[News] Guaidó’s Star Fades as His Envoys to Colombia Allegedly Commit Fraud With Humanitarian Funds for Venezuela

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 19 10:45:01 EDT 2019


https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/06/19/guaidos-star-fades-as-his-envoys-to-colombia-allegedly-commit-fraud-with-humanitarian-funds-for-venezuela/ 



  Guaidó’s Star Fades as His Envoys to Colombia Allegedly Commit Fraud
  With Humanitarian Funds for Venezuela

by William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills 
<https://www.counterpunch.org/author/gaspeme111/> - June 19, 2019
------------------------------------------------------------------------

In an investigative report 
<https://es.panampost.com/orlando-avendano/2019/06/14/enviados-de-guaido-se-apropian-de-fondos-para-ayuda-humanitaria-en-colombia/?cn-reloaded=1>, 
“Envoys of Guaidó Appropriate Funds for Humanitarian Assistance in 
Colombia” (June 14, 2019), Editor in Chief of /PanAm Post/, Orlando 
Avendaño, details the alleged “diversion of money, embezzlement of 
funds, inflation of bills, fraud, and threats [by representatives of 
self proclaimed president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó] in order to 
surround themselves with luxuries.” (1)

These allegations of fraud committed by functionaries of Guaidó in 
Colombia are raising alarm within the fractured Venezuelan opposition 
about the political damage this might do to their cause, but for critics 
of the US backed shadow Venezuelan government, this is just the tip of 
the iceberg, with the expectation of more such revelations of fraud to come.

Among a trove of documentary evidence, including itemized invoices, 
Avendaño provides a copy of a letter from Guaidó to Carlos Holmes 
Trujillo Garcia, Minister of Foreign Relations of the Republic of 
Colombia, dated February 24, 2019. In the letter, Guaidó designates 
Kevin Rojas and Rossana Barrera, both members of the right wing 
opposition Venezuelan political party, Voluntad Popular (VP), to “attend 
to the situation” of Venezuelan military personnel and civilians who 
“enter  Colombian territory seeking help and refuge.” Avendaño points 
out that “Rossana Barrera is the sister-in-law of National Assembly 
Deputy of the party Voluntad Popular, Sergio Vergara, right hand man of 
president Juan Guaidó.” She was part of Guaidó’s inner circle.

To put Guaidó’s letter in context, we move our focus for a moment to the 
frontier town of Cúcuta, Colombia, which is just across the border from 
the Venezuelan town of San Cristóbal, Táchira. (2) We return to the 
events of February 23, 2019, that fateful day when US and Colombian 
backed Guaidó and his supporters had planned to force a convoy of 
  “humanitarian aid” trucks over the border, with the objective of 
scoring a propaganda victory against the Maduro administration and 
inspiring army defections, all as a prelude to a coup against the 
constitutional government of Venezuela.

The US-Colombian-Venezuelan opposition alliance pulled out all the 
stops; there was to be a media show on a grand scale surrounding the 
actions in Cúcuta. A concert fundraiser, Venezuela Live Aid, starring 
Richard Branson, was held on February 22, and a media campaign gave the 
impression that Guaidó’s aim was to deliver “humanitarian assistance” 
for Venezuela. But the plan began to unravel as soon as it commenced. 
  The three million dollars raised by the concert is still not accounted 
for. And the majority of the food on the trucks would end up rotting in 
place. Neither the International Red Cross nor the United Nations would 
lend credibility to Washington’s insistence that this was a 
“humanitarian” mission. The whole project was tainted by the obvious 
ulterior motive of attempting to bring about regime change in Venezuela.

An important part of the plan was to inspire massive army defections 
through carrot and stick pronouncements emanating from Washington. It 
was presumably the last chance for soldiers to avoid punishment and reap 
the rewards of desertion. Though Guaidó promised to welcome army 
deserters as heroes, the defections did not reflect any serious breach 
in the Venezuelan military. It did create a need, however, to coordinate 
and fund the room and board of several hundred military personnel and 
their families who answered the call. (3) According to Avendaño’s 
sources, once housed at a seven area hotels, some of these “heroes” of 
the shadow government were not always on their best behavior:

“The small army on which the president [Guaidó] counted, but until now 
gave a bad impression in Cúcuta. Prostitutes, alcohol and violence. They 
demanded and demanded. In the end, that was not for free.”

As the “humanitarian” funds started flowing to pay the expenses being 
racked up by the military defectors as well as the exorbitant spending 
of the envoy’s charged with overseeing those payments, an international 
media campaign gave the impression that President Nicolás Maduro was 
opposed to receiving humanitarian assistance. Although Maduro was not 
about to welcome the Trojan Horse from Cúcuta, there had been and 
continues to be ongoing deliveries of /authentic /humanitarian aid 
coordinated by UN agencies as well as the International Red Cross. And 
two weeks after initial false reports in the Western media that Maduro’s 
forces were responsible for setting aid trucks on fire on the Francisco 
de Paula Santander bridge, it was finally acknowledged by the New York 
Times 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/10/world/americas/venezuela-aid-fire-video.html>  
on March 10th that video evidence shows it was most likely Guaidó 
supporters whose molotov cocktails, inadvertently or not, caused the 
fires. (4)

In the aftermath of the “humanitarian aid” debacle of February 23, 
Guaidó still had a promise to keep to several hundred defectors and 
their families. According to documents provided to  Avendaño by 
Colombian Intelligence, Guaidó’s emissaries were in charge of the 
disbursement of funds to cover the cost of military deserters and their 
families staying at two of seven hotels. He alleges that Barrera and 
Rojas misappropriated funds slated for humanitarian purposes to party 
and surround themselves with luxuries.

