The Bolibourgeoisie, Guaido, and Trump: Racketeering as the Common Denominator

By Simón Rodríguez Porras 
Photo credit: Image extracted from an animation by Andre Carrilho. His portfolio here.

The use of the oil rent by different Venezuelan governments to feed politically aligned capitalist sectors has been a constant practice over the past century. In the two decades of Chavista governance, it has become popular to give the name of ‘Bolibourgeoisie’ to capitalist segments tied to the government. The term comprises both ‘old money’ bourgeois who made alliances with Chavismo, as well as a sector of the bureaucracy whose accumulation through corruption allowed it to become a new bourgeoisie. Without abandoning a pseudo-socialist discourse, Chavismo managed through political clientelism during the oil boom years to neutralize a great part of the traditional bourgeoisie and even win over a sector of it. At the same time, it unleashed a wave of pillage that would exceed all precedents from the previous eras of bipartisanship and the military dictatorships. As most capitalists joined the plunder, the parties of the bourgeois Opposition involved themselves in the process. In the past few weeks, facts have come to light illustrating the murky relations between the Bolibourgeoisie and the bourgeois Opposition, as well as their political implications.

Corrupt Comptrollers

The civic-military regime took advantage from Guaido’s weakening, and the disrepute of his campaign, as well as from the corruption of the Opposition majority in the National Assembly, to divide the majority bloc and push forward to take over the presidency of the parliament. The National Assembly has been de facto deprived of all its powers for over four years, but the Government never dared to formally dissolve it. It remains at the center of an important political dispute, especially after Guaido’s self-proclamation as interim president, and the non-recognition of the 2018 presidential elections by the US government, the European Union and several Latin American governments. At the same time, it is a forum for corrupt transactions between the bourgeois Opposition and the Bolibourgeoisie.

As revealed by investigative journalists at Armando.Info, nine assembly-members, headed by Luis Parra, became associates of Bolibourgeois businessmen like the Colombians Alex Saab and Carlos Lizcano, providers for the CLAP state network of food import and distribution. Parra and others lobbied on their behalf in Colombia, Europe and the U.S. asking for the annulment of sanctions against them. Besides travel expenses and other charges, some of these assemblymen entered as partners in the CLAP business, whose czar, Alex Saab, is considered a figurehead for Maduro (1). Only with the imminent publication of Armando.Info’s report did Freddy Superlano, President of the Comptrollership Commission of the National Assembly, request from Guaido an investigation of these networks of corruption (2).

There were precedents. In 2016, the Commission of Comptrollership, headed then by assemblyman Freddy Guevara from Voluntad Popular, acquitted prominent Bolibourgeois Mauro Libi of any responsibilities in corruption. Libi, owner of Banplus Bank and Avelina Oats, is accused of overcharging the state for food imports to the tune of $500 million between 2004-2012.

Guaido, a party comrade of Guevara, followed this pattern when he headed this Commission in 2017, when the Odebrecht bribery scandal came to the open. Given that the Brazilian transnational financed Henrique Capriles Radonsky’s presidential campaigns in 2012 and 2013, the National Assembly did not apply itself to fully research the extent of Odebrecht’s operations in Venezuela (3)

What was new about the CLAP affair was that the Opposition parties of the former Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), damaged by several corruption scandals in 2019, decided to expel or suspend the accused assembly members. A few weeks later, those sanctioned would break away from Guaido, passing over to the openly collaborationist pseudo-opposition to join figures like Henri Falcon, Claudio Fermin or Enrique Ochoa Antich.

As was to be expected, Guaido and his followers labeled the defecting assemblymen ‘traitors’. Actually, the procedure of interceding in favor of corrupt businessmen who profited from Chavismo is pretty coherent with Guaido’s policy of offering amnesties to civilians and militaries that committed crimes of repression or corruption as long as they join and support the bourgeois Opposition. Support that can simply translate as funding. Guaido’s offers of amnesty not only exonerate past corruption, but also actively promotes it anew.

