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Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela
Emili J. Blasco, Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015. 376 Pages. Spanish. $16.00.
Emili J. Blasco, a Washington correspondent for ABC Spain, authored a groundbreaking new book focusing on the corruption in Venezuelan politics. The book, Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela, Spanish Edition (Boomerang Chavez: The frauds that led to the collapse of Venezuela), explores the early regime of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez until his death and then to the current President Nicolás Maduro. Blasco reported extensively for ABC on Chávez’s illness up to his passing, which earned him the Vocento Communication Award in Journalism for his coverage. Ultimately, Blasco aims to expose the various criminal activities of high-ranking government officials, and to illustrate the falsehoods of the Chávez regime. Moreover, a portion of the book is about the strengthened relationship between Iran and Venezuela. Blasco unveils a striking relationship between Venezuela, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and Hezbollah. Each chapter’s classifications establish a free flowing narrative of how Chávez sought to maintain control over Venezuela and the region through the illicit drug trade.
The opening chapters discuss Venezuela’s historic relationship with Cuba and President Fidel Castro and the two nation’s timely collaboration. Chávez’s desire for increased power eventually led to a three-way collusion between Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua to buy arms and other military grade weaponry from Russia. With the expansion of organized crime, Chávez essentially, “helped increased the overall violence in the country.”1 Blasco develops his argument in Chapter 2: “Un Dolor de Rodilla” (“Knee Pain”) which covers Chávez’s early power grabs until his death, and also offers a lengthy discussion regarding Chávez’s health in his final years. This chapter also serves to introduce the reader to Rafael Isea, the former Deputy Minster of Economic Development in Venezuela, who defected in 2013 and is now living in the United States. In his testimony to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Isea provided names, dates, and places of significant meetings in addition to drug transit routes, and how the money was being laundered. Chapter 3: “Es Verdad, Añadimos Votos Falsos” (“It’s True, We Added False Votes”) follows with the 2014 defection of Leamsy Salazar to the DEA. Salazar was Chavez’s long-time head of security and claimed that Diosdado Cabello, President of the National Assembly of Venezuela—the Venezuelan Parliament—was directly linked to the drug trade. Blasco also discusses in this chapter the 2012 Presidential election in Venezuela. After Chávez’s death, Maduro hoped to swiftly succeed Chávez, but was instead met by an opponent. Henrique Capriles, the opposition’s choice, lost to Maduro, claiming his defeat was due to election fraud.
In Chapter 4: “El Monedero de la Revolución: Los Pozos Petroleros quedan Exhaustos,” (“The Monetary Revolution: Exhausted Oil Wells”) Blasco explains that Venezuela’s economy had worsened by 2007. As noted by Isea’s testimony, Chávez turned to China and established a line of credit to Venezuela in 2007 that had a seven-year duration. The amount was divided into several loans during this period in exchange for oil and petroleum products. Accordingly, in Chapter 5: “Enriquecerse Con El Socialismo” (“Enriched with Socialism”) Blasco discusses the implications of China’s money and Venezuela’s state owned oil and natural gas company, “Petroleum of Venezuela” (PDVSA). Blasco writes that, while under PDVSA President Rafael Ramirez, the company was involved with the drug market assisting the FARC and Hezbollah, as well as allegedly helping Iran evade US sanctions.
Nonetheless, Chapter 7: “Nicolás En La Guarida De Hezbolá,” (“Nicholas in Hezbollah’s Lair”) on the drug-trafficking links to Hezbollah is most notable. The relationship between Hezbollah and Venezuela goes back three decades but soon after former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s congenial meeting with President Chavez in 2007, ties strengthened and drug trafficking has become more sophisticated. The volume of violence has increased, more drugs are crossing borders, and Hezbollah allegedly has direct access and influence as it has managed to intricately infiltrate Latin America by means of Venezuela. This, in turn, may have implications for United States’ national security. Blasco writes that Hezbollah has made attempts to orchestrate deals with Mexican cartels to gain access across the United States border. This occurred in 2010 when Ghazi Nassereddine (Nassr al-Dine, for short), a Lebanese-Venezuelan purportedly raising money for Hezbollah, and his younger brother Oday traveled to Mexico seeking logistical support to allow Hezbollah cells to reach the United States’ southern border in exchange for passage of drugs through Venezuela. This revelation, and many others, was brought to light when Isea claimed that he and then-foreign minister Maduro met with Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, to promote the duties of Ghazi Nassereddine in the country for Hezbollah. The family history of the Nassereddine is explained in this chapter to trace their presence in Venezuela and involvement with Hezbollah. Ghazi Nassereddine in particular has not only bolstered Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America, but the so-called ‘money man’ has single handedly been responsible for raising and laundering narco-money. The United States Department of the Treasury concluded that Nassereddine counseled Hezbollah donors on how to get the money to the organization, thanks to American intelligence tracing money tied to the organization for the Liberation of Palestine (PLO) on Margarita Island in Venezuela.
