U.S. Hits 10 People, 13 Companies with Sanctions Connected to Venezuelan Food Program; Treasury Dept. Claims Greedy Maduro and Associates Profit While People Starve

  • The U.S. has hit 10 people and 13 companies with sanctions in what they call corruption in the country’s food program after accusing President Nicolás Maduro and his associates of profiting from the program while Venezuelan citizens are short-changed.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department said that a “vast corruption network” has existed for years that “made money from overvalued contracts while only a fraction of the food for the state-run program was imported.”
  • The U.S. government placed sanctions on people they deem responsible, including Maduro’s three stepsons.
  • Maduro disagrees with the sanctions and call them “a sign of desperation by the gringo empire.”
  • With Venezuela thrown into political and economic chaos for the past year, the country has faced severe food shortages where many people “say they do not have access to enough food.” The country has also experienced a medicine shortage.
  • The Maduro administration created the Local Committees for Supply and Production, known as Clap, “to distribute food boxes at subsidized prices.
  • However, the U.S. government claims “Colombian national Alex Nain Saab ran a network that obtained no-bid, overvalued contracts from the Venezuelan government, including from the food program.”
  • Saab has been accused of establishing a firm in 2016 to obtain food outside of Venezuela, which would then be shipped into the nation, but instead, he only imported a fraction of the food that was contracted but reaped the profits.
  • The accusations also claim “Saab and Alvaro Enrique Pulido Vargas, his business partner, have paid bribes and kickbacks to officials to win overvalued contracts from as early as 2009,” including by Maduro’s stepsons.
  • One contract involved the construction of 25,000 low-income residences where Saab and Vargas were paid three to four times what they actually cost.
  • In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “Alex Saab engaged with Maduro insiders to run a wide scale corruption network they callously used to exploit Venezuela’s starving population.”
  • Mnuchin continued: “[Authorities] use food as a form of social control, to reward political supporters and punish opponents, all the while pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars through a number of fraudulent schemes.”
  • Maduro said on state TV: “Imperialists, prepare for more defeats, because the Clap in Venezuela will continue… No one takes the Clap away from the people.”

Reference Links

  • BBC: Venezuela crisis: Vast corruption network in food programme, US says READ
  • Bloomberg: U.S. Hits Venezuela Food ‘Corruption Network’ With Sanctions READ
  • Venezuela Analysis: Venezuela: US Sanctions Target Subsidized Food Program as Foro de Sao Paulo Kicks Off READ
  • KFF: U.S. Implements Sanctions On Venezuelan Elites Accused Of Running Corruption Scheme Diverting Funds From Nation’s Food Program READ

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