These policy, which has failed to make the Bolibourgeoisie change sides, has been used by the former MUD to justify its relations with that emergent set of capitalists. As long as the bases of the civilian-military regime remain standing, and the repressive apparatus holds together, it is the Government that has the advantage in co-opting opponents, as shown by Luis Parra’s maneuvers in proclaiming himself president of the National Assembly. For the Bolibourgeoisie, relations with the parliamentary Opposition represent a double advantage, contributing to tone down accusations regarding their crooked deals while also establishing the bases for a new relationship of favoritism in case of government change. And for the Government, the Bolibourgeoisie plays the role of an informal mediator with the Opposition.

A Phantom Government with Tangible Corruption

Corruption scandals surrounded Guaido from the beginning. In February 2019 the failed operation in the Venezuelan-Colombian border to bring medical supplies and food provided by the US government took place. Even though scarce, most of the food stored in Cucuta perished without being distributed to the thousands of Venezuelan refugees in Colombian territory.

Other problems came out. Under the promise of economic help, military personnel in the dozens deserted and crossed the border. Many others who had been previously exiled joined them, gathering in the Colombian border city of Cucuta. Quickly they started accumulating debts with hotels in the city. Circumventing his ambassador in Colombia, Humberto Calderon, Guaido sent two emissaries to deal with the issue, who rapidly gathered an important quantity of money from governments and businessmen. But instead of using the money for the purpose declared, they appropriated it. Denunciations over this case were published in June in opposition media outlets and were then confirmed by Calderon (4). When he was removed from the “embassy” in Colombia, he reiterated his complaints and added that he had opposed the appointment by Guaidó’s emissaries of new management to Monómeros, an important Venezuelan state-owned petrochemical enterprise in Colombia (5).

Guaido’s successor at the Comptrollership Commission, Freddy Superlano, also from Voluntad Popular, became notorious during the “humanitarian” operation, as he was drugged with scopolamine together with one assistant by two women in situation of prostitution, who allegedly stole an important quantity of money in cash from them (6).

Guaidó’s alliance with the Colombian government, closely tied to drug trafficking and paramilitary action, would also put his democratic claims into question. The detention of leaders of the Colombian narco-paramilitary group Los Rastrojos led to the leak in September last year of photographs of  the leaders of the group, known as the Brother and the Minor, posing with Guaido, after allegedly coordinating Guaido’s border crossing into Venezuela. (7).

Another scandal was the designation of José Ignacio Hernández as attorney for the self-proclaimed interim government. Hernández was questioned given his role in the lawsuit of the Canadian multinational Crystallex against CITGO, PDVSA’s subsidiary in the U.S. At that trial, he appeared as an expert witness for the company against the Venezuelan state. But in his new role for the Guaidó administration, he now has to defend CITGO from the confiscatory claims of Crystallex. Guaido refused to remove Hernández even when, in July 2019, a US court granted a US$1.4 billion judgement against CITGO in favor of Crystallex.

When, overcoming the dissent of some opposition parliamentarians, the National Assembly approved in January last year the allocation of a US$20 million fund for lawsuits abroad for the questioned Hernández, a new crisis erupted because in the request for the resources, to be taken from CITGO, no detailed account of said lawsuits was given. Put in evidence, Hernández offered his resignation, but Guaido refused to remove him.

To pretend a rectification was taking place, in February this year, an “internal comptroller” was designated. The remedy did not look better than the disease. The designated civil servant, Juan Pablo Soteldo, comes from a long trajectory as comptroller of Chavista administrations in Lara state between 1998 and 2010, and then in Carabobo and Zulia, all of them characterized by the impunity of their corruption. His role seems to be to advise the administrators of the US government funding so that corruption goes by unnoticed.

Tamara Adrian advised on how to loot PDVSA “legally”

The parliamentarian Tamara Adrian, from Guaido’s party, provided the Chavista businessmen Luis and Ignacio Oberto with legal advice in 2012, during the configuration of a fraudulent scheme to take advantage of the gigantic currency control gap, with which Chavismo facilitated for over a decade all types of economic crimes.

