by Alberto Zambrano, from Bas-Terre, Guadeloupe
Orlando Avendaño took some time off his busy schedule as editor-in-chief of the website PanamPost. Avendaño answered some of our questions regarding the controversy raised by a news cycle that covers corruption surrounding the efforts of the interim government in Venezuelan asset recovery abroad from the Chavista tyranny. This brief written interview took place on September 22, 2020. In it, we cover his response to veteran investigative journalist Patricia Poleo’s complaints about a series of notes posted on PanamPost that claim that the Factores de Poder director violated the Racketeer-influenced Corrupt Organizations act. The interim government of Juan Guaidó is neck-deep in illegal activities, bribes, and racketeering regarding the recovery of Venezuelan assets abroad. A company named Caribbean Recovery Assets, a consortium created for that purpose, was allegedly extorted by the Presidential Commissioner for Asset Recovery, an individual —with links to Chavismo’s top brass— by the name of Javier Troconis. For months, representatives of Caribbean Recovery Assets tried to broker a deal with the Interim Government, who requested hefty commissions for brokering the deal. Interim government officials ranging from Venezuela’s ambassador to the US to his charge d’affaires are in the mire of this cesspool of racketeering.
In an unexpected turn of events, PanamPost released a couple of pieces authored by Milagros Boyer. Another piece by Orlando Avendaño explains a version in which the deals of the Caribbean Recovery Assets, their directives, and everyone else is in cahoots with a massive bribe scheme that somehow involved Patricia Poleo’s work at her platform, Factores de Poder.
The cursed deal brokered by Troconis stipulated that he would get half of the profits that Caribbean Asset Recovery would receive as compensation for their efforts. As well as the demand of a $50.000 payment bribe to secure the deal, a move that would contravene the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Patricia Poleo argues that the implications in PanamPost’s pieces involve her as an accessory to a federal crime, and visibly upset in her popular YouTube show, defended herself and questioned PanamPost’s Editor-in-Chief Orlando Avendaño for how this information was published and written. Mrs. Poleo affirms that due to the change of ownership —via sale— of PanamPost, the editorial line for this prestigious portal has changed, that they’re writing hit pieces. In light of that situation, we take our time and sit down with Mr. Orlando Avendaño, who answered a written questionnaire for us.
Here is the whole text, translated from Spanish from our exchange.
AZ: Alberto Zambrano, Editor in Chief for Cultura Política English
OA: Orlando Avendaño, Editor in Chief for PanamPost
AZ: Thank you very much in advance for the deference in taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us on this matter.
As I mentioned, here at CulturaPolitica.net, we are interested in hearing your version of the facts concerning the journalist Patricia Poleo on her YouTube program.
The journalist of yore refers to a note published by her prestigious portal referring to the fact that after she exposed a possible case of extortion by members of the interim government to the CRA consortium from her platform.
Milagros Boyer, in a note – before issuance in which a written apology was offered – states that her actions violated the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act RICO Act.
The note implies that Factores de Poder’s publications violate the RICO law and that they pre-date the complaints made by the CRA consortium.
In Patricia Poleo’s program, she claims to have complained to you as Editor-in-Chief of PanamPost for the note, and she shows evidence that claims that you do not know what happened.
AZ: 1. Did you know the content of Milagros Boyer’s note of 9/17/2020?
OA: Of course, I knew about the piece, but, as I imagine you do know, media works with a hierarchical structure.
AZ: 2. How does Boyer conclude that Patricia Poleo violates the Rico law without presenting proof?
OA: Well, what journalist [Milagros] Boyer exactly wrote was: “Likewise, the fact of putting forward a complaint of this caliber, without going to the authorities, carries sanctions for RICO act violations” Clearly, Boyer was referring to the employees. When Patricia felt alluded and asked me to change [the published note at PanamPost], I requested what she asked for.
AZ: 3. Do you or Boyer have evidence that Patricia Poleo received some kind of bribe to process the complaint from the CRA consortium?
OA: Never has anyone at PanamPost said that. I don’t know where that argument comes from.
AZ: 4. Did Boyer present to you or your editorial group/editors any proof of the accusations made and that, by association, link Patricia Poleo to the violation of the American RICO law?
OA: I answered that on your second question.
AZ: 5. How is the workflow of the notes of the new journalists in PanamPost after they changed the owner?
OA: Just like before, writers do their work, day-to-day editors edit, and Vanessa [Vallejo] and I watch over the work of the whole structure.
AZ: 6. What is the role of Miguel Camal in editing the notes that you write?
OA: Since I wasn’t present at the newsroom, he did me a favor. But the responsibility is mine.
AZ: 7. Has Mr. Miguel Camal written any notes with your fame for you?
AZ: 8. Is Milagros Boyer a “quota” —Patricia Poleo Dixit— of the change in ownership of the medium for which you are Editor-in-Chief?
OA: I don’t understand the term “quota.” Milagros just joined our roster.
AZ: 9. What is the role of Miguel Camal in PanamPost’s writing team?
OA: He supported me in this piece; still, I insist this is my responsibility.
