Caracas Gringo Returns Soon

We’ve been on extended sabbatical since mid-2014, but expect to return soon at a new online address with a broader view of things Venezuela-centric and beyond. Stay tuned.

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Dirtbag Derwick’s New Shill

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Hans Hertell, Boricua, former US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic (2001-07), attorney (of course), former banker in Puerto Rico, longtime pal of infamously notorious Cuban-Venezuelan dirtbags that own properties in La Romana and Miami. You’ll be reading a lot more about him soon in another blog, methinks. Sadly, another example of former US President George W. Bush’s congenitally bad judgment

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Simon says….

bolivar

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Hugo Carvajal, Friend of the FARC…

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…and associate of 6to Poder’s Leocenis Garcia.

Hey Gringo, a reader opines.

You might be on the right track about why Hugo “El Pollo” Carvajal and 6to Poder’s publisher, Leocenis Garcia, became associates while Garcia was jailed in Carvajal’s dungeonsin Boleita.

Perhaps the two indeed became partners in extortion, as you suggested. “El Pollo” certainly has dirt on practically everyone, and Leocenis owns a media group he can hammer anyone with – except the regime, of course. “El Pollo” can feed Garcia incriminating intelligence to the 6to Poder publisher, who can in-turn spin intelligence into scandalous, embarrassing and legally incriminating investigative exposes. “El Pollo” can then supply the muscle to ensure big cash payoffs are made to avert potential scandals and criminal prosecutions. But have you considered an alternative?

Perhaps “El Pollo” hired Leocenis Garcia for some reputational rehabilitation in Venezuela? I’m told by my pals in Miami, Gringo, that Carvajal paid former CIA spook Frank Holder a lot of cash to repair his image with the US, but that turned out to be a waste of money. Now, Carvajal knows he’ll be arrested the instant he touches US soil. So maybe “El Pollo” hired Leocenis Garcia ‘pro bono’ to repair his reputation in Venezuela, as part of whatever deal 6to Poder’s owner made with the Bolivarian beast to get sprung from prison and all his seized assets restored.

If “El Pollo” has nowhere to go, it behooves him to burnish his black image and remind the ruling minority, presently carving up the country amongst themselves, that he was a key, trusted adviser to late President Hugo Chavez. After all, – “El Pollo” is the man who saved Chavez from 20 coups, remember?

Your alternative theory might be accurate, esteemed reader, but it’s difficult to believe that there’s anything benign in this strange partnership of a gangster general with longtime direct links to the FARC in Colombia and a demonstrably corrupt journo. Carvajal was officially designated a FARC collaborator by the US Treasury in 2008, but he was already a full-time narco-gangster in 2000.

He has been directly linked to a laundry list of crimes that include: contract assassination, abduction for ransom, extortion, drug trafficking and “executive protection” of drug traffickers and drug shipments, and those are just the FARC-related crimes.

Carvajal’s crew of rogue government intelligence officials have also been implicated in the 2008 assassination of Pierre Gerges–brother of Reporte Diario de la Economia published Tannous “Tony” Gerges. As well as with the abduction of two well-known Venezuelan bankers several years ago.

No amount of reputational rehabilitation in 6to Poder can ever persuade the Venezuelan public that Carvajal is just a widely misunderstood and unfairly maligned loyal soldier of the revolution. His public record already presents a much too rich and murderous trove of criminal enterprise. I do believe that Hugo “El Pollo” Carvajal and Leocenis Garcia have become partners in nefarious enterprises, and it’s only a matter of time before their unholy dealings come to light. Criminal impulses course through this duo’s arteries with every heartbeat, and eventually these urges will rise to the surface, like gas bubbles floating to the surface of an open cesspool. But don’t take this Gringo’s word for it, simply going through “El Pollo’s” rap sheet should be enough to tell you that.

