Did a magnate from the Cisneros family financed Iván Duque in his campaign?
The Cisneros’ fortune is valued at about 1,100 million dollars and is one of the largest in Venezuela, according to Forbes magazine
This week it was made known that Oswaldo Cisneros, one of the most powerful businessmen in Venezuela and Latin America, a member of the multimillionaire Cisneros family, and owner of one of the main telephone companies in the South American country, financed part of the presidential campaign of the ‘Uribista’ (Pro -Uribe) Iván Duque, something that is prohibited by Colombian law.
It is the company CNE Oil & Gas S.A.S, a subsidiary of Canacol Energy -of which the Venezuelan businessman is a shareholder- although the company claims to be “100% Colombian” and that its transactions are “regulated in notarial instruments”.
According to the newspaper El Espectador, the company published a statement last Friday in which they confirmed that they did finance Duque’s campaign, but they say they did so without responding to “private interests” and “legally”.
The statement came out after the portal La Silla Vacía reported that a company of which Cisneros is a partner contributed “money” to the Democratic Center, the political party founded by former president Álvaro Uribe — recently deprived of liberty for alleged electoral bribery and witness manipulation — in the middle of the campaign that brought Duque to the Palacio de Nariño (Presidential Palace of Nariño) in 2018.
The information disclosed denounces that for that particular campaign, already much questioned by the purchase of votes in various regions, it would have had an alleged foreign financing of more than 300,000 dollars that Cisneros would have given to Duque’s campaign, an act prohibited by Colombian law.
The Cisneros’ fortune is valued at about 1,100 million dollars and is one of the largest in Venezuela, according to Forbes magazine.
His main business is focused on telecommunications, a sector in which he appears as president of the telephone company Digitel. In addition, he controls a conglomerate of communication media, real estate investments and tourist developments, all headed by Gustavo Cisneros who appears as the leader of the Cisneros Organization.
In the specific case of Oswaldo, he is an entrepreneur whose parents have Cuban roots and who has ventured into different business areas, including beverages (Pepsi Cola Venezuela), food, glass containers, telecommunications (Digitel) and the oil sector ( Delta Finance BV).
In November 2016, Cisneros Fajardo, president of the company Delta Finance BV, signed an agreement with Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) for 1.13 billion dollars to boost the production increase of Petrodelta, one of the concessions transferred in the Junín block of the Orinoco Oil Belt that would go from 420,000 to 855,000 barrels per day.
In 1991, Cisneros Fajardo founded TELCEL, the first mobile phone company to offer prepaid service on the continent. After selling this company, he invested in the purchase of Digitel.
Cisneros and the Canadian affiliate that gave money to the ‘Uribismo’
The company CNE Oil & Gas S.A. is a subsidiary of the Canadian natural gas company Canacol Energy Ltd, and in which the Venezuelan businessman has an 18% stake.
In addition, Cisneros appears as a member of the board of directors of CNE Oil & Gas S.A.S, which, according to the records of the Colombian National Electoral Council (CNE) contributes 700 million pesos or 300,000 dollars.
In its statement, CNE Oil & Gas declares itself a “faithful believer” in the system and “the democratic processes” that take place in that country. Hence — it argues — it makes contributions to political parties within the framework of electoral campaigns, highlights El Espectador.
Along these lines, it admits that in 2018 — protected by Colombian law — it made donations to the Democratic Center (Centro Democrático), and supposedly also to Radical Change (Cambio Radical), Liberal Party (Partido Liberal) and Citizen Option (Opción Ciudadana).
“These transactions are regulated in notarial instruments”, assure the businessmen, while they say that “it is important to clarify that these donations are made to political parties and not to political campaigns, and they were approved by the general assembly and the administration team of the company”.
“They are resources generated in Colombia”
As CNE Oil & Gas explains, financing the ‘Uribismo’ (Pro-Uribe) “does not respond to particular interests of any of the members of said assembly or of the company”.
In the letter, signed by Andrés Valenzuela Pachón, who appears as the company’s legal representative, it is specified that the funds used by the company for donations “come strictly from the resources generated by its operations within Colombia”.
The controversy was unleashed last week because of an audio between the director of the Democratic Center, Nubia Stella Martínez, and Uribe’s former adviser, María Claudia Cayita Daza, in which they talk about the alleged contribution of $ 300,000 to Duque’s campaign from the hands of Cisneros.
“Although Martínez denied the entry of that money — taking into account that the law prohibits a candidate from receiving foreign funding — the portal La Silla Vacía revealed that a company of which the businessman is a partner did contribute money, but directly to the Uribe party” , adds El Espectador.
On this matter, the newspaper El Tiempo reported that the party’s director, María Claudia Cayita Daza, had to give statements to the Public Prosecutor’s Office on behalf of a series of legal interceptions for the investigation by false witnesses that implicates Uribe.
The investigation from ‘La Silla Vacía’ to Cisneros
In the midst of these inquiries, a conversation became known between Martínez and Cayita Daza about the “ñeñepolítica”, a term with which the Colombian media have called the complaints for alleged buying of votes to favor Iván Duque.
In that talk, Daza asked “What happened to the Venezuelan?” — referring to Cisneros, president of the Digitel telecommunications company — to which the party director replied: “Yes. Do you know how much he gave us? $ 300,000 ”.
However, Martínez herself assured that at that moment she suffered a “lapse” and added: “It was not ‘gave’, but ‘offered to give’. I said that sum because it was the one the businessman used. But one thing is what people offer in the campaigns and another is what they actually end up giving”.
The director of Democratic Center added that it was not Cisneros, but his partners who contributed 320 million Colombian pesos to Duque’s campaign, about $ 85,000. They are the conservative Ricaurte Silva family who, according to La Silla Vacía, are partners of Cisneros in their Silk investment bank.
However, after a review made by the portal to the accounts of the Democratic Center in the CNE, it is evident that it was another company, of which Cisneros is a shareholder, which contributed 700 million pesos to the party, and is the Canadian company of natural gas Canacol Energy Ltd. This company — adds La Silla Vacía — operates in Colombia through the subsidiary CNE Oil & Gas SAS, which is one of those that appears in the CNE records.
Specifically, the company made two donations to the Democratic Center, first for 400 million pesos, and then for 300 million, for a total of 700 million of the 27,000 million they contributed to the party in 2018.
“Funding, through the political parties, is the channel that some presidential campaigns use to get rid of the legal limits that the candidates have, since the communities have no limit. In addition, the law allows legal persons, who cannot donate to these campaigns, to do so “, recalls La Silla Vacía.
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