Reports from Cuba’s Venezuela: The Argentine middleman

By Gustavo Hernandez Acevedo in Caracas Chronicles:

The Argentine middleman
Argentinian Planning Minister Julio De Vido is your go-to-guy.

Last week, Argentine newspaper Clarín offered some juicy details on the alleged sale of overpriced rice from Argentina to Venezuela thorugh a company linked to Julio De Vido, Cristina Kirchner’s longtime Planning Minister.

The head of the Argenitine Rice Producers’ Federation (Fedenar), Jorge Paoloni, has denounced that a company named Bioart SA has taken over all shipments of rice to Venezuela. This came on the heels of both nations signing a series of agreements last year.

According to Paoloni, the sale was priced at 606,5 dollars per ton, much more than what other Argentine producers offered (495 $/ton).

The company is owned by Roberto Vignati, a businessman linked to De Vido. But Bioart didn’t stop with rice. The company also sold corn priced 80% more than market prices at the time.

Bioart made its first shipment of corn fifteen days after meeting with … Maria Gabriela Chavez, the Eternal Princess, in the Venezuelan Embassy in Buenos Aires. Chávez dismissed allegations of wrongdoing on her Instagram account (of course) with this message.

De Vido also rejected Clarín’s claims by denying any relationship with Bioart’s owners. He also said that his Ministry is not involved in any operations involving corn or rice. However, in January of 2013 he came to Caracas and agreed on the sale of 180 million US$ worth of Argentine food to Venezuela. De Vido indirectly places the blame on PDVSA (who paid the bill) … if there was any wrongdoing at all. He talked back those words in a follow-up statement the day after.

Yet, Mr. De Vido has been present in Venezuela for any major deal between both governments in the last few years: from Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) to the creation of joint industrial companies, and even offering his services as an energy adviser. His frequent trips (as well as those of his staff) have been source of much comment.

And last but not least, De Vido was the boss of Claudio Uberti, involved in the case known as the Maletinazo. Remember that one?