Luis Oberto, son-in-law of the Bolibourgeois banker Victor Gill, and his brother Ignacio Oberto, appropriated around US$ 4.5 billion, by lending funds in Bolívares to PDVSA in exchange for re-payments in US dollars, their value calculated at a much lower rate than than the market one. Throughout, they paid large bribes to Chavista civil servants in charge of approving such operations. Other Bolibourgeois, such as Alejandro Betancourt, Raul Gorrín and even Maduro’s own relatives, used this scheme as well. The New Herald brought to light this year the role played by the lawyer Adrian in 2012, when she provided a legal guarantee to the Oberto, as they designed this scheme. Currently these operations are under investigation by the US authorities (8). The now-parliamentarian defended her role when asked: “the company’s operations functioned in a very transparent manner at the time of the advisory… the operations… were totally legitimate”. In a press conference later she said that the publications of the Miami Herald and The New Herald constituted maneuvers of the Chavista government to discredit the opposition. But in her Twitter account, Adrián admitted that “Maduro’s stepsons, the so-called Bolichicos and Mr. Gorrin, among others, found in the legal gap observed by my (legal) opinion, the seed of a way to drain resources from PDVSA to enrich themselves. And promoted these operations for several years.” (9)

The amount looted through the carry trade device established around exchange rate distortions was so big that the banker Charles Henry de Beaumont from the Swiss entity Compagnie Bancaire Helvétique, portrayed as the operator of money laundering for the Oberto and other Bolibourgeois, would have amassed US$ 22 million just in commissions (10).

Derwick’s Bolichicos

Another plot investigated in the US concerns the money laundering in Florida through real estate investments of US$ 1.2 billion obtained from PDVSA through a scheme of fraudulent loans. Bolibourgeois entrepreneurs such as Derwick’s Francisco Convit and Alejandro Betancourt, the banker and media outlet owner Raul Gorrin, businessman Jose Vicente Amparan Croquer, former PDVSA executive Abraham Ortega and other high-ranking members of the oil company, as well as Maduro’s own stepsons Walter, Yoswal and Yosser Gavidia Flores, all profited from this scheme. For this case, the German Mathias Krull from the Swiss banking firm Julius Baer, has been sentenced. According to the US Department of Justice’s investigation, Derwick Associates began a scheme in 2014 to launder petrodollars fraudulently appropriated in Venezuela in the US through Colombian money manager Gustavo Hernández Frieri’s Miami firms Global Security Advisors and Global Strategic Investments. The volume of Bolibourgeois investments in the US grew so large that in 2015 13% of the international buyers in Miami were Venezuelan. (11).

Derwick’s executives Alejandro Betancourt and Francisco Convit, became popularly known as the bolichicos due to their relative youth. The company became prominent after receiving without tender contracts for $2.2 billion from PDVSA, state electricity company Corpoelec, and the state-owned industrial conglomerate CVG, to build electric power plants. Between 2009 and 2012, Derwick would purchase second- or third-hand equipment abroad, bill the State as if it were new, and disappear from the picture as it became useless after a few years. Derwick also entered into partnerships with PDVSA and the Russian company Gazprom in the mixed-capital company Petrozamora to directly partake of the oil feast. Quite an extraordinary trajectory for a shell company created by a group of spoiled kids without previous experience in the energy industry, but with good personal relations with, among others, Huguito Chávez while his father lived, and old foxes from the ‘80s and ‘90s corruption such as Henry Ramos Allup from the Accion Democratica party, and Eloy Montenegro Salom, the director of the Banco Latino who oversaw the embezzlement that brought about the 1994 banking crisis, one of the milestones in the history of corruption in Venezuela. Journalists report of bribes towards opposition media outlets such as El Nacional and how Derwick executives served as front men of Rafael Ramírez and Diosdado Cabello (12). Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz began a brief investigation of Derwick’s businesses, but these were closed in 2014.

Betancourt, Guaido and Giuliani

Alejandro Betancourt, founder and president of Derwick, is the owner of the  € 22 million El Alamin estate in Toledo in association with Francisco D’Agostino, son-in-law of the Bolibourgeois banker Victor Vargas and brother-in-law of AD’s Henry Ramos Allup. The property, which includes a castle, ironically was acquired in a public auction, its previous owner a businessman sentenced for fraud (13).

