The “pet cock” gave them away

Five weeks ago, our pal Setty published a terrific article for the Columbia Journalism Review on scams and the media. Using Arevenca, the scam Venezuelan company whose president, Francisco Javier González, has allegedly been involved in several shady deals, Setty goes on to explore the role of the media in (sometimes) publicizing scams. The money quote: “The website looked fine—dozens…

The Political Economy of Gas Smuggling

Caracas-based economist Asdrubal Oliveros recently estimated 130,000 barrels of gasoline are now smuggled across the border to Colombia each and every day. That’s a big number. How big? Well, assuming our men in uniform are bad at business and only make $65 per barrel sold (they’re wholesalers, after all), that would work out $8.5 million dollars every…

Another scandalous non-scandal

The ongoing scandal involving Elías Jaua’s nanny poses a challenge to us bloggers. After so many scandalous non-scandals, is there anything left to say? It turns out there is plenty. For those of you not up to speed on the developments: Elías Jaua (former VP, Foreign Minister, former candidate for Governor of Miranda, current Minister for…

Everyone’s a general

I´m under the weather this week, so I’ll stick to re-posting interesting things that reach my Inbox. Today, Bloomberg has a story on how the military find all sorts of goodies, from cars to apartments, while regular Venezuelans face shortages. One thing that has always baffled me about my country is how the military remains one of…

Les fraudeurs

Yesterday we learned – via the increasingly indispensable Marianna Párraga – that PDVSA is selling the refinery it owns in the US Virgin Islands. This comes on the heels of the almost certain sale of Citgo, as well as other assets overseas. Whether the reason for these privatizations is a lack of cash, a way of escaping from the claws…

Out of the closet

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…

The Carvajal plot thickens

The international press is going to town with this story. Three pieces stand out … ABC’s Emili J. Blasco (the well-sourced Washington correspondent with the juicy details on Hugo Chávez’s illness) says sources in Washington confirm Carvajal was the “main figure” in the drug-running operation set up between the FARC, the Venezuelan military, and Hugo Chávez…

Does a caged chavista sing the blues?

A few months ago, Nicolás Maduro appointed former general Hugo Carvajal to be Consul General of Venezuela to the Dutch island of Aruba. Yesterday, as Carvajal laid low in the island waiting for the Dutch government to approve his position, he was detained. The US had asked the Netherlands to incarcerate and extradite him. Carvajal was head of…

The Argentine middleman

Last week, Argentine newspaper Clarín offered some juicy details on the alleged sale of overpriced rice from Argentina to Venezuela thorugh a company linked to Julio De Vido, Cristina Kirchner’s longtime Planning Minister. The head of the Argenitine Rice Producers’ Federation (Fedenar), Jorge Paoloni, has denounced that a company named Bioart SA has taken over all…

Nothing is free

Our pal Setty has a thoroughly researched, hugely important story on a little footnote in the PDVSA financials. It turns out that, long ago, PDVSA seized some ships from one of its partners, and yadda yadda yadda, Venezuelans lost $644 million. In minute detail, Setty goes through the job of untangling this particular ball of yarn. The…

Enchufado chronicles

I just got back from a short trip to Maracaibo. One of the many things that struck me (more on that in future posts) is the extent to which the enchufados hold the key to Venezuela’s future. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was in a border town overrun by pimpineros,…

Lightbulb Fiasco

Way back in 2006, the comandante eterno launched a brand new mission: Energy Revolution (Misión Revolución Energética), which intended to promote “the efficient and rational use of electricity”. Even if the plan also included developing alternative sources of energy in the long term (and unsurprisingly that’s hasn’t gone well so far), its main priority was…