When Vice President Delcy Rodríguez turned to a group of Mexican friends and partners to lessen the new electricity emergency in Venezuela, she laid the foundation stone of a shortcut through which Chavismo and its commercial allies have dodged the sanctions imposed by Washington on PDVSA’s exports of crude oil. Since then, with Alex Saab, Joaquín Leal and Alessandro Bazzoni as key figures, the circuit has spread to some thirty countries to trade other Venezuelan commodities. This is part of the revelations of this joint investigative series between the newspaper El País and Armando.info, developed from a leak of thousands of documents.
Leaked documents on Libre Abordo and the rest of the shady network that Joaquín Leal managed from Mexico, with tentacles reaching 30 countries, ―aimed to trade PDVSA crude oil and other raw materials that the Caracas regime needed to place in international markets in spite of the sanctions― show that the businessman claimed to have the approval of the Mexican government and supplies from Segalmex, an official entity. Beyond this smoking gun, there is evidence that Leal had privileged access to the vice foreign minister for Latin America and the Caribbean, Maximiliano Reyes.
The business structure that Alex Saab had registered in Turkey—revealed in 2018 in an article by Armando.info—was merely a false start for his plans to export Venezuelan coal. Almost simultaneously, the Colombian merchant made contact with his Mexican counterpart, Joaquín Leal, to plot a network that would not only market crude oil from Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, as part of a maneuver to bypass the sanctions imposed by Washington, but would also take charge of a scheme to export coal from the mines of Zulia, in western Venezuela. The dirty play allowed that thousands of tons, valued in millions of dollars, ended up in ports in Mexico and Central America.
Through a company registered in Mexico – Consorcio Panamericano de Exportación – with no known trajectory or experience, Joaquín Leal made a daring proposal to the Venezuelan Guyana Corporation to “reactivate” the aluminum industry, paralyzed after March 2019 blackout. The business proposed to pay the power supply of state-owned companies in exchange for payment-in-kind with the metal.
A Venezuelan executive jet, listed as suspicious by the United States, landing in a remote African capital… A group of passengers that includes special operations agents and stay in a military barracks… A mysterious Russian transport plane… A ship anchored by a paradise island… These are the wicks used in recent days to woven a web that is at par with a spy series. The mission was to assess the likelihood of rescuing Colombian businessman and alleged front man for Nicolas Maduro from his imprisonment in the neighboring Cape Verde archipelago, before his extradition to the United States. This happened just a month after his arrest.
With ridiculous fines and a brief freezing of accounts, Mexican authorities said they had sanctioned in 2018 the companies of that country that participated in the million-dollar scheme that supplied products to Clap boxes, including those that sold milk powder of poor nutritional quality. With Alex Saab - architect and head of these operations- arrested in Cape Verde three weeks ago, the irregularities of an investigation that seemed to have done justice in Mexico begin to be revealed. In the end, it was a punishment that neither hurt nor compensated anyone.