Venezuelan Attorney General to Investigate Incriminating Audio Recording

Venezuela’s Attorney General announced last week that an investigation would be launched into the controversial audio recording released by opposition politicians last week in which various government officials are linked to criminal activities.

By Chris Carlson
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Opposition legislator Ismael Garcia presented the audio evidence to Venezuela’s Attorney General’s office last Thursday (Photo: Juan Carlos Neira)
Opposition legislator Ismael Garcia presented the audio evidence to Venezuela’s Attorney General’s office last Thursday (Photo: Juan Carlos Neira)

Punto Fijo, May 27th, 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Attorney General announced last week that an investigation would be launched into the controversial audio recording released by opposition politicians last week in which various government officials are linked to criminal activities.

Released on live television last Monday by opposition leader Henrique Capriles’ campaign, the recording is of a conversation between pro-Chavez television commentator Mario Silva and a man who opposition leaders say is a Cuban intelligence official.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government initially appeared to ignore the recording, claiming that it was staged, but Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz later announced an investigation would be conducted after opposition politicians formally presented the recording to the prosecutor’s office.

If true, the allegations made in the recording are a grave indictment of some of Chavismo’s central figures, such as President of the National Assembly and former Vice President Diosdado Cabello.

Silva’s comments in the recording center mostly around a conflict within the government between officials loyal to Cabello and those who, like Silva, are opposed to his growing power and alleged corrupt dealings.

Throughout the conversation, Silva details the ways in which Cabello has taken control over a wide range of government institutions, many of which are being used to carry out corrupt activities with state resources, and especially with foreign exchange dealings.

Silva explains that Cabello has various “sources of financing”, including CADIVI, the government body that administers the country’s currency controls, as well as SENIAT, the government’s revenue service, both of which Cabello allegedly controls through officials loyal to him such as his brother José David Cabello.

Perhaps the most explosive of the allegations made in the recording is that Cabello and other officials are engaged in widespread stealing of the government’s foreign exchange reserves. This comes at an especially sensitive moment, as Venezuela is dealing with food shortages that are in part due to inadequate foreign exchange.

According to Silva, Cabello and others have long been “bleeding” the country of its dollar reserves through various “ghost companies” that request the dollars from CADIVI for legitimate uses, but then sell the dollars on the black market or send them abroad.

Similar schemes existed in Venezuela during the currency control regime in the 1980s (Recadi), in which government officials with access to foreign exchange at the official fixed rate made enormous profits by selling the currency in the black market where buyers are often willing to pay many times the fixed rate.

Silva alleges that this is precisely the kind of scheme that Cabello and other officials like former head of intelligence agency DISIP Carlos Aguilera have been engaged in.

There are also apparently several officials inside the government who are allegedly trying to counter Cabello’s control, such as Planning Minister Jorge Giordani, Defense Minister Diego Molero, head of Venezuela’s oil company PDVSA Rafael Ramirez, and Education Minister Yadira Córdoba.

These individuals are referred to as belonging to a group of officials that are “loyal to the revolution”, that Silva refers to as “ours”, and which make up the main curbs to Cabello’s power.

“These people are the ones that can stop [Cabello] and can take the necessary measures…They can surround Maduro, so that he can have a harmonious government and follow the instructions of Chavez,” he said.

Other institutions allegedly controlled by Cabello are state intelligence agency SEBIN, Venezuela’s largest police agency and criminal investigative body CICPC, the military intelligence agency DIM, the strategic command of the armed forces CEOFAN.

Venezuela’s Armed Forces, however, remain loyal to Maduro, and Silva emphasizes the necessity of maintaining Defense Minister Diego Molero in his position to prevent Cabello from obtaining control over the military.

“They want to get rid of Molero. Why? So that they can take over the armed forces and force Maduro to do what they want, or they will launch a coup,” he says.

There has long been speculation among government supporters that Diosdado Cabello represented a rightwing faction within Chavismo, and it has often been claimed that he forms the head of the so-called boliburguesia, the “Bolivarian” bourgeoisie of capitalists supportive of Chavez.

In addition, the revelation of a division within Chavismo does not come as a complete surprise. It seems Hugo Chavez himself was aware of the division when he emphasized unity among his supporters in his final public address to the nation on December 8th, 2012.

“Patriots of Venezuela, men and women, standing firmly. Unity, unity, unity among us patriots! That must be our banner. There will surely be those who try to take advantage of difficult moments in order to restore capitalism,” he warned when he designated Nicolas Maduro as his successor.

President Nicolas Maduro, on the other hand, appears from the recording to be largely unaware of the problem, and Silva encourages the official in the audio to inform him of the details of the internal conflict.

“You guys have to sit down with Maduro and tell him all this stuff. I have been on the verge of telling him: ‘Maduro, there is a conspiracy in progress’. But I don’t know what the reaction would be,” he says.

Silva alleges that President Maduro is perhaps being influenced by first lady Cilia Flores, and that Cabello has managed to keep him from meeting with certain officials.

“Diosdado Cabello is very good at that. That’s why many times when I needed to talk to Chavez I would talk to someone close to him, because it was impossible to speak directly with him,” he says.

Other officials that are named as corrupt include Chavista state governors Francisco Rangel Gómez, and Vielma Mora, who Silva alleges could also be attempting to gain influence inside the military in order to have leverage over Maduro.

“Are there internal divisions? Like crazy, some going this way others going that way trying to see how they can get their hands on more money. And all of this is going against the 14 years that Chavez spent building this thing,” he says.

But Silva assures not all is lost, and that if the right people take charge the Maduro government could make progress, and the corrupt officials could be “controlled”.

“[President Maduro] could have the best intentions, but he needs a group of advisors that are honest and will maneuver their way through this sea of sharks and find a way to move forward,” he says.

“It is a small group that is against Maduro, a group that we can control, that we can neutralize. I think we can do it,” he says, requesting help from the official.

Opposition sectors say the recording is evidence of treason on the part of Mario Silva, since he is urging a foreign official to intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs, and have demanded he be jailed.

Meanwhile, several Chavista officials, including Diosdado Cabello and Mario Silva himself, maintain that the audio is fake, and have not commented on any of the allegations made in the recording.

While the voice in the recording is unmistakably that of Mario Silva, the pro-Chavez journalist claims that the opposition or the CIA could have used clips from his nine years as a TV host to create a defamatory audio.

Opposition leaders have announced that they are in possession of additional incriminating audio recordings that they will release in the coming days.