AZ: Pedro Antar says that you are lying, that you had an exchange of text messages with him in which you link him with Alex Saab,
11. What are Antar’s ties with Saab?
OA: I link him [Antar to Alex Saab] as I present the facts that associate him with the individual. For example, He set up with Pedro Emilio Silva (a Venezuelan citizen who spent time in jail in Ecuador for engaging in business with Maduro’s regime), a company with a nearly-identical name to Saab’s companies (Fondo Global de Construcción). You must remember that Alex Saab had Fondo Global de Construccion Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, etc. And, according to them, none of their companies are related.
AZ: 12. If you wrote the note of 9/17/2020 entitled “The polemical businessmen who negotiated the recovery of assets with Guaidó, why did Miguel Camal edit the message adding Antar’s ties with Saab?
OA: Miguel Camal didn’t add any links to Alex Saab, I wrote that. He, in any case, changed a segment of the article. Still, I insist, the note remained almost original [as I wrote it], you can read it on the website, and keeps pointing out the Alex Saab affair.
AZ: 13. Is it standard practice for your notes in PanamPost —even though you are its editor-in-chief— to be edited by someone else?
When I need someone to do me that favor, yes.
AZ: 14. Did you review what Miguel Camal – according to his testimony to Pedro Antar – added to his note?
OA: I insist that the responsibility is mine. I am the Editor-in-Chief [for PanamPost].
AZ: 15. What are the changes to the editorial line of PanamPost after its sale?
OA: Absolutely none. As Vanessa [Vallejo] and I have made it clear, as long as we’re in PanAm, we’re warrants that the editorial line remains the same. You can see our work at es.panampost.com.
AZ: 16. Did you have the written note, including the communication from Jose Ignacio Hernandez, before your exchange with Pedro Antar?
OA: I had the work done, not written. But that’s how these things work. I did the research, and then, I contacted them [Antar & Reyes] to contrast every fact that I preset with their testimony. If you or anyone make an effort and read my article, you could realize that absolutely every time that I mention Antar or Reyes, I put their side of the story.
On another point: Why does Pedro Antar and Jorge Reyes didn’t answer or were questioned about the facts that I present in my piece?
We’re not defending the Interim government. We are doing our job. As I told Patricia [Poleo], our investigation strengthens her work because it proves that the interim government had negotiated for months with some dudes with a shady past. I don’t understand how our expanding Patricia [Poleo’s] work was seen as a threat on her behalf. I have the responsibility, I know, and I investigated who are these two businessmen [Antar & Reyes], and I published that also.
Here [at PanamPost], our stories are told in their entirety or not said at all. Half-assed work is selfish towards citizens.
Regardless of what you may think of PanamPost or Factores de Poder, the role of the press is to commit to citizenship and remain truthful to the facts. Both outlets have an impeccable record in exposing current affairs covering Venezuela’s politics. From our small political intelligence publication, we want to give a voice to those involved in this affair. How hierarchical is this structure within PanamPost if the Editor in Chief assumes the responsibility for this kind of veiled —or not so— slander against Patricia Poleo? Avendaño claims that he doesn’t understand Boyer’s “quota,” new media ownership has the prerogative to put journalists and employees to work in their companies. Despite Orlando Avendaño’s statements, coupled with Vanessa Vallejo’s affirmations in an interview a couple of months ago to Nehomar Hernandez, they’re in charge of the editorial line this prestigious publication. Still, the furious responses, the thorniness of the matter and its implications regarding the First Amendment of the United States, as well as civil liability are small parts of the on-going controversy that both media outlets try to cover: The gargantuan corruption and conflicts of interests surrounding the interim government whose incestuous relationship with chavismo hampered the regime change in a context where the Trump administration uses the Guaidó administration as an electoral issue to tilt the scale in the GOP’s favor in an election year.
PanamPost’s original owner, Luis Ball, sold the media outlet to a relative of Nelson Mezherane, raising questions and suspicions because of chavismo’s knack for acquiring media outlets, shutting them down, and corrupting journalists. We’re far from accusing anyone at PanamPost for these shenanigans. Still, the precedents for outlets like FM Center, Unión Radio, El Nacional, El Universal, Ultimas Noticias, Globovisión, etc. are terrible stains in the reputation of the free press —or what’s left of it in the Venezuelan media.
Jorge Reyes: Not Kosher in the eyes of FINRA
While Jorge Reyes presented himself and his work with “years of experience” in the risk management sector a search of his past work in the FINRA website —a tip courtesy of Avendaño— with a company called CP Capital Securities reveal that he allegedly defrauded investors with private placement offerings. So, as they say in the medical jargon “there’s no healthy tissue here,” the shenanigans are widespread, and apparently, we can’t trust anyone with Venezuela’s citizen’s money.
This work will have a follow up.
Editor’s note: As of 9.30PM Miami time, our request for comments from Factores De Poder roster haven’t been possible due to their busy work and schedule. If possible, we will update this post with the pertinent information. Thanks to Mr. Roberto Betancourt & Ms. Germania Rodriguez, producers at Factores de Poder for their kindness in responding to our requests.
Requests for comments, sources and other aspects regarding this story can also be requested at Alberto Zambrano’s Patreon. Patreon.com/albertozambrano.