Archive for April 2012
Colombia’s Ambassador to the US, Gabriel Silva, is being a gobshite.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally apologized to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Cartagena on the same day that the Secret Service hooker scandal erupted.
But Silva isn’t satisfied.
“The US should apologize further,” Silva told El Tiempo’s Washingon correspondent. “It is necessary and I want to hear it from the White House. A more clear expression of remorse is required to protect the reputation of Cartagena.”
Silva tells El Tiempo that news coverage of the incident was “superficial, sensationalist and unfair.”
The New York Daily News is right: Colombia’s Ambassador to the United States “…puts the ass in ambassador.”
But who knows? Silva may get an apology if he blusters loudly enough.
President Obama frequently bows and apologizes to foreign rulers; what’s one more “I’m sorry…”
Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín is being a gobshite too.
“It makes me sad because it’s as if Cartagena were guilty…and the guilty is the Secret Service…prostitution exists everywhere, where there is a man there is prostitution, so don’t come to tell us that it’s Cartagena,” Colombia’s foreign minister admonished primly.
Gobshites and hypocrites.
Cartagena is a great tourism region, one of the most beautiful places in the Americas that a person ever could hope to visit…and Colombia is blessed with many gorgeous tourism destinations.
The Colombian people are wonderful. My wife is Colombian and I’m blessed through her to have an extended family in Venezuela and Colombia. But Venezuelan beer is much better.
Prostitution is legal in Colombia, up to a point. It’s regulated, controlled and even taxed by the state as a result. Every city in Colombia has a zone where hookers can legally ply their trade.
For example, socially conservative Bogota’s Zona Rosa is a very popular place to dine out, drink, dance, party… and hook up with women and men who play for pay.
Countries where prostitution is legalized to varying degrees, officially or otherwise, tend to attract a lot of sex tourism.
Think Amsterdam, Hamburg, Bangkok… Havana… Cartagena, etc. But the thing about countries with legalized prostitution is that horrible abuses occur anyway, all the time.
Mrs. Holguin is right…men will be found wherever there is prostitution. It’s a given, since Eve was made from Adam’s rib, that “Mas jala un pelo de cuca que una yunta de bueyes”.
But she’s really overdoing the outraged Colombian womanhood act. She’s a very intelligent woman and likely has a very good idea about the realities of Colombia’s legalized sex trade.
It’s a dark business, distasteful, uncultured, cruel, preying on women and young people…but it’s legal – just don’t bring it into the daylight.
But in countries where prostitution is fully or quasi-legal (i.e. tolerated officially) all sorts of people sell sex including women and men, gays and lesbians, transvestites and transgendered hookers, and even minors. Colombia is no exception.
(Note, also, that in different countries and cultures the age at which minors legally transition to ‘adults’ can vary from 15 to 18.)
Ambassador Silva and Foreign Minister Holguin are being gobshites because they’re embarrassed. They’re socially conservative, very educated and wonderful human beings I’m sure, but Colombians understandably tend to be very sensitive about how they’re perceived around the world.
After all, what’s the first thought that most people used to have when they hear the word “Colombia”? “Cocaine, running all around my brain…” The song Cocaine Blues has been in the world’s musical ether since before 1905.
Colombia’s image is so much better now than it was as recently as the 1990s. My Colombian wife says that we can thank Hugo Chavez for that. She may have a point.
Hookers and clients have disagreements all the time. In countries where it’s legal to sell sex the local authorities maintain public order, theoretically protecting everyone, hookers and johns. Cartagena’s cops, many of whom double as bouncers in red zone clubs, deal with hooker-client problems with some frequency. Check a month’s worth of Cartagena police incident reports in the city’s designated red zones.
People get hammered, make stupid decisions and then refuse to pay the piper all the time. Except this time the transgressor was the Secret Service pootie tang wannabe – no joda, it had to be a gringo making Cartagena look bad.
My Colombian dad-in-law says that I’m too gringo to understand why Ambassador Silva is being a gobshite. “If not for you gringos, we wouldn’t be the world’s purveyors of cocaine, and the Panama Canal would belong to Colombia today instead of the Chinese,” he explained. Well, yeah….
Supreme Court Justice Eladio Aponte knew that his hugely profitable run as the Bolivarian regime’s chief narco-judge was nearing a possibly fatal end the moment he learned that Cliver Alcala planted several hundred kilograms of very diluted cocaine on a property leased by Walid Makled.
Until the cocaine was “found” in a staged counterdrug raid on the property, Makled and Aponte were good friends and associates in Makled’s drug trafficking business.
Makled claims that he was writing Aponte checks for Bs300 million per month. Makled claims that he also made huge monthly payments to former Carabobo Governor Acosta Carles, and a couple dozen more generals and senior regime officials.
