Monthly Archives: September 2013

Setty isn’t an extortionist

The article that I published a month ago regarding online reputation management provoked excellent discussion and also a disturbing response. In an apparent reaction to that article, someone posted at least three websites that sought to defame me and repost personal photos from the Facebook pages of people close to me.

It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but just to be clear, those pages are a bunch of made-up BS. I’m not in hiding, I have no connection to any cocaine traffickers, I’m not wanted by Interpol, I’ve never invited nor accepted any sort of payment to withhold publishing news, I’m not wanted for extortion in California or anywhere else, I’ve never used fake travel documents, and I didn’t send the pictured e-mail. The statements and their implications are simply made up from someone’s imagination.

If you have any questions or doubts, please write me. I am posting this right now because I know that unanswered attacks can just fester and be considered true. It’s tempting to go the legal route and try to get these blogs removed, but that’s expensive and time-consuming*, plus I generally believe that the answer to bad information is not censorship but rather good information.

While these attacks do nothing to reveal who I am, they do show that my reporting made someone nervous. That person apparently didn’t see a rational way to refute my article and instead resorted to unscrupulousness. The attack appears to have violated Twitter’s terms of service and also revealed a possible link to Venezuela’s biggest private-sector bank. 

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Forbes gets it wrong, admits it, still needs pushback (Derwick, GE)

Hi friends! How would you like to not learn things? If that’s up your alley, go read this Forbes article (oops, they retracted it! but preserved for posterity at the Chicago Tribune) about Derwick Associates, your friendly neighbourhood electric industry middleman, offering Win-Win Solutions for big industry suppliers and corrupt state enterprises alike!

Stock analyst Hilary Kramer visited her old haunts in Venezuela. I’m guessing her trip included more than one visit to a rooftop bar with 400-bolivar cocktails, and very, very few visits to electricity plants. She picked up a tip (though she says not where) that Derwick Ass ociates is the New Big Thing saving her beloved Venezuela from its long night of blackouts and misery. Thanks, Kramer, for offering this delicious antidote to information.

Here’s the problem. Kramer writes about Derwick Ass ociates as though it were something new that had never before appeared in the press. She blissfully lauds the company and its efforts to build power plants.

That might have been excusable sometime in 2010. But in September 2011, César Batiz of Últimas Noticias ran a story that showed that Derwick and several other companies were unknowns who had received sole-source contracts, overcharged for the products they were selling, and then failed to deliver on time if at all. He wrote again about Derwick in 2012. His reporting has yet to be refuted by facts. Rather, time has showed that the Batiz version was basically right. What have we heard from Derwick? Well, there was this paid advertisement in El Nacional which remains viewable on the El Nacional website as though it were a news article. And there was this press release — oh sorry no, that’s actually a lawyer letter demanding that I take down a blog post. My bad!

Other than that, nothing. To my knowledge, they haven’t released publicly this audit report showing that they are clean of corruption (happy to be proved wrong if anyone wants to send me a copy). They very rarely respond to requests for comment from the press. Their website is barely informative. And most importantly for me, they have benefitted from (and possibly paid for) a massive online reputation management campaign to bury their bad reputation in a heap of banality and bullshit. My reward for exposing this unethical behaviour was that someone created slanderous websites about me with stolen photos of my family. (Hey thanks Google, nice of you to host that site, great way to thank me for cleaning up your search results.)

Enter Forbes.  Continue reading

PDVSA’s quiet glasnost

Or should we use the local language and call it “apertura”?

Thomas O’Donnell has the story.

…as soon as the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died, the strategy of Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) became “pragmatism” in the face of “necessity.”

No matter whether you are happy that Venezuela may get its shit together or pissed that Maduro may be in charge when that happens, this is the kind of reality-based, non-ideological reporting that we need more of from Venezuela. Go read it.

Checking in on the Venezuela ambassador to Nigeria

Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 9.15.51 AMHey remember how a long time ago I wrote about His Excellency Enrique Arrundell, representative of the Venezuelan state in Nigeria, and how he was allegedly mixed up with the con men who run a fake oil company known as Arevenca? That case is trudging along; PDVSA lawyers plan to depose this  Skanga company about its relationship with Arrundell, Victor Halliday, Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Reynaldo Bolívar, former Caracas Mayor Juan Barreto, former Trujillo (Venezuela) state governor Hugo Cabezas, and His Excellency S.A.A. Adeniran, Nigeria’s ambassador to Venezuela. True to form, Skanga’s attorneys demanded $75,000 from PDVSA in order to pay their fees while they attend the deposition of their clients. More good use of Venezuela’s oil income — paying for fancy air tickets and hotels for US lawyers going to Nigeria.

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I spoke too soon (US-Venezuela fuel trade, if you must know)

(Yes, I corrected spelling in the headline. Originally it was a secret message about my conversation partner, Mr. Soon.)

Remember how back in April I said that Venezuela was importing far less fuel from the US, indicating refineries were coming back on line? Yeah, no worries, I didn’t remember that either. Anyway, looks like I spoke too soon. A few more months go by, you see the trend is still that Venezuela is buying way too much US fuel.

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 11.33.38 PM

That’s total fuel exports from the US to Venezuela, through June, in thousands of barrels a day. After falling to just 7,000 for one month, the figure jumped right back up to pre-Amuay disaster levels and has stayed there. Why? Continue reading