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Oil-for-Politics: an offshore Scam by Any Other Name

By Pedro Camargo

02.03.06 | One of Ecuador’s most popular TV talk show hosts last week noted an odd news item, uttered with all the sincerity of a professional wrestler, citing a phony poll claiming that 96% of Ecuadoreans `want’ and support ongoing oil strikes, ostensibly in solidarity with the attacks on Ecuador’s two main oil pipelines.

Solidarity with the pipeline attackers requires some dissection. Twice in six months, Ecuador has lost millions, possibly close to a billion (about 1/9 its total GNP) from these strikers. These strikers, however, are not your standard garden variety environmentalists but are well paid political protesters and paramilitary squads acting under the MPD labor-socialist party and assorted neo-Marxist efforts, replete with per diems and fees, as well as property destroying weaponry. These pipeline hits have been carried out with precision by out of state paramilitary squads, with all the hallmarks of IRA bomb-making, delivering talents usually seen inside the FARC. Shadowy figures, caught on CNN last August, scrambling to control their explosives, opened the window on these out of state actors inside Ecuador, whose mission, as with all good terrorists, is to destabilize, destroy and gain some heretofore unacceptable goal. On the ground reports claim that cash bags going to provincial and Congressional political leaders, who wage phony diplomacy with governmental leaders in Quito, have obtained more concessions with Ecuador’s Chavez apologist, the reigning Minister of Government.

Paraphrasing Mario Vargas Llosa; "small protest: not many dead… yet," it is notable that almost none of the local actors have the funds, the scientific know-how, the access to bomb making suppliers or even the capacity to craft a precision-guided destructive attack. What is important is the denial of the existence of extra-state actors in a determined and destructive, albeit expensive, regional political sweep.

Where are the fact-based reports of weapons used, source of bombs, delivery systems, roster of paid actors and their nationalities, collusion of local provincial leaders, costs of these attacks, lives lost, fear engendering that leads to immobilized witnesses, and full reporting on its per barrel price hikes in the USA? With about ½ of Ecuador’s oil now sold in North America, and with its capacity at less than half its already grossly underperforming, incompetent oil sector, what lies behind the hesitancy to reveal these complots, and the fake opinion poll that 96% of Ecuadoreans think this is a good idea?

To be sure, no one knows what Ecuador’s state-run oil machine, PetroEcuador is up to, except all have a firm grasp that it is incompetent, cannot upgrade its own woefully archaic and inoperable rust-bucket oil equipment, and that its own executives had cheerfully padded their own wallets in every year of its existence save a small few. The vast majority of oil moving in Ecuador today, which feeds about ½ of its GDP, comes from European and North American turn key operations which are needed since PetroEcuador cannot field its own efforts. As such, Ecuador, while swimming in oil, today is a net importer. And while Ecuador is rich in mineral resources, its poverty since 1998 has remained stubbornly high at levels over 70%: with no help in sight.

This tawdry tale is important because Latin America has destabilizing forces at work to enjoin independent republics to form a bloc of geo-politically aligned countries.

There is no question that Hugo Chavez has repeatedly announced his plans to reunite the Latin countries of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia with Venezuela-Cuba. Chavez also has said he wants control of the Panama Canal. Reuniting under his Bolivarian Plan seems to include full accord to Chavez’s bad boy pen pal club members: Iran, Syria, the Hamas and Hezbollah actors as well as the FARC and a welter of smaller but equally active groups such as the coca growers of Bolivia, the odd ball groups such as the anarchists and a string of neo-communist and neo-Marxist organizations. To this, Chavez affiliates with legitimate governments of Argentina and Brazil in crass influence peddling through bond and/or debt buying, millions for Brazil’s carnival parades and all sort of support for Foro de Sao Paulo leftist activists. To this, Chavez has employed scores of paid propaganda specialists and reams of disaffected public relations and media handlers, who follow the ongoing organizational boiler plate steps noted by anti US activists from MoveOn.org, Global Exchange, and others.

