An explosive new report reveals how Guaidó representatives in Colombia embezzled $125,000 meant for humanitarian aid, suckering deserting soldiers and blowing the aid money on luxury goods.
By Dan Cohen
June 17 (The Grayzone) A new investigation has exposed members of Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó’s inner circle for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars designated for humanitarian aid and spending it on luxury goods and lavish accommodations for themselves. Guaidó had been aware of the fraud for weeks and stubbornly defended his cohorts until a leak from Colombian intelligence forced him to acknowledge the scandal.
The scandal unfolded this February, when Venezuelan opposition figures and their supporters descended upon the border town of Cúcuta, Colombia for what was billed as a Live Aid concert to raise millions of dollars for humanitarian aid for Venezuelans suffering the effects of an economic crisis.
The operation was supposed to have climaxed with a Live Aid concert hosted by billionaire Virgin Group founder Richard Branson while trucks full of US aid blasted across the Venezuelan border. Instead, as Branson gathered his performers on stage for a cringeworthy rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” opposition hooligans set fire to the truckloads of aid with molotov cocktails as they failed to reach the border.
Now, a report by the staunchly anti-Maduro PanAm Post editor-in-chief Orlando Avendaño has revealed a shocking scheme of fraud and embezzlement behind the aid imbroglio. According to Avendaño, Guaidó’s lieutenants embezzled huge sums of money that had been promised to Venezuelan soldiers who deserted their positions and snuck across to the Colombian side at Guaidó’s urging.
The cash that was used to entice desperate soldiers and would-be mercenaries to defect became a slush fund for the US-backed coup leader and his gaggle, who spent it lavishly on hotels, expensive dinners, nightclubs and designer clothes. As Guaidó’s gang lived the high life, he covered for their fraud, keeping his lips sealed until it was exposed through a leak by the Colombian intelligence services.
At a press conference on June 17, Guaidó attempted to downplay his responsibility and redirect public anger back towards Maduro. “The government does not manage [public] resources because we are in the process of transition,” he said. “The dictatorship has begun a process of disinformation.”
But then the defecting Venezuelan soldiers announced plans for a press conference where they pledged to provide even more evidence of fraud.
Constructing an interventionist sham show
It was apparent upon Branson’s announcement of the February 23rd aid concert that the event had little to do with providing relief to hungry Venezuelans. It was a transparent propaganda stunt engineered to destabilize the Maduro government and achieve a long-standing US foreign policy goal.
As Father Sergei San Miguel, a Colombian government-affiliated priest responsible for guiding the deserting Venezuelan soldiers told me in Cúcuta, the successful entrance of the meager amount of supplies into Venezuela was intended to demonstrate Maduro’s loss of sovereignty in front of the global stage and foment an uprising across the country that would finally depose him.
Branson pledged that his event would rustle up 100 million dollars for humanitarian aid. But organizers had omitted how and to whom the funds would be distributed. On February 28th, Venezuela Aid Live organizers announced they had raised just 2.5 million dollars – a tiny fraction of the sum they had promised and likely less than the cost of staging a massive production on one week’s notice.
The weekend of the concert offered a preview of this month’s corruption revelations, with several embarrassing incidents involving Guaidó’s confidantes. Early in the morning of February 23, Popular Will party members Freddy Superlano and his cousin and assistant Carlos José Salinas were found unconscious in a motel in Cúcuta. According to police reports, the two had been drugged with scopolamine and robbed by women, presumably prostitutes, they met in the red-light district. After the women made an early morning dash from the motel room, staff found the two men unconscious and called police. Salinas died shortly after being hospitalized.Continue reading