Aponte also was the president of the Supreme Court’s Criminal (Penal) bench, where – by his own taped admission – he fixed and rigged cases in accordance with instructions that he received from Chavez and other top government officials.
Aponte was squarely in the middle of a lot of criminal and unconstitutional activities in which President Chavez and many of his top military and civilian associates were involved directly. He was also too close personally to Makled.
After the cocaine was found and Makled fled the country, Aponte started thinking hard about Plan B – bailing out of the narco-revolution alive and free – with his family, of course.
Aponte had money, thanks to Makled, among others. He had a valid passport. But Aponte did not have any political capital, no leverage, no actionable intelligence that he could offer in exchange for a deal.
Aponte quietly started to accumulate that capital, copying documents, downloading files, and gradually building a large data base of specific unconstitutional and criminal acts committed by Chavez and his top associates.
About one year ago, Aponte also traveled to meet with DEA and FBI officials in a nearby country. The meeting was arranged by a Venezuelan citizen, and ‘nuff said for security reasons.
Aponte showed the FBI and DEA a small taste of the intelligence he could offer, in exchange for a good deal.
The gringos were impressed, but apparently they did not immediately see the larger picture, did not fully understand the implications of what Aponte was saying.
US law enforcement agencies live and operate in separate worlds, with their own cultures, missions and priorities. The DEA pursues drug traffickers, the FBI looks for terrorists, the Treasury Department goes after money launderers. Besides, the DEA and FBI officials who met with Aponte were not senior enough to offer any deals.
A deal like the one Aponte was seeking has to be kicked upstairs in DC and shopped at the right agencies – Justice, State, NSC, even possibly the White House. Aponte was seeking freedom, safety and even immunity from prosecution in exchange for a large trove of documents showing that the Chavez regime is an ongoing international criminal enterprise. Thank you, Judge Aponte. We’ll be in touch with you again very soon.
Aponte returned to Caracas, continued building his data base, and waited for the other shoe to fall in the Makled case. There was no reason to flee, and the gringos hadn’t gotten back in touch with Aponte. Almost a year passed, and then the regime turned on Aponte.
Aponte’s sin: He signed an official security credential for Makled. The regime turned against Aponte, ordering his removal from the Supreme Court and “inviting”him to appear for a political interrogation – and, no doubt, a chavista-led lynching – by the National Assembly. After that, Aponte knew, would come extended incarceration, followed by a fabricated trial and lengthy prison sentence based on instructions that judges receive from Chavez and the Bolivarian judicial committee that meets secretly every Friday in Vice President Elias Jaua’s office. And this was the good scenario.
The bad scenario: Aponte would be killed. He was a weak link, someone who followed orders, but never a top insider, never one of the hardmen. But Aponte was a direct link between the chief gangsters at the top and Makled; he’s a veritable Pandora’s jar of information that could put a lot of people in jail or on the lam.
Aponte fled from Venezuela to Curacao by small craft. General Garcia Carneiro helped see him off – the two are friends. But the Netherland Antilles are teeming with Venezuelan and Cuban agents, so Aponte fled to Central America. He spent a week in hiding in a private home in Costa Rica, where the SOiTV interview was taped. Aponte was aided by the same Venezuelan who a year earlier had arranged the meeting with the FBI and DEA officials. Now the Venezuelan reached out again to the DEA, which agreed to send someone to Costa Rica to debrief Aponte.
Aponte wanted safe conduct to the US. But the DEA wanted to leave Aponte in Costa Rica and continue debriefing him there. A trip to the US was assured, but in a few days, not immediately. Arranging these things takes time, Aponte apparently was told. At this point the State Department finally intervened after being alerted to what was unfolding in Costa Rica, where the presence of what appeared to be Venezuelan and Cuban security operatives had been detected in San Jose.
State ordered DEA to get Aponte out of Costa Rica immediately. He was flown out after 2 AM for security reasons aboard a DEA aircraft to Puerto Rico; from there Aponte took a commercial flight to mainland US, accompanied by DEA. Reports in Caracas this week that Aponte was taken to the US via Puerto Rico by Martin Rodil are cowflop. Some alleged Twitters from Roger Noriega urging his followers to send queries to Aponte via different e-mail addresses also were cowflop. Noriega and his Venezuelan associates have not had any direct contact at all with Aponte.
It remains to be seen what – if anything – could happen next. I don’t expect the US government to act quickly against the gangsters fingered by Aponte, but quien sabe…maybe the gringos will surprise us, for a change. With Chavez clearly nearer to the end of his ride as master of the Bolivarian hacienda called Venezuela, anything could and likely will happen in Venezuela long before the gringos move to indict senior chavista gangsters in the US.
Of course, it’s possible that if Henrique Capriles Radonsky becomes Venezuela’s next president that Aponte’s files could be used by Venezuela’s judicial system to prosecute the chavista gangsters. No, I’m not joking, but I concede that it’s very unlikely this would happen, given the likely coming chaos in the country’s judicial system when Chavez finally goes down for the count.
