How exactly do you misplace $29,342,391,393.66?

One Billion Dollars in $100 Bills - Jorge Giordani can't account for 29 of these.

This isn’t a massive, government-shaking scandal. But it should be.

That’s right, it’s the full, scanned version of the Fonden report we promised you two weeks ago: the one sent by Finance Minister Jorge Giordani, in response to a parliamentary question from UNT Assemblyman Carlos Ramos, which he leaked to our very own Miguel Octavio, of Devil’s Excrement fame.

Remarkably, this is the very first official account of Fonden’s yearly spending the Venezuelan government has ever provided. (As an added bonus, it includes details on Fonden’s smaller off-book-spending cousin, the Venezuela-China Fund, as well.)

For those of you who (inexplicably) aren’t as completely enthralled by Fonden as Miguel and I are, a bit of background. Fonden is the largest of Hugo Chávez’s secret, off-budget spending kitties – the première transparency black hole of Venezuelan public life today . For years, just about everything having to do with the fund has been shrouded in secrecy: how much money it spends, how projects are selected, who makes the decisions, and who responds for the results.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Giordani’s written reply to Ramos’s parliamentary question raises many more questions than it answers.

The minister lists 140 projects funded by Fonden – everything from $3,049,253,714 (and 30 cents) for Alí Rodríguez’s Electric System Investment Plan to $1,487,531 (and 33 cents – always so precise, down to the cents!) for the Environment Ministry’s program of sewer and water clean-up.

There are 140 line items like that, and then the bottom line: $69,446,817,347 (and 24 cents!)

Problem is, if you take the sums assigned to each of those 140 projects and add them up, it only comes to $40,104,425,953.58!

In other words, Giordani’s sums are off by $29,342,391,393 (and 66 cents!)

Let’s be clear: I’m not using “sums” as some kind of metonymic stand-in for complicated financial maths. It’s very literally a sum, just addition. And he’s off by twenty-nine billion green lettuces!

What the heck is going on here?

Well – Miguel (and he’s going to be posting about this a lot too) calculates that the $69 billion figure is pretty close to the actual amount that, publicly available sources suggest, was deposited in Fonden through 2010.

My guess then – and it’s only a guess – is that $69 billion is that the totals Fonden has assigned aren’t far off from the $69,446,817,347.24 Giordani listed under “totals”. But apparently $29 billion of that isn’t really presentable in public, so when they went to disclose the project-by-project funding to the Assembly they scrubbed the spreadsheet of $29 billion worth of projects!

That $29 billion would then be a sort of Fonden-inside-a-Fonden, an even more secret and opaque section of an already deliriously opaque spending mechanism.

That the Constitution’s article 314 categorically bans any type of spending that hasn’t been approved by the National Assembly is one of those forgotten little trivia bits that ought to make this a system-shaking political storm but, somehow, doesn’t.

But, again, that’s just a guess. It could just be garden variety incompetence. Congressman Ramos – who deserves all kinds of props for running down these figures – has tabled an additional set of parliamentary questions, asking for clarification on the screwed-up tabulations from Giordani. We’ll certainly keep you posted.

One day, we’ll tell our grandchildren that we can remember a time when 42% of public spending was secret and they’ll be amazed.

And then we’ll tell them that the same reports that were tens of billions off in their sums were wrong down to the cent…and, well, they’ll just laugh at us.

60 thoughts on “How exactly do you misplace $29,342,391,393.66?

  1. The link is as useless as the Chavez government. (it goes to “”, instead of “”)


  2. It seems that the amounts with cents on them were the result of actual amounts in BsF. that were translated to US$ for the report. The question: what exchange rate they used for this?

    Maybe the missing $29 billion were the result of Merentes doing the math for that…


  3. A nasty, loaded question. You don’t misplace it: you simply hide it under your mattress for safe keeping so you can dole it out, as needed, at will. That’s straightforward and fair, isn’t it?


  4. …wooow…Assange se quedó pendejo!
    Na´güeboná Mr. Toro..pero me imagino que de ahora en adelante tendremos que llamarte Julián Bull……..bueno, es broma pues:)

    And now Hermanos Cubiches doble-chulos y vividores: se jodieron,,,,ya están ‘descubridos’ ….. now give us our money back please!
    (and yes…. I know you are following this blog, vivarachos… btw: fuck your pesos bitchez,,,, we accept only dóllares, rubles or the chinese yuan, juan, or chan,chu,yo please!!)


