Finanzas de Chavez

Por Venezuela Real - 27 de Mayo, 2006, 20:23, Categoría: Prensa Internacional

Andy Webb-Vidal in Caracas
Financial Times
07 de abril de 2006

Venezuela is diverting almost $20bn from its oil bonanza into an opaque fund over which President Hugo Chávez has discretionary powers to spend as he sees fit on development and politica causes at home and abroad. The huge international slush fun is being created ahead of elections in December, when Mr Chávez expects to be re-elected, and as he seeks to extend his influence across Latin America.

Mr Chávez, who has
governed the world‚s fifth-largest oil exporter for seven years, often sees himself as the standard-bearer of left wing opponents of Washington´s imperialis policies. However, his discretionary spending purse would appear to be dozens of times larger than that available to President George W. Bush under the White House appropriation rules, which has congressional oversight. In recent days Venezuela‚s central bank has begun transferring $4.2bn (3.4bn, £2.4bn) from foreign reserves to a special fund called Fonden, which will have accumulated about $12.5bn by May.

government estimates that Fonden will have $17.5bn by the end of 2006 equivalent to about 40 per cent of this years official budget of $46bn. An additionalfund called Fondespa already has about $2bn.  Fonden was created last year under a law that obliges the central bank to divert excess  reserves into the fund, with an initial deposit of $6bn last July. Since then about $100m per week has been transferred to Fonden from Petróleos de Venezuela, or Pdvsa, the state-owned oil company. Analysts allege that the fund is technically illegal, because the constitution prohibits extra-budgetary spending. Money from Fonden is quasi-fiscal expenditure but it is enormous and how it is spent is completely discretional, said Orlando Ochoa, an independent economist in Caracas. Only Chávez decides how the money is spent.  Domingo Maza Zavala, a central bank director, said last month that Fonden funds should be used to pay off foreign debt. Analysts doubt that will happen. The government could use more of the Fonden to reduce external debt but there are indications that Fonden is geared to other priorities, said investment bank JP Morgan in a research note last week. Economists also warn that Fonden expenditure will lead to an increase in monetary liquidity, feeding into higher inflation.

Fonden is being managed by the Banco del Tesoro, a
state-owned bank created last year and run by Rodolfo Marco Torres, an army officer who participated in Mr Chávez´s 1992 military coup attempt. Mr Marco did not return calls seeking comment. According to a recent finance ministry presentation, Fonden‚s current balance, about $9bn, is held at HSBC, the UK-based bank.

Opaque financial management of Fonden is adding to
doubts over the transparency of Venezuela‚s public finances. Some of the money in Fonden is believed to have been spent, possibly on sophisticated operations, such as the purchase of more than $2bn in Argentine sovereign bonds, as well as on more rudimentary tasks.
Venezuela regularly signs oil and project-financing
deals with political groupings or governments in the region. This week it signed a deal with leftwing mayors in El Salvador to provide cheap oil to the poor. But there have also been persistent rumours of cash being given in used dollar bills to left-leaning political candidates in elections.

President Evo Morales of Bolivia has denied receiving
financing from Mr Chávez before his election last December, as has Ollanta Humala, the radical nationalist candidate running in Peru‚ selections on Sunday.

Andy Webb-Vidal in Caracas
Financial Times
07 de abril de 2006

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