Los nexos criminales de los nuevos jefes militares de Maduro en Venezuela

Este artículo fue escrito por Unidad de Investigación de Venezuela de Venezuela y originalmente publicado por Insight Crime en julio 17, 2019. Se reproduce aquí bajo CC BY-NC 3.0.

El presidente Nicolás Maduro ha anunciado cambios en la cúpula militar de Venezuela, mediante una serie de nombramientos que parecen recompensar la lealtad al régimen y promueven figuras que han sido señaladas de complicidad criminal y participación en la represión estatal.

Los anuncios se hicieron el 7 de julio en una ceremonia militar en Caracas. Maduro reeligió a Vladimir Padrino López como ministro de Defensa, lo que demuestra que sigue considerando que Padrino López es vital para mantener sus relaciones con los militares, a pesar de los rumores de los vínculos de este último con la fallida sublevación de la oposición del pasado 30 de abril de 2019.

A continuación, InSight Crime analiza los antecedentes y posibles vínculos criminales de los nuevos jefes militares de Venezuela:

Alexis Rodríguez Cabello, comandante del Ejército

Rodríguez Cabello ha sido un viejo aliado de la Revolución Bolivariana, y participó en el fallido golpe de Estado de Hugo Chávez en 1992. Continuó siendo una figura clave en los altos mandos del Ejército durante la administración de Nicolás Maduro, ejerciendo como director de la principal dependencia militar de la capital entre 2017 y 2019.

Según Rocío San Miguel, experta en asuntos castrenses venezolanos y directora de la ONG Control Ciudadano, el nombramiento de Rodríguez Cabello como comandante del Ejército es “una clara concesión al poder ejercido por Diosdado Cabello Rondón”, presidente de la polémica Asamblea Nacional Constituyente, organismo creado en 2017, y jefe del Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV). Ambos se graduaron al mismo tiempo de la escuela militar y se cree que son primos.

Diosdado Cabello es una figura central en el gobierno venezolano, considerado como el segundo al mando de Maduro. Se encuentra sancionado por el Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos por actividades como tráfico de drogas, lavado de dinero y malversación de fondos públicos. Las investigaciones en torno a su actividad criminal indican que utiliza su influencia en los nombramientos militares para salvaguardar las operaciones de sus redes de poder y actividades criminales, que operan al interior de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (FANB) de Venezuela.

Rodríguez Cabello sucede a Jesús Suárez Chourio, cuya salida se puede deber a los rumores de su participación en el fallido levantamiento de la oposición el 30 de abril. Como jefe militar del Distrito Capital en ese momento, Rodríguez Cabello fue uno de los primeros comandantes militares en condenar el levantamiento y afirmar su lealtad inquebrantable a Maduro.

Manuel Bernal Martínez, comandante de la milicia

Bernal Martínez es otro “chavista original” que participó en el intento de golpe de Estado de 1992, lo que confirma que el gobierno de Maduro está premiando las viejas lealtades. En 2014, Bernal fue director del temido Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN) de Venezuela.

Como director del SEBIN, Bernal Martínez estuvo detrás de la sangrienta respuesta a la marcha liderada por el abanderado de la oposición, Leopoldo López, el 12 de febrero de 2014. Las fuerzas especiales del SEBIN, junto con miembros de las tropas de choque paramilitares conocidas como “colectivos”, abrieron fuego contra los manifestantes, lo que dejó como resultado dos personas muertas.

Más tarde, el jefe del contingente del SEBIN y otros funcionarios del servicio testificaron que estaban allí siguiendo órdenes de Bernal Martínez, aunque este ha negado que hubiera dado la autorización. Como consecuencia de dichos asesinatos, Bernal Martínez recibió sanciones de Estados Unidos por violaciones a los derechos humanos. Fue destituido de su cargo en el SEBIN, pero continuó siendo nombrado en altos cargos militares.

En 2018 fue nombrado comandante de la principal dependencia militar de la región de los Andes. Ese mismo año fue incluido en una lista de funcionarios venezolanos sancionados por el gobierno de Panamá por representar “un alto riesgo de blanqueo de capitales y financiación del terrorismo y la proliferación de armas de destrucción masiva”.

