Opportunists, Opposition, and Revolutionaries in Fight Over Corruption Crackdown

Eduardo Saman, president of price control and consumer protection agency Indepabis, had some of his authority revoked after he replaced many regional coordinators in a crackdown on corruption and inefficiency.


Mérida, 24th July 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Eduardo Saman, president of price control and consumer protection agency Indepabis, had some of his authority revoked after he replaced many regional coordinators in a crackdown on corruption and inefficiency. At the same time, a range of top authorities, both supporters of the government and of the opposition, have been arrested or are being investigated for corruption.

In a resolution published in the Official Gazette on 15 July and signed by commerce minister Alejandro Fleming, Saman’s authority to designate Indepabis directors was revoked. Normally the directors are designated by the commerce minister, but a 13 June resolution granted Saman the power just two days after he was named Indepabis president by Nicolas Maduro.

Saman was designated president shortly after an alleged extortion ring was discovered operating within Indepabis, and he was given the task of cleaning up the organisation, including removing inefficient authorities. So far he has dismissed regional coordinators in Aragua, Anzoategui, Yaracuy, and Carabobo states.

In 2010 Saman promoted the construction of a radical socialist current within the PSUV, and he was also replaced as commerce minister that year after pharmaceutical companies campaigned to protect old patent legislation. He was head of Indepabis at the time as well.

Yesterday President Nicolas Maduro expressed his support for Saman, and asked him to talk to Minister Fleming. Maduro encouraged Saman to continue his work and “stay firm in the fight against the mafias who cause shortages”, asking him not to “fall for the provocations”.

Other corruption battles

Over the last few weeks a range of top government and legal officials, both supposed government supporters as well as open members of the opposition, have been detained as part of the ongoing offensive against corruption.

On Monday the coordinator of the San Antonio court circuit was arrested for corruption. Ciro Carpio had allegedly requested Bs 160,000 from a prisoner’s family in exchange for the speeding up of legal proceedings and paperwork. Carpio is now in the Western Prison (Centro Penitenciario de Occidente).

In the same region of Venezuela, seven Administrative Service for Identification, Migration, and Foreigners (Saime) workers in Tachira state were also arrested for corruption last week. Maduro announced last Tuesday that two of those detained were office directors, and that the group allegedly belonged to a mafia organisation that forged identity documents and awarded citizenship.

Also on Monday in Bolivar state three ex-directors of CVG Ferrominera Orinoco CA and one representative of the US company Muszam Investment INC were arrested for embezzlement, corruption, and criminal association, and had their bank accounts frozen. Ferrominera is a state owned iron production company.

In June the ex-president of Ferrominera, Radwan Sabbagh was also arrested for alleged diversion of 295 million bolivars while he was president of the company. Maduro said Sabbagh was “involved in mafias all over the place in the primary industry companies”. In November of last year, according to workers’ testimonies, it was shown that there were trucks transporting iron to ports to then be sold illegally outside the country.

Yesterday, José Khan, vice-president of the foreign currency commission Cadivi, said that an operation between the public institution and Venezuelan’s criminal investigation body CICPC had resulted in some arrests and the shutting down of some currency exchange offices. Khan said the investigation was conducted following instructions from Maduro in order to clamp down on illegal currency exchange and apply sanctions where there were acts of corruption. The operation discovered exchange offices operating without permission and irregularities in requests made by Venezuelan citizens to send money to Colombia.

Also according to Maduro, workers who were recently detained for allegedly stealing Bs 84 million from the China-Venezuela Fund, are active members of opposition party First Justice.

Another opposition leader, Eveling Trejo, is the target of a lawsuit from her workers for “violating workers’ rights”. Trejo is the candidate of the opposition umbrella group MUD for her re-election bid in the upcoming regional elections as mayor of Venezuela’s second largest city Maracaibo. She is also the wife of Manuel Rosales, who participated in the 2002 coup, was governor of Zulia and also presidential candidate in 2006. Rosales fled to Peru in 2009 after being charged with stealing public funds and accepting bribes for public contracts.

According to Giancarlo di Martino, Venezuelan consul in Milan and Trejo’s predecessor as Mayor of Maracaibo, Trejo “owes over Bs 150 million to her 9,000 workers. They are worried she has sent it to Rosales”.

The Supreme Court has also given the go ahead to a case against opposition legislator Richard Mardo. Mardo is being accused of tax fraud and money laundering. In February national assembly president Diosdado Cabello denounced that Mardo had allegedly received cheques totalling Bs 600,000, but had only paid Bs 1,500 in taxes in two years.

In a similar case, legislator Julio Chávez requested that president of the newspaper 6to Poder, Leocenis Garcia, be investigated. Chávez (who has no relation to deceased president Hugo Chávez) presented documents that allegedly prove that Garcia has a Swiss bank account with over US$ 3 million in it, and demanded he be investigated for tax evasion, tax fraud, and money laundering.

The Public Prosecutor’s office has now frozen Garcia’s bank accounts, as well as those of 6to Poder, a measure permitted under article 204 of the Penal Process Code. The article states that such measures may be taken during an investigation “when there are reasonable grounds to deduce that they [the bank accounts in this case] are related to the crime being investigated”. The website of 6to Poder is now claiming, however, that it has been “shut down due to an economic blockade”.

Finally, on 15 July a further two public notaries were arrested in Merida for corruption, specifically false certification of documents.  

“Whoever is involved in shady businesses and thinks that they can take advantage of the power that the government has given them in order to steal, well, it’s their time now… no one is untouchable, we’re going to give everything to the [fight against] corruption, whether its corruption in a red beret or corruption of the yellow fascist bourgeoisie,” Maduro said earlier this month.