Venezuela giró US$135 mil para intercambio humanitario a través de Monómeros

Por Venezuela Real - 16 de Agosto, 2008, 23:52, Categoría: Prensa Internacional

El Tiempo - Colombia
16 de agosto de 2008

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — Fernando Lugo, “the bishop of the poor,” as he is known here, was sworn in Friday as president of Paraguay, promising to give land to the landless and to end entrenched corruption after six decades of one-party rule.

Mr. Lugo was elected in April on a socialist platform. Among the Latin American leaders who attended his inauguration on Friday were, from left top: President Evo Morales of Bolivia; President Michelle Bachelet of Chile; (from left bottom) President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela; and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina.

Despite his remarkable victory in April, the gray-bearded Mr. Lugo, a 57-year-old former Roman Catholic bishop, faces a challenging road in pursuing his agenda, knowing that the Colorado Party, which ruled Paraguay for 61 years, is still very much ingrained in politics here.

For 35 of those years, the party was dominated by one man, Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, a dictator blamed for many human rights atrocities. In the past five years it was represented by the departing president, Nicanor Duarte Frutos, who expanded an already bloated and inefficient government bureaucracy.

The election of Mr. Lugo, the ultimate outsider who spent 11 years as a priest living in the countryside working with peasant movements seeking land reform, was a dramatic break with the past for Paraguay, a landlocked country of six million that is hamstrung by inequality and rural poverty.

He was elected promising change on an ill-defined socialist platform and will now have to manage the soaring expectations of Paraguayans in what by law is a single five-year term.

Wearing a long-sleeve white shirt with no necktie or jacket, Mr. Lugo practically screamed his response on Friday while taking the oath to uphold the Constitution and Paraguay’s laws. “Yes, I swear!” he said to a raucous response.

In his 40-minute inauguration speech, he talked about the need to escape the legacy of decades of dictatorship that had “infiltrated” Paraguay’s culture. “Today marks the end of the elitist and secretive Paraguay, famous for its corruption,” Mr. Lugo told a huge crowd gathered outside Paraguay’s Congress.

He later added: “The change is not just an election question. The change in Paraguay is a cultural challenge, perhaps the most important in its history.”

His political skills still mostly untested, Mr. Lugo now faces the challenge of distinguishing his socialist goals from those of other populist leaders who have taken power in South America in recent years.

Some political analysts consider Mr. Lugo part of a wave of anti-free-market leftists that includes Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia, who have nationalized industries and redistributed wealth to the poor masses.

“This is a candidate that won the elections with almost no government program,” said José María Costa, a political columnist for Última Hora, a newspaper here. “It isn’t clear what his positions will be.”

Mr. Lugo, however, has been careful to avoid being lumped in with those other leaders, saying he admires them but considers himself a more moderate independent. In his speech on Friday he noted his admiration for Salvador Allende, the slain president of Chile, a leftist who Mr. Lugo noted “wanted to construct a better society.”

The new Paraguayan president takes over in a situation akin to what Vicente Fox encountered in Mexico in 2000 when he broke the 71-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Unlike Mr. Chávez, who had more freedom to operate because of crumbling political parties after he won the Venezuelan election in 1998, Mr. Fox had to contend with a resilient PRI.

“Lugo is going to have to show that he can form coalitions with the old party structure,” said Michael Shifter, a vice president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a research group in Washington. “And that is something that Fox was not able to do in Mexico. Lugo has no choice but to make deals and pursue allies to help carry out his policy agenda.”
In recent weeks, Mr. Lugo has already faced a growing wave of land invasions that his administration believes are part of a campaign led by opposition politicians to destabilize the nascent government.

Some 200 rural properties are under the threat of invasion, political analysts said. This week a group of 150 peasants destroyed about five acres of a 500-acre sunflower farm that was cultivated by a Brazilian farmer, according to Paraguayan media reports. They are occupying the farm, in San Pedro, northeast of the capital, the reports said.

Mr. Lugo has talked about giving land titles to the landless to help lift them out of poverty. And he has also spoken of the need to increase agricultural export taxes, especially on soybeans. Paraguay is the fourth largest exporter of soybeans in the world.

Mr. Shifter said that Mr. Lugo needed to gain momentum by making a major, unifying political statement rather than be dragged into the mud of Paraguayan politics.

Mr. Lugo, a member of the small Christian Democratic Party, was swept to power as part of the Patriotic Alliance for Change, an unwieldy coalition of diverse parties from the center and left, including the center-right Authentic Radical Liberal Party, Paraguay’s largest opposition party.

While the coalition may offer him a strong base of support among labor groups, some analysts have warned that it may also pull Mr. Lugo in competing directions.

One area he is likely to focus on is relations with neighboring Brazil. Mr. Lugo promised during the campaign to try to renegotiate unfavorable contract terms of the Itaipú hydroelectric dam along the two countries’ border, a winning issue with almost all Paraguayans.

Brazilian officials have not signaled a willingness to review the contracts thoroughly, but Paraguay’s long-term stability is important to Brazil.

But a bold proposal for land reform could also serve Mr. Lugo well. Paraguay, nestled between Argentina and Brazil, ranked seventh highest of 139 countries in terms of inequality in a recent United Nations Development Program study.

About 1 percent of Paraguay’s population owns 77 percent of the country’s land, Frank O. Mora, a professor of national security strategy at the National War College, said this week at a conference in Washington.

