The Bush Family's Murky Dealings in Venezuela
By Edgar Gonzalez Ruiz
July 02, 2004
The George W. Bush Jr. government is promoting a bloody military intervention in Iraq and has tried by every means possible, from military uprising to the "democratic way", to destabilize the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Both Iraq and Venezuela have immense petroleum resources.
Florida governor Jeb Bush, the brother of President Bush Jr., is one of the most strident proponents of Chavez' overthrow. The governor has referred to Chavez as "a crazy guy," whose government "needs to be isolated in the international community." The governor believes that "The support Chavez receives from Castro and the support Castro receives from Chavez incite them. Isolating them would be potentially beneficial for the region, for Latin America."
Besides using the implausible rhetoric of "defense of democracy" justify the destabilization of Venezuela, the Bush clan has maintained interests and ties to this country for many years, specifically with multimillionaire businessmen who, like Jeb, have not used their wealth to benefit others; as well as with well-known members of the Cuban exile community living in Venezuela.
A report by journalist Gerardo Reyes filed November 19, 2000 from Miami, mentions that in 1977, when his father was named CIA Director, Jeb established himself in Venezuela as a representative of Commerce Bank of Texas, owned by James Baker, who was a friend of Bush Sr. and later Secretary of State. Jeb speaks Spanish fluently, thanks to his marriage to the Mexican Columba Garnica, which is why "the family was rapidly accepted by the rich Venezuelan petroleum society."
In 1980, when his father was elected Vice President, Jeb moved to Miami, which he considers "the most international city in the country." During subsequent years, in order to make money, Jeb joined forces with the Cuban director of the anti-Castro National Cuban American Foundation (FNCA), Armando Codina, from whom he earned commissions of up to $50,000 for attracting investors to Codina's business. This was an obvious case of influence-peddling.
Jeb also associated with Miguel Recarey, the Cuban American businessman who was accused of a million dollar fraud using federal funds collected by his Miami medical centers. Recarey diverted money earmarked for Miami public health services to organize, though his firm, the International Medical Centers (IMC), hospital services for the Nicaraguan Contra mercenaries. Jeb also received $75,000 from that company to relocate, something that never came to pass.
By running these kinds of businesses, by 1994, at 41 years of age, Jeb had amassed a fortune of more than $2 million. Three years later, Recarey said that he "bought influences" from Jeb Bush and other powerful public figures during the 1980's, and that he spent a good quantity of money to contract Jeb and people close to President Ronald Regan and Vice President Bush Sr. to try to keep federal inspectors from closing his businesses. After stealing $300 million from federal coffers, Recarey escaped precipitously to Venezuela, and later fled to Spain. Upon learning these accusations, Jeb denied everything: the checks that he received from Recarey were the result of "real estate sales commissions."
From the Governor's Office, Jeb supports his friends and associates from the radical Cuban exile community; these associates have participated in various kinds of operations in Venezuela.
In 2001, Jeb, and Congressmen Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in conjunction with the Heritage Foundation and far-right Republican Senator Jesse Helms, supported the nomination of Cuban exile Otto Reich, a far-right reactionary with a black trajectory, as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Reich headed the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy during the Reagan administration, and was US ambassador to Venezuela from 1986 to 1989.
He has also been accused of supporting the failed 2002 coup against Chavez, whose visible leader was businessman Pedro Carmona, president of the Venezuelan FEDECAMARAS and holder of vast petroleum interests.
* One of the first decrees made by the ephemeral leader, whose government lasted only 48 hours, doubled the amount of petroleum exports and eliminated exports to Cuba, measures evidently dictated by the Bush Jr. government, principal promoter of the coup against Chavez.
Also in 2002, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd said that when Reich was ambassador, he helped accused exiled Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch flee the United States. Bosch had been imprisoned in Venezuela for a bombing that blew up a Cubana Airlines flight in Barbados in 1976. In February 1987, Bosch was released from prison, and illegally entered the United States, thanks to a visa supplied to him by Reich. He was quickly detained in the US for having violated his parole. In response, the FNCA, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Jeb Bush organized an intense campaign to free him.
Besides Bosch, the anti-Castro Luis Posada Carriles also participated in the bombing. According to Colombian journalist Hernando Calvo Ospino, Posada Carriles had worked for the CIA in Venezuela since 1967 as "an aid to security agencies charged with repressing leftist organizations." Calvo Ospino adds that the court case against the bombing perpetrators "was derailed due to a succession of defense appeals."
The proceedings were moved to the military court, because the civil judge quit due to death threats. Elio Garcia, President of the Military Court, didn't drop the case, and his son was assassinated.
"With those kinds of antecedents, you'd have to be very naďve not to think that there was CIA complicity. More suspicion was raised when the US government decided not to provide even one iota of information for the court case against Posada and Bosch."
