What the Follow the Money Principle Tells Us about the Crisis in Venezuela
By Beatrice E. Rangel
Latin American Herald Tribune
June 26, 2017
Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel follows the drug money coming into Venezuela and explains why it will be difficult for the corrupt regime to leave voluntarily.
Most people, particularly those laboring in the financial services naively thought that anti-money laundering regulations would suffocate organized crime.
Two decades after the adoption of the Palermo convention, however, one cannot say that either crime nor corruption money are on their way out.
To be sure, they are both rising thanks to the existence of nowhere lands on earth where government is nonexistent and gangs of all nature rule the geographical space. These nations are regarded as rogue states.
A nation or state is labelled a rogue state when it routinely breaks international law thereby posing a threat to the security of other nations. These states are the necessary havens to money flowing from illicit activities such as drug and human trafficking, corruption and counterfeiting.
A quick look at the value of these activities facilitates understanding the growing influence and dissemination of rogue states.
Total earnings for drug traffickers worldwide in 2016 were between $426 billion and $652 billion (USD), making it the second most lucrative illicit market measured after that of counterfeit and pirated goods -- which are estimated to generate as much as $1.13 trillion annually.
Organized crime accounts for 1.5% of global gross domestic product and is worth around $870 billion and of that, drugs account for 50% of international organized crime income. These figures look challenging when compared to the Latin American and Caribbean GDP for 2015 which was 5.33 trillion USD.
Indeed, the United Nations has estimated the value of the Latin American Drug Earnings to represent half that of the world or between $ 213B USD and $326B USD.
This represents between one quarter and one third of the region's GDP. Given that the lion's share of these revenues are earned by organized crime in Colombia and Mexico, these two countries could be benefitting from an income stream between $200USD and $300USD.
This brings us directly to the Venezuelan crisis. The country has increasingly become a key link in the Colombian value chain. As such Venezuela has to retain the current regime to protect this income. Most people seem to be truly astonished at the cruelty and nonchallance displayed by the country's regime in quelching the civic protests for elections and the rule of law.
The country's ruling elite seems oblivious to international pressures and is rapidly marchig towards the creation of a tailor made constitution that consecrates totalitarianism. No heed is, of course, paid to the U.S. Department of State warnings or the European Parliament's condenations of the move or even the threat by the Latin American Parliament to sue the Venezuelan ruling elite at the International Criminal Court on acccount of gross human rights violations.
The reason for this defiant attitude is to be found in the money trail. Illict trade earnings represent such benefits to the Venezuelan government officials that they would rather act as an overt rogue state than surrender a flow of money that truly is the newfound El Dorado for them and their families. They also know that there are enough financial institutions in the world ready to do business with any kind