse: THE SYSTEM, but we have never, ever, fought the SYSTEM in order to demand what is right, legal and such. So, what we have now is not only the result of the corrupt actions of our leaders ever since Cristopher Columbus set foot on this land, but also of our compliance with such actions, never taking a stand, always assuming the easy way out. I don´t like the regime we have now, and there are, for me, no excuses for opressing people, but I also think that we have to begin reflecting on the actions, conscious and unconscious, that have brought us to this terrible and unhuman experience, not in the fashion of a guilty visit of our actions, but in a reflective act in order to assume responsibility and enact serious change.
    As much as I am afraid, angry and sad about all that is happening, I feel that being cinical in our observations about aourselves, does not lead us to the ground of creation of better realities.
    Thank you for this article…much food for thought.

    • Kepler Says:

      Very very true.

    • Floyd Says:

      Correct. Most people are into the Guisos, Tigritos, and corruption. One way or another Enchufados in the system.

      That’s how they all mysteriously have plenty of cash to spend, and do not even complain when standing everyday on the Colas.

      At this point, and to some extent, they deserve what they are getting.

      • Ira Says:

        I’ll never forget how pre-Chavez (1989), my wife and I had to pay a multa to the judge because as a “foreigner” marrying in VZ, my papers weren’t all in order. (My wife remembers it differently, but she’s wrong!)

        Anyway, I was just about screaming and cursing him out, until my wife calmed me down and said, “This is how things are done here.” And that $200 U.S. went straight into his desk drawer.

        I hope that scumbag is dead now:

        If I knew marriage was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have paid him a DIME!

  9. GTAveledo Says:

    Great bit of history, Setty.

    BTW, PDVSA’s website has MacGregor’s fraud as a mere entrepeneurship story:

  10. […] Miguel Octavio tells us the story of Gregor MacGregor, creator of the country of Poyais, in From Poyais To Andorra: A Tradition Of Venezuelan Fraud […]

  11. Kepler Says:

    I remember I started to translate this story to the Spanish Wikipedia years ago, although I didn’t continue (there is so much to document on Wikipedia about Venezuela).
    I also wrote something about this guy here:

    Let’s be clear: almost all our “leaders” had been like that or worse, including that Bolivar character…either because of the money or the power, they would do anything and screw up anyone

    • Floyd Says:

      Really? Was Bolivar a crook too?! How so?

      At any rate he did many good things for America, and he was way more educated than the average Venezuelan. Which is one of the main problems with Masburrismo today.. lack of education.

      • Carolina Says:

        You can ask Miranda…LOL.

        Here is a link just to brief you in. How accurate the facts are I don’t know, but at least points out few interesting things.

        • Floyd Says:

          Damn, Kepler didn’t bite!

        • Floyd Says:

          Well, apparently Chabruto’s hero Bolivar was a twisted womanizer capable of betraying his best friends, but no crook.

          The dude was extremely rich to begin with, highly educated.

          The exact opposite of what we have now: Formerly poor, uneducated bastards with ugly wives, utter Thieves.

          Makes a big difference.

          • Rafael Says:

            A lot of myths about Bolivar. Many half truths and many inaccurate tales about his life. I guess most of what you learn in school about him are just a collection of airbrushed and romanticized accounts. I read part of a biography which was published a year or so ago (“Bolivar” by Marie Arana) and which seems to be a balanced account of who he was. Bolivar was a power and glory hungry individual. Very willing to sacrifice everything in the pursuit of his goals. I did not read anything in the book about Bolivar explicitly betraying friends, but I did see several examples of how good he was at making enemies. Mostly because of being too demanding and unforgiving.or because of trying to outdo others in power and influence. In any case, no doubt he is among the top figures, if not the top, in Latino-american history. I am sorry that the thugs that now run Venezuela have appropriated his name. I feel even more sorry that we have allowed it to happen.

      • Kepler Says:

        Bolívar definitely had a better education than most Venezuelans, which is nothing particularly impressive taking into account he was by birth one of the richest guys in the country. Most educated had been killed or went into exile when our civil war (which we call Independence war) broke out.

        His education was rather superficial but that, in one of the backwaters of the Spanish Empire, was enough for him to get the leadership (and the money of those who supported him and his lack of scruples). He was all up for power, which is nothing very different from money. Independence?
        I could explain it to you but as I see from your comments in Caracas Chronicles, you have a racialist, incredibly elitist and quite primitive way of looking at the Venezuelan reality.