“Colombian Intelligence was the first to specify the anomaly. They 
brought me the evidence. Invoices that show excesses and, several, very 
strange, of different checkbooks, signed the same day and with identical 
handwriting styles. Almost all without a seal. Costs exceeding three 
million pesos a night at Colombian hotels and nightclubs. Some one 
thousand dollars in food and drink. Spending on clothing in very 
expensive stores in Bogotá and in Cúcuta. Reports of vehicle rentals and 
payments to overpriced hotels. The money flowed. Lots of money.”

*Fallout from the PanAm Post Report*

Within a matter of hours Avendaño’s report had spread on social media; 
major Venezuelan newspapers from across the political spectrum carried 
headlines with calls by some opposition figures to conduct an audit of 
the expenses in question. These allegations of corruption, coming from a 
right of center media outlet were not to be taken lightly.

Voluntad Popular 
<http://www.noticierodigital.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=129118> (VP), 
which finds itself at the center of the maelstrom, issued a statement 
calling into question the charges made in the /PanAm Post/, declaring 
that  “the interim government does not manage international funds of 
humanitarian assistance.” VP stated: “The funds were and are managed by 
the governments of  Colombia and the USA, agencies of cooperation, 
international non-governmental organizations (ONG), among others. But 
the National Assembly (AN) did not administer funds in Colombia for 
humanitarian materials.” Nevertheless, the charges and the evidence 
presented against some of their associates are somewhat compelling. So 
it is not surprising that  VP has also joined calls for an investigation 
in order “to get to the bottom of things.” (5)

The centrist Venezuelan periodical El Universal 
<https://www.eluniversal.com.co/colombia/guaido-pide-a-colombia-investigar-supuesta-corrupcion-de-sus-delegados-FK1286623> 
reported on June 15 that Guaidó himself called on Colombian intelligence 
to investigate the alleged corruption of his envoys. (6) Guaidó tweeted: 
“Delegation in Colombia has managed with austerity and economic 
limitations situation of military personnel in that country. In the face 
of denunciations, I ask Ambassador Humberto Calderón Berti to formally 
request from Colombian intelligence agencies the necessary 
investigation. Transparency first of all!” Berti responded that an 
investigation had already been underway and that he was “working on the 
final phase of an audit of this lamentable and sultry case.” The problem 
with an audit by Berti is that, according to Avendaño, Berti provided a 
payment to one of the hotels out of his personal finances, and his check 
ended up bouncing. This means he himself ought to be included in any 
investigation.

By June 17 this story was well known in Venezuela but back burner news 
in the US. Venezuela’s Globovisión 
<https://www.globovision.com/article/venezuela-ayuda-humanitaria-tambien-incluye-alcohol-y-prostitutas> 
ran the headline, Venezuela: “Humanitarian Assistance also includes 
alcohol and prostitutes?.” (7) The scandal is now in full swing and 
Guaidó, who just a few months ago was the darling of Washington and the 
Lima Group, is now in hot water, and some of his closest associates are 
running for cover.

Guaidó’s biggest political backer, however, still has no shame.  In a 
tweet <https://twitter.com/Almagro_OEA2015/status/1139658418573234179> 
on June 14, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, who has been a 
regime change fanatic, said:

“We ask the competent jurisdiction for an investigation that clarifies 
the serious charges formulated here, determine responsibilities and 
demand accountability. There is no possible democratization under the 
opacity of acts of corruption”.  (8)

Coming from the General Secretary’s office, this likely faithfully 
conveys the State Department position on this particular issue.

Almagro’s tweet does raise an important question. What would be the 
“competent jurisdiction” to carry out such an investigation? What body 
has the democratic and legal credentials to carry out this urgent and 
important task? The OAS has lost such “competence” by allowing Almagro 
to use the multilateral organization to attack Venezuela and promote the 
confiscation of billions in Venezuelan assets.

What about Colombian intelligence which was reportedly not happy with 
the situation and was a major source for Avendaño’s article? Although 
Colombian Intelligence obviously has important evidence, and therefore 
ought to be part of a credible investigation, Colombia cannot serve as a 
“competent jurisdiction” because President Iván Duque has allied himself 
too closely with Guaidó to inspire confidence. And the US, which used 
“humanitarian assistance” in February as a pretext for advancing regime 
change, does not project moral authority in either Bogota or Caracas. If 
the investigation is conducted by a UN body, it may get credible results.

