Juan Carlos Caldera got caught (filmed) taking cash money from an agent of the fallen-from-grace Bolivarian shipping ‘entrepreneur’ Wilmer Ruperti, who surely qualifies as one of the biggest scumbags spawned during the era of Hugo Chavez.
Ruperti very clearly set up Caldera, who showed appallingly bad judgment by accepting a “contribution” in cash for the alleged purpose of financing his campaign for mayor of Sucre distict in Caracas.
But in the context of how Venezuelan politics is played, Caldera did not do anything particularly unusual and it can’t be said right-off that he is corrupt, except perhaps if one applies the old Venezuelan rubric, “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres….”
Some professional Venezuelan politicians have university degrees in law or another profession. Rafael Caldera was a lawyer. Jaime Lusinchi a physician.
But, mostly, professional Venezuelan politicians traditionally have abandoned their professions, if they had such before going into politics, and largely fund their political activities and personal lives with monetary contributions.
And when professional Venezuelan politicians and technocrats have gotten into power, it’s frankly astonishing how swiftly they become millionaires personally.
I’ve hung around professional Venezuelan politicians on and off for almost 40 years. I’ve personally known some who were wealthy before they got into politics, including several prominent figures in the MUD.
But I’ve known many more who didn’t have “dos cobres pa’ batir” before going into government, and yet somehow left their low-paying government jobs with titles to very expensive new “quintas” in upscale areas of Caracas, apartments in Miami and beach vacation homes.
This is as true for chavista politicians as it is for opposition politicians, not a few of whom (I suspect) have survived over the past 13-plus years of Chavez by taking regime money.
The regime is cackling gleefully, but many professional opposition politicos are of two minds, caught as it were between a rock and a hard place.
Many of the opposition politicians who watched Caldera crash in flames on video would agree, likely, that “there but for the grace of God go I…”
Private money funds professional politicians and election campaigns in Venezuela. That’s how it’s always been done in Venezuela and how it’s done in many democratic countries around the world.
But while large numbers of supporters make small individual contributions to political parties or individual politicians, the real money always comes from a small group of donors with a lot of cash in the bank.
Henrique Capriles Radonski reacted immediately to the PSUV’s disclosure of the video showing Caldera accepting cash in an envelope, announcing Caldera’s immediate expulsion from the MUD’s election campaign and his permanent separation from everything related to the Capriles campaign.
Primero Justicia, headed by Julio ‘Power Point’ Borges, also expelled Caldera from the party’s ranks, effective immediately.
The reaction from Capriles is understandable. This is Caldera’s mess, and his alone.
But Borges’ expulsion of Caldera from Primero Justicia without the benefit of a formal trial or hearing smacks of lynch mob justice – tossing Caldera out of the party, although Caldera didn’t do anything that Borges and others in Primero Justicia probably haven’t also done.
In fact, it wouldn’t surprise if the regime releases more videos like Caldera’s over the coming days.
The video is so obviously an entrapment of Caldera, whose unwitting stardom eminently disqualifies him from holding any kind of elected public office, including that of the city worker dressed in a clown’s costume who pushes a wheelbarrow at the tail end of parades to shovel up the horse dung left behind on the pavement.
Caldera has been around long enough to know, with certainty, that Ruperti is a longtime personal associate of President Hugo Chavez.
Caldera also must know that Ruperti is very crooked. He’d have to be deaf, dumb, blind and locked in a closet for the past decade not to know that Ruperti is a crook.
It’s a matter of public record that Ruperti is crooked, so crooked – in fact – that Energy Minister (and Pdvsa) president Rafael Ramirez refuses to pay Ruperti’s oil shipping companies over $300 million in past due invoices claimed by Ruperti.
“Ruperti and the minister had some differences a few years ago,” a contact close to Ramirez understated.
But even if Caldera didn’t know that Ruperti was a crook, a bit of Googling due diligence beforehand would have turned up sufficient information on Ruperti to suggest that Caldera shouldn’t be seeking or accepting even a penny from the disgraced Bolivarian shipping magnate.
This begs the question: Is Caldera crooked, or worse simply stupid?
If Caldera knowingly took cash from the crooked Ruperti’s personal agent, then Caldera is as crooked as Ruperti. That’s bad news for his supporters and the residents of Sucre district.
But if Caldera is stupid, that’s still bad news for the residents and voters of Sucre district. After 13-plus destructive years of Chavez and his Bolivarian thugs, who needs more stupid in public office?
Whether he’s crooked, or stupid, or both, Caldera ought to redeem what’s left of his savaged reputation and career by declining his candidacy for Sucre mayor. Personally, I wouldn’t want someone who takes cash from slimes like Ruperti to serve as mayor of my district.