In the game of dominoes, there is no such thing as a useless piece. The flexibility of the game determines the usefulness and importance of the pieces. In common domino jargon, when a piece cannot find a connector, we say the “game is stuck.” There is no way to combine the pieces of the table with the ones that the players are holding in their hands. When this happens, the game comes to a standstill. The game then ends abruptly, and the pieces are reshuffled with a rounded sum of points.
Something similar has happened with Diosdado Cabello. He is that uncomfortable piece that does not find a solution in any game and on any side. He continues to destroy any possibility of conflict resolution in Venezuela because, among all the pieces or actors at play, he is the only one who has no place in a new game, and therefore, he prefers to shut it down (having the power to do so) over and over again.
If board games and political strategies have anything in common, it is that the pieces must fit in the gaps as the game unravels. Since the most critical piece of Chavismo, Diosdado Cabello, was not offered nor granted a space, the game had to be restarted multiple times so that the kingpin of the drug trade would find a comfortable spot where his illegal fortune is not endangered. All this is done while following the same old narrative of finding a consensus with Chavismo. The only way to go past the obstacle of the tile that represents Cabello in the board game is to destroy it literally with bombs, bullets, or handcuffs because it is the only way to seize the board and say “the game will come to an end.”
The richest man in Venezuela is also the most dangerous, the most corrupt, and the most unlawful. In this regard, the presidency of Juan Guaido and the USA have committed a fatal error: if you offer a way out to Maduro, Padrino, Moreno and company, you must also provide it to Cabello; otherwise, the latter will not allow others to abandon the game, and he alone will assume the consequences. The Machiavellian tyrant will prefer to send his own godfather to the gallows before serving a sentence; this story isn’t new.
On 30th April, after Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López showed up in the streets of Caracas along with a group of soldiers announcing the end of the usurpation, Nicolás Maduro disappeared. We didn’t hear from him for nearly 24 hours. On the other hand, Diosdado Cabello was the one who went out immediately to show his face along with his entourage because he is the only one who has no other way out but confrontation. Maduro can negotiate, Padrino can negotiate, Moreno can negotiate (and there is evidence that they were doing it). However, the most powerful and perverse man cannot negotiate. Therefore, every time there is an attempted dialogue, the result will end up being the same: game closed, let’s shuffle the cards, and start again. It is a vicious circle where the only winners are those who are comfortable in the current situation: the leaders of Chavismo and the indefinite and unknown number of opposition collaborators who are pleased to be spending each day out of prison counting their stolen dollars.
The investigation of Douglas Farah and Caitlyn Yates of IBI Consultants, LLC and National Defense University (INSS) in May 2019 revealed that 181 individuals and 176 companies operating in at least 26 countries had extracted 28 billion dollars from Venezuela from PDVSA. However, corruption is not limited only to petroleum and the fiduciary sale of crude oil. The web of corruption consists of fictitious mega infrastructure state projects, purchases of physical assets, illegal gold mining, and bank to bank transfers.
An example of the vast web of corruption in Venezuela is Raúl Gorrín and the 12 conspirators who were named in the foreign exchange scheme whereby the Venezuelan bolivar was negotiated at a fixed price in U.S. dollars significantly higher than the official exchange rate. Between 1200 and 2400 USD was laundered through the American financial system in the span of four years. Gorrín’s involvement in these plans amounts to approximately 159 million USD.
Gorrín pleaded guilty in November 2018, and at least 24 of his properties in New York and Florida were seized. Only the seven condominiums in New York have an estimated value of 40 million USD.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal exposes the impact of Raul Gorrin on the events of 30th April in Venezuela. Gorrin negotiated directly with the USA to hand over Maduro and began the process of clearing his name and evade sanctions. Reports by Washington media also suggest that the businessman met with Republican Senator Marco Rubio although they admit that Rubio has not spoken out on this matter.
According to the publication, Gorrin is that mysterious domino piece, an enigma to all. He has functioned as a messenger for members of the opposition and Maduro himself. It is difficult to determine where his loyalties lie and whether ruling party officials, as well as opposition leaders, are loyal to him because of the amount of money he controls.
Illegal mining began in Venezuela many years ago and has been a trusted ally of the revolution through its dark days. The Kaloti Suriname Mint House (KSMH), inaugurated in 2015, is the clearest example of illegal gold mining. The company maintains an association between Suriname and The United Arab Emirates’ Kaloti Precious Metals. KSMH operates under the protection of Surinamese president, Desi Bouterse, a convicted cocaine trafficker who provided arms to FARC and was elected with financial aid from Hugo Chavez.
Only in 2018, The Venezuelan government has sold 73.2 tons of gold to Turkey and the UAE, and a part of the illegal gold was sent to Uganda. Given that the Central Bank of Venezuela’s gold reserves grew 11 tons in 2018 despite the massive ongoing sales, a significant amount of the merchandise will likely be illegally extracted by dissident FARC and ELN groups.
This web of corruption directly correlates to the plummeting living conditions of the average Venezuelan. In 2018, inflation rose to a million percent, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that this figure will rise over ten million percent by the end of 2019. Today, gasoline is scarce in many parts of the country and queues to refill fuel often last several days. The gasoline shortage impedes the distribution of food, medicines, and operation of the few functioning businesses in the country. In the state of Tachira alone, producers in the region of La Grita reported that 35 million vegetables were rotten in the absence of a distribution mechanism. Ironically, the country with the highest petroleum reserves in the world cannot provide gasoline to its citizens.
As if this were not enough, it has been estimated that approximately 70% of Venezuelans have lost at least 11 kilograms in recent years and that only 20% of the medicines required in the country are easily accessible. The webs of corruption have taken away the liberties of the Venezuelan people while filling the coffers not only of the Chavista leaders but also some “opposition’ members who are now creating obstacles in the exit of Maduro. They are aware that sooner or later, they will face the scrutiny of the justice system. It won’t matter what team they claim to support. Their best option is to delay the arrival of democracy and engage the country in continuous “dialogues” that prolong their stay in power, while more Venezuelans die every day.
Therefore, the government of Juan Guaido and the USA have two options to end this ordeal realistically: offer amnesty to Diosdado and the other corrupt people, or send the marines and destroy all those who have opposed fair play. If I were the one making this decision, without doubt, I would choose the second option. It would send out a strong message to Venezuelans and other Latin Americans that engaging in corruption is as dangerous as taking up arms, and at the end, it is not worth it.