Spanish— Requests to inquire about the manipulation of funds managed by the interim government of Juan Guaidó come from all fronts. From Chavismo, which is expanding its interventions to riddle the opposition from the Legislative Palace —taken under the ruse of the elections of December 6— and from the main parties that make up the opposition coalition to demand accountability in favor of transparency called into question by multiple cases of alleged corruption that has come to public light. But, what happens when investigators end up adding more irregularities to the cases under investigation?
In two political fronts where there is seldom congruence, today —without agreeing— everyone is demanding clear accounts from Juan Guaidó. It is peremptory. Cases such as that of the Comptroller’s Commission involving the so-called ‘CLAP deputies‘ —about which absolute silence has been kept— deserve an explanation. Both those investigated and those who claimed the role of investigators have much explaining to do.
This is not an isolated complaint. In fact, the presidential commissioner for Foreign Affairs himself, Julio Borges, denounced that the Maduro regime is “waging a dirty war” against the democratic forces of the country. This fact led him to insist on the need to “show the concrete results of the investigations we have requested to clarify whether there was a transparent management of public funds.” He said this on Twitter.
The origin: the letters of “good conduct.”
And among the many stumbles of the interim administration that have been known so far was the corruption scheme involving deputies of the Comptroller’s Office Commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly. Some of them are nowadays largely remembered for allegedly being linked to businesses and procedures that laundered the image of the Colombian Álex Saab, pointed out as Nicolás Maduro’s frontman, who has been detained in Cape Verde since last June.
As you may recall, the tactic consisted of delivering “letters of good conduct” to businessmen close to Chavismo in exchange for payments. In these letters, the deputies attested to the impeccable character of a series of business owners with ties to Chavismo. The missives were sent to institutions such as the Colombian Attorney General’s Office, as well as the US Treasury Department.
Those accused of doing these “favors” for Saab and other associates are, among others, Freddy Superlano, who was then president of the Permanent Commission of Comptrollership; Conrado Pérez, vice-president; as well as the members of this commission Richard Arteaga, José Brito, Chaim Bucaran, Adolfo Superlano, Guillermo Luces, William Barrientos, and Héctor Vargas. The name of Deputy José Luis Pirela, member of the Permanent Commission of Internal Policy, and the parliamentarian Luis Parra, perhaps the most controversial, also appear.
Luis Parra served as president of the Subcommittee of Natural Resources of the Permanent Commission of Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change during 2019, taking advantage of this to attribute certain licenses to himself under the shelter of the opposition parliament. Parra also served to preside over a failed directive of the NA promoted by the regime to seek to oust Guaidó. Today, Luis Parra is part of the illegitimate Assembly that Chavismo elected on December 6.
The omissions of the investigators
A report of the Special Commission for the investigation of the “CLAP deputies,” to which PanAm Post had access, showed numerous irregularities with these parliamentarians, who today – despite being accused- have not been held accountable. But the most worrying thing is that there seems to have been an intention to “save” them. The deliberate omission of the investigators can now be added to the irregularities of those investigated.
This Special Commission is made up of representatives Édgar Zambrano (Chairman), Marialbert Barrios, and Stalin González. The function of secretary is in the hands of José Luis Cartaya. The novelty of the matter lies in the fact that the aforementioned report presented by Zambrano was never approved. Sources to which PanAm Post had access assured that this document did not achieve the consensus of the commission and, therefore, its members never signed it.
“It was an evidently insufficient report, which sought to protect some of those responsible rather than to carry out a comprehensive investigation,” the sources said.
Given the lack of consensus that prevented the approval of the report, a series of recommendations were presented, which were made known to all members of the commission as well as to the heads of factions of all political parties of the opposition coalition. However, they were ignored.
These recommendations included the annulment of all “letters of good conduct” issued by the Comptroller’s Commission since 2016, the prohibition in the future of the issuance of this type of letters, as well as declaring the political responsibility of Deputy Freddy Superlano as the principal culprit of the irregularities found in the investigation.
“They want to avoid declaring responsibilities, they want to save Freddy Superlano, and worst of all, they do not want to prohibit the letters of good conduct or annul the past ones, which are an aberration,” concluded the sources.
Irregularities of those investigated
The report of the Special Commission, which was never approved, determined that irregularities were committed in the registration of incoming and outgoing correspondence, alteration in the entry of these in the corresponding books, which would have been indiscriminately manipulated by persons outside the Comptroller’s Commission. It is also evident that communications were issued during the parliamentary recess and that there are communications signed by the president of the commission on dates when he was out of the country.
The document mentioned above also detailed that “some deputies made trips to Europe, where they held meetings and submitted documents on behalf of the Permanent Commission of the Comptroller’s Office, without authorization or approval from the commission. According to their statements at the time of appearing before the investigative commission, they affirmed that such trip was financed by businessmen and close friends since they could not afford such expenses.”
In the same way, it is added in the declarations that “the deputies who attended such trips show contradictions and inconsistencies concerning the issuance of letters of “good conduct” in favor of those investigated by the Permanent Commission of Controller, inconsistencies in the dates of issuance of such documents and they deny having signed them.”
As of the date of the consignment of the report of the committee that investigated these regularities in 2019, none of the agencies to which communications were addressed to corroborate the veracity and accuracy of such letters of “good conduct” have given any response about them. This made it impossible and diminished the work of this investigative commission.
“Consequently, it should be noted that false proofs of settlements were issued in the name of the Permanent Commission of the Comptroller’s Office in favor of citizens and companies that are still being investigated by it. Therefore, the parliamentarians who subscribed to such documents could be immersed in the commission of the crimes of the false assumption of fact, conspiracy to commit a crime, and administrative fraud, besides in clear violation of articles 197 and 201 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” concludes the report.
The bribe money
According to journalist Maibort Petit, these investigated architects received bribes amounting to up to 3.5 million dollars. The payments would have been for hiding the documents and the investigations made by the parliament that supported the accusations against Álex Saab.
According to a report cited by Petit, each deputy allegedly received 400,000 USD in exchange for “hiding” the investigation file, for which the US justice system is requesting that they be interrogated.
Besides that amount, 10,000 USD per month during 2019 (120,000 USD per year) and an additional 100,000 USD for each management carried out.
The internal crisis in Voluntad Popular to save Superlano
This case generated in September last year an internal crisis in the Juan Guaidó party, when the Conflict Resolution Commission (CRC) of Voluntad Popular resigned in full due to discrepancies with part of the leadership that prevented the expulsion of Deputy Freddy Superlano for his responsibility in the granting of the letters of “good conduct” to Nicolás Maduro’s frontman. The information was also made public by journalist Maibort Petit.
Citing internal sources, the Venezuelan researcher and political scientist stated that when Mariana Campos Villalba, Marcos R. Carrillo, Eduardo Noguera, José Alberto Perdomo, and Gustavo Luis Velásquez presented their resignation on September 16, 2020.
The reason for the resignation in plenary would have been the pressure from the National Team of Activists (ENA) to prevent the expulsion of Congressman Freddy Superlano. The CRC had approved the expulsion of the congressman for links with the case of Alex Saab.
According to the information, the pressure against the CRC was influenced by five members of the ENA: the founder of the party, Leopoldo López, the coordinator of National Policy, Emilio Graterón, the National Operational Coordinator, Ronald Carreño, and the deputies Freddy Guevara and Olivia Lozano.