Venezuela legislators launch probe of Podemos

CEPS website, Feb. 2016, has since been taken offline and is no longer accessible by search engines or crawlers. Image: CEPS
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• Opposition lawmakers seek info on 7.2 million euros paid to Podemos founders
• Podemos denies charges, says part of orchestrated election campaign attack

A Venezuela National Assembly committee controlled by opposition lawmakers has launched a formal inquiry into the payment by the regime of the late-Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez of more than 7.2 million euros in consulting fees from 2003-2011 to current leaders of Spain’s populist, anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can), claiming the amounts paid were far in excess of rates paid for similar government consulting work at the time and cannot be justified by the work said to have been performed.

The lawmakers say that as part of their efforts to trace an estimated 69 million euros that went “missing” from Venezuela’s national accounts during the Chavez government, they have uncovered evidence that Podemos co-founders Juan Carlos Monedero, and Pablo Iglesias, along with Podemos advisor Jorge Verstrynge, were paid more than 7.2 million euros for producing reports on various topics and conducting training seminars for a variety of government agencies during the Chavez years. The Podemos co-founders are said to have been paid the funds through the Centro de Estudios Políticos y Sociales (CEPS) think-tank that they co-founded in Spain and of which they were board members, along with fellow Podemos co-founder Íñigo Errejón.

Podemos leaders have not denied the payments and while the CEPS think-tank is widely regarded as a precursor to Podemos, they have said the payments were made prior to the 2014 launch of the political party and note that Spain’s Supreme Court has on numerous occasions rejected cases alleging illegal financing of Podemos. Following the announcement of the Venezuelan inquiry, Podemos leaders said allegations that the payments constituted illegal financing of Podemos are “completely false” and are designed to damage the campaign of the left-wing Unidos Podemos coalition in the run-up to Sunday’s general election.

► Read More in Spanish at El Mundo and El País …

► Read the Venezuela Assembly Commission’s Inquiry Summary, here …

► Read More in English at El País …

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