The legal problems of Betancourt in the US led him to start an audacious and expensive legal defense, hiring Rudolph Giuliani, the ultra-reactionary former mayor of New York who is also a personal lawyer and informal advisor of president Trump. El Alamin was the setting of an August 2019 party attended by Betancourt, Giuliani and Wilmer Guaido, Juan Guaido’s father. Reuters revealed that the role of Wilmer Guaido consisted in confirming to Giuliani that his son had received important financing from Betancourt. A few weeks later, in September, Giuliani met in Washington with authorities from the State Department, alleging that Betancourt collaborated with US foreign policy interests in Venezuela by funding Guaido. To this end, he had filmed a video with the testimony of Wilmer Guaido in El Alamin. According to Reuters, basing its report in several sources, Giuliani mentioned Juan Guaido’s willingness to confirm to the judicial officers the information regarding Betancourt’s funding (14).

In short, few weeks after the scandal of Luis Parra and the parliamentarians of the “CLAP block”, it was confirmed that Guaidó used his father as emissary for precisely the same task, to intercede in favor of a notorious Bolibourgeois before the US government. In exchange for an undetermined but relatively small part of Derwick’s spoils from the oil feast, Betancourt would be benefited by Guaido’s “amnesty”.

Both Guaidos denied knowing Betancourt or having received money from him. To their disgrace, CNN would publish on February 7th photographic evidence of the presence of Wilmer Guaido in El Alamin, as well as testimonies that Juan Guaido himself had a discussion on Facetime with Giuliani (15). The photos were taken by Lev Parnas, a partner of Giuliani who supported the informal communication channels between Trump and the Ukrainian government to put pressure on it to open investigations that could influence the US presidential campaign, a maneuver that became the center of the recent impeachment. The Washington Post had already published pieces last year regarding the meeting of Giuliani with Betancourt in El Alamín, revealing that Giuliani had also met there with a high ranking Ukrainian officer (16).

Similar to the services performed for Betancourt, Giuliani would have offered his help to the Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash to broker a meeting with US Attorney General William Barr to discuss his legal problems in the U.S., in exchange for information about Joe Biden that could be useful for Trump in the coming elections.

But in regards to Venezuela, Giuliani has not limited himself to serve Derwick’s leader. The Washington Post revealed that a year before, in September 2018, Trump’s lawyer participated in a telephone call with Maduro where discussions on potential negotiated solutions to the impasse between his government and Trump took place. Also present in this phone call was Congressman Pete Sessions, following lobbying by yankee oil magnate Harry Sargeant, who expressed worry about the possible harm that sanctions against Venezuela could mete on American oil companies as they competed with Russian and Chinese ones.  Sessions had already been part of secret negotiations with the Chavista government in early 2018. In another example of the mediator role exercised by the Bolibourgeoisie, the Chavista businessman Raul Gorrín hosted Sessions in Caracas. For Maduro, the objective of these negotiations was to promote the recognition of the presidential elections of May 2018 (17).

Chavismo’s Moral Gymnastics

The government has tried to take advantage of the publicity regarding the relationship between Guaidó and Betancourt. The Minister of Information, Jorge Rodriguez, has made extensive declarations on the topic. As the government is so drowned in corruption scandals, it no longer evades these topics, using them instead to embarrass the parliamentary opposition as it swims in the same swamp. The government already employed a similar resource a year ago, when it presented images of a secret meeting between Guaido and the Chavista leaders Cabello and Bernal (18).

The government not only denounced the links of Betancourt and Guaido, but also those of Derwick and Rafael Ramirez, who was president of PDVSA for most of Chavez’s government, now exiled in Italy. On January 23rd, Rodríguez charged: “Betancourt is a corrupt person, who enriched himself thanks to illegal contracts granted by Rafael Ramirez when he was president of PDVSA”. Ramirez responded by claiming that it was Majed Khalil, who he alleged was a front man for Rodriguez himself, who enriched himself with electricity contracts. Moreover, he accused Rodriguez and Maduro of stealing US$ 40 million donated by Odebrecht for the presidential campaign of 2012 (19). The mobster pact of complicit silence among the Bolibourgeoisie was broken.