  5. What’s the fuss? From the illustration it looks like $30 billion would fit in15 or so containers and it’s a big country and unlike ummmm….. food it wouldn’t start to stink after a year.


  6. Chavismo is reachig Mobutu-proportions when it comes to accountability.
    250 Million bolívares of Carlos Andrés Pérez’s partida secreta was like 3 million dollars in 1993, wasn’t it?
    That’s like 0.0102241155% of what Carlos Andrés Pérez “misplaced”.


    • so…..’en el pais de los ciegos el tuerto es rey’, no?
      jajaja broder Kepler…priceless!

      are u sure that the norwegian leaders and the kosovar bitch are/were so clean?
      stop it broder, I’m sure you’re much smarter than that!


  7. Very nice work, and good to get these figures out in public. I know we have no way of answering this, but note that in public spending there are always two different figures — approved spending and disbursements. Disbursements are always lower than the total approved, as you can approve $5 billion for something and then on any given day you’ve only spent less — $3.22 billion or whatever. So is there any chance the $69 billion is approved spending and $40 billion actual disbursements? In that case, the money isn’t misspent, but just sitting around in investments — which would open another interesting line of inquiry.


    • I very much doubt we will have this “best case scenario” of money just being put somewhere, but in that case I suspect we won’t see the interests from that ever. It seems to me – correct me if I am wrong – that for venezuelan functionaries interests do not exist – unless they are demanding such interests, that is.
      2% of 29 billion is 580 million. Setty, do you think you could do something with 580 million dollars?


    • Nah, just look through the report: it does break down funds approved and funds disbursed.

      The $29 billion fuck-up is in the Funds approved column. A similarly scaled fuck-up appears on funds disbursed. (The bottom line total is $66.1 bn, the lines add up to $37.5 – a screw-up of “just” $28.5 bn.)

      It’s just addition. Really, just addition.


      • Quico- your and Miguels analysis was done on bolivares first before converting to USD, correct? I’m sure it was but if not there is a variable exchange rate over time that would be a factor. Just curious.


        • Nope: Fonden works in US$ – dollars go in, dollars go out, no exchange rate concerns factor into it at any stage.


      • Yeah, I just looked more carefully at the document, and you’re totally right. They claim to have desembolsado $66 billion. So the most innocent explanation is that someone hid a bunch of cells in the Excel sheet. It’s possible that they hid all items that didn’t have any expenditures in 2010, since those items weren’t included in the question from the deputy. It would make sense that some projects would have already been fully funded before Jan. 1 2010, but every project on this sheet has spending in 2010. So that’s my guess.

        That said, yes, Kepler, there are certainly going to be speculative games played with this money. We already know about some of how the PDVSA pension fund was “investing” its money, so one can only imagine what’s happened with Fonden.


  8. “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”
    Broder Bul % Friendsl: QUE VIVA LA LIBERTAD DE EXPRESION !!!
    payaso, jajaja…


  9. No, Fonden’s projects and contributions are all in US$, that was the idea. The list clearly says US$. The 2010 announced expenditures coincide iwth the US$ 9 billion, that is all consistent.

    The great question is: Donde estan (o se fueron) los reales!


  10. Can we know in greater detail how – let’s pick up one randomly – 44 million dollars were used in the Empresa Socialista de Riego Río Guárico S.A.? I mean: I know that for many many decades now governments have invested in using the Guárico river for more reliable irrigation systems in the Central Llanos and money will still be needed, but: how? How did socialist company Río Guárico S.A. exactly spent that money? Who is in charge?
    Such a vague report and their numbers don’t even add up.


    • I think that is one possible avenue of inquiry, find “visible” projects and go after them.
      For example: Did they really buy a new Embassy in Russia?
      What are the 80 million dollars of Potassium for? How much K is that? Is that reasonable?


      • The money for the cadetes to study at the Minsk Academy in Belarus (which is where the KGB people study – KGB, as Belorussians did not change the name-) means the Venezuelan state spent in 2010 $248298,2 per cadete. Is it for that one year or for their whole studies? Which studies? (I wrote in my Spanish blog about that academy and Venezuela before, the Belorussian site has a list of studies, one of which is precisely intelligence – including very heavy stuff).

        I can try to find out about Moscow’s embassy.