But, other members of the Bush family also have important ties to Venezuela. After the failed coup d'etat against Chavez, television magnate and Bush Sr. friend Gustavo Cisneros was implicated as one of the principal proponents of the coup.
Cisneros publicly denied his role in the coup, but the magazine Newsweek noted that Pedro Carmona "was seen leaving Cisneros' office" before going to the Government Palace to swear in as provisional president.
According to Newsweek, Venezuelan legislator Pedro Pablo Alcantara said that the brief Carmona dictatorship was organized in Cisneros' offices, and that Cisneros was the "supreme commander" of the operation.
* Newsweek also said that Otto Reich had spoken with Cisneros "two or three times" during the events of the coup.
One of the calls was made by Cisneros to warn Reich on April 13 that a crowd of angry Chavez supporters had surrounded the building housing his TV station, Venevision.
According to Venezuelan sources, on April 11, 2002, when a confrontation took place between Chavez supporters and opponents resulting in 25 deaths, most of them Chavez supporters, Pedro Carmona wasn't in the streets. Rather, he was comfortably installed in Venevision's bunker, together with Episcopal Conference President Baltazar Porras, journalistic businessman Rafael Poleo, and other figures.
Therefore, it's not strange that Cisneros has been identified as Bush Jr.'s prospect to confront Hugo Chavez in future presidential elections, which could take place earlier than scheduled if the opposition wins the US-supported presidential recall referendum.
57-year-old Gustavo Cisneros Rendiles has a fortune of around US$5 billion, one of the largest in Latin America, after Mexican Carlos Slim. Cisneros occupies the 94th position on the list of the 500 richest men in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
Of Cuban origin, Cisneros is the majority shareholder in Univision, the largest Spanish language TV chain in the United States, and he possesses channels with vast audiences in other countries, such as Venevision in Venezuela, ChileVision, Caracol Television of Colombia, and Caribbean Communications Network. He also owns the bottler Panamco, and is a major shareholder in Coca Cola.
Cisneros, together with his wife Patricia Phelps, were often on the White House guest list of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The friendly relationship between Cisneros and Bush Sr. also seems to encompass privatizing the state-owned PDVSA, putting it on Bush Sr.'s list of Texas businesses.
Gustavo Cisneros goes on fishing excursions in Venezuela as well as Florida with his friend George Bush, demonstrating that capital has neither scruples nor ideology. Cisneros also cultivated relationships in the Clinton administration through former Carter administration Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.
Cisneros belongs to the Americas Society, a non-profit organization chaired by David Rockefeller, whose mission is to "provide members strategic advantages for doing business in a region that offers enormous opportunities, but also considerable risks."
Another member of this society is Chilean media magnate Agustin Edwards, who was a key figure in the CIA-backed conspiracy against the constitutional government of Salvador Allende.
In January of 1985, several Lyndon Larouche sympathizers were arrested in Venezuela, and 200 copies of a book titled "Dope, Inc." were confiscated. This books asserts that the Cisneros family has connections with money-laundering institutions. Years later, the editors presented documents confirming that on February 14, 1985, an executive airplane belonging to Pepsi-Cola of Venezuela and operated by Cisneros family business Aeroservicios Alas, was inspected by Customs Agents in Hollywood, Florida, and a bag containing 50 grams of cocaine was seized. Cisneros admitted the incident, but noted that the US Customs Service didn't file charges.
Ricardo Cisneros, Gustavo's brother and second in command of the family business, was involved in the most notorious financial scandal in Venezuela's history: the 1994 failure of Banco Latino, the result of which a Venezuelan judge issued an arrest warrant against Ricardo, accusing him of fraud as a member of the bank's Board of Directors. According to the charges, the Board of Directors approved credit to businesses, some of them owned by individual board members, exceeding established legal limits, and diverted bank funds. Ricardo, who was out of the country when the warrant was issued, fled.
Another Venezuelan Bush Jr. collaborator is Luis Giusti, who serves as one of his energy advisors. Luis Giusti, who was PDVSA president from 1994 to 1999, tried to privatize this state-run industry.
According to petroleum economist Rafael Quiroz, Giusti always questioned patriotism, nationalism, and sovereignty, saying that those terms "have to be brought in line with reality of the world today... Here (in Venezuela), people brandish the terms 'sovereignty' and 'patriotism.' Enough of that!" (El Nacional, July 7, 1998, page E2).
In August of the same year (1998), during the 54th Annual FEDECAMARAS Assembly, Giusti said, "I believe that (PDVSA) must put its shares on the market." After he left PDVSA, Giusti moved to the United States to work for Shell Corporation, a job he will probably never leave. There, as an efficient "Shell-man," he's working for his former bosses. Now, he's become a "Bush-man," advising Bush Jr. on his hemispheric energy plan.
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