Some folks in Washington are “fumando lumpias.”
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, interviewed by Radio Iowa, thinks that Russian spies disguised as Colombian nocturnal “escorts” in Cartagena could have entrapped the 24 charter members of the Pootie Tang Fan Club chapters at the Secret Service and DoD.
“We’re looking at something that is very, very serious when national security might not be protected properly. Who knows who might be using prostitutes? The Russians are famous for that to get information out of us,” Grassley told Radio Iowa.
The 12 Secret Service agents and 12 military personnel are accused of bringing prostitutes back to their hotel before President Barack Obama’s trip to Cartagena, Colombia, earlier this month.
But this is less about prostitution than the president’s safety, Grassley added.
Come again? El senador esta fumando una lumpia.
Give a poor Cartagena working girl a break, sir.
This is about the Pootie Tang wannabe – y’know, the still unidentified secret service agent who after apparently consuming copious quantities of alcohol hired an escort to spend the rest of the night in his hotel room, which probably cost US taxpayers at least $300 a night.
The morning after, Pootie Tang wannabe tried to shortchange his shortlived “girlfriend” by offering her $47 instead of the $850 fee that had been agreed to before she left the nightclub with her new gringo friend.
Was it Pootie Tang’s own money, or part of the per diem advance US government officials get when they travel abroad on official business? If the latter, it was taxpayer money.
The offended lady, who later told some reporters that her $850 fee for an overnight “revuelco” with the now-he’s-not-so-nice gringo makes her a high-end escort and not a hooker, stood her ground.
“Dame mi dinero,” she said, loudly and insistently enough that hotel management and the Colombian police were quickly involved.
Then someone had the bright idea of calling the US Embassy to report that Pootie Tang was shortchanging a working girl and, y’know, that’s illegal in Colombia.
Prostitution is legal and regulated in Colombia, confined to certain areas and businesses, and also taxed by the government. Taxpayers have rights in Colombia.
“Dame mi dinero,” the young lady said.
In the end, Ms Dania Suarez only was paid $225 or 26.4% of the previously agreed fee for mutually consensual sex.
What cheap, “Ugly American” behavior. What a dumbass.
Of the 12 Secret Service agents involved in the scandal, 6 have resigned, 2 are being fired, 3 have been cleared of serious wrongdoing, and 1 has retired.
Investigations against 12 military personnel continue. By the time everything is wrapped up officially, some bean counters in DC think that US taxpayers could be in the hole for at least $2 million in investigation-related costs thanks to Pootie Tang in Cartagena.
But it could get worse. Some of the Secret Service agents that were fired or resigned reportedly are having second thoughts and plan to sue to get their jobs back. More costs borne by taxpayers.
Meanwhile, Dania Suarez reportedly is in hiding in fear that the wannabe Pootie Tang’s gringo friends now want to kill her.
The real Pootie Tang would say, “I gots to say na nay no.”
Updated on 26 April:
The US Secret Service, FBI, DEA, Marine Corps and embassies apparently facilitate/tolerate/turn an official blind eye to the regular deployment of Pootie Tang fan club members everywhere in Latin America – presumably all at US taxpayer expense.
In El Salvador:
Following are several paragraphs from Chis HAlsne’s report for KIROTV:
“Seattle-based Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne (KIROTV- CBS- COX MEDIA GROUP) just returned from El Salvador, where he interviewed a U.S. government subcontractor who worked extensively with the Secret Service advance team (snipers, K-9 and explosives sweeps) in San Salvador prior to President Obama’s trip there in March of 2011.”
“The eyewitness says he joined about a dozen Secret Service agents and a few U.S. military specialists at a strip club in San Salvador a few days before President Obama and his family arrived in El Salvador to meet with its new president, Mauricio Funes.”
“This source witnessed the majority of the men drink heavily (“wasted,” “heavily intoxicated”) at the strip club. He says most of the Secret Service “advance-team” members also paid extra for access to the VIP section of the club where they were provided a number of sexual favors in return for their cash. Although our source says he told the agents it was a “really bad idea” to take the strippers back to their hotel rooms, several agents bragged that they “did this all the time” and “not to worry about it.” Our source says at least two agents had escorts check into their rooms. It is unclear whether the escorts who returned to the hotels were some of the strippers from the same club.”
In Brazil…(Caracas Gringo is told by Brazilian news sources that the argument described below happened as a result of a “misunderstanding” about gender.)
From the Daily Mail article:
“American marines injured a Brazilian prostitute after throwing her out of an official Embassy car, it was reported today. Romilda Ferreira was left with a broken collar bone, two broken ribs and a punctured lung after the incident in Brazil’s capital Brasilia. The three marines on a U.S. Embassy security team, and an Embassy staff member, were pulled out of the country before police were able to press charges, according to Brazil’s Jornal Nacional programme.”