Trump and the Bolibourgeoisie

Trump’s fortune is based on real estate speculation, a sector that depends to a great degree on money laundering and where regulations are especially loose, in the US and in most of the capitalist world. Trump held business relations throughout his business career with the Italian mafia in the US, the Russian mafia, and more recently, also with the Bolibourgeoisie.

The journalist David Enrich has documented the relationship between Trump and Deutsche Bank. This relationship came to light recently due to judicial fights, still in progress, pursuing the publication of tax payment receipts from the US president. Between 1998 and 2016, the German bank lent two billion  US dollars to Trump, besides putting him in touch with investors of the Russian oligarchy. Enrich’s work proves that the Deutsche Bank, once one of the greatest financiers of Nazism, was aware and weighed in the risks associated to money laundering at the service of Russian gangsters by Trump (20). 

The publication of Trump’s financial records could reveal the business connections between the imperialist tycoon and the Bolibourgeoisie to be more extensive than currently known. But what we do already know is not little. In the framework of the world economic crisis opened in 2007, and in light of the massive capital export from Venezuela under the Chavista looting, the Venezuelan bourgeoisie became a significant niche of clients for the real estate market in the US and Latin America. The Trump Organization sold in 2015 a US$ 2 million property in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic, to a shell company where the former wife of the Chavista Minister Pedro Morejon participated, considered by journalistic sources to be a front for Diosdado Cabello. The sale took place only two months before the launch of Trump’s presidential pre-candidacy, meaning that Chavismo had injected resources to Trump’s vaults while he planned to start his electoral campaign, providing indirect funding (21).

Some of the sales made by Trump to the Chavista Bourgeoisie would have been paid above their value, in cash or using briefcase companies. Moris Beracha, an old advisor of Rafael Isea, a high-ranking Chavista figure who served as governor of Aragua state and Minister of Finance and went into US exile after breaking with Maduro, bought three Trump properties in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2008, one of them for a value of US$ 3.6 million. Beracha faced a judicial process for participating in a US$ 500 million pyramid scheme. The businessman Roberto Rincón, sentenced in the US for paying bribes in PDVSA to secure contracts, bought another Trump property in Florida for US$ 1.7 million in 2011. Ronald Sánchez, brother of a high-ranking officer of Chávez, bought another property in Florida for US$ 625,000 the same year. Rubén Halfen, of PDVSA’s vendor Inelectra, paid US$ 5.1 million for a Trump property in New York, in 2008. Other capitalists linked to the Chavista regime bought properties of Trump in Panama. (22)

With these records, gestures from the Chavista government such as the donation of half a million dollars through CITGO to the inaugural celebration of Trump’s government in 2016, or the repeated investments into lobbying companies linked to the Republican party in Washington, become much less surprising. An examination of the facts destroys Chavismo’s pretensions to present itself as anti-imperialist or socialist. But it is also clear that the pro-Yankee opposition lacks the democratic or anti-corruption credentials that it likes to brag about. While the US government, loyal to its imperialist tradition, has adopted foreign policy objectives in Venezuela oriented to the establishment of a government that becomes its direct agent, like Guaido’s, rather than an indirect one such as Chavismo is, it’s not less true that Trump’s government is, among the US governments of the latest decades, the most chaotic, incoherent and willing to sacrifice strategic objectives over tactical considerations or short term ones. The informal mechanisms held by the presidency to promote its policies are in permanent tension with the formal state apparatus, as reflected in the contradiction of Giuliani adopting as a client one of the biggest criminals of the Bolibourgeoisie, using Guaido as a token for his legal defense, while the special envoy for Venezuela, Abrams, publicly expresses his concern in relation to the private funders of the “interim government”.

