February 3, 2006

Operation G2

by Juan Carlos Zapata, in Descifrado en la Calle

Cuba's G2 intelligence service has flushed out an alleged spy ring in the US embassy, infiltrated its diplomatic mission and kept its eyes on the alleged conspiratorial activities of the opposition. But G2 is unable to detect the corruption that flows through the veins of chavismo.

The Comptroller General, Clodosvaldo Russian, who will present his report at the end of the month, will surprise us with a major revelation: corruption proliferates at the local level. A huge discovery that looks more like a smoke screen to cover up the center of the corruption problem: its presence in the highest spheres of power.

Since it's an election year, the high government, CNE and the accountability institutions will keep a discrete silence so no scandal can taint the president's campaign.

Not long ago, when Chavez personally realized he had been duped with the misallocation of money for a project he had announced with much fanfare, he had no choice but to talk publicly about the deception, to order an investigation and even to say he felt like executing the military men responsible.

These are facts that the comptroller doesn't see, and since he doesn't see them he doesn't investigate them. These are the facts that G2 also takes a pass on, or doesn't care about. And these are the matters that Chavez generally doesn't address, since it's impossible he doesn't know. If the Barinas matter became an investigation, it was because Chavez felt cheated, since he'd gone as far as staging an Alo Presidente from the tomato processing plant that, despite the money allocated, was never put into operation. In other words, it was more an affront to his ego than disquiet about corruption as a real and serious matter.

Otherwise, there's no way to explain how suddenly we see such prosperous figures inside chavismo, and how moderately successful businessmen suddenly take off to become first rank economic actors. They buy insurance companies. They become partners in banks big and small. They launch businesses. They buy newspapers and radio stations and TV stations. They start magazines. They are involved in huge contracts. Aren't these signs of corruption?

It's obvious. I think it was Luis Miquilena who once said that Chavez uses corruption as a means to pressure his allies. He trades his silence and inaction for their loyalty. How many ministers and officials at the Finance Ministry have been signalled for shady practices? To find out, you don't need the Cuban G2. Everybody knows about it in the Banco Industrial, in Banfoandes, in the Central Bank, in the organizations that deal with financial matters on a daily basis. Chavez can't pretend he doesn't know about the baccanalia surrounding government deposits in private banks. In fact, he has known about this corrupt practice since the start of the revolution. He has been warned about it, there was even talk about centralizing government deposits in a Treasury Bank. But the party goes on. The trafficking in government deposits and insurance policies have yielded millions. And Miraflores knows that, and the business community knows that. In the last Venamcham survey they pointed to corruption and bureaucracy as the two factors that most inhibit the development of their businesses. Because, it's worth noting in passing, middlemen in each transaction are making off with as much as 15 and even 20% of the deal.

But the comptroller doesn't see it, even if he admitted to Panorama that "we are dealing with lots of accusations." But where are the cases? A job for G2: investigating a comptroller's office which, if it can't see the obvious scams, certainly can't see the sophisticated ones, like the capital flight taking place in spite of currency controls. Because experts have said that in the "imports" account (which last year amounted to $25 billion) there are all kinds of shady deals.

Corruption is out there. Having a party. We should note one thing. Just as corruption undermined the basis of representative democracy, adding fuel to Chavez's anti-system discourse, history tells us that corruption will end up undermining Chavez's socialist dream. Because even the reddest of revolutionaries is tempted by easy money: the great triumph of the bolibourgeoisie.