The country has struggled to shed its reputation as one of the most corrupt in Latin America. It is also one of the poorest. Some 33 percent of Paraguayans live below the poverty line, and about a million live abroad.

Mr. Lugo won in April amid growing impatience with corruption and the public perception — especially amid rising unemployment in Paraguay’s cities — that the Colorados helped themselves to the country’s wealth to the exclusion of average Paraguayans.

For a time, it was not clear that Mr. Lugo would be allowed to make the transition from priest to politician. The Paraguayan Constitution prohibits church officials of any denomination from being elected president, so Mr. Lugo resigned his position as bishop in December 2006. The Vatican initially refused to accept his resignation and considered him only suspended.
Last month Pope Benedict XVI gave him permission to resign as bishop.
El Tiempo

Venezuela giró US$135 mil para intercambio humanitario a través de Monómeros

Ex embajador de Venezuela niega reunión donde se decidió entrega de recursos, pero figura en el acta y asistentes lo mencionan.

Los recursos se aportaron a finales del año pasado por cuenta del gobierno venezolano, sin conocimiento del Gobierno colombiano.

Los desembolsos, por el equivalente a 271 millones de pesos, fueron hechos a través de la empresa Monómeros Colombovenezolanos -con sede en Barranquilla- y fueron entregados a personas relacionadas con la senadora Piedad Córdoba, en ese momento intermediaria para ese tema, autorizada por el presidente Álvaro Uribe.

Así se desprende de un acta de Monómeros conocida por EL TIEMPO, en la que Héctor Rodelo, hoy ex gerente de esa empresa, filial de la estatal petrolera venezolana PDVSA, da cuenta de una reunión en la que se determinó el traspaso de esos recursos.

La reunión, según se lo reconoció Rodelo a reporteros de este diario, se llevó a cabo el 10 de octubre del 2007 en Bogotá.

A ella asistieron Pável Rondón, entonces embajador de Venezuela en Colombia, Piedad Córdoba y Ricardo Montenegro, director de la ONG Círculo Caribe, uno de los destinatarios del parte del dinero.

"En la reunión -dijo Rodelo- nos solicitaron un aporte de 85.000 dólares, que posteriormente se incrementó a 135.500, para actividades relacionadas con el acuerdo humanitario. Lo único que hice, como gerente de Monómeros, fue cumplir esa orden".

Así se gastó el dinero

Los recursos fueron manejados por Monómeros a través de la cuenta corriente número 0262-6999937-6, de Davivienda, abierta el 4 de noviembre del 2007, y utilizados para tres actividades.

La primera fue la publicidad de un concierto para impulsar el acuerdo humanitario, por los que se pagaron 41 millones 598 mil pesos (23.000 dólares) a la empresa Arte Sano Produce Ltda., según factura número 0011, del 11 de octubre del 2007. El dinero fue consignado en la cuenta 00-11-00058211 de Davivienda.

En segundo término aparece la elaboración de una encuesta denominada 'Percepción de los colombianos en torno al acuerdo humanitario', que, según el acta, costó 200 millones de pesos (100.000 dólares), pagados a la Asociación Nacional para el Desarrollo Social (Andes).

Ese desembolso se produjo el 19 de octubre del año pasado de la cuenta de Monómeros en Davivienda y depositado en la cuenta de ahorros número 053-59137-6 de Bancafé, a nombre de Andes.

Dinero a ex asesor de Córdoba

Por último, aparece un pago a Ricardo Montenegro, ex asesor de Córdoba en el Partido Liberal, por 25 millones de pesos (12.500 dólares), para elaboración de material publicitario de un concierto con el que se buscaba impulsar el acuerdo humanitario.

Montenegro, presidente de la organización Círculo de Pensamiento Caribe, también ha acompañado a la senadora en sus correrías por Venezuela, México y Chile.

Este diario estableció que, el 11 de octubre del 2007, de la oficina de Davivienda en el sector de El Lago, norte de Bogotá, fue retirado un cheque de gerencia a nombre de Montenegro por 25 millones de pesos. Al día siguiente, el 12 de octubre, Montenegro recibió un depósito por esa cantidad a través de un cheque local en su cuenta del Citibank número 412244028.

Montenegro habló con EL TIEMPO y confirmó que asistió a la reunión entre Córdoba, Rondón y Rodelo, en la que se definió la entrega de esos dineros. Sin embargo, dice que no hay nada extraño y que el gobierno de Venezuela estaba enterado, aunque desconoce si el Gobierno colombiano fue informado. "No hay nada oscuro. Todo se hizo en el marco de la mediación autorizada por Colombia", dijo.

Explicó que Córdoba prefirió no recibir ayuda del Gobierno colombiano y que "el dinero de Venezuela que se manejó por Monómeros no se le entregó directamente a la senadora porque se consideró que era más práctico".

Ex embajador niega reunión

EL TIEMPO habló en Caracas con Pável Rondón, pero este afirmó que nunca supo de esa reunión y negó que haya asistido a la misma. Calificó de "incoherente" el que Venezuela le haya entregado recursos a Córdoba para el acuerdo humanitario y que solo asistió a algunas fiestas de la empresa Monómeros.

Sin embargo, tanto Rodelo como Montenegro confirmaron que Rondón estuvo en la reunión y su nombre aparece en el acta del encuentro.

EL TIEMPO intentó hablar con Piedad Córdoba, pero en su oficina dijeron que estaba fuera del país.

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