Carvajal has been actively collaborating with the FARC since at least the mid-1990s. Trafficking drugs with the FARC, protecting FARC drug transshipments, protecting FARC militants in Venezuelan territory, smuggling weapons, munitions, and explosives to and from Venezuelan territory to the FARC in Colombia, have all been part of “El Pollo’s” rich narco-gangster history. All of it facilitated by “El Pollo’s” close ties to El Comandante, himself. When Chavez was first elected president of the Venezuela at end-1998, he brought Carvajal into the new Bolivarian regime as a trusted collaborator and black ops specialist who carried out missions assigned by Chavez. Carvajal’s status as Chavez’s personal 007 also gave the FARC a strategically key point of direct access to Chavez, who already had met with the FARC leadership in Colombia in the mid-1990s.

No one even remotely familiar with Carvajal’s notorious career was surprised when the U.S. Treasury Department added Hugo Carvajal to its Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) Specially Designated Nationals List on September 12, 2008. Carvajal “materially assisted the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC in Venezuela,” the Treasury Department said. The U.S. accused Carvajal of arming, aiding, and abetting the FARC, in addition to terrorizing and kidnapping innocent civilians. Specifically, the Treasury Department claimed that Carvajal assisted the FARC by protecting drug shipments from seizure by Venezuela’s anti-narcotic authorities, provided official identification and travel documents to FARC members, and allowed the group to flourish on the Venezuelan border with Colombia’s Arauca Department

It was widely known that Carvajal and other prominent members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian armed forces, maintained longtime direct ties with the highest levels of the FARC’s leadership, including its maximum chieftain Manuel “Tirofijo” Marulanda, whose real name was Pedro Antonio Marin Marin. Carvajal’s close ties to the FARC’s leadership can be traced on the record as far back as September 23, 2004, where in a communication between Carvajal and a FARC commander “El Pollo” said he secretly hoped that the killing of six Venezuelan military members and one Venezuelan engineer on the border of Apure were “the acts of another group other than your own.” In fact, it had been the FARC who had massacred the seven Venezuelans inside Venezuelan territory. But it wasn’t until 2008 that documents retrieved from computers found near Luis Edgar Devia aka “Raul Reyes” blast-torn corpse, that Carvajal’s direct ties to Marulanda were confirmed. Reyes was killed in a precision-guided bomb attack executed by Colombian pilots flying Brazilian-made Tucanos.

The files extracted from the seized computers also showed that Carvajal aided the FARC on numerous other occasions. Carvajal provided protection for individual members of the FARC like Wilber Varela (“Jabon”), until he was assassinated on Venezuelan soil. In a message dated January 2007, Ivan Marquez – the FARC’s intermediary with the Chavez government – wrote his colleagues in Colombia that Carvajal and another Venezuelan general “are going to get us 20 bazookas next week”. In another communication with the FARC leadership, Carvajal pledged his support to connect the FARC with “a Panamanian arms dealer.”

Carvajal regularly stayed in touch with FARC members, making sure that it was “business as usual.” An investigation by Colombian magazine Semana from May 2006 claimed that interviews with members of the Venezuelan National Guard confirmed that Carvajal had direct contact with FARC leader German Briceño Suárez, a.k.a. “Grannobles.” According to Semana, Carvajal met with Grannobles and his brother, “Mono Jojoy”, in a farm in Barinas, Venezuela where the parties discussed strategies for political, military and economic co-operation between the Venezuelan government and the FARC.

Carvajal’s co-operation with the FARC has gone as far approving the assassination of two Colombian military officers on Venezuelan soil. The officers were in the process of targeting FARC operations on Venezuelan territory when they were assassinated. Carvajal approved the killings of Captain Camilo Gonzalez and Sergeant Gregorio Martinez, of the Colombian Army, after they were captured in Venezuela while secretly searching for FARC fugitives. Carvajal allegedly gave the order to torture and execute the Colombian officers as a favor to the FARC.

More confirmation of Carvajal’s narco-gangster enterprises came from fugitive Venezuelan drug kingpin, Walid Makled, during his incarceration in Cucuta in 2010. In a statement, Makled told Colombian counterdrug investigators that he was able to operate freely in Venezuela for years by paying US$1 million per month in cash bribes to Carvajal and other military and civilian officials of the Chavez regime. Makled also claimed that Carvajal had been his partner in a monumental cocaine trafficking scheme, alongside then Interior & Justice Minister, Tarek Al-Aissami and Henry Rangel Silva. Makled said he used his ownership of Venezuelan carrier Aeropostal Airlines, along with its aircraft fleet and warehouses, to export approximately 10 metric tons of cocaine per month to the U.S. and Europe for several years.