Fabio Zavarce, comandante de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana

Antes de su nombramiento como comandante de la GNB, Fabio Zavarce se desempeñaba como jefe del distrito militar occidental. En opinión de San Miguel, su promoción representa, “por un lado, la presencia de uno de los grupos más poderosos dirigido por Néstor Reverol, ministro de Relaciones Interiores, Justicia y Paz, por otro lado, un premio a su lealtad en la criminalización de la protesta en Venezuela”.

Fabio Zavarce es un aliado cercano de Néstor Reverol, una de las figuras que se cree que ejerce más poder velado en la administración Maduro. Al igual que Diosdado Cabello, Reverol ha sido identificado como miembro del “Cartel de los Soles”. Estados Unidos lo acusó por tráfico de drogas en los años 2015 y 2017, y fue mencionado por Hugo Carvajal, el exjefe de inteligencia venezolano, como una piedra angular de las operaciones de narcotráfico de la FANB venezolanas. Este nuevo nombramiento de Zavarce asegura la influencia de Reverol a través de la GNB. Zavarce además podría tener vínculos personales con el narcotráfico. Su nombre apareció en la lista de colaboradores militares que entregó el narcotraficante convicto Walid Makled en 2011.

Además, Zavarce ha demostrado estar dispuesto a participar en la represión estatal. Como jefe del Comando Regional de la GNB en Caracas, dirigió la violenta respuesta de la unidad ante las protestas de la oposición el 12 de febrero de 2014. También han surgido videos en los que abraza al líder del conocido colectivo “La Piedrita”, lo que demuestra su afiliación con estos grupos criminales armados cercanos al gobierno. Zavarce fue sancionado por Estados Unidos en 2018 por represión de manifestaciones, y fue incluido en la lista de Panamá de funcionarios venezolanos castigados por presunta relación con lavado de dinero y terrorismo.

Este artículo fue escrito por Unidad de Investigación de Venezuela de Venezuela y originalmente publicado por Insight Crime en julio 17, 2019. Se reproduce aquí bajo CC BY-NC 3.0.

Venezuela’s Former Prosecutor General Accuses Maduro of Corruption

The former Prosecutor General of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega Díaz, accused President Nicolás Maduro of corruption related to the Brazilian construction conglomerate, Odebrecht. Odebrecht is at the center of a multi-billion dollar corruption investigation across Latin America.

Ortega Díaz served as Prosecutor General for a decade between 2007 and 2017. She was fired in August 2017 by the National Constituent Assembly, a legislative body created by Maduro to bypass the democratically elected and opposition-controlled National Assembly. Two weeks after she was fired, Ortega Díaz fled Venezuela for Colombia.

Towards the end of her tenure, Ortega Díaz was one of the few members of the government who openly spoke out about Maduro’s growing authoritarianism.

Ortega Díaz presented 18 principle pieces of evidence and 46 digital annexes as proof of Maduro’s crimes. She said that the evidence she delivered to the Court leaves no doubt “that Maduro is involved in corruption with Odebrecht.”

She added: “He is corrupt and a thief who has appropriated the money of the Venezuelans.”

“These tests must be exhibited so that the world knows how Nicolás Maduro and this band of criminals who occupy Miraflores stole Venezuelan money, which should have been destined for food and medicine. One of the troubles that Maduro had for assaulting the Public Ministry was to destroy this file; fortunately, we managed to preserve it,” said Ortega Díaz.

This is not the first time that Ortega Díaz has presented evidence against her former boss before the Supreme Court in exile.

In April 2017 Ortega Díaz presented documents which she claimed showed that Maduro engaged in corruption while in office. The Miami Herald reported at the time that one of the chief accusations was that Maduro received US$35 million in illegal campaign contributions from Odebrecht in return for construction contracts.

Peru Prosecutors Conduct Raids Related to Odebrecht Corruption Scandal

The homes of Susana Villarán, the former mayor of Lima, and José Miguel Castro, her former political ally and Municipal Manager of Lima, were raided last week, according to the Public Ministry of Peru.

