Out of the closet

“We have a solid and robust financial system,” he said. “Here, I feel like a socialist, because we’ve given a chance to the neediest. Chavez restored the mortgage market.”

“We have a solid and robust financial system,” he said. “Here, I feel like a socialist, because we’ve given a chance to the neediest. Chavez restored the mortgage market.”

It must be frustrating to cover Venezuela for international news organizations. The country is crappy enough to make it burdensome to live there, but not nearly crappy enough for you to earn journalistic prestige points for covering it as opposed to, say, Iraq. Add to that the notorious lack of transparency of the “no comment revolution,” and you have a veritable shit cocktail waiting for you to drink it.

That is what makes this story, by Bloomberg’s Michael Smith and Anatoly Kurmanaev, such a compelling read. What they have to say is what we all know – that chavistas are raking in the big bucks thanks to contracts assigned to former military buddies with no public tender involved.

The way they document this, however, is absolutely novel – chavistas are now openly either boasting of their newfound riches, or in the case of Víctor Vargas, defending themselves from claims of indecency.

You can tell that Smith and Kurmanaev became masters in the ancient Venezuelan sport of “ladillar hasta que se cansen,” because getting these folks to open up in this way was probably not easy. So kudos to them for doing the job that Venezuelan journalists can’t, or won’t, do. Our dying public sphere thanks them.

The money quote comes from the beginning:

In 1992, Biancucci joined 140 other officers in staging a coup attempt led by Chavez. Although the coup failed, Chavez was elected president six years later — and Biancucci’s business thrived. Socialism, Biancucci says, is the solution to poverty, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its September issue.

Chavez’s socialism, he says, has made him personally rich.

“I’m a socialist, but I love having cash in my hands,” he says, shaking a fist holding an imaginary wad of money. “Socialism is wealth.” … “I’m building a business empire,” Biancucci says.

And another one from the end:

“There’s a new social group that has flowered since Chavez, a new elite, which I am part of,” Biancucci says.

In Puerto Cabello, 200 kilometers west of Caracas on the Caribbean coast and a few hundred meters from ships loaded with grain and beef, Maria Melendez, who runs a fried-pastry stand in town, is standing in line with hundreds of others to buy two rationed bottles of cooking oil for her business.

“Everything has become one long waiting line,” she says. “It’s hard to earn a living as it is. Instead of frying, I’m here, waiting. This is our new existence.”

Juan Carlos Zapata has some more background on the mysterious-yet-suddenly-talkative Biancucci. He also shows up quoted in an article on Chávez’s funeral … also written by Bloomberg.

Biancucci and his cadre have arrived, and they want to rub their success in our faces. Which, I guess, makes our job easier.

39 thoughts on “Out of the closet

  1. I read it first thing first for covering it! This is a story only an organization could have gotten, by playing to their ego. These guys want nothing better than legitimacy, to confirm their own believes that they are captains of industry. I’m sure they were expecting a piece about their aforementioned business ’empires’ and acumen rather than a polished mirror looking right back. Good on Bloomberg.


  2. What I found hilarious was this

    “I’m a socialist, but I love having cash in my hands,” he says, shaking a fist holding an imaginary wad of money. “Socialism is wealth.”

    I mean, this is a guy from the *inner circle.* He’s one of the 4F guys, supposedly one of the highly indoctrinated ones, and he thinks socialism is … wealth?! Vladimir Lenin must be rolling in his (embalmed) grave. #SePerdieronEsosReales #IdeologíaALaVenaUrgente

    It reminded me of one of my favorite posts from the past:



  3. This is a great story. Unfortunately it is addressed to those who already know that Boliburgueses will use every trick in and outside of the book to snatch food directly from the mouths of El Lumpen. The article should be translated in semi-literate Venezuelan for the consumption of those who do not bitch against shortage of toilet paper because they don’t even know it exist to start with.


  4. I told the reporter today that they should do the follwoing story: How many business jets were owned by the Venezuelan private sector in 1999 (2,3?) and how many today. That story alone will tell us how corrupt a the new system is.


        • Is there a way to find out, perhaps indirectly but with hard facts, from the flights into the USA or something?
          Or maybe not as they might have registered their planes via via via via in Bahamas.


    • In 2000 I was working in Centro Lido directly in the flight path of La Carlota Airport and the landings of business jets was non-stop.


  5. Could you stop saying “the money quote” all the goddamn time? It makes you seem like an overly eager immigrant that knows a grand total of 3 sayings.


    • Variation is the key JC! you have to avoid passing as a “overly eager immigrant” (I love it but I would change it to an overly eager immigrant to a Spanish speaking country). I recommend that sometimes you use it gangsta style like mo monah quotah, or spanglish like the dinero quote, the bling bling talk or the I-want-to-fit-in-chile-so-i would-write-the-money-quote quote. In short let your imagination run wild inside the money quote corral.

      That is your path to success


    • Actually what surprised me was the story title “Out of the Closet” I expected a story full of gay sexual innuendo and the “outing” of Mr. Bancucci. You have to admit that the picture of Mr. Bancucci in his best Polo regalia is very gay. I could almost hear Mr. Bancucci muttering under his breath “I look fabulous in this outfit”

      However, I do understand that the objective of the story was the “outing” of the total corruption, hypocrysy, moral bankruptcy of the Chavista apparatchiks. I am happy to see expressions of the gay revolution spreading through the rest of the culture.

      Excellent work.


  6. JC

    i have been quite busy of late ( for an old lady) …just checked in to see this excellent post on a very infuriating subject…..it makes me wanna scream!


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