But Makled’s claims in 2010 didn’t surprise this Gringo. I wrote in 2009 that Carvajal and his former intelligence counterpart, Henry Rangel Silva, were in the “business” of providing independent contract work through their intelligence services to both FARC and ELN militant groups. Among the services provided by separate criminal crews led by Carvajal and Rangel Silva, I was able to confirm protection services for drug trans-shipments through Venezuelan territory, provision of weapons, and legal citizenship and residency documents to narco-terrorists and professional criminals. In addition to your run-of-the-mill drug trafficking, extortion, abductions and contract killings, of course.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva also have long been known to be working directly with the 10th, 16th, and 45th fronts of the FARC which have elements widely deployed across the Venezuelan states of Apure, Barinas, Tachira, and Trujillo. Through this relationship, these fronts launder money, smuggle armaments, and ship cocaine through the Venezuelan territory. In exchange for their shipment protection services, Carvajal and Rangel back were allegedly charging the FARC and other narco-traffickers a fee of US $1,500 per kilo of cocaine exported back in 2008. The duo generated a whopping US $189 million of estimated combined profit that year. But more recently the crews run by Carvajal and Rangel Silva have been taking “trans-shipment fees” in product instead of cash, and opening up independent new routes to Europe and South America much as the Mexican cartels did with the Colombian cartels almost 20 years ago.

However someone as entrepreneurial as “El Pollo” is barely content with just one shtick. In addition to his support for the FARC, Carvajal also offered use of his services to non-narco parties. By 2009, Carvajal and his criminal crews had also been implicated in other horrific crimes, including: the November 2004 car bomb assassination of Danilo Anderson, sponsored by Jose Vicente Rangel and pinned on the Guevara brothers; the abductions of Jorge Azpurua in April 2005 contracted by Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco; and subsequently the abduction of banker German Garcia Velutini in February 2009. Carvajal’s hit men also killed Pierre Gerges in 2008 after confusing him with the intended target, Reporte Diario de la Economia publisher “Tony” Gerges.

“El Pollo’s” ambitions went as far as magnicide in April 2011, when it is said that Carvajal might have used his position to try and carry out either an assassination or kidnapping attempt against Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli. According to several of the leaked diplomatic cables, Carvajal attempted to use Pedro Luis Martin Olivares, a direct subordinate of his running an intelligence operation in Panama City to carry out the assassination attempt.

Carvajal’s evident association with Leocenis Garcia, since the latter got sprung from jail, suggests he could be using his vast trove of dirt on everyone to figure out who can be extorted or perhaps even abducted for ransom. It is said that prior to his departure from the DIM, Carvajal digitized and uploaded all of the Directorates files (read: recordings, videos, criminal reports, payment of commissions, account statements, transfers, etc.) and uploaded everything to a personal cloud.

It is hard say whether Carvajal is really seeking to ultimately sell Venezuelan state secrets on the international market or trying to find an open-door in “el imperio.” It was speculated at one point in 2012 that Carvajal was preparing to follow former Supreme Court Judge Eladio Aponte Aponte’s surrender to US authorities in exchange for extensive intelligence on the narco-corruption and FARC connections at the highest levels of the Chavez regime including the now-dead president. The rumors that “El Pollo” was preparing to turn “Canary” for the hated Gringos started after Podemos (ex-MAS) Deputy Ismael Garcia declared that Carvajal and ex-Magister Marco Tulio Dugarte were going to defect.

The rumors continued after Carvajal allegedly held a party at his “hacienda” in Biruaca, apure to say goodbye to his friends.

Either way, it’s no real use speculating what this godless pact between “El Pollo” and the 6to Poder publisher might be aiming for. Perhaps Garcia’s latest crusade against David De Lima can serve to shed light on the duo’s aspirations. Seeing himself with less power every day, maybe some pressure on Tarek Al Aissami and his testaferro Samar Lopez—who is speculated to be behind the purchase of the Cadena Capriles—will help “El Pollo” get his piece in the current Venezuelan fire-sale.

