Español Created in January 2014, political party Podemos (we can) has taken Spain by storm. In just its first five months of existence, it has become Spain’s fourth most popular party in the European Parliament. Party leaders have branded themselves as the new solution to the Spanish economic crisis, promising to preserve the welfare state and make companies pay.
Podemos’s strategy has been simple: take citizen indignation and turn it into a political movement. However, the party, led by university professor Pablo Iglesias, has caused quite a commotion today for a very different reason, one far from from their political achievements: Podemos has been financed by Hugo Chávez, former president of Venezuela.
“Modesty, democracy, and human rights” were the foundations for this party, which has sold itself as the new and austere Spanish political group that seeks to include all those marginalized by the economic crisis.
“This is not a new party nor a new product; it’s an initiative that put forward citizen participation,” said Podemos candidate and coordinator Miguel Urban. “We don’t seek a seat in the European Parliament, except as a method towards citizen participation.”
Nonetheless, by May, Podemos was the one of the most voter-savvy parties in Spain, gaining five seats in the European Parliament.
Back in January, Urban assured that the party was born with “zero euros.” In his own words, they would ask for “not one euro from the banks we want to expropriate, or the politicians we want to kick out.” Their whole thrust was based on asking for funds from citizens, because after all, they are the ones the party would be “loyal” to.
Nonetheless, time proved this party to be contrary of what it had promised. Podemos — self-proclaimed as independent from “hegemonic powers” — received US$5 million from the Venezuelan government through their nonprofit policy institute, the Center for Political and Social Studies (CEPS), to finance their campaign.
The “donations” that the policy institute, and subsequently the party, received from Venezuela’s Chavismo date back to 2002. An extensive report released today by El País reveals the close bonds between the CEPS and Podemos, where almost all the high profile members of the party worked as academic scholars in the think tank. The report also identifies the successive contributions and the quantity of each one of them.
According to the Spanish publication, since the contributions were given to a nonprofit foundation, they received numerous financial benefits that allowed the party to basically receive the funds tax-free.
While the obvious link between the party and the think-tank had been previously identified, Iglesias has rejected these claims, stating that the organizations are not related, and that neither one of them finances the other. Regarding the accusations that scholars from the CEPS, who also work for the party, have offered consulting services to the Venezuelan government and charged exorbitant sums of money, Iglesias states:
“There are many consultants working in Venezuela for opposition parties and they may make €6,000, €7,000, €8,000 a month. No CEPS consultant has ever made anything like that.”
However, the only client the nonprofit policy institute has had in a decade has been the Venezuelan regime.
In fact, a large portion of the funds — US$1.6 million — came from a special consulting service the organization offered to former President Hugo Chávez. In addition, they charged for assessment services to other government agencies in Venezuela, that ranged from “globalization classes” to workshops to measure the “socioeconomic perception” among Venezuelans.
As soon as the report from El Pais came out, the political party released a statement denying the allegations.
“Podemos does not receive, nor has it received, a single euro from any government or foundation, foreign or domestic, and we want to denounce the deceptive nature of any information that aims to insinuate the existence of sources of financing different from the ones we receive from the citizens…”
But the financing link doesn’t end there. The party’s campaign director for the European elections, Íñigo Errejón, was research director at GIS XXI right up until 2013. That is Venezuela’s government-sponsored polling firm, headed by Jesse Chacón, current minister for Electrical Energy and former companion of Chávez during the 1992 failed military coup.
Back in 2013, during a panel on “Chavismo as a Political Identity,” Errejón affirmed, “it’s undeniable the stamp Chávez has left in Venezuela, Latin America, and the world as a political, social, and cultural event in the history of the 20th and 21st centuries.”
In the same panel, the Podemos campaign director identified Chavismo as a “story that explains to Venezuelans who they are, what their rights are, and what they can aspire to.”