Felix Arroyo, deputy secretary of national organization in Accion Democratica and close associate of its Secretary General Henry Ramos Allup, has an unusual career resume even by Venezuelan standards of questionable “negocios” and switching sides (“saltando la talanquera”).
Arroyo has been charged but never convicted of corruption involving the sale of visas to Chinese nationals, served as electoral registry Director at the CNE when the SmartMatic electronic voting machines were purchased, and now is a top AD official and close associate of Ramos Allup, whose regular public criticisms of President Hugo Chavez never amount to more than the barking of a toothless old hound.
As head of the Diex (now Onidex) passport and immigration authority in 1990 during the second Carlos Andres Perez administration, Arroyo was directly implicated in the massive sale of Venezuelan visas to Chinese nationals by officials at Venezuela’s Consulate in Hong Kong.
The going price for a Venezuelan visa at the Hong Kong consulate in 1990 was $2,500 to $3,000 per visa payable up-front in hard American cash. The Foreign Ministry initially said that over 10,000 visas had been sold to Chinese nationals who paid cash or almost $30 million in total. That estimate was later reduced to 1,000 visas – still a hefty $3 million of pure profit to the Venezuelans who participated in the scam.
Public Patrimony Safeguard Judge Mildred Camero determined that at least 93 people were involved in Caracas and Hong Kong. In November 1992 the judge issued arrest warrants against Arroyo and the Hong Kong Consul, Jose Gonzalo Ramirez Calles (both had been sacked by then), for “undue expedition of documents,” an offense punishable with five years in prison.
Camero’s investigation also determined that in addition to peddling visas for greenbacks, the Venezuelan officials also were selling tourism packages for which Chinese tourists traveling to Venezuela were charged up to $17,000 each.
But Arroyo and Ramirez Calles apparently were never detained by the PTJ (now CICPC). The case remains open at the Supreme Court, but has never been actively pursued since even before Hugo Chavez was first elected president in December 1998.
Arroyo’s next job in “government” was as Electoral Registry Director at the CNE national electoral council in 2004, where he was a member of a “technical commission” that recommended that the CNE award SmartMatic a contract without bidding to supply the electronic voting machines that were used in the August 2004 presidential recall referendum. (The world’s foremost expert on SmartMatic is Alek Boyd.) That same year, the electoral registry (REP) increased by over 3 million voters.
Arroyo’s activities at the CNE compelled CNE rector Sobella Mejias to publicly call for his firing in 2004. She charged at the time that Arroyo “is a person absolutely trusted by CNE President Francisco Carrasquero and also by Jorge Rodriguez.”
Arroyo was still Electoral Registry Director at the CNE when the infamous “Tascon List” was compiled of voters who signed a petition for Chavez’s recall, using voter registry date provided by CNE officials. The Tascon List was used to fire tens of thousands of public sector employees who signed petitions to recall Chavez.
However, Arroyo by 2008 had switched sides, joining Accion Democratica (AD) where he was given the title of National Organization Sub-Secretary by Ramos Allup, who runs AD with an iron-fisted grip. Arroyo in 2008 also was AD’s representative in opposition meetings with the CNE to verify that the infamous SmartMatic voting machines were in good condition.
And of course Arroyo declared on behalf of AD and the opposition that he was “satisfied” all was in good order for the 23 November 2008 regional elections. Others who said they were “satisfied” at the time included Un Nuevo Tiempo’s representative to the CNE.
In 2009 Arroyo certified that AD was satisfied with the latest audit of the electoral registry (REP). Vicente Bello signed on behalf of UNT, and Paul Morris for the PSUV.
Arroyo is AD’s national organization sub-secretary, but he also is involved in the opposition democratic Unity Table’s (MUD) process of preparing for the presidential primaries in February 2012, which reportedly includes liaising with the CNE because of his past experience.
Arroyo reportedly is a good friend of Libertador District Mayor and former CNE President Jorge Rodriguez. Arroyo also is close to Ramos Allup, and AD is one of the MUD’s big four players (the other three are UNT, Copei and Primero Justicia).
Because of AD’s status in MUD and his closeness to Ramos Allup, Arroyo reportedly has some influence in the MUD’s political and strategic deliberations on all manner of electoral matters including MUD’s internal primaries, the presidential elections, regional elections, legislative elections, etc.
Arroyo’s odd resume motivated some elements of AD to urge his expulsion from the party in 2009. A report on Arroyo detailing his checkered career in public administration and his ties to regime officials like Libertador Mayor Rodriguez was presented to Ramos Allup in 2009. AD’s secretary general dismissed Arroyo’s critics.
There are never any coincidences in Venezuelan politics. Arroyo’s career path from CNE electoral registry director to top AD official who participates in the MUD’s electoral strategy discussions is something that voters rightly should be concerned about.