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La Paloma Completica

The Atlantic Council hosted a panel discussion on Venezuela today in Washington, DC entitled “Will the Lights Go Out? Implications of a Venezuelan Market Turnaround.”

“Market turnaround….?”

The Venezuelan panelists were Luis Vicente Leon of Datanalisis, Fedecamaras President Jorge Roig and former Planning Minister Felipe Perez Marti.

The Atlantic Council’s advance billing of the event said Perez Marti, “…with an insider’s understanding of the Venezuelan economy… provides big picture analysis of the different factors influencing Venezuela’s economy at this crucial moment.”

Roig “…offers insight on how President Nicolas Maduro’s economic policies have affected production….(and) looks at the disruption of supply chains and the disorder in the financial markets and analyzes the impact this has on corporate operations.”

Luis Vicente Leon “has been conducting monthly polls on scarcity in Venezuela. With mounting concerns over the lack of basic goods in the country…. Leon’s data has been a warning signal of the growing discontent with the Maduro government’s policies. He advises many political, corporate, and non-profit clients on public opinion in Venezuela…”

The Atlantic Council always has been very strongly pro-globalization, pro-business and anti-sanctions, all Corporate America all the time. You can watch a video of the event here.

Leon and Roig preached to an appreciative choir, urging US policymakers to NOT impose any sanctions whatsoever on Venezuela as a country or individually.

Sanctions don’t work, and would only hurt the Venezuelan people while strengthening Maduro’s hand, they said.

Leon cited his direct personal experience, noting that when Datanalisis polled the public after late President Hugo Chavez announced he would visit Saddam Hussein in Iraq years ago, 73pc of respondents said they opposed their president’s decision.

But a subsequent poll done immediately after the State Department warned Chavez he should not visit Iraq showed a massive shift in public opinion, with 62pc of respondents declaring that Chavez must visit Iraq after the US warned him not to.

Leon’s point: the US must avoid doing anything that prods the average Venezuelan’s irrational nationalism in ways helpful only to the Maduro regime

Except Maduro isn’t Chavez. Maduro is a bus driver increasingly despised for the atrocities he is perpetrating against everyone, while Chavez always was in the pantheon of Venezuelan heroes like Simon Bolivar.

A majority of Venezuelans never wanted to get rid of Chavez, even after the horrific slaughter of April 2002, but at the close of Maduro’s first official year as president about two-thirds of the populace would like to be rid of him.

Also, while Chavez still lived Venezuela never experienced a crisis like it’s having now. Everything is collapsed, unstable, lacking, uncertain. The country has suffered over three months of sustained, escalating repression amid the worst economic downturn in decades.

Pdvsa wasn’t broken when Chavez defied the US and landed in Baghdad either, whereas today Pdvsa is a mortally wounded company on which Venezuela depends overwhelmingly for its survival.

But Leon may be right. Many Venezuelans and Latin Americans in general become furious whenever the gringos interfere in their sovereign business. Yeah, I know, gringos do have a long history of interventionism regionally with horrific results for democracy and human rights.

The US definitely should avoid blanket sanctions in Venezuela, but not because they don’t work. Instead, the US should avoid tangling with the Bolivarian regime because the history of Washington-Caracas relations is an endless succession of wrong calls and bad moves since John Maisto’s “Watch what Chavez does and not what he says” policy (aka Move the Goal Posts Continually) back in the late ‘90s.

Best to stay out of Venezuela’s affairs completely. And there’s no real urgent need to stop importing Venezuelan oil. Pdvsa very likely will sell off most or part of its Citgo subsidiary soon to raise cash, and the US oil industry is rebounding thanks to fracking. In a few years the US won’t need Venezuelan oil anymore.

Of course, that could change if there’s some kind of positive change in Venezuela. But that doesn’t appear likely for the foreseeable future, and even if Maduro and his entire gang of criminals is erased overnight, Venezuela in the years après the revolution would continue to be a terrible place to live and work.