“This latest incident, which happened in November last year, came to light after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in Brazil during a Latin American tour, was questioned about it by a Brazilian reporter during a press conference. According to a Brazilian police investigation, the four U.S. Embassy officials had visited a nightclub in the centre of Brasilia where they had hired a group of prostitutes.”
“Police investigating the incident requested the arrest of the driver of the van and one of the marines for bodily injury and failure to rescue. But U.S. authorities removed the four men – three Marines and a US Embassy staff member – from the country before they could be charged with the crimes.” (Caracas Gringo’s comment: In Brazil and the US this is called cover up, felony flight from law enforcement, and obstruction of justice, but the perpetrators had diplomatic immunity.)
“One of the Americans and at least one woman left the club by taxi, but Ms Ferreira and another woman got into an official U.S. Embassy van with the other three men. As they pulled away there was a discussion about how much the women were to be paid, and one of the marines pushed Ms Ferreira out of the car, where she ended up being run over by the vehicle. Speaking to the Jornal Nacional news programme, Romilda said she tried to hold on to the door but was dragged under the wheels. She said: ‘I tried to get up and grabbed the doorknob. That was when they told the driver to go. Then I felt my leg burning. I let go and fell underneath the van. I hit my head and passed out.’ Ms. Ferreira, who is still recovering from her injuries, reportedly is now suing the US federal government” (i.e. US taxpayers).
After nine days MIA – missing in action – in Havana, President Hugo Chavez finally surfaced in photographs and video.
Chavez’s re-appearance was staged, but the Cubazuelan production crew couldn’t hide the visible signs of his failing health.
Watch the video carefully.
Chavez is wearing thick pancake, so much that there’s zero perspiration on his face. Look at brother Adan’s face at the start of the video as he jokes with Hugo. Adan’s face and forehead shine, sunlight reflecting off humid skin; but the president’s face is dry except for a small spot high on his forehead near the hairline.
Chavez walks slowly and unsteadily; he tries to toss the bolas with some force but his aim is off – unusually clumsy for a man who has played baseball all his life.
In the video he also appears to favor his left side, at one point holding his left arm against his left side/abdominal area as he leans or bends slightly; a sharp flash of pain, perhaps? He also bends over very slightly and is visibly stiff.
The president’s torso appears thicker around the middle, but his hands appear thinner and his legs look spindly in the video. Weight gain or abdominal distension caused by the painkillers, radiation and other treatment that Chavez is receiving?
Chavez’s face looks very puffy in the video, which was shot at a greater distance from the president than previous videos made in Havana earlier this year. The puffiness and pancake is more obvious in the photographs.
Chavez and gang want the general public to believe he’s coming back soon in fine fettle. In fact, Chavez announced a 48-hour commute to Caracas within days, presumably to decree the new Organic Labor Law and inflict more harm on Venezuela as he tries to spend his way to re-election.
But Nelson Bocaranda reported this week that Chavez was given the definitive bad news in Havana last Saturday. Separately, Dr. Marquina reported that Chavez is now walking with a cane and suffers severe hip pain because the cancer has metastasized into his hip bones and he suffered burns from radiation bombardments improperly applied by the Cuban doctors.
Dr. Marquina also said a month ago that with proper treatment in the US or Brazil, and complete rest Chavez might live until next April. But if Chavez doesn’t do the sensible and prudent thing, he could be felled by his cancer well before the 7 October presidential elections.
However, Chavez reportedly is determined to die with his boots on. It’s not his nature to act sensibly or prudently.
The president’s will to slog forward with his campaign to the bitter end means that Venezuela could be plunged into political and social turmoil this year.
Chavez has been giving Fidel Castro up to 100,000 b/d of crude oil for almost a decade. He gives the Cuban regime about $5 billion a year in oil, cash and other goodies – all paid for by the Venezuelan people. Chavez also gave the Cuban regime full access to Venezuela’s passport and identification entity (Onidex), the civil and mercantile registries, the armed forces and intelligence services, Pdvsa and other state-owned enterprises, key ministries and government entities…
…in short, Chavez gave Fidel the whole Venezuelan enchilada, and what did Chavez receive in return?
Cuba’s doctors helped the cancer kill Chavez even faster.
What a letdown for Chavez.
My gringo attorney friends say that Chavez, clearly, is the victim of major medical malpractice.
In the US or even Brazil, the Chavez family would have a good shot at winning a huge medical malpractice suit against the doctors that botched the president’s initial diagnosis, surgeries, post-operative treatment, using the wrong chemo, etc.
Of course, if Chavez had sought treatment instead in the US or Brazil, he likely would have received the correct medical treatment and possibly his life would have been saved, or at least prolonged for years.
