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Electoral Observer Sells Food to the Government of Maduro

Gassan Salama, a Palestinian-cause activist, born in Colombia and naturalized Panamanian, frequently posts messages supporting the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions on his social media accounts. But that leaning is not the main sign to doubt his impartiality as an observer of the elections in Venezuela, a role he played in the contested elections whereby Nicolás Maduro ratified himself as president. In fact, Salama, an entrepreneur and politician who has carried out controversial searches for submarine wrecks in Caribbean waters, found his true treasure in the main social aid and control program of Chavismo, the Clap, for which he receives millions of euros.

27/01/2019 11:32:59

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Gassan Salama Ibrahim was one of the few international observers in the elections of May 20, 2018, whereby Nicolás Maduro was re-elected president of the Republic in a process most of the Venezuelan opposition and a large part of the international community did not recognize. On the day the National Electoral Council (CNE) accredited him as an "international observer," which today looks like the genesis of the political-institutional crisis in the country, Gassan Salama was already a partner of the Maduro Government in the business of selling food for the state program of the Local Supply and Production Committee (Clap) with his company Lido Internacional S.A.

On March 6, 2018, ship Maersk Wismar arrived at the port of La Guaira, near Caracas, with 766 tons of food in 30 containers shipped by Lido Internacional from the port of Manzanillo, in Panama, as per documents of the National Integrated Customs and Tax Administration Service (Seniat). The products included mayonnaise, rice and corn flour, three of the eleven items usually included in the CLAP combos that the Government distributes in poor areas. On April 23, a month before Gassan Salama appeared in Caracas with his international observer vest, his company sent another 620 tons of food in ship San Alessio, according to the customs authority.

The consignee of both shipments was Corporación Única de Servicios Productivos y Alimentarios (Sole Corporation of Productive and Food Services - Cuspal), attached to the Ministry of Food, though they were contracted by the Venezuelan Foreign Trade Corporation (Corpovex), a holding responsible for centralizing public imports. Although the corresponding contract of this delivery could not be checked, Lido International does appear on a list of Corpovex contractors, which Armando.info had access to, containing the names of several food suppliers of the program that Nicolás Maduro made official in March 2016 in response to what he calls the "economic war" by the national entrepreneurship and international factors.

Gassan Salama's company has also stood out in the information exchanged in the meetings held since last year by officials of financial intelligence units from several countries in the region to investigate possible corrupt practices in the Venezuelan Government's business. Based on this information, between last year’s January and August, Lido Internacional exports to Venezuela amounted to almost 3,500 tons.