But sanctions against individual Venezuelans aren’t necessarily counterproductive. The problem with these sanctions is they’re being applied against individuals who mostly won’t come to the US anyway. Lots of better places to hide stolen wealth than the US, and even if they’re banned from entering the US the mere threat of impending sanctions against specific individuals likely already has spurred them to withdraw their assets from the US or take other steps to insulate those assets against seizure.

With the “dialogue” officially over for now, MUD’s Ramon Jose Medina said efforts are under way now to meet with the Unasur foreign ministers and the Vatican’s envoy to Venezuela to determine how to advance a peaceful dialogue with the regime. Reads redundant? That’s the point. Good luck with that.

But Roig, Leon et al shouldn’t be overly concerned. The US won’t impose blanket sanctions on Venezuela. The US government has sanctions fatigue, too many sanctions for too long against too many countries. Sanctions certainly haven’t bothered the Cuban regime, which, to paraphrase a Venezuelan friend “lleva mas de cinco decadas mentiendole la paloma completica a los gringos.”

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MUD Quits Phoney Dialogue

The reduced handful of traditional parties clustered around the MUD finally did something sensible. They walked out of the Maduro regime’s dog-and-pony show.

The MUD has suspended its month-old “dialogue” with the Maduro regime because the regime is acting in bad faith, MUD’s executive secretary Ramon Guillermo Aveledo announced.

Aveledo listed all the regime’s acts of bad faith and ill will during the month-long circus. But in fact, the “dialogue” was a farce before it started.

Students and organized labor were excluded, and the MUD figures at the dialogue really only represented the shrunken world of the auld AD/Copei combines and their respective spinoffs. No new blood there.

The international brokers of the dead “dialogue” – Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil – were never impartial. Colombia’s Santos, Ecuador’s Correa and Brazil’s Rousseff all carry water for Havana, and always are biased in favor of the Maduro regime.

The MUD never should have accepted the choice of arbitrators to begin with. If there weren’t other options because the Maduro regime forbade it, then the MUD should have embraced the student-led movement in Venezuela’s streets instead of engaging in irrelevant Bolivarian Kabuki.

Screw dialogue. It’s never been an option, but it certainly has been a useful month-long stage prop for a dictatorial criminal regime to pretend it only wants peace.

The majority of the country opposed to the Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres criminal tyranny obviously hopes for peaceful democratic change. But let’s face it: that doesn’t appear to be a viable option considering the regime’s proven determination to stay in power at any cost.

The student street protests are continuing, and the regime’s violent repression is escalating. I think the students aren’t going to stop. They’re legitimately enraged, their cause is righteous and just, and everything the regime has attempted only strengthens their determination to continue protesting.

Will things reach a point where some now protesting peacefully in the streets decide the time has come to take up arms against their oppressors? Recalling how young men and women in countries like Argentina and Brazil engaged in violent anti-regime struggle during the 1960s-70s… could that happen in Venezuela today where yesterday’s socialist revolutionaries have turned out to be thieving fascist thugs?

What might the MUD’s remnants do now that the “dialogue” is over? Where are its allies? Certainly not in the streets, barrios and labor unions.

The current situation of the AD/Copei forces and their younger spinoffs in the MUD might be different today if they had collectively embraced the student-led street protests against the regime when they first started last February.

Young leaders like Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado embraced the protests immediately. It’s always been clear to both leaders that there’s no dialoguing about anything with this regime. Ditto for Antonio Ledezma.

But the auld AD/Copei forces in the MUD and their offspring like Un Nuevo Tiempo and Primero Justicia frowned on the student protests because the kids were acting independently.

If the student movement does decide now to make some kind of alliance with the MUD, it’s certain that student leaders won’t permit the AD-Copei-UNT-PJ forces to co-opt their movement. That means any pact between the students and MUD could be shortlived.

The Venezuelan Catholic Church obviously is an important player. The Church always will make every possible effort to encourage peace and dialogue, of course.