But Chavez, always driven by deep-seated paranoia, placed his life in the hands of Cuba’s revolutionary medical establishment.
Now the Chavez family can’t sue Cuba’s revolutionary CIMEQ and the Cuban doctors for killing him more quickly because the revolution doesn’t allow malpractice lawsuits, especially against the state.
But Chavez – that is, Venezuelan taxpayers – still reportedly must pay the Cuban regime over $200,000 a day to cover the costs associated with his treatment plus meals, lodging, retinue, etc.
(This post is an update to an earlier article titled “Dime con quien andas” that was posted on 9 February 2012)
The day after Miami-based SOiTV (and Globovision) broadcast SOiTV’s exclusive interview with former Supreme Court Justice Eladio Aponte Aponte (see link below), several US congressional staffers were informed by former US Assistant Secretary State for Latin America Roger Noriega that Venezuelan banker Eligio Cedeno is being investigated by the DEA .
I learned about this when a congressional source I’ve known personally since the mid-1990s contacted me to ask if I thought that Noriega’s allegation about Cedeno could be true. I blogged a bit about the crooked Bolibourgeois bankers in 2009, and this source wondered if I knew more than I blogged about. Nope, I replied. But during that communication, I also learned for the first time that Cedeno apparently owns, or is the primary financier, of SOiTV.
For the record: I did some consulting work in Venezuela for Cedeno, for a trio of his US attorneys, while he was jailed in 2009. Judge Afiuni freed him during the course of my work, and as a result the attorneys declined to pay me as agreed. I have never been paid a penny by Cedeno or anyone associated with him for anything except to reimburse my time and travel expenses on the one occasion that I met with his lawyers in October 2009. I have never met Cedeno personally and never have had any contact with him at all.
The chat with my old congressional source piqued my interest.
Go figure: The day immediately after SOiTV airs an interview, in which the Chavez regime’s top narco-judge accuses his former criminal associates of drug trafficking and unconstitutionally abusing judicial due process, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America personally informs US congressional staffers that SOiTV’s owner/financier is being investigated for alleged drug trafficking by the DEA?
I don’t believe in accidental coincidences when it involves Cubazuela politicking in Venezuela, Miami or Washington, DC.
The timing and topic of Noriega’s communication with the congressional staffers was… very odd, I thought.
So I decided to dig around a bit, call some people, fish on line, find out what Cedeno has been up to. I also reached out indirectly to contacts inside the DEA and US Attorney’s office in Miami.
I confirmed that Noriega did, in fact, communicate with congressional staffers to inform them that the DEA is investigating Cedeno.
The DEA, as always, officially declines to confirm or deny anything, but unofficially I learned that Cedeno is not a “person of interest” to the DEA.
The US Attorney’s office in Miami is not investigating Cedeno either and has no knowledge of any investigation against Cedeno anywhere in the US.
Based on what I learned, I wrote a draft post that was titled “Roger Noriega, Castro’s Dupe?” and e-mailed the draft to two individuals for their feedback, criticism, suggestions, etc. I didn’t expect to post that first draft.
Yeah, I know…e-mail…duh…my bad.
The morning of the following day, 20 April, I already had decided to discard that first draft completely and write a wholly different article, when I received the following e-mail from Noriega:
“Your piece is filled with slanderous lies. I have know (sic) idea what your motives are, and I don’t care. But I am putting you on notice that several specific statements you make about me and my associates are absolute falsehoods. I am prepared to explain them to you or your representative. That said, If (sic) you proceed to publish this commentary, you will be doing it with malicious intent. Roger Noriega”
My reply follows:
I haven’t published anything, so I have no idea what ‘slanderous lies’ you make reference to. I’m working on a couple of articles about Aponte Aponte and I was told by several people about your calls yesterday saying that Cedeno is being investigated by DEA based on information obtained from Aponte Aponte. Odd, considering that Cedeno was granted political asylum by a US immigration judge after a trial. You’ve also shared directly with me your opinions about certain individuals in a recent telephone conversation. What falsehoods, specifically, have I said about you? Please list them here, in writing. But always am happy to chat with you.”
No response, so I sent a follow-up e-mail:
This is my second offer in writing, in less than 24 hours, inviting you to clarify in writing precisely what ‘slanderous lies’ and ‘absolute falsehoods’ that I allegedly have written in an article that has not been published anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, I have confirmed the particulars of some phone calls that you made to people in Congress. I’d like to know, as would my readers, why you are making clandestine allegations against a third party without any official govt evidence to substantiate what you’re alleging. If you choose not to reply I’ll take that as meaning that you do not dispute that you made phone calls to communicate ubsubstantiated (sic) allegations against third parties. Look forward to hearing from you.”