The  government of Venezuela has indicated that it had already sought to 
expose Guaido’s faction within the opposition as a corrupt terrorist 
organization months before the /PanAm Post/ revelations. Jorge Rodríguez 
<https://www.laiguana.tv/articulos/502281-ministro-jorge-rodriguez-robo-escandalo-ayuda-humanitaria-pruebas/>, 
Communications Minister of Venezuela, gave a press conference on Monday 
providing more details relevant to this case, including the involvement 
of other members of Guiado’s inner circle in the scandal. (9) According 
to Rodríguez, there was also a diversion of funds to recruit mercenaries 
from other countries to wreak havoc inside Venezuela. In another press 
conference with President Maduro that same day, Rodríguez 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AEE4flR9qI&feature=youtu.be> also 
alluded to a possible upcoming investigation by the US Department of 
Justice of allegations of corruption involving those assigned to direct 
CITGO on behalf of the shadow government. (10)

*Political Implications: Time for Washington to Change Course*

This /PanAm Post/ article adds fuel to the fire of growing skepticism 
about the viability of the US backed Venezuelan shadow government, 
especially on the heels of self proclaimed president Juan Guaido’s 
failure to inspire a popular uprising, divide the military, or gain 
democratic legitimacy inside the Bolivarian Republic. It appears that 
most of Guaidó’s political leverage comes from the devastating toll 
wrought by US economic sanctions and the continuing threat of US 
military intervention. Both factors have caused growing antipathy inside 
Venezuela towards those conspiring to overthrow the government of 
President Nicolás Maduro and surrender the nation to US influence.

Corruption is no doubt a problem in both the private and public sectors 
in Venezuela. But this is an issue for Venezuelans to resolve. The 
/PanAm Post/ report heightens the skepticism about what is happening to 
the billions in Venezuelan assets confiscated by the US to fund a 
corrupt client shadow government. And it is raising the temperature of 
indignation among those suffering the consequences of US economic 
sanctions while Guaidó and his inner circle live the high life in 
Bogota, Miami and Madrid. It is time for the US to change course and 
re-establish diplomatic ties with the Maduro administration which 
remains open to dialogue with Washington.

/Note: Translations by the authors from Spanish to English are unofficial./

*/End notes/*

(1) 
https://es.panampost.com/orlando-avendano/2019/06/14/enviados-de-guaido-se-apropian-de-fondos-para-ayuda-humanitaria-en-colombia/?cn-reloaded=1. 
Brackets added; Avendaño actually refers to Guaidó as “president” of 
  Venezuela.
See Luigino Bracci Roa 
<https://albaciudad.org/2019/06/panampost-emisarios-juan-guaido-corrupcion-ayuda-humanitaria-colombia/> 
(June 15, 2019 Alba Ciudad) for a good summary of this /PanAm Post/ 
article, and an English translation of this summary published by the 
Orinoco Tribune 
<https://orinocotribune.com/guaidos-representatives-involved-in-corruption-scandal-in-colombia-humanitarian-aid> 
(June 16, 2019).

(2) This borderland is the site of linked commerce. For example, when 
the sanctions cause gasoline shortages in Venezuela, the hardship is 
felt just as much in Cúcuta. On the Colombian-Venezuelan border economy, 
see Mills and Camacaro 
<http://www.coha.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Venezuela-Takes-Control-of-Its-Borders-as-Bogota-and-Caracas-Bring-Their-Cases-to-UNASUR.pdf>

(3) According to Avendaño, not all deserters were active duty soldiers 
coming in from Venezuela: “In view of the juicy offer of financial 
support, military personnel who had emigrated to Peru or Ecuador, old 
functionaries, civilians with falsified documents, presented themselves 
in Cúcuta to proclaim their presumed support for the new Government of 
the Venezuelan opposition.” /PanAm Post/, June 14, 2019.

(4) 
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/10/world/americas/venezuela-aid-fire-video.html

(5) http://www.noticierodigital.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=129118

(6) 
https://www.eluniversal.com.co/colombia/guaido-pide-a-colombia-investigar-supuesta-corrupcion-de-sus-delegados-FK1286623. Guaidó’s 
tweet, original Spanish: Delegación en Colombia ha manejado con 
austeridad y limitaciones económicas situación de militares en ese país. 
Ante denuncias, pido al embajador Humberto Calderón Berti solicitar 
formalmente a organismos de inteligencia colombiana la investigación 
necesaria. íTransparencia ante todo!

(7) 
https://www.globovision.com/article/venezuela-ayuda-humanitaria-tambien-incluye-alcohol-y-prostitutas

(8) https://twitter.com/Almagro_OEA2015/status/1139658418573234179. 
Original Spanish: Solicitamos a jurisdicción competente investigación 
esclarecedora de graves cargos aquí formulados, determinar 
responsabilidades y exigir rendición de cuentas. No hay democratización 
posible bajo la opacidad de actos de corrupción.

(9) 
https://www.laiguana.tv/articulos/502281-ministro-jorge-rodriguez-robo-escandalo-ayuda-humanitaria-pruebas/

(10) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AEE4flR9qI&feature=youtu.be

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