But the reality is the Venezuelan Catholic hierarchy has very little influence over developments. The Church certainly does not have any influence with the hardcore center of the Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres regime. But would the faithful respond assertively if the Bishops started giving Sunday sermons against the regime’s tyranny and crimes against the people? I have my doubts…

A year into his elected presidency, Maduro is unpopular, demonstrably ignorant and completely lacking in charisma. Maduro also appears to be a very weak president with little or no authority over key regime figures like National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Interior & Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres.

Cabello and Rodriguez Torres are independently running their own political and repression campaigns against their foes, whose numbers are not necessarily limited exclusively to the ‘oppo,’ stoking along the way more tensions that further undermine Maduro politically.

Cabello clearly has his eyes set on taking the presidency; so does Rodriguez Torres.

The Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres regime will not yield on any issue. They hold all the power, and control the institutions.

The regime controls the National Assembly, Supreme Court and Judiciary, Attorney General, CNE electoral authority, national police and intelligence services, the National Guard and the armed forces.

The Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres regime also has thousands armed civilian gunmen deployed in Caracas and throughout the country in the “colectivos” who are paid by the regime to intimidate, maim and kill regime critics particularly in the barrios.

The regime isn’t concerned about possible US sanctions against Venezuela either. Jacobson already said sanctions are unnecessary. Some critics think State is defending US oil interests. Perhaps. But the Obama administration also has a bad case of sanctions fatigue and it’s having a difficult time dealing with multiple foreign policy crises in Ukraine, the Middle East and China’s expanding Asian-Pacific reach.

Venezuela is barely on State’s radar, a small potatoes crisis when compared with Ukraine or the Middle East, and Venezuelan oil isn’t as critical to the US as it was only 10-15 years ago.

Venezuela’s immediate outlook looks bleaker by the day. Pdvsa is broke, the country has run out of hard currency, shortages of everything are the worst in Venezuela’s history, and every productive sector of the economy is in a deep hole operationally and financially.

A year on and the Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres regime haven’t enacted any sensible reforms to revive the stagnant economy. They’re so incompetent, they have no idea what they’re doing, a fellow blogger remarked recently. I agreed, but in retrospect, what if we’re mistaken?

What if everything happening in Venezuela since Hugo Chavez’s death is intended to completely destroy the economy in order to complete the subjugation of the populace? Ultimately, at some point the national destruction being wrought at an accelerated pace by the Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres regime appears to narrow one’s options to fighting, fleeing or submitting.

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Mejor No Decir Nada….

Caught up with a Venezuelan friend and occasional business associate this afternoon.

He’s Venezuelan Army, a Colonel, retired, from a traditional multi-generational military family.

He’s a good man, a hard worker, someone who inspires the thought that perhaps Venezuela might still have a chance if it somehow rids itself of the pestilence created by the Bolivarian gangsters and their masters in Havana. I’m fortunate to know countless men and women like my friend, in and out of the military, but they’re all sidelined.

We exchange pleasantries, asking about spouses, children and parents. Then we dispose of business, and before closing I ask for his assessment of the situation in Venezuela.

“Mejor no decir nada,” he replies. “Que se puede decir…cualquier cosa que yo te diga se queda muy corto ante la realidad…no hay nada…no hay alimentos, ni medicinas, ni partes para nada, tampoco hay seguridad…hasta las bolas escasean arrechamente con la unica excepcion de los estudiantes quienes SI estan dando la cara y peleando pero estan solos…y las cosas seguiran empeorando…no te olvides que yo SI conozco el monstruo por dentro y quienes son en realidad estos malandros que se han adueñado de Venezuela….nos estan metiendo la paloma completica a todo el país y nadie dice ni hace nada al respecto…todos muy callados y mansos haciendo sus colas interminables mientras los colectivos los siguen matando…. ya no leo los periodicos porque lo que publican diariamente solo repite lo que ya veo por todas partes…El otro dia revise la portada y ultima pagina de un periodico…la portada informaba sobre la detencion de centenares de estudiantes, y la pagina de sucesos informaba sobre seis homicidios cometidos en solo dos horas….asi que ahora me puse a ver telenovelas por primera vez en toda mi vida……”

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