While the actual situation for Venezuelans under Chavez is glossed over, quality of life is reduced to hard scrabble, except for the politburo aligned with Chavez’s favorites. Social safety net activities are random and unsustainable. Preferring to ignore the realities of daily life in Venezuela under Chavez, we are informed that all this is cyclical and will swing back to some normative zone soon, as the pendulum swings. This cheerful Pollyanna-esque outlook fails to note that with full control of the national police and military in Venezuela, Chavez has total protection for his machine. And our Pollyannas also forget that with this full protection, Chavez is emboldened to increase his self-enrichment schemes without so much as a by your leave.

Chavez and his inner group have stashed what may amount to a few billion dollars offshore in secret accounts while stripping Venezuela of its primary income. To further this grand theft, Chavez launches cleverly crafted outreach programs, created whole cloth from phony rampages against the very thing that enriches his own pockets -capitalism- which is all a smokescreen to deflect and deter from his own scams. To increase the Chavez private accounts, Fidel's protegé needs global oil price spikes, at the expense of not only Venezuela but the global economy.

Chavez will not be accountable for bleeding PDVSA dry because there has never been a valid audit of PDVSA, which badly needs a full forensic audit. Chavez has no opposition in his neighborhood because he has bribed, cajoled his neighbors; he has fed mercenaries and paid political hacks to act in his defense. This is no mere swing of the pendulum. Chavez has a plan and it is not what he verbalizes. Chavez’s goal, as we know now, is to sustain and enrich his offshore funding schemes to control, for profit, the pipeline for entire economies of scale.

As Chavez adds ownership of transportation, oil by-products, natural gas and alternative fuels, he is also buying as many legitimate businesses as he can using false agents across Latin America. This is the pipeline for total control of the Bolivarian Plan: a dark and murky Enronesque offshore hedge fund for terrorists who pay to play with their souls. Venezuela is not a nation any more. Chavez’s regime is not a government. Venezuela is not a democracy. Venezuela under Chavez is not what it wants you to think it is. It is a brave new world populated by clever sycophants on the take who manipulate markets, abuse their own citizens, and crudely decry honor and values with an arrogant, brassy crassness not often seen on the international stage.

Chavez’s diplomatic corps does not exist. There is not one serious nation that will admit that Venezuela’s diplomatic corps are useful or welcome. They are roundly disliked, are suspect, even when political exigencies are aligned and civic groups approve. But none are liked or even welcome except for their now well known bags of cash. Their usefulness is only in aligning anti US actors in a well funded orchestra of dissonance.

It is the Chavez orchestra of dissonance that deserves full analysis. This has not been accomplished to date. While the full blown chattering cabal makes its 24/7 misinformation campaign, monolithic Chavez’s illicit acts to bleed Venezuela dry proceed apace, as if shielded by the righteousness of limousine liberals everywhere. In faith, Chavez could not care less about any window dressing project to help mankind. His regime is now all about using the useful armies of the left to shield his own money grab.

The money making scheme is what this is all about and the money just keeps rolling out. It is an old recipe in a new skin. As many Americans know, this offshore money stashing recipe is not new: several left leaning groups in the USA are used as deflector shields to divert attention from economic mischief. In the US, this can be seen most notably with George Soros who shields his own offshore economic self enrichment schemes by funding and partnering with numerous minions of righteous indignation from the Left, his own army of useful idiots who shield his own acts.

Things are in motion in Latin America. Chavez has invited one and all to waltz with him. His paid groups welcome disaffected and dysfunctional actors to shield his corruption. In fact, they are part of his “diplomatic strategy”: rely on dysfunction to elevate the cover up.

Into this sea of dysfunction wades Congressman Joe Barton of Texas.

With scant assistance from other Congressional committees regarding Latin American events and with shamefully no useful or fact-based support from the Latin team at the U.S. Department of Energy, Joe Barton has asked the simple question: what is going on with these oil for political schemes underway by Hugo Chavez in the USA?

