Venezuela: An Update
The Maduro regime is under several fronts of pressure including crime, humanitarian, political and environmental concerns. Nevertheless, previous scandals threatening the regime lacked the effect to topple Maduro’s corrupt practices, only to weaken it. Currently, the fragile security and economic environment in Venezuela likely limit the potential responses of the Maduro government to crises.
In September, hackers leaked databases from Venezuela’s Naval Intelligence Department and Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM). Simultaneously, the arrest of two high-ranking officials provides evidence of foreign and domestic corrupt practices.
- Norway, in September, mediated negotiations which failed to establish monitored elections between the regime and opposition. The regime’s demands make it likely that recent events forced the negotiations to not be continued.
- The wave of incidents likely prevents the participation of the regime in internationally-monitored negotiations. The negotiations provided legitimacy to the PSUV in Venezuela and internationally. The information likely to emerge from former officials places the regime in a negative spotlight, in turn affecting participation of foreign states.
The stability of Venezuela gradually decreased in the last decade. Criminal organisations enjoy limited freedom to control and exploit the Colombian border as a criminal environment, including natural resources and populations. In Bolivar and Amazonas, foreign state activity and illegal mining threatens the survivability of the environment and the large-scale health of indigenous populations. In Caracas, cooperating with criminal organisations created urban conflicts between state and non-state actors who previously worked together. With all occurring under the knowledge of the government, Maduro’s corrupt practices lost control of the security, economic and social environments. While Maduro maintains the narrative of US interference, the humanitarian situation worsens and the elections in November are unlikely to provide transparent results.
Intelligence Leaks: Maduro’s corrupt practices and fragile security environments
Exposing foreign operations
The DGCIM of Venezuela is likely vulnerable to further cyber-attacks exposing its methodology and operations. TeamHDP, an informal group of Venezuelan hackers who target Cuba and the Venezuelan regime, is responsible for targeting the government of Maduro. The Venezuelan hacker @failure_system on Twitter exposed the strategic objectives and doctrine of the DGCIM. A database was leaked containing 200 Venezuelan counterintelligence officers operating on Colombian soil, including personal and operational information.
Renting VISAS and territory
Additionally to the DGCIM leaks, the Naval Intelligence leaked identities add evidence to the likely foreign and non-state actor interference in Venezuela. A founding member of TeamHDP @ThePinguinHDP obtained over 600 identities of personnel within the Naval Intelligence Directorate. Within the identities, foreign individuals appeared as well as civilians with no official role within the Navy. The presence of foreign individuals certified as intelligence officials makes it likely that the government is using state bodies to provide foreign access to Venezuelan territory.
@failure_sistem provided evidence of Maduro’s corrupt practices, in particular collusion between drug trafficking and the government. The Vice-Admiral of Naval Intelligence in 2019, Harrys Totesaut, appointed Alexander Aponte Ramirez to command intelligence networks in Bolivar, Sucre, Anzoátegui, Delta Amacuro and Monagas. Ramirez in 2019 was arrested transferring 338 Kg of cocaine, using the state of Monagas to store the narcotics. With the location of the states being strategic to trafficking through the Atlantic, it is likely that Ramirez is not a singular case within Naval intelligence.
Previous ‘Employment’ History
The history of harbouring non-state actors and wanted individuals in Venezuela stems from the Chavez regime. In 2001, Venezuela provided an identity and refuge to Hakim Mohammed Ali Diab Fattah, considered a co-conspirator of the 9/11 who trained along one of the hijackers Hani Hanjour. Maduro’s corrupt practices almost certainly stem from Chavez.
Chavez and Maduro’s corrupt practices: Unfortunate arrests
The old and the new
The arrests of Alex Saab and Hugo Carvajal likely present a threat not to a particular governmental figure but to the general Venezuelan regime. While Saab is the money-laundering right-hand of Maduro, Carvajal provides information as the head of intelligence of Chavez from 2001-2011. Neither Saab’s or Carvajal’s full cooperation with authorities is guaranteed and arrests are not certain to yield changes. Nevertheless, the potential span of information likely places pressure on the Maduro regime.
Extraditions, collaboration and allies
The behaviour of the Venezuelan government indicates highly likely desperation to free or detach itself from Saab. The regime is threatening Saab with charges of treason and espionage if the information is revealed. Simultaneously, pressure from diplomats in the negotiations with the opposition in Mexico includes demands to free Alex Saab. The extradition, although approved, is not being carried out due to health concerns regarding Maduro’s right-hand man. It is likely that ultimately, Saab will be extradited, forcing the regime to detach itself from the information provided. Additionally, Maduro will likely target Saab as either a political prisoner or a foreign agent, depending on the detail provided of Maduro’s corrupt practices.