On 21 April, finally, Noriega replied:
“I am not confirming anything in your piece. And I will not have any further direct contact with you…(redacted)… As for my private conversations with Congressional staff on this subject, I have shared and will share our email exchange with them so they can fully understand your malicious intent in spreading slanderous falsehoods about my associates and me, and so that they know that you are working with (redacted) who is acting as an agent of Mr. Cedeno. Roger Noriega”
Redacted has explicitly said that I cannot mention him by name. But for the record, Redacted is one of over a dozen people that I spoke with about this issue, and neither he nor anyone else asked me to write anything.
Several, in fact, including Redacted, said “let it go…” which I was inclined to do until Noriega sent me that first menacing e-mail. Noriega also forwarded the draft of my unpublished article to a group of congressional staffers who otherwise never would have known of its existence.
I wrote the original unpublished draft because, frankly, it intrigues me that Noriega, a former US Assistant Secretary of State but now only a private citizen, is using his access to Capitol Hill to clandestinely make very serious allegations against a Venezuelan who resides legally in the US – allegations that subsequently are refuted unofficially by the DEA and by the US Attorney’s office in Miami.
Let’s be clear: In the US, alleging that someone is a drug trafficker is a very serious thing. But in the specific case of the US Congress, congressional staffers will never meet knowingly with someone who they suspect is under US investigation for drug trafficking. Noriega’s act of communicating to congressional staffers that Cedeno is being investigated for drug trafficking, when in fact that is not the case, potentially can have a very grave impact on Cedeno as a legal resident of the US and as a businessman. Worse, still, is that Noriega’s allegation against Cedeno is reinforced implicitly among congressional staffers who probably know little/nothing about Cedeno by his status as a former US Assistant Secretary of State and US Ambassador to the OAS.
But this isn’t the first time in recent years that Noriega has been the originating source of verifiably inaccurate information about the Chavez regime.
Over the past several years Noriega, who runs a private group in Washington, DC called Vision Americas, has reached out pro-actively to legislators, policy makers and news media offering “intelligence” about President Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian regime’s alleged terrorist associations with Iran.
Noriega also has been a frequent source of allegedly insider information about Chavez’s health since before the Venezuelan leader was operated for cancer in Havana last June.
Much of the information that Noriega disseminates has been accurate. But some of it is verifiably inaccurate and even has been refuted officially by the US government.
Following are two examples of specific claims that were made originally by Noriega, both refuted:
One, Noriega was the primary source of the information used by a German news media about two years ago that claimed that the Iranians were building a secret missile base on the Paraguana Peninsula capable of hitting Miami and points north.
About the same time, Noriega testified at a congressional hearing that intelligence sources believed that the Iranians were building a missile base in Paraguana capable of hitting the US mainland.
The State Department was asked by alarmed legislators to send someone to appear before their committee to confirm or deny Noriega’s allegations.
Kevin Whittaker, currently the deputy assistant secretary of state for South America, testified in a closed-door hearing that the US government could not corroborate the claim.
For the uninitiated into Washington diplo-speak, Whittaker’s response was State’s appropriately polite way of saying that Noriega could not be more mistaken.
Two, earlier this year Noriega penned an op-ed in which he said that Chavez was taking cocaine for his cancer. That allegation also was refuted.
Noriega insists that his information about Chavez is 100% accurate, but he won’t – or can’t – prove his claims to skeptics, even when pressed privately.
Where does Noriega obtain his information about Chavez?
“I have good sources high up in the Chavez government,” Noriega says.
I’m told that Noriega’s primary information supplier is Martin Rodil, a Venezuelan who lives in the DC area and whose curriculum contains exaggerations with respect to his past professional activities.
Rodil has been overheard repeatedly by different sources in DC claiming that he can “get any document that you want” from inside the Chavez regime.
Before Rodil joined Noriega’s operation, he was briefly associated with Norman Bailey, but the partnership ended acrimoniously in a US court with Bailey accusing Rodil of theft. The court records were sealed after an Israeli friend of Rodil’s persuaded the judge that the records must be sealed for “US national security reasons.”
I’m also told that Rodil is associated with Esteban Gerbasi, a Venezuelan citizen who is actively involved with Rodil in obtaining information that Noriega subsequently disseminates, according to several accounts.
Some people that I know personally in DC have asked Noriega privately about some of his claims about the Chavez regime; a few have challenged the accuracy of allegations like the alleged secret Iranian missile base that turned out to be bogus.
Noriega becomes furious when his claims are challenged by others directly or indirectly, and speaks very disparagingly about some of the people who have refuted his wilder allegations about the Chavez regime.
For example, during a telephone conversation with me earlier this year, Noriega disparaged Whittaker, the State Department official who told Senators Menendez (Democrat) and Rubio (Republican) that Noriega’s claims about the alleged Iranian missile base could not be corroborated by the US government.
