President Hugo Chavez declared defiantly during yet another of his interminable nationally televised rants that he doesn’t owe anyone in the world any explanations about anything.
Chavez was reacting to reports from Spain that the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has requested “explanations” from Venezuela’s government with respect to a Spanish penal court’s charges, contained in an indictment issued against 13 FARC and ETA members on 1 March, claiming that Venezuelan government officials have cooperated actively with the FARC and ETA.
“I don’t have to explain anything to Zapatero or anyone else on the planet,” Chavez thundered.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Moratinos immediately backpedaled, saying that Zapatero’s government had only asked for “information” and not “explanations.” But Moratinos is contradicting his boss.
On 1 March, Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero said in Madrid that his government has “requested explanations from Venezuela” about the Spanish penal court’s charges that officials of the Chavez government allegedly are cooperating with the FARC and ETA.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Ms. Carme Chacón, also has said that her government has asked for “explanations” from Caracas.
During an appearance before the European Parliament, Ms. Chacón said that “the Spanish Foreign Ministry has requested opportune explanations from Venezuela and we are waiting for these explanations… there is a judicial investigation which, if (the charges are) true, would be very serious.”
It’s not immediately clear why Moratinos is publicly contradicting his boss in a bumbling attempt to fudge the facts.
Diplomats the world over are notorious for toning down their public statements when tensions flare between countries. The art of diplomacy is based on the notion that a bad agreement is better than a good fight. (“Mejor un mal arreglo que un buen pleito.”)
Moratinos (and Zapatero) also must be thinking about the billions of dollars of current and potentially future Spanish corporate investments at risk in Venezuela if Chavez gets too pissed off with Madrid.
The list of Spanish corporations with billions of Euros at stake in Venezuela includes Repsol, Telefonica, Duro Felguera, Iberdrola, Elecnor, BBVA, and more.
If Chavez decides to retaliate against Madrid by ordering the expropriation of Spanish-owned assets in Venezuela, it’s certain to trigger an electoral “estocada” for Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist government.
So, the Spanish foreign minister’s waffling is understandable on one level.
But Moratinos also maintains what can only be described as “shady” personal relations with senior figures in the Chavez regime like, for example, Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello.
For instance, immediately after Moratinos visited Caracas during the first semester of 2009, Telefonica shifted upwards of $500 million in profits it had on deposit at various serious, well-managed Venezuelan banks to other banks owned by Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco and other disgraced Bolibourgeois “entrepreneurs” who are now on the lam or imprisoned at the Defense Ministry’s intelligence (DGIM) headquarters in the Boleita Norte section of Caracas.
These transfers were confirmed to Caracas Gringo in May-June 2009 by the treasurers of several banks where Telefonica had its un-repatriated profits deposited until Moratinos visited Caracas, where he met with Chavez and Cabello, among others. Where Telefonica’s money went after it was transferred to banks now seized by the Chavez regime remains unclear.
Then Spanish contractors Duro Felguera, Iberdrola and Elecnor were awarded, without any public bidding, two turnkey contracts worth over $4 billion to build the 1,620 MW Termocentro power generation complex in the Tuy Valleys near Caracas and a 1,000 MW thermal power plant in Cumana. Subsequently, the bloggers at Caracas Chronicles did some research, crunched some numbers, and reported that the turnkey contracts favoring these Spanish companies appeared to be very over-priced.
Moratinos may be downplaying the language initially used by Rodriguez Zapatero because reducing diplomatic tensions between Spain and other countries is, well, his job.
But Caracas Gringo believes there are deeper, still-hidden explanations for the waffling by Moratinos than simply diplomacy. Sources inside the Chavez regime hint at “relations” between Moratinos and senior Venezuelan officials that could have, let’s say, hidden financial implications that go beyond the obvious interests in Venezuela of Spain’s largest multinational corporations.