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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Beatrice Rangel: On Fairy Tales and Rocky Horrors in Venezuela
Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel on the fairy tale rise of Venezuelan Alejandro Andrade, who went from Chavez bodyguard to billionaire and now possibly to prison

By Beatrice E. Rangel

As Disney began its campaign to attract attention to its new feature The Lion King which tells the story of greed and abuse of power, the U.S. Attorney General unveiled an indictment against Mr Alejandro Andrade a former body guard for late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Mr Andrade is accused of lying to federal authorities and amassing over US$1 billion in bribes while working for the government of Venezuela. Meanwhile visitors to Colombia's most eastern border with Venezuela witness scenes that would make Victor Hugo's depictions of poverty in 19th century Paris a fairy tale. Thousands of former middle-class Venezuelans group to secure a sleeping place in public squares, outside corridors to buildings and everywhere they can secure a spot to rest for a few hours. During the day they roam the streets of Cucuta searching for any kind of temporary jobs or soliciting a few pesos to buy food.

Both events seem to be connected in a dreary kind of way.

The Lion King depicts the unethical and illegitimate takeover of power of a pride in Africa by the uncle of Simba, a young lion that happens to be the son of the murdered leader.

Simba narrowly escapes murder and wanders through the jungle until his pride is lost and dying of famine.

Simba the heir to the throne makes a comeback, defeating the impostor and saving the pride from destruction.

In short, the story tells about crime and punishment.

This is exactly what Mr Andrade is going through.

Born and raised in a country where the rule of law is a matter for scholars and selected bureaucrats, Mr Andrade thought he could easily establish himself with the booty extracted from the Treasury of Venezuela and live happily ever after.

He, of course, did not take into account the independent nature of the U.S. Judiciary and law enforcement establishment that together work to abate organized crime. And slowly but surely the wheels of justice caught up with him.

He now faces at the very least a decade in prison and the loss of all his illegally obtained wealth.

And most interesting is the fact that the Andrade investigation has shed light on the greatest looting ever affected against an individual nation.

Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. now have approximately 62 persons of interest that sooner or later could face indictments. These individuals have sucked out of Venezuela approximately US$350 billion.

Should this money have been distributed to the 30 million-plus population of Venezuela, they would have received about US$11,500 per capita twenty years ago.

Given that the average cost to start a small business in Latin America averages US$4,000, this payment could have turned Venezuela into a middle-class country over the 20-year period ruled by President Chavez and his successor Mr Nicolas Maduro. Instead Venezuelans are today slaves in a country of servitude and misery.

And the misery is now spreading to neighboring Colombia that has seen all its development efforts siphoned out by a massive inflow of migration that is capsizing its educational, health care and law enforcement institutions.

The Venezuelan tragedy is also bringing Latin America back to the 1950s in terms of the health landscape. Vanquished diseases are staging a dreadful homecoming. Polio; typhoid fever; malaria, smallpox and bronchial diseases are spreading due to the absence of medical treatment in Venezuela, where the regime suspended vaccination many moons ago.

And as the region is infested again with these diseases, development efforts are destroyed by a regime that seems to have taken looting to perfection.

Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.

You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.


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