From the same media laboratory of “Venezuela is fixed”, “Venezuela cooperates with the UN human rights system” and “sanctions are responsible for the crisis”, a new pro-government slogan has emerged, in the middle of the latest scandal of corruption of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), according to which “sanctions facilitate corruption”. This matrix of opinion circulates in different spaces, between sectors of the government and dissidents.
The theft of more than 3,000 million dollars, and with more than 21,000 million dollars in accounts receivable, is being attributed to sanctions “for generating” oil export routes that favor opacity and the opportunity for new illegal businesses. Basically, the oil is received by intermediaries who are economic allies of the government, -among them Álex Saab, arrested in the United States for money laundering-, they delivered it to the refineries in Asia or the United States, they collected it, but they never paid to PDVSA. From this scheme used by the government itself, it is distortedly deduced that the sanctions are responsible for the embezzlement because they would encourage “the country to increase its risks.”
Sanctions have long been the government’s wild card to dissociate itself from the complex humanitarian emergency that it created, and given the wear and tear of its argument, they became a weapon that contradicts it. The government declared that no money was entering into the country because of the sanctions. The approximate sum of 24,000 million dollars, which is equivalent to 5 to 6 months of oil revenues, shows that money is received, but the government decides to divert it. So what is really happening with the money of Venezuelans?
Corruption is not due to specific cases or the effect of sanctions. Corruption in Venezuela precedes sanctions and has a structural nature because of government decisions that dismantled the institutional system to stop and control the funds. Many milestones marked the destruction of the oil industry. Between 2002 and 2003, Hugo Chávez fired nearly 23,000 PDVSA workers for political reasons; in 2004, the former Minister of Petroleum Rafael Ramírez –today in exile and a dissident of the government-, became at the same time the president of PDVSA, that functional duality is maintained; In 2005, with the partial reform of the law of the Central Bank of Venezuela, PDVSA managed its own dollars, deriving the vast majority in monthly contributions to a national fund created by Chávez, the “Fonden”, to allegedly attend to social projects. Between 2005 and 2016, the Fonden received more than 174,000 million dollars, which were never audited by any source.
Over time, PDVSA got into debt. It was authorized to issue bonds that could be purchased in local currency, but that were payable in dollars at a preferential rate, under non-transparent adjudication processes. Since 2016, PDVSA stopped presenting the Annual Management Report. In 2017, with Rafael Ramírez dismissed, the oil company began to be administered by the military and reached production levels that fell to historic lows. According to a statement from the Gente del Petróleo Civil Association and the Unapetrol Union, organizations that bring together the 23,000 people laid off by the government in 2002 and 2003, PDVSA, with 46,000 employees on the payroll, produced up to 3,500,000 barrels per day in 2002, currently it barely produces 700,000 barrels per day, with about 144,000 employees. The refineries are almost paralyzed and with a production that does not satisfy the national market.
In PDVSA there were no acts of corruption, rather it is a corruption machine. This structure of corruption was created by the government and permeated the entire country by creating or supporting other companies, institutions or mechanisms to steal money from Venezuelans. Among them, it is worth mentioning the National Currency Administration Commission -CADIVI-, which established an exchange control system where experts indicate that more than 700,000 million dollars fled. PDVSA, CADIVI, and other corruption structures were fabricated with the complicity of subordinate public powers. The Comptroller General of the Republic, the Attorney General of the Republic and the Supreme Court of Justice have remained silent for more than 20 years. The only ones who denounced that, then deputies of the National Assembly elected in 2015, are today in exile. The oil sanctions have nothing to do with this because they arrived much later, with the evil already perfected, in 2019.
Transparencia Venezuela has registered 127 cases of alleged corruption in PDVSA, which translate into irregularities that compromised more than 42 billion dollars of Venezuelan public assets. The drop in production, and fundamentally, the diversion of enormous amounts of money, prevented and continues to prevent social well-being and development in Venezuela, as well as strengthening institutional erosion, favorable to structural impunity.
AlertVenezuela denounces this new attempt to confuse public opinion, and mainly, donors of the complex humanitarian emergency and other international actors, diverting attention to some instances of corruption that, after decades in power, are conveniently publicized by the government in the context of upcoming presidential elections, in what seems more like an operation to purge their own ranks, far from a fight against corruption. Sanctions do not facilitate corruption: sanctions are used by the government to continue hiding corruption.