How far has corruption gone in Venezuela?

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Marco Teruggi, October 2nd 2017

Translated from Spanish and Edited by Arturo Rosales – Axis of Logic

There is no immediate solution. Combating corruption as well as fighting the economic war, means applying common sense by not handing over this critical issue to those who founded and maintain their wealth on the basis of crime and theft.

Corruption can disarticulate the revolution from within. One can draw this conclusion listening to the statements of President Nicolas Maduro and the Attorney General, Tarek William Saab. The former said that it is the main enemy of the process and the latter is who, week after week, presents the growing extent of the problem to the public.

Areas: Iit covers the Orinoco Petroleum Belt (FPÖ) and several divisions of PDVSA – such as Petrozamora; imports, as noted with 900 initial cases linked to Cadivi/Cencoex (Currency Administration Commission); health, as seen with several arrests. It is present in the petroleum sector that generates 95% of the hard currency needed by the country; in imports - in an economy with high levels of imports of essential products, and in an area that is as literally vital as the health sector.

Actors: the judiciary; public and private networks specializing in extortion; members of the leadership of the PSUV such as García Plaza; national and transnational entrepreneurs; directors of public institutions, the financial framework that allows capital flight. Corruption is widespread, knots of union between various actors, bound by illicit enrichment at the expense of public well-being and the revolution.

Extent: what is the amount stolen? According to the Attorney General, it is a question of embezzlement and the greatest damage to the country’s patrimony in the last thirty years. In the case of the oil industry, he said that there have been 41 thousand contracts awarded arbitrarily, for an amount of over 35 billion dollars - only 10 contracts with more than 230% overpricing caused damage of more than 200 million dollars-. The start of the oil corruption plot date is 2008. In terms of the Attorney General’s Office, Tarek William Saab said that it began in 2007. Almost ten years of an operating mafia with billions stolen from strategic areas of the economy.

The picture and analysis are complex, in particular because it is an area that, until now, was arguably almost a monopoly of the right, a workhorse of the opposition: from the United States “warns about widespread public corruption in Venezuela". And according to ex Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz "corruption is what has plunged Venezuela into this crisis", and different media reports highlighting that the country is one of the most corrupt in the world. This is no coincidence, as it is a matrix of opinion seeking to isolate, demonize and justify current sanctions and
those yet to come.

The battles are simultaneous. There is a communication dimension: take on the problem as Maduro and William Saab have; name it publicly and face it. Recognition gives credibility: the economic situation has its own corruption problem. Then there is a dimension of truth: know what happened, who they were, how they did it. Justice: that there are arrests, lawsuits filed, jail and repatriation of stolen money. Also explanations: why it happened, how was it possible that it developed to such a great extent, where was the failure, the absence of justice aided by complicity.

The explanation has so far focused on main areas: the responsibility of the public prosecutor, and, as William Saab said, a "plan of attack on the oil industry to descapitalize our production and spirit the money away to the United States". Logical intuition leads one to think that there are more factors. Nonetheless, these two explanations, albeit real, do not give a full explanation of the case. They are real because in effectively the geography of corruption rests on key areas and is a spanner in the works of an economy under attack. It is part of a de facto complicity using a bellicose strategy of attrition leading to collapse - and because there are floods of evidence against Luisa Ortega that indicate a central plot of planned impunity.

What other causes have allowed the expansion of corruption? In responses that have been put together the map of errors made can be drawn, or in other words, the failures that made solid actions vanish into thin air. If these are not corrected, how can corruption be prevented from taking control of each new initiative?

How far has corruption managed to expand? It is not only present in strategic, business, institutional and political areas, but also downstream - particularly in a society facing shortages for many years in food, health, hygiene products, spare parts for trucks and so on, where distribution channels have been altered many times, so products are found
in parallel channels. Prices increase with total impunity and basic products soar out of reach. We are in a war that has created the conditions for the expansion of widespread corruption.
"Where there is a need, a right in born" said Eva Perón. Where there is a need, a business is born, might be a raw version for deciphering the logic that has been installed in Venezuela in recent years. This is the antithesis of Chavism, a battle of values – collective solidarity vs the poor against the poor, thus thought out by those who devised the depths of
the conflict. It is not just about regaining political power, but about dismantling the Chavista political culture built during the revolutionary process. Dynamite it from below, so that saving oneself may only be done in the context of a common solution.

This is why the Local Production and Supply Committees (CLAP*) were strategic. They were thought out as an organizational solution to an individual problem, which became a collective movement. Is there corruption in some CLAP? Yes. Its existence - by the actions of officials or neighbors - does not invalidate the directionality and power of this experience - just remember the dimensions that the queues had reached before the CLAP started.

Making the analysis complex, does not mean equal responsibilities. There is a clear difference between managers of PDVSA West jailed for embezzlement from the nation and the resellers (bachaqueros) at the exit of the metro with products from the CLAP. It is necessary to emphasize this difference to prevent the punishment of something minor as a policy of biased classic system of justice, and to ensure that the full weight of the law falls on those who hold the reins of the economy, create policies and run institutions. And because of this, given this scenario, justice should start at the top with a public example made of corrupt entrepreneurs, officials and political leaders.

There is no immediate solution. Combating corruption as well as fighting the economic battle, means applying common sense by not handing over this critical issue to those who founded and maintain their wealth on the basis of crime and theft. Publicly acknowledge the problem, name it, progress in investigations and punishment is the direction that is needed, in particular when it is one of the problems felt by most people. The other two are rising prices and shortages of medicines, linked in turn to corruption. Chavism has the historic task of confronting an evil that was inherited, and which can disarticulate the revolution from within in complicity with the war we are facing.

Translator's note: The CLAP is a system of food distribution organized by the State sent directly to the barrios in Venezuela so as to avoid the problems of diverting food supplies to speculators or smugglers. It serves millions of families nationwide and a bag of basic food is distributed about every two weeks at a solidarity price that everyone can afford. This has defeated most of the lines outside supermarkets in many cities.