As seems to be the case a lot recently we’ll get started Down The Rabbit Hole tomorrow as we have some catching up to do. We’ll begin with a group of stories that are all interconnected in one way or another by the big jigsaw puzzle of corruption that is Chavismo. We have News18 reporting that two Venezuelans and three Colombians have been charged by the US Justice Department with money laundering relating to Maduro’s utterly corrupt CLAP food program intended to help feed the poor (almost everybody) in Venezuela. Yes, that’s the same one set up by Alex Saab who was just extradited to the US.

 Then we have the US Department of State issuing a $10 million reward for information on at least one of the Colombians involved in the CLAP related scheme.

 Then we have Camila Fabri,wife of Alex Saab, putting out a statement that she has felt no pressure from the Maduro regime despite all the reporting that she may be used as leverage by the Maduro regime to keep Alex Saab from cooperating with US authorities.

 And then we have Insight Crime reporting that the five subjects of the new indictment by the US Justice Department were involved in dozens of shell companies at the center of the CLAP food program fraud, some partially owned by Alex Saab and linked to Nicolas Maduro. To refresh your memory, the CLAP program was to provide food security for the Venezuelan people through food boxes delivered every two weeks containing enough staples for a family of five. The food items were sold to the Venezuelan government at vastly inflated prices and often were of inferior quality or expired. Most of the sourcing was originally done through a Mexican company tied to Saab and Maduro. Then, through the reporting done by ArmandoInfo, the “Mexican connection” was investigated, promptly shut down, and everything was rerouted through sources in Turkey. Coincidentally, the Maduro regime began increasing commercial and political ties with Turkey at that time. And how was this facilitated? Well, one unnamed official involved was a high level functionary at Fonden, part of the Finance Ministry in Venezuela. The interesting thing about Fonden is that it was created by Hugo Chavez and was responsible for 60% of the spending by the Venezuelan government and, unlike the other 40%, was not subject to oversight by the National Assembly. So there was no accountability for over half the spending by the Chavistas….what could possibly go wrong?

 A good example of the corruption involving Chavismo is the Caracas Metro, which now has a budget of 15 million Euros. When corrupt construction conglomerate Odebrecht was working for the Chavistas they had a budget of 1 and 1/2 billion Euros.

 Then we have BA Times (Argentina) reporting that the current president is just a placeholder for VP Christina Fernandez de Kirchner who is really calling the shots and supports the Maduro regime. And why do we mention this..? Caracas Chronicles reports that “The Chicken” is not on a plane to the US yet due to a last minute asylum request. This is the same request that has been denied twice already. He has been doing a lot of talking, positioning himself to make a deal. He says there were 20 deliveries $1 million each to Argentina to finance “Kirchnerismo” during CFK’s time as president

 We also have Pro Box, a Twitter monitoring outfit, giving us a glimpse of what’s going on in social media, which is crucial to Venezuelans receiving news, as there is no independent media. 55% of trending on Twitter in Venezuela is inorganic, coming from fake or automated accounts. As this news of Alex Saab has become more prominent there have been 34 hashtags about Alex Saab, all from radical Chavista accounts.

 There has also been a lot of talk about the fake or “shadow” opposition pertaining to the upcoming elections in Venezuela in November despite protestations by the Chavistas and the CNE (electoral council). A good sign of the prevalence of fake opposition members might be the recent agreement put forth by Maduro’s tailor made National Assembly (not the duly elected 2015 National Assembly). It was a measure in support of Alex Saab and was agreed upon without any dissenting votes by the contingent of “opposition” in the assembly. Hmm…

 As you can see, the web of fraudulent connections swirling around Alex Saab and others currently involved in the extradition process is far reaching and complex. It is evident that Maduro and the Chavistas are far too inept to have constructed this financial web so perhaps we will get some clarification as to how, at least partially, some of the $300-$660 billion(or more) went missing from Venezuelan coffers.

 Moving on…we have the Norwegian team leaving Mexico so I guess we shouldn’t expect any need for mediation by them any time soon.Uh, OK, wasn’t one of the key items on the agenda in the negotiations between the Maduro regime and the opposition in Mexico about holding free and fair elections?

 Then we have the US Assistant Secretary of State saying what we already knew. “Factors that make elections free and fair are normally present long before election day.” When are those elections,again? Oh, right, next month.

 Then in the “talking out of both sides of your mouth” category we have a CNE board member saying, “The EU mission must go to Venezuela to attest the real situation of our democracy.” (we say “dictatorship” here at Tales From Teodoro) At the same time, the same board member makes a preemptive strike against a potential negative review. “A European statement against the election would be meddling in Venezuelan affairs.” Sounds like free and fair elections to me.

 Then we have France24 telling us that former opposition candidate for president (twice),Henrique Capriles, is calling for opposition unity and less ego. Most observers see that as impossible.

 And my personal favorite opposition figure (along with Leopoldo Lopez) is still out there telling it like it is. She said this week that Juan Guaido had the best opportunity in history to overthrow Maduro.

 38 North reports that Hugo Chavez opposed US efforts to isolate countries that support terrorism and that Maduro seeks closer ties with DPRK (North Korea). Big surprise,huh?

 And in our weird story of the week we have ILNA reporting that Tehran and Caracas will launch their own SWIFT system. That would be the international banking system that facilitates financial transactions worldwide. So, I guess this means the central banks of Iran and Venezuela will be doing transactions in local currencies, gold, and other money transfers without being under the watchful eyes of the international banking system. Another hmm….

 Well, that’s enough for today. We will be back tomorrow to head Down The Rabbit Hole as well as more recent news.

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