The Chavista Cronies Who Staff Venezuela’s Embassies
EspañolIf you’re dreaming of a diplomatic career in Venezuela, it is now a lost cause; in a country governed by Chavismo, diplomats are appointed for their political loyalty, not their merit. It’s better to have a military career or be connected to the right Chavista officials than to study five years for a degree such as International Relations or Law.
Already in 2012 the president of the Venezuelan Association of International Affairs, Juan Francisco Contreras, had warned of the presence of intelligence officials working as diplomats in Venezuelan missions abroad.
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“The Venezuelan government should be very interested in rectifying the situation, because it is creating a very bad image for the Ministry of Foreign Relations. “In the world of Venezuelan diplomacy, police officials are being sent to carry out espionage in other countries,” Contreras told the El Universal newspaper.
Venezuela has at least 23 embassies around the world. In Colombia, six of its consuls are officials of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) and informants of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM).
There is a similar situation in at least 15 countries.
But that is not all. The embassy of Bogotá, for example, is staffed with inexperienced diplomats who were previously employed as “paratroopers”; some went from being musicians and singers to having high diplomatic postings.
Venezuelans still recall Hugo Chavez’s 2005 visit to Monte Sacro in Rome. On that occasion, he was received by the Venezuelan ambassador to the Holy See, Ivan Rincón Urdaneta, and by a group of young Venezuelan students studying Gregorian Chants (belonging to the organization Youth Singers of Zulia).
Since becoming the Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia in 2010, Rincón has transferred six singers from the Vatican who today hold high positions such as Cultural Attaché.
It is reasonable to question why military intelligence officers, spies, and choir singers have been placed in positions that would normally be reserved for career diplomats. It is also worth noting that the Venezuelan government is at least two months behind in paying its diplomatic corps.
The Venezuelan government also maintains an intelligence officer in Bogotá to persecute political opponents in Colombia; to investigate them and to monitor all the calls and meetings which involve the Venezuelan opposition.
This was how the regime of Nicolás Maduro managed to locate Lorent Saleh, a young opposition figure who became a political prisoner in Caracas after being deported by Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos’s government.
Intelligence work is also being conducted by consuls, who have military background instead of being career diplomats. They often lack the credentials necessary for the positions they hold.
“Who knows what they have done in Venezuela to be consuls in Colombia today? But it is certainly a prize for something they did,” a source who asked to remain anonymoustold PanAm Post.
Mario Ojeda, Cultural Attaché and First Secretary of the Venezuelan embassy in Bogota, was named in the official gazette on August 22, 2013.
Ojeda was born in Argentina and obtained Venezuelan citizenship. He was a member of the musical group Vocal Song. He has a degree in music which he obtained in Germany, having specialized in Gregorian chants. He then taught at the School of Music at Venezuela’s Catholic University Cecilio Acosta.
Ian Carlos Torres is another of Ambassador Rincón’s cronies. Also from the State of Zulia, his formal diplomatic studies were undertaken in May, 2010 by means of a course called “The Catholic Church and International Politics of the Holy See.”
According to the official gazette of October 1, Torres was appointed consul and Chief of the Political Section five months later.
Torres’s girlfriend, Alejandra Tencio, is his assistant. She was also hired with Ambassador Rincón’s approval.
Héctor Pérez was in charge of the Vatican embassy when they sent Rincón to Colombia. Since March 6, 2014, he acts as consul in Bogota. Having begun his diplomatic career while still a member of the Youth Chorus of Zulia state, Pérez currently works in the Political and Social Section of the Venezuelan Embassy in Bogota.
The musical vein of Venezuelan diplomats stationed in Bogotá runds deep. There is also Fernando José Pirela Paz, a journalist who also sang in the Zulia Youth Chorus.
After completing a postgraduate course in Spain, he worked as an intern in the Spanish embassy. When he did not get a diplomatic post there, he contacted his friend and singing partner Ian Carlos Torres, who got him the position as second secretary of the Political and Social Section of the Venezuelan embassy in Bogota. He was named on May 23, 2013.
Last but not least, Luis Alberto Espinoza Morillo, who is the Venezuelan embassy in Bogota’s Press Secretary and First Secretary since November 2010, was also a member, naturally, of the Zulia Youth Chorus. He started out with an internship at the Vatican embassy. From there, he moved to Colombia along with the new ambassador and took a position as press chief.
Twelve officials of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) are consuls in Colombia. Each of them, while representing the Venezuelan state in different cities, also takes the time to persecute political opponents.
It is a long list, but it is worth examining how many Venezuelan diplomats have no experience relevant experience prior to their current post. In truth, they are part of Sebin intelligence network in Latin America. This network of spies belongs to the Coordinator of Foreign Operations (COE), which is a Sebin subsection. They all have official credentials and perform various functions in the diplomatic headquarters of the Venezuelan government abroad.
Sebin commissar Ronald Muñoz is in charge of the Venezuelan consulate in the city of Riohacha, Colombia since December 17, 2013. His Sebin official number is 2478.
The First Consul of Puerto Inírida is Asdrúbal Alexander Blanco, who took office on September 9, 2010. He is also a Sebin commissioner with file number 101207.
José Blondell is the first consul in Puerto Carreño, Colombia since December 17, 2013, and is also a Sebin official.
Freddy Guilarte is First General Consul in Medellín and has held the position since 17 December 2013, according to the official gazette. He was chief of the Regional Command (CORE.5) and is a Sebin general commissary According to a diplomatic source, Guilarte wanted to have the Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia removed, but was unable to.
Before the disagreement between Ambassador Rincon and Guilarte, the latter was able to have Aníbal Reyes Reyes, another Sebin intelligence officer, named consul in Medellín on February 19, 2014. Reyes Reyes is the brother of Luis Ramón Reyes Reyes, a retired Venezuelan politician and military officer who served as governor of Lara state for two terms. He was also the Minister of the Interior under Hugo Chávez.
In Cúcuta, on the Colombian Venezuelan border, Sergio Ramón Arias Cárdenas is a First Consul General. Sergio is the brother of the current Chavista governor of the sate of Zulia, Francisco Arias Cárdenas. He has held his diplomatic position in Colombia since April 9, 2008.
In Cartagena, the Venezuelan consulate is headed by Ayskel Torres since July 25, 2013. She was president of the Portuguese Tourism Corporation (Corpotur) in 2012 and serves as an informant for the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM).
David Quintana is First Consul General in Bucaramanga and has held the position since April 2, 2012. He is the son of a former naval commander and also serves as an informant for the DGCIM.
The consulate of Barranquilla is headed by María Ramírez, a Sebin commissioner. She is in office since December 14, 2013.
Miguel Miranda, another intelligence officer, holds the position of First Consul General in the region of Arauca.
In Bogotá, Roylad Belisario, a Sebin commissioner, has been second secretary since March 6, 2014. Belisario was in charge of capturing current political prisoner Lorent Saleh, who was in Bogotá. Robinson Zapata, a DGCIM informant and Yudersi Subero, a Sebin official, also hold diplomatic posts in Bogotá.