In the unpublished draft that so enraged Noriega, I said:
“I suspect that Fidel Castro’s intelligence services, which have romped freely in Washington, DC for the past half-century, could be playing former US Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega to disseminate disinformation about the Chavez regime. I don’t have any smoking gun evidence to support my suspicions that Noriega unwittingly is being played by the Castro regime’s G-2 spymasters – just a powerful gut instinct that springs from almost 40 years of personal experience at the margins of Venezuelan politics.”
The above is one of three theories, which may or may not overlap.
Theory 1: The Cubazuela intelligence/counterintelligence machine is feeding Rodil and Gerbasi a mix of accurate and false intelligence that is then supplied to Noriega, who disseminates the material with the explicit imprimatur of his status as a former Assistant Secretary of State and OAS Ambassador. Noriega is the unwitting conduit for this mix of real and false “intelligence.” Rodil and Gerbasi, described by someone who knows them as “clueless,” also are being played by the Cubazuela counter-intelligence machine. The disinformation likely has different purposes: 1) distract US attention from other issues in Venezuela , 2) confuse US policymakers (most congressional staffers and their bosses are not well-versed in Latin American issues), 3) set up future opportunities to discredit the US government. If Cedeno can be discredited in the US and Venezuela by a former senior official like Noriega, then possibly Aponte Aponte’s credibility also can be shot down in the US Congress, where US legislators who care about the situation in Venezuela might be persuaded that Aponte is a congenital liar; but Noriega doesn’t know he’s being played.
Theory 2: Someone involved financially or operationally with the Venezuelan component of Noriega’s Vision Americas operation possibly has a grudge against Cedeno. Anyone who has spent serious time in-country in Venezuela knows that the country’s banking system is hugely corrupt – before and since Chavez. There are a handful of good banks managed professionally by men and women of great integrity and honesty. But generally, Venezuelan bankers are a scurrilous pack of scoundrels. Cedeno made a lot of money in banking and likely stepped on toes whilst climbing fortune’s ladder. It’s plausible that someone with a direct or indirect stake in the Venezuelan components of Vision Americas are using Noriega, again unwittingly, to disseminate disinformation calculated to make Cedeno appear to be involved in drug trafficking – even if by extension that meme also discredits Aponte Aponte.
Theory 3: Noriega is ambitious, impulsive, but also a bit naïve, considering that he apparently accepts the information he receives via Rodil as 100% genuine. Washington is an intoxicating – and too often also toxic – place to work. The notorious “revolving door” permits former government officials to leverage the contacts made whilst in government to earn a living as private consultants and lobbyists, always eyeing possible future job opportunities in the next administration. When Latin American moneyed types and governments are seeking influence in Washington, DC, they tend to seek out former highly-placed government officials-turned-consultants/lobbyists (i.e. political access merchants). But Latin America generally is small potatoes with both political parties, and the competition for consulting/lobbying contracts and government posts involving Latin America is fierce. To be taken into account by the big dawgs in DC’s politics, one must stand apart from the rest of the crowd. Yet at the same time, the “pool” of Latin America expertise – and particularly Venezuela expertise – tends to be very small and decidedly too partisan in some quarters. Visualize Moses parting the waters in a turtle bowl. Maybe it’s just a case of trying too hard to stand out above the rest.
Me sainted Irish grandmother, God rest her soul, would have said, “Meshuggah!”
Two retired Army officers, one a general and the other a captain, have been murdered in less than a month.
Both generals reputedly were longtime friends/associates of President Hugo Chavez and both participated in his 1992 failed coup attempt – although only one was eventually implicated directly in the failed coup.
One killing was drug-related, and one was a revenge killing, my friends in the Army report.
Retired Army brigadier general Wilmer Moreno, 57, former deputy director of military intelligence, commander of the Merida barracks and senior regional PSUV party leader in Anzoategui, was gunned down in Puerto La Cruz a couple of days ago.
Moreno suffered at least five gunshot wounds but was not immediately killed, the preliminary police report says.
Independent eyewitnesses say that Moreno’s life might have been saved if the clinic at Lechería where he was transported had not denied medical treatment for over 45 minutes while awaiting an authorization code from the wounded general’s insurance company.
Moreno’s killers were pros: Two males in a black Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer with dark-tinted windows intercepted Moreno at the entrance to a residential parking garage.
One of the Explorer’s occupants walked up to the general and asked, “Are you Wilmer Moreno?”
When the general replied yes, the gunman immediately opened fire. The second gunman then exited the SUV, also firing at Moreno.
Sebin and CICPC are investigating Moreno’s murder, but officially there are no suspects yet.
But my Army sources report that Moreno’s murder likely was drug-related. Moreno was under suspicion within the Defense Ministry of having “negocios” that involved drug traffickers and drug-related money.
Former Apure state governor and retired Army captain Jesús Alberto Aguilarte Gamez was killed at when he was shot several times at a fast food restaurant in Maracay that is located on Avenida Delicias.
