Messages supposedly sent to Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s legislature, were disclosed over the weekend on various websites opposed to the Venezuelan government. The hack appears real: the documents attached there would be tough to forge, such as the full report of an opinion poll or internal campaign documents. So far, Cabello himself hasn’t commented publicly on the situation, and he didn’t reply to my e-mail for comment.
The messages are mostly boring. Among my few surprises: some Chavistas write to one another in the ALL CAPS that one finds on less-respectable message boards. And IVAD, a Chavista opinion pollster, uses the insulting term “marginal” for people of lower economic class (see page 6 of linked document)*.
The document that most grabbed my attention was a note from a company called Enfusa, in Puerto Rico. The mails show that CEO Manuel Santos first wrote to offer President Chávez and all his closest deputies access to some doctor who has the secret cure for cancer. Then, March 6, another note, with the subject “Vice president Maduro let President Chávez die” — maybe not the most politically correct thing to say about the country’s new acting president.
But the good one was sent March 12 (my translation):
I hope to capture your attention for a few minutes and at the same time cultivate a friendship, as well as make good deals, I lament greatly the passing of President Chávez and that both Dr. Víctor Marcial and your servant couldn’t treat and cure the cancer that affected him for so long.
The international mass media indicate that it’s a hard time in Venezuela, and the coming months will be crucial for moving forward with SUCCESS the inheritance that President Chávez left you in order to keep your cause moving forward.
As businessmen, I hope we can come to an agreement and begin as soon as possible to be able to move forward soon with a future purchase agreement (leveraged to the CITGO company) for the acquisition of the US subsidiary of PDVSA through a process of Administration with right to buy for a term of no less than 18 months, with your help and for the benefit of both sides.
It would be the best acquisition option before doing a LEVERAGED BUY-OUT.
I hope to hear soon from your side and meet in a neutral site as soon as possible for the benefit of all parts.
The end of that third paragraph jumped out at me as a pretty obvious case of someone on US soil offering a bribe to a foreign official. An obvious violation of the US’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But as a responsible reporter, I knew that the thing to do is call the people involved in the story and give them a chance to explain.
I called the number on that document, and someone identifying himself as Mr. Santos answered. I asked if the mail was from him. At first, he denied having sent anything, saying that he hadn’t been to Venezuela in years and that he is unaware of what note is causing all the fuss. He said he had been having computer problems and probably someone had gotten into his account and sent the e-mail in his name. “Desconozco” any letter, he said. He said people have been calling him and that he had received over 100 e-mails insulting him, but that he had no idea what people were talking about.
Santos confirmed that he had offered Chávez and his allies an experimental cure for cancer. He confirmed that he is trying to get administration of Citgo with the option to buy the company. I read him the letter posted online and he confirmed everything in it, except for one phrase: “para el beneficio de ambas partes,” or “for the benefit of both sides.” He denied that he had made any even veiled offer to bribe anyone. The original note had made clear that he was referring to Venezuela and Puerto Rico, and not to individual benefits. Offers of bribes “happen in Latin America, but as a US citizen we have extremely strong laws about such things, and that is why I was requesting a dialog,” he said. Asked directly if he expected to pay bribes, he said, “That’s not what I’m seeking, just dialog.”
I e-mailed him to be sure I had his answer right, and he responded, “En dicha carta alguna persona altero y escribió lo siguiente entre el parentesis ( Y PARA BENEFICIO DE AMBAS PARTES. ) esto en ningún momento lo escribí yo, de lo demás si puedo dar fe, que esta en lo correcto.” That is, “In said letter, someone altered and wrote the following in parenthesis (AND FOR THE BENEFIT OF BOTH SIDES.) that I at no time wrote, the rest I can confirm, that it is correct.”
Santos said he had been in contact previously with Oil and Mining Minister Rafael Ramírez on various occasions over the past five years, and that Ramírez had expressed interest in working with Enfusa. But the talks ended when Hugo Chávez fell ill, and since then, Santos said, he has failed to make contact with Ramírez.
I don’t have a reliable contact method for Ramírez. The Oil Ministry routinely declines to comment, saying its only official comment is the ministry website.
The March 12 letter appears to have failed to excite Cabello. Identical messages were received in Cabello’s supposed mailbox March 22, March 26, March 31, April 7 and April 11, as though Cabello simply weren’t responding. Maybe that was because Enfusa has little record.
Enfusa has never run a refinery, Santos said. Santos said he is trained as a medical doctor and has no experience in refining. However, Santos said, he is working with a person who has held “most senior” positions in refining in Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell and the Hovensa refinery in the US Virgin Islands. He declined to name that person, saying he had requested anonymity. He said he was offering to run Citgo as a service to Venezuela, to reduce unemployment and help the company recover from its excessive foreign debt.
Other than references to these leaked mails, “Enfusa Corp” has only one Google hit, that being its company info from Hoover’s.
You can find the corporate registration of Enfusa Inc. (not Corp.) in the Puerto Rico secretary of state’s website. It is the same company — Santos said he accidentally registered it wrong with the state and has been trying to correct that ever since. Here’s what you find at the Secretary of State site. Click for full-size images:
Santos confirmed that Enfusa has no registered agent, no registered address and has been cancelled by the Puerto Rico government. He explained that he is working on high-technology tools and that “after consulting with US agencies, they recommended that we not publicize anything” so that the inventions aren’t “stolen, maybe by Korea or China.”
To complete the story, Enfusa was also seeking an allotment of fuel from PDVSA so as to sell gasoline, diesel, jet fuel or other fuels at a discount in Puerto Rico, Santos said. He said he isn’t a fuel broker but that he would be able to receive fuel and store it at one of Puerto Rico’s shuttered refineries. I asked why anyone would sell to a cancelled company with no proved financial capacity and he said “if you don’t knock on the door, you don’t get the opportunity.”
So now you know: Santos was misunderstood. He was hacked — twice, really, as his computer was hacked to allow that message to be sent, and then someone hacked it on the receiving side. Quite a run of luck. You can stop calling him now.
* Some more serious analyst should go through that poll carefully. I like polls. I was pleased to see that only 27% of respondents agreed with the statement “I believe it’s right that Chávez reduces rights for those who oppose him.”