“Prosecutors Hamilton Castro and Luis Ballón are at the home of Susana Villarán and Prosecutors Sergio Jiménez and Marcial Paucar at the home of José Miguel Castro. The prosecutors are in charge of prosecutor Castro who leads the Special Team,” the Public Ministry said in the tweet on April 5th.

The two are suspected of accepting bribes from Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction conglomerate, and its subsidiary during their time in the municipal government.

In another tweet, the Public Ministry said that the investigation is four months in the making.

“The investigation against the ex-mayor Susana Villarán has so far 4 months of preliminary investigation and is the case that more testimonial statements have been received, said the Special Team spokesman, prosecutor Óliver Chávez,” said the Public Ministry in a tweet on Tuesday.

In the order authorizing the raid, Judge Manuel Antonio Chuyo Zavaleta said that Villarán and Castro “solicited and received” campaign donations from Odebrecht and its subsidiary in return for government contracts.

Excerpt from the order to raid the homes of Susana Villarán and José Miguel Castro / Screenshot taken April 11, 2018
Excerpt from the order to raid the homes of Susana Villarán and José Miguel Castro / Screenshot taken April 11, 2018

Prosecutors say Villarán and Castro received $3 million from Jorge Barata, a former Odebrecht executive who has admitted that he participated in bribery. For more than a decade, Odebrecht systematically bribed politicians across Latin America in order to secure government contracts. Officials admitted in 2016 to spending $800 million in bribes in 10 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including in Peru.

According to El Comercio, Barata said that he was in a meeting with Castro during his time in the Lima municipal government.

However, Castro denies the accusations of corruption.

“I have never received any money, specie, transfers or any payment either from Mr. Barata, or any of the companies related to him or with the Odebrecht group,” said Castro.

The raids come just weeks after former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned the presidency after allegations of corruption arose against him. Commonly known by his initials, PPK barely survived impeachment earlier this year and was expected to be removed by Congress if he did not step down.

PPK was replaced by his first vice president and then-ambassador to Canada, Martín Vizcarra, on March 23, 2018.

Former Planning Minister in Argentina Charged with Corruption

A former government minister in Argentina was charged last week for corrupt practices while in office. Julio De Vido was the Minister of Planning and Public Investment from 2003 to 2015 during the administrations of President Néstor Kirchner and his successor President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

De Vido is accused of illegally favoring the Brazilian construction conglomerate, Odebrecht, for multimillion dollar construction contracts.

Odebrecht is at the center of a massive corruption scandal related to Operation Car Wash in Brazil. While starting in Brazil, the scandal grew to encompass most of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Odebrecht officials pled guilty to corruption charges in Brazil, Switzerland, and the United States in late-2016. The company acknowledged that it spent $800 million in bribes to win government contracts in 10 Latin American and Caribbean countries worth more than $3.3 billion.

According to the Associated Press, De Vido turned himself over to authorities last-October after he was stripped of his immunity.

The charges are only the latest in an ongoing anti-corruption effort targeting officials from the previous government. Former President and now Senator Fernández de Kirchner is accused of corruption by some. She was indicted on treason charges last December related to the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires.

Judge Denies “Extention and Clariffication” Appeal by Jorge Glas

The National Court of Justice has denied an appeal for clarification and extension by Vice President Jorge Glas’s defense attorney, reports El Universo.

Jorge Glas served as Minister of Strategic Sectors from 2010 to 2012 under President Rafael Correa. Glas was tapped to be Correa’s running mate and has served as Vice President since 2013. On August 3, 2017, he was suspended from that office by President Lenin Moreno as a result of the corruption investigation.

The appeal was for additional clarification related to article 95 of the General Organic Code of Processes, which lays out information that written sentences are required to contain.

He is currently being held in pretrial detention.

Support El Hemisferio by donating through Patreon

 

President Temer Will Not Be Tried on Corruption Charges After Failed Vote

A vote to allow President Michel Temer to be tried on corruption charges failed to muster enough support in the Chamber of Deputies. The vote on Wednesday in the lower chamber of Brazil’s Federal Congress was 251 in support of Temer and 233 against.

The vote to try the president on charges of obstruction of justice and leading a criminal organization was similar to a vote in August to try him on bribery charges, which also failed to pass the Chamber.