Aguilarte was shot in the face, thorax and abdomen, but did not die immediately. He was operated twice and reportedly one leg was amputated before he died several days later.
At least five persons have been arrested, including the alleged triggerman.
The CICPC and Sebin have been very tightlipped about the motives of the killers, and with good reason.
Aguilarte’s was a revenge killing – payback by members of one family in Apure that suffered alleged atrocities that Aguilarte allegedly orchestrated while he was the governor of Apure.
“Aguilarte for apparently personal reasons had several persons killed and their corpses dismembered while he was governor,” my Army sources say, adding that “some body parts were found after it happened.”
Aguilarte always was suspected of being the intellectual author, but nothing could ever be proven, and he was protected because of his old personal friendship with President Chavez. “The surviving relatives of several of Aguilarte’s victims finally settled the score,” my army source adds.
Eladio Aponte is making a deal with the US authorities.
The former Supreme Court Justice, former chief of the Supreme Court’s Penal Court, coronel in the Bolivarian army of Venezuela, a high-ranking insider privy to many of the Chavez regime’s blackest secrets and practices currently is being debriefed in the US by the DEA, Homeland Security, and other US federal law enforcement and anti-terrorism entities, according to published reports.
In an interview broadcast this week by Miami-based SOiTV, which is funded by exiled Venezuelan banker Eligio Cedeno, Aponte accused Vice President Elias Jaua, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, Attorney General Luis Ortega Diaz, Supreme Court chief justice Luis Estella Morales and other senior Chavez regime officials of holding weekly meetings in Miraflores to rig judicial proceedings according to the president’s dictates.
Aponte also said that while he served as a Supreme Court justice he received calls from President Chavez, current Defense Minister Henry Rangel Silva and former Disip chief “ El Pollo” Carvajal, who reportedly is now in Havana, with instructions on how to rule in cases before the high court.
But that’s just the tip of Aponte’s unfolding memoirs.
Aponte also was THE Supreme Court justice who explicitly looked after the interests of the narco-generals and civilian drug traffickers like Walid Makled.
During the SOiTV interview, Aponte downplayed his own criminal responsibility in the growth of the narco-state that prospers parasitically inside the bowels of the Bolivarian regime and armed forces.
But Aponte spent years in the middle of the Bolivarian military narco-corruption and systemic judicial abuses perpetrated at the explicit direction of President Chavez.
Eladio Aponte could speed up the downfall of the Bolivarian narco-regime like Abe ‘Kid Twist’ Reles accelerated the end of the Brownsville Boys aka Murder Inc. in the 1940s, with one big difference.
Eladio likely won’t be silenced by flying out of a high-rise window like ‘Kid Twist’ Reles.
The US has him, and Aponte is talking.
Aponte reportedly fled with many boxes of files and documents showing where beaucoup bodies are buried.
Aponte reportedly can tie President Chavez and many of his top associates, like Cabello and General Cliver Alcala, directly to drug trafficking and other criminal enterprises.
It’s also reported that before Aponte fled Costa Rica aboard a DEA aircraft, under US protection, that a group of Cuban G2 operatives and Venezuelan army personnel tried to locate and abduct Aponte back to Venezuela – if not kill him in Costa Rica.
The tale of Aponte’s escape from Costa Rica with Cuban and Venezuelan intelligence personnel at his heels sounds incredible, except for the fact that two generals and longtime Chavez associates were assassinated by gunmen in the past month, including one this week.
My sources in the Army suspect that the orders to assassinate generals Aguilarte and Moreno may have come from very high up in the regime, possibly from Cabello. They expect that more generals could be murdered soon.
“They’re cleaning house, eliminating the weakest links with the most damning evidence against everyone else,” the colonel speculates.
The Chavez regime is hugely spooked by Aponte’s escape from Venezuela and his defection to the US. There’s no telling what Aponte will say, much he can prove with documents, and which senior regime figures it could affect in terms of future US federal indictments.
Chavez was able to get Walid Makled back in Venezuela, and currently is trying him in secrecy. But Aponte got away, and the US won’t return the former Supreme Court narco-judge to Chavez.
The senior chavistas most likely to be affected by Aponte’s information were the first to denounce his allegations as a US conspiracy, including Diosdado Cabello, General Cliver Alcala, Elias Jaua, PSUV deputy Pedro Carreno, Attorney General Luisa Ortega, and Interior/Justice Minister Tarek al-Assaimi.
Yesterday AG prosecutor Daisy Bolívar formally gave Interpol’s Caracas office an arrest warrant against Aponte, with a formal request for his inclusion on Interpol’s global red alert wanted list of international fugitives.
However, as of today Aponte has not been charged formally with any crimes, and there are no active police or judicial criminal investigations under way against Aponte anywhere in Venezuela.