        Education, by the way, doesn’t mean intelligence, but you don’t seem to grasp that.

        • Floyd Says:

          Kepler, arrete tes conneries. I never said that: you are living proof: educate and dumb.

          • Floyd Says:

            And enough ad hominems from you, retard. Stick to the topics at hand. Your grandiose crap everywhere is sickening and you never seem to get the point.

          • Kepler Says:

            It is not ad hominem to say you are a racist, elitist with little intelligence to comprehend what education is. We can read your very stupid generalizations about the poor and your lack of analysis about your own group of pseudo-educated profiteers just complaining about other profiteers having displaced you.

  12. @Econ_Vzla Says:


    Do you have any idea who is the eponymous hero of this Anzoategui municipality?

    I always thought it was the same guy (and maybe it is)..

  13. LuisF Says:

    The list continues to our days.

    Regretfully some of the current opposition faces are just ding that, cleaning up their act from the IV republic when they ran away with their loot.

    Moreover, the hidden hope among Chavista embezzlers is that the status quo goes on and they get the chance to cool off elsewhere to later return!

    Still many specialists maintain that silver bridges and compromises must be made with chavismo to allow fro a transfer of power.

  14. Yesaidú Lenin Jimenez Says:

    This fine specimen, precursor of our delightful Avispao Culture deserves to be included in this list:

  15. Ramón Says:

    a very good story… this blog starts to look like better than Caracaschronicles…

  16. Héctor Says:

    Gran Historia. Macondo profundo. Te agradezco por traerla, ya la compartí.

  17. The most impressive part of all, is that he also started the tradition of running out of money! The history of Venezuelan that looted the country and bestowed quite a lot of money on their heirs with most of them ending up with almost nothing after few years is endless.

  18. jsb Says:

    I’m sure if Chávez could have he would have buried Ilich Ramírez Sánchez in the Pantheon too.

  19. Alex Dalmady Says:

    Post of the year!

  20. HalfEmpty Says:

    That bank note is gorgeous. Any idea who printed it?

  21. Maria Says:

    I did not about this story. Thanks for posting it!!!!

  22. Humberto Says:

    On thinking about your piece, maybe I am going to get a bit defensive here. Your title seems a bit misleading. The fraud is the Scot. The Venezuelans end-up being naive and ill informed, specially after burying this guy in the place where all national heroes are buried, but not “frauds”.

    If the story were broadly known in Venezuela, which it isn’t, do you think MacGregor would still be buried where he is?

    Sadly, I think I know the answer.

    • moctavio Says:

      Try to place yourself in that era: A Scottsman, who is a General in the Venezuela Army, married to Bolivars cousin, former Constituent Assembly delegate, goes to the UK and France with this swindle. Gets discovered and even tried, comes back to Venezuela, reinstated, given a pension and the nationality and you still think he was from Scotland?

      • Yesaidú Lenin Jimenez Says:

        Of course. TheCorruptzuelan Leeches at the time were salivating, welcoming this bright Gentleman’s return..

    • Carolina Says:

      I think he will be. He married a Bolivar, that is enough to give some people important jobs, like vicepresidents and things like that.

  23. Humberto Says:

    Amazing. This is a real find. One more myth, debunked.

  24. Amadeo Says:

    How can it be 1938??????

  25. Paul Says:

    Cool story. Thievery has indeed been a long Venezuelan tradition!

  26. Dorothy Whittembury Says:

    Perhaps proof reading articles before publishing so as to avoid language and other errors. Subjects are too serious to contain mistakes !

    Sent from my iPad

  27. Corrected! Loved the story so much, wanted to publish it.

  28. rafaelg13 Says:

    “By 1938 MacGregor had ran out of funds and returned to Venezuela…”

    I think there’s a mistake. He couldn’t have lived that long. Thanks for the post, didn’t know that story.

  29. Carolina Says:

    Loved this story! what is it to make heroes of these kind of people?
    (BTW, you have a typo on the date when he returned to Venezuela, unless he was about 150 years old)

  30. Noel Says:

    Great story. Compared to the current sinister Chavista crooks, he would stand out as a true gentleman!

    • Yesaidú Lenin Jimenez Says:

      Exactly. This Scottish Sire is waaayyy smarter and more sophisticated than todays Masburrismo grotesque and simple Crooks.

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