For the majority of the Venezuelan working people, subjected to the brutal oppression of a civic-military dictatorial regime, as well as the super-exploitation derived of the counterrevolution carried out by Maduro in labor relations, recognizing our enemies in the government and in the Bolibourgeoisie is not enough. It’s necessary to overcome the dangerous trust placed on Trump’s government, as he demolishes with sanctions what is left of the Venezuelan economy while exonerating with specific licenses Chevron and the other US companies so they continue looting the country in association with Chavismo. Nor can US puppet Guaidó, eager to grab the dollars stolen by the Bolibourgeoisie, be offered any trust. These conclusions can only be reinforced by the raw revelations of the past few months of the mafia-like relations between the parliamentary Opposition and the Bolibourgeoisie.


1.- Quién es quién en la trama corrupta que involucra a diputados, El Estímulo, 5 de enero de 2020

2.- ¿Necesita lavar su reputación? Se alquilan diputados para tal fin, Roberto Deniz, 1 de diciembre de 2019

3.- Odebrecht financió a la oposición venezolana a través de cuentas en Suiza, Francois Pilet, 21 de marzo de 2019ón_odebrecht-financió-a-la-oposición-venezolana-a-través-de-cuentas-en-suiza/44837146

4.- Calderón Berti admite que investigación por corrupción inició «hace dos meses», Jesús Herrera, 16 de junio de 2019

5.- Excolaborador afirma que Guaidó debe combatir la corrupción en su círculo, Ethan Bronner, 11 de diciembre de 2019

6.- Encuentran emburundangado a diputado opositor venezolano en motel de Cúcuta,, 24 de febrero de 2019

7.- Las fotos en las que Guaidó aparece junto a jefes de los Rastrojos,, 12 de septiembre de 2019

8.- Opositora asesoró operaciones que derivaron en mayor caso de corrupción de Venezuela, Antonio María Delgado y Jay Weaver, 10 de febrero de 2020

9.- 10 de febrero de 2020

10.- EEUU investiga desfalco de $4,500 millones, en mayor caso venezolano de corrupción, Antonio María Delgado y Jay Weaver, 26 de noviembre de 2019

11.- Venezuela: la red de exfuncionarios chavistas acusada de desfalcar US$1.200 millones a la petrolera estatal PDVSA y lavar dinero con propiedades en Miami, BBC News Mundo, 26 de julio de 2018

12.- Thor Halvorssen: “Bolichicos” estafaron con chatarra eléctrica, Carlos Díaz, 9 de mayo de 2016

13.- Finca El Alamín: el paraíso o el infierno de Alejandro Betancourt, César Batiz, 1 de diciembre de 2019

14.- Giuliani pidió indulgencia legal para empresario que dice haber financiado oposición venezolana: fuentes, Aram Roston, Matt Spetalnick y Brian Ellsworth, 22 de enero de 2020

15.- Fotos de Rudy Giuliani en España muestran que Lev Parnas tiene mucho más por contar, Vicky Ward, 7 de febrero de 2020

16.- A wealthy Venezuelan hosted Giuliani as he pursued Ukraine campaign. Then Giuliani lobbied the Justice Department on his behalf, Rosalind S. Helderman, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky y Tom Hamburger, 26 de noviembre de 2019

17.- Trump’s lawyer and the Venezuelan president: How Giuliani got involved in back-channel talks with Maduro, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Anthony Faiola y Josh Dawsey, 30 de diciembre de 2019

18.- Ministro venezolano revela detalles de la reunión entre Gobierno y diputado opositor, Telesur, 25 de enero de 2019–20190125-0027.html

19.- Ramírez respondió a acusaciones de Jorge Rodríguez: «Eres el colmo del cinismo», El Nacional, 23 de enero de 2020

20.- The money behind Trump´s money, David Enrich, 4 de febrero de 2020

21.- Trump arremete contra los chavistas, pero ¿hizo dinero vendiéndoles propiedades?, Ben Wieder y Kevin G. Hall, 6 de mayo de 2019

22.- Real estate mogul Trump sold condos to regime-connected Venezuelans, Anita Kumar, 4 de Agosto de 2019

16 thoughts on “The Bolibourgeoisie, Guaido, and Trump: Racketeering as the Common Denominator

  1. Pingback: Purge in PDVSA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s