As  The Guardian reports, the charges against Temer stem from a massive corruption scandal called Operation Car Wash which began in March 2014. Prosecutors allege that politicians from all political parties traded favors, votes, and appointments for bribes.

They believe that Temer has been at the head of the corruption scheme since he came to power after his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached and removed from office on August 31, 2016.

In the 14 months since becoming head of state, prosecutors believe that Temer and his party have received about $190 million in bribes.

The failure of the Chamber to hold Temer accountable for corruption can be partially attributed to the scope of the corruption scandal embroiling Brazil, argues Matthew Taylor, associate professor at the School of International Service at American University.

“As you look at Congress and you recognize that somewhere between a third and a half of Congress is implicated in scandal, there aren’t many other people who have a national profile who could govern at this point,” Taylor said.

Members of the opposition attempted to delay the vote until the evening when more Brazilians would be able to watch the voting on television. A tactic they used when the Chamber held a similar vote in the summer.

By ensuring that voting took place when the most citizens would be watching, opposition politicians were hoping to tie the president’s supporters to his unpopular presidency. President Temer’s approval rating is about 3 percent.

After the latest failure, some members of the opposition have resigned themselves to the fact that President Temer may remain in office for his full term. “We are going to be stuck with a lame duck president for one more year,” Congressman Alessandro Molon, who voted against Temer, said. “He is not getting what he wants from this Congress because of the elections. And we are not going to get an agenda that is good for Brazilians, who reject Temer.”

General elections will be held in Brazil in October 2018. President Temer has said that he will not run for president. All members of the Chamber of Deputies will be up for reelection.

Corruption is a top concern for Brazilians

A recent survey found that Brazilians feel most worried about corruption, reported the Associated Press. In the survey published on Tuesday by Datafolha, respondents said that violence is the second biggest worry, followed by poverty and environmental degradation.

 

Brazil has been a party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption since 2005. The Convention lays out measures for countries to take in order to combat and prevent corruption at the national and international level.

The Convention draws a direct link between corruption and under development. “Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.”

Support El Hemisferio by donating through Patreon

Nuevo Informe Identifica al Vicepresidente Ecuatoriano y Otros Dos como Jefes de un Esquema Criminal

Un nuevo informe de 12 páginas de la Unidad de Investigación de Apoyar a la Fiscalía presenta nueva evidencia en la investigación de corrupción de Odebrecht en Ecuador.

El informe describe al vicepresidente Jorge Glas, al excontralor Carlos Pólit, y al brasileño José Conceição Santos como los tres jefes de un plan criminal de asociación ilícita.

Jorge Glas fue Ministro de Sectores Estratégicos de 2010 a 2012 bajo la presidencia de Rafael Correa. Glas fue elegido para ser el compañero de Correa y se ha desempeñado como vicepresidente desde 2013. El 3 de agosto de 2017, fue suspendido de esa oficina por el presidente Lenin Moreno como resultado de la investigación por corrupción.

Bajo la supervisión de Glas entre 2012 y 2016, se adjudicaron cinco contratos de obras públicas al conglomerado brasileño de la construcción, Odebrecht.

Ricardo Rivera, el tío del vicepresidente, presuntamente pidió sobornos en los cinco proyectos que equivalen al uno por ciento del valor del contrato. Esta información ya era conocida, pero esta es la primera vez que se imprime en un informe oficial.

Según el testimonio de Santos, Odebrecht supuestamente pagó más de $10 millones por informes favorables del gobierno ecuatoriano. Durante sus 10 años que Pólit fue contralor, no se informaron irregularidades relacionadas con proyectos de obras públicas ganadas por Odebrecht.

En al menos un proyecto, Glas envió “intercambios” al Ministerio de Industrias y Comercio de Brasil para solicitar financiamiento. En ese proyecto en particular, el Banco de Desarrollo de Brasil financió el proyecto el 72.57 por ciento del costo del proyecto.

Desde diciembre de 2016, los fiscales en Ecuador abrieron ocho casos relacionados con el escándalo de corrupción de Odebrecht.

Apoya a El Hemisferio donando a través de Patreon