On April 17th Venezuela’s executive Vice President, Tareck El Aissami, reported that in the Hands of Paper Operation, an exceptional measure taken at a critical moment, 86 people were detained by the Venezuelan authorities among them Colombian nationals linked to cash contraband and exchange rate speculation against the Venezuelan currency, the bolivar.
El Aissami asserted that the purpose of different networks targeted operated in the country affecting Venezuela’s economic system and provoking an impact on the quality of life of Venezuelan families. He reported that the government’s security and crime prevention units have been conducting the relevant investigations for months.
- On April 16th 125 search warrants were carried out with another 596 businesses across Venezuela to be searched;
- 22 vehicles and properties were sequestered that formed part of the logistical resources of the contraband operation;
- Among the detained are 31 people directly associated with Carlos Eduardo Marrón, owner of the Dollar Pro web page who was arrested on April 12th last;
- Police and intelligence forces are looking for 112 other people directly linked to the financial mafias;
- 1,133 bank accounts were intervened in 19 national banks with 90% of the accounts in Banesco Universal Bank;
- In the bank accounts 3 billion Venezuelan bolivars were confiscated and the financial trail indicated a balance of more than 20 billion bolivars so far this year.
Vice President El Aissami explained that many businesses had been visited, a great number of them ghost companies and he confirmed that the authorities had confiscated cash including foreign currency in dollars and Colombian pesos.
The operation had as a central player Carlos Eduardo Marrón, accused of the offenses of spreading false exchange rate information, money laundering and conspiracy. Aissami said, “This individual was responsible for rigging and imposing the criminal dollar rate to strike against and destabilize Venezuela’s financial system.”
Marron is director of the event promotion company Venelatin Productions, based in Miami with operations in the US, Colombia, Panama and Peru. This company is linked to the ticket trading business Tuticket, based in Coral Gables in southern Florida and selling entrance tickets for spectacles and events. By means of these economic activities the company fomented the circulation of foreign currencies and their speculative accumulation.
The La Tabla investigative web site reports that Marrón is also director of a Panamanian company created in 2007 jointly with Ramón Marrón Moreno y Raquel Azpúrua de Marrón, who are members of the editorial committee of the magazine Gentiuno. That magazine’s directors include the journalist Eleonora Bruzual, Marianella Salazar and the writer Alfredo Coronil Hartman, step-son of former Venezuelan President Rómulo Betancourt. This network was not merely financial and economic but also sought to deepen the political impact of the devaluation induced by business networks hidden behind web portals and communications media.
Irregular financial platforms
Also worthy of note is the role of Banesco Universal Bank in the exchange rate fraud scheme that is part of the multifaceted war against Venezuela. This bank is one based on Venezuelan capital and operating since 2013 in Colombia but which, since 2015, has served as the Cucuta exchange rate mafias’ best ally at different levels and in various dimensions.
In both countries, each with significant migration of their citizens, family remittances are an important component of the Gross Domestic Product, because it is a way to accumulate foreign currency. For some years now, that accumulation has worked via the banks which hold on to the foreign currency and serve as foreign exchange offices beyond Venezuela’s borders. That is how the so called “exodus” of Venezuelans has turned into big business for certain financial operators, who are able to take advantage of the accelerating devaluation of Venezuela’s bolivar to capture more foreign exchange on the parallel market.
Also of note is that, from the bank accounts that have now been closed, transfers were made to people who took the cash to the border where they exchanged them at as much as three times their value. For that reason the government is trying to intensify the investigations relating to banking entities that lend their technological platforms for criminal financial activity as a political tactic affecting Venezuela’s economic sovereignty.
Many people cross the Colombian-Venezuelan frontier so as to exchange bolivars and get a larger amount of money back. The prerequisites are to have cash in hand and a bank account in Venezuela, preferably in Banesco Universal Bank so as to be able to get cash the same day.
Colombia: the geopolitical front of the economic war on Venezuela
The Colombian government has allowed the criminal structures that form a regular part of their economy to control exchange rate business along the border with Venezuela. That is why Tarek El Aissami accused Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos of protecting the mafias in Cúcuta and Maicao that carry out the boycott of Venezuela’s currency.
Investigative writer Oscar Javier Forero reports that criminal activities like drugs trafficking, that give dynamism to Colombia’s economy, have created an informal alternative financial market to the banks, one which operates like them but which is unsupervised and unregulated. These are the foreign exchange offices.
Cash contraband seeks to launder money and supply very large quantities of Venezuelan bolivars to the financial markets along the Venezuelan-Colombian border so as to constantly devalue the Venezuelan bolivar and thus ensure extraordinary profits as a result of the cash contraband.
Since there is little supply of Colombian pesos, the value of the Colombian currency remains stable and stimulates the extraction of products from Venezuela (including bolivars in cash) and this also stimulates scarcity and under-supply.
Oscar Javier Forero adds that the total amount of money circulating along the frontier axis of San Antonio-Ureña-Cúcuta is unknown, but in 2015 Colombia’s Congress calculated that it was around US$7 billion annually.
The actions of the Colombian elite against Venezuela are part of a global plan in which their drugs trafficking industry generates great quantities of money to grease not just the Colombian economy but, above all, the economies of the United States and Europe. Along the Colombian-Venezuelan frontier the link is self-evident between the illicit drugs economy, paramilitary activity and the other parallel economies in Colombia. This interaction works as a financial warfare mechanism to damage Venezuela’s sovereignty in accordance with the geopolitical objectives of the United States. In that context, the powerful private Banesco Universal Bank serves as a faithful, technologically competent intermediary, guaranteeing the deposit and disbursement of these irregular flows of money that provoke a brutal devaluation of Venezuela’s currency.
It is vital for the global corporate oligarchy to undertake unconventional forms of economic warfare so as to get control of both Venezuela’s wealth and also its geostrategic position enabling Colombia’s criminal economy to finance itself. It was to neutralize this offensive against Venezuela that the Hands of Paper Operation was carried out, an operation described by Venezuela’s government as “one of the biggest in Venezuela’s history”.