  11. “many many decades now governments have invested in using the Guárico river for more reliable irrigation systems in the Central Llanos and money will still be needed”-Excellent, excellent.
    This a very good example of a project that-should yield great results-but, then you look at
    money spent and find..nothing much if anything at all ..


  12. It’s those yanquis fault- actually, you dont’understand “chavista accounting 101″…
    (hint-like Mugabe accounting 101)

    “Conspiracy theories and scapegoating are central to the Arabic-speaking world’s debates. But there are many lessons for the West from that malady. Unfortunately, the wrong lesson has been drawn: Let’s copy them!
    Most obviously, dictatorial regimes use scapegoating to turn their people’s enmity toward others and create dependence on themselves”.- from Rubin Report.
    Does this ring a bell?


    • O/T=Everybody knows $29 billion is a lot more than a box of chocolates..
      Does anyone know that al Queda and Iran has a secret deal and
      al Queda is involved in cocaine distribution from N. Africa (via
      Venezuela)- so -does Chavez have any involvement with
      yes- al- Queda?
      Supposedly- Iran has/is funding ‘sleeper cells” of Hezbollah/Hamas
      in various Latin American countries?
      There may be a war against Iran- what will Chavez do -probably
      lot of talk -like with Libya and Syria. In fact a day of accounting is
      coming for the involvement with Iran, I guarantee that…


        • SAN DIEGO — A terrorist organization whose home base is in the Middle East has established another home base across the border in Mexico.

          “They are recognized by many experts as the ‘A’ team of Muslim terrorist organizations,” a former U.S. intelligence agent told 10News 4 May 2011.
          part of a complex relationship between hostile nations and Muslim extremists with the goal of destroying the United States.

          That is the scenario outlined before a U.S. House subcommittee last week. Witnesses described a lengthy partnership of Venezuela, its Bolivarian supporters, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, Colombian drug producers and smugglers, Mexican cartels, the governments of Iran and Syria and the terrorist group Hezbollah


          • continued-
            in detail the connections between Venezuela President Hugo Chávez and Hezbollah and Iranian operatives. Noriega said that Venezuela’s Margarita Island “has eclipsed the infamous Tri-Border Area – the region where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay come together in South America – as a principal safe haven and center of Hezbollah operations in the Americas.”

            He said Hezbollah was proxy for Iran, which has expanded its military links and political relationships.

            posted in Costa Rica News. Others are available (-pass the baloney around
            to your friends Sapo)


            • Oh- the al Qeida- connections to Iran, etc. -they are there-but,
              it is probably past your bedtime -and I don’t want to bother you
              while you are enjoying the baloney…


        • yes baloney… venezuela-africa routes run by russians… Yaroshenko the pilot/boss was captured by DEA in Liberia. Hezbollah around but more concerned with Iranians in Venezuela they are far more dangerous.


          • David- that is a piece of the puzzle- not the whole picture- you mentioned-
            you may wonder -what does the following post have to do with Venezuela-
            “The Treasury Department yesterday identified six al Qaeda members as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.[1] These six terrorist operatives form a network that funnels money and personnel from the Gulf to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan via Iran. The head of the network, Syrian-born Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, operates from inside Iran The Treasury Department yesterday identified six al Qaeda members as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.[1] These six terrorist operatives form a network that funnels money and personnel from the Gulf to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan via Iran. The head of the network, Syrian-born Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, operates from inside Iran with the full knowledge of the Iranian regime.”
            **Funds are known to have come from Venezuela…

            July 29, 2011-from Treasury Department news- US.


        • Mr. Saposetty-personally I like you- you are a great blogger. You certainly know
          lots of things about environment -and so much more. I know you are respected by
          many. I have not followed you- and after this shaky intro-you may find me offensive
          -and I apologize for being “off topic here”- but – you really haven’t heard anything
          about any of this- I find that hard to believe- I can accept your challenge for me
          to “present evidence” -not just make claims.- so, sorry for being distasteful.


  13. Details of al-Qaeda’s penetration into Latin America emerged from documents discovered during recent anti-terrorist operations in Pakistan to try and locate Osama bin Laden.

    The documents included evidence that al-Qaida has established links with the Colombian terror group, FARC, and the Shining Path, SL, in Peru. They also reveal al-Qaida’s links with thousands of Muslim students in the Dominican Republic

    Read more: Osama’s exploits south of border


    • CharlesC, I’ve heard most of what you’re repeating here, but it’s a pile of speculation. These “links” are no different from the links between the FARC and the Republican Party that I made fun of on my blog. I was asking for evidence. I lived in Venezuela for years, where I knew Iranians and sought out Muslims. It seemed to me that the supposed ties between Chavez and the North African-Middle Eastern radicals was always more hype than reality.

      There may be some cocaine trafficking through Africa from Venezuela that could be linked to terrorism. And I’d be unsurprised if Venezuela’s financial system were being used to launder money for these groups, or anyone else with something to hide. But I think it’s a fantasy that any of the Islamic terror groups have, or are even seeking, operational capacity in Venezuela. Naturally I’m open to the evidence, but speculation at a Senate committee, evidence of “links” to the FARC, and the entirely feckless attempts by Islamists to bomb the US embassy in Caracas don’t add up to serious evidence.

      David seems to be trying to support your point but I have no idea what he is trying to say.

      Point is, to get back on topic, if billions of dollars have been stolen from Venezuela — and most likely they have, with the Illarramendi case as one indication — I think the money was pocketed by the thieves, and not funnelled to Islamists of any stripe.


      • “not funnelled to Islamists of any stripe.”-how about the bank set up in 2009 by
        Chavez and Iran, how about the refinery in Iran -Chavez “investing” 49% in the
        building , (Disregarding sanctions-is that ok by you?) Anyway- look at
        Venirauto- profitable yet? How about the Veneiran tractors- ? Not supposed to
        make a profit you say? How many Iranian products do you own? AN Iranian
        bicycle? Point is- how many more billions tied up with these Iranians and
        you are OK with that? Money well spent, well invested you say?


        • The milk processing plant -built where there are no dairies, no wayto transport
          milk from remote area- that;s Chavez &Iranian (a local described it”classic case of putting on pants before putting on underwear:) Had any Iranian milk lately, Setty?
          How many houses have you slept in while living in Venezuela -were built by Iranans?
          Yet- Chavez hires Iranians to build housing-at what 5 times the regular cost- that’s Ok
          with you,Mr. Sapo? Show me a “good deal” -with Iran made by Chavez -for Venezuela?
          I am sure you can name some real winners -they don’t have a joint venture
          making your favorite baloney do they?


            • We have been waiting- seriously. I wanted to buy one that runs on
              CNG. Truth is – these cars in picture are cars built in China- the models
              from Iran do not look like this and do not have the modern features.
              At least -that was the information I saw few years ago.


          • CharlesC,

            In an earlier comment you seemed to have reconsidered and increased the level of respect for sapitosetty. You now seemed to have forgotten. Read his words carefully. Your reply seems to have missed two key points: he’s talking about the *missing* money from the report, and he’s talking about it *most likely* being pocketed. You replied with examples without mentioning if they were not listed amongst the 140 items in Giordani’s list and without mentioning if the money for them had been disbursed.

            In a nutshell, sapitosetty is talking probability, while you keep talking possibility. Placing bets is more about probabilities…


            • Thanks ex for your understanding- we are all different and I
              can be a little out of order to say the least- but, we really need
              each other because we WE care we really do or we would not”be here”


          • Charles – making personal fun of me might make you feel good or manly, but does nothing to prove your point. The name “sapito” is a reference to my old blog, which had that word in the name. It’s not meant to indicate that I’m a sapo.

            If you want to know about Chavez’s supposed proclivity to give money to Islamists, why not ask them what they think? I have. The Iranians are frustrated that it’s been all talk, no action. And the Lybians? Take a look.



  14. O.T.

    Do you actually expect to draw new readers with “todo puede pasar en un país en el que las cucarachas vuelan?”, an Oscar Yanés’s staple? Really? No kidding? Actually? Hummm!

    Ustedes están meando a tanta distancia del perol que el perol ni se entera… Sorry to say it…

    FYO: Cockroaches fly in many countries. Lebanon, Libia… I have “inside” information about cockroaches, matter of research… if “cockroaches” are intimate with the leaders you get a lot of shit. Not the kind oh shit you eat as a staple diet!


    By the way…

    Are you getting any, Jerks?


  15. Quico,

    On your twit on why this hasn’t been covered by anyone else but you and Miguel Octavio… I sent the report to El Nacional, so maybe they will pick it up now. I would also encourage others with contacts in other media outlets (print press, radio, etc) to reach out. Juan was recently interviewed by the BBC, so maybe he can also reach out to them?


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