Although Barton is mandated by the very definition of his Committee to ask this question, his colleague Ed Markey (D-MA) thinks that Barton is out of his league in such a review. Markey, who like Delahunt, owes his allegiance to the Kennedy family, from whence they came, are today aligned with the Dodd-ites of the U.S. Senate who have more than once informed the U.S. that Chavez is `just all right’ with them, because he helps poor people. We have suggested a cost-benefit analysis of just which `poor’ people benefit from the Chavez political action plan, now underway in 6 states. While Catholic Charities and numerous utilities deliver home heating oil for the poor, these charities carry neither a political nor a religious message with its massive charitable outlays and always have their financial books in order, a feature no longer applicable to Chavez’s oil schemes, which is known elsewhere as CITGO and/or PDVSA. In fact, numerous “poor” in large cities enjoy Rent Control situations which locks in their lowered heating bills. Today, neither CITGO nor its identical parent group, PDVSA seem to want to participate in U.S. laws and regulations regarding legal fillings of their corporate activities.

All oil out of Venezuela is, like its legislative, judiciary, police and military, totally under Chavez’s control. These are not corporations in the normal sense. These are not legally operating companies with independent boards or even remotely any transparency. These are self enriching oil scams of such vast proportions that of course require that the US Congress review the facts. What is tragic about this review by Barton, besides the Chavez cover up and attacks, is that not once since 1999 has the US Congress been handed the full Chavez-Bolivarian oil for political bribery plan, although it is now well known.

Inside Venezuela, all facts are controlled by the Chavez politburo. Normal information sharing and independent transparency ceased to exist long ago. It is to the USA that Venezuela looks to garner independent analysis. And that has been blocked for some years now, even as Board members from Chevron urged the US to turn a blind eye to Chavez. Their blind eye has cost consumers plenty and has led many U.S. decision makers down a primrose path of foolishness. Because the heart of the matter is this: Venezuela is a petro-state whose full assets are derived mostly from its oil. Chavez is illegally bleeding its oil income dry for self enrichment, even as he and his operatives manipulate price hikes and seek to control pipeline industries, as well as banking networks through corruption. Venezuela is not a failed state: it has ceased to exist as a state and is today an off the books hedge fund that uses citizen actors as its shield and its mouthpiece. The common man in South America, by Chavez’s reckoning, is nothing more than collateral damage: expendable and going downhill fast.

The Chavez minions are, in fact, coming to a town near you soon. They will tell us all to keep our hands off Venezuela, whatever that means. But what this really means is: do not look closely at what is happening. Ignore the money trail, forget transparency, ignore international treaties, ignore lawlessness and corruption so rampant that it is mind boggling, ignore the removal of all state apparatus, ignore the total control of the police, the courts, their Congress and the military. Forget about audits and contracts. Ignore the hungry. Forgive price controls. Deny that the Central Bank has no money and has been raided. Suspend rational thought regarding Chavez. And by all means, denounce the church. This is their message. They ask us to dance with them in this unholy waltz. This is in fact, the Castro communist plan writ large. The only difference is this: Chavez has not instigated wide spread killings: yet. So far, his political assassinations are hidden in rampant crime, with a murder rate so high that any useful professional analyst would conclude that of course, these murder rates are unnaturally high- even for a lawless state- and must include huge spikes in political murders. In this case, the mafia is what used to be the state.

Useful too is the current crop at the OAS. Its titular leader, Insulza, has come out of his self imposed days in the closet and has exposed himself as one more cheerful cheerleader for the Bolivarian offshore money scams, heretofore called the government of Venezuela. By calling on Secretary Rice and President Bush to welcome Hugo Chavez in to their circle of trust and by embracing all that Chavez does, Insulza urges full respect between the USA and Hugo Chavez. While we question the right of Insulza to stay on the job because of this, we note that numerous actors actually applauded Insulza’s comments, ignoring the realities of such a move. Insulza tacitly begs us to keep our Hands Off Venezuela, to forget what it has done and said and is doing. We would hope that Insulza may yet learn that respect is rightly grown from honorable acts by men of decency. Diplomacy is based on mutual respect for the very tenants of diplomatic behavior. There is no diplomacy, we remind Sr. Insulza, when a leader calls names, makes obscene gestures, acts the fool, and raids a country. We ask: what is there to respect?



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