Furthermore, this chapter continues that Hezbollah has established cells that serve as training camps and meeting locations in remote parts of Venezuela that are completely deserted and sparsely populated. When Maduro and Nassrallah met in a hotel room in Damascus to “make room for Hezbollah in Venezuela,” Blanco writes that, according to Isea, “the organization also promised to transport weapons to Lebanon, as well as access to Venezuelan passports to facilitate the movement of militants.”2 But, another purpose was to further the drug trade. Isea’s testimony speaks to the link between the Chávez administration and Hezbollah, which is financed by Iran, and Hezbollah members are trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and supported by Syria.
Moreover, the transition into Chavez’s relationship with Walid Makled Garcia, a Lebanese-Venezuelan businessman, is fundamental evidence that Blasco provides to detail the link between Hezbollah and Venezuela. Garcia significantly expanded the drug-trafficking network in Latin America, which has enabled this newly enhanced relationship to come into fruition. Blasco directs significant attention towards Venezuela’s drug transit, mainly of Colombian drugs, during Chávez’s presidency. As the drug-trafficking market grew, Chávez established Venezuela as the gateway for Hezbollah, in which members were administered visas, passports, and protection. Banks were established in Venezuela and other areas to serve as fronts for money laundering practices. For instance, in January 2013, former Iranian Minister of Economy and Finance (2001-2004) and President of the Central Bank of Iran (2007-2008), Tahmasb Mazaheri was held in Germany for carrying a check issued by the Bank of Venezuela for three hundred million Venezuelan Bolivars (seventy million US dollars). The Bank of Venezuela has connections with “Banco Internacional de Desarrollo” (BID), the Iranian owned bank headquartered in Caracas, which was “the main arm of transactions between Venezuela and Iran.”3 Blasco notes that “Ultimately, Chávez sought to strengthen terrorists groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) and then he eventually opened his borders to Iran and Hezbollah.”4
Overall, Blasco traces in great detail how Venezuela has embraced Hezbollah over the years, from its origins with Chávez to most recently with Maduro. He sheds light on this underworld that exists in Latin America and how Hezbollah is working to find avenues to cross United States borders. The final four chapters of the book detail the geopolitics of the region. Specifically, Blasco discusses the road to normalizing relations between the United States and Venezuela under President Obama, and the more recent restoration of diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Spain. The book effectively explains the misrepresentations of the Chávez administration, yet the connections made to Hezbollah are the most captivating. Blasco fills the gaps on how far Hezbollah’s reach into Latin America really is.
To date, there is no English translation of Blasco’s book. The first half of Blasco’s book purposefully explains Venezuela’s historical role in Latin America. The later chapters exploring Venezuelan links to Hezbollah and other Islamic extremist organizations, like Hamas and the PLN, and the ever-increasing drug market, are most extraordinary since they are topics not typically read in American news media. Finally, the last four chapters serve to discuss the most current events related to Venezuela. Blasco cites the tensions between Venezuela and Spain, as well as the January 2015 events surrounding Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in which a prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, claimed that Fernández de Kirchner was allegedly involved in shielding Iranian officials from prosecution over their alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center. Nisman was found shot dead in his hotel room in Argentina and, to date, Fernández de Kirchner has been cleared of any allegations. Overall, the book is relatively easy to follow given the historical analysis and it adequately sheds light on the corruption in the Venezuelan government and nefarious dealing with terrorist organizations. Further research may hopefully expose greater details regarding Hezbollah and Iran and the dangerous implications that it presents.
The one drawback to the book is its lack of notes and references. This raises source and date issues for the reader. This is likely due to the journalistic writing style of the author and to give the work more mass-market appeal. This approach may also have been used to protect the identity of the confidential sources utilized by Blasco while conducting his investigative research on Chávez and the criminalized state that Venezuela has become under his rule and that of his protégé Nicolas Maduro.
1. Blasco, Emili, J. Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015: 58.
2. Ibid: 219.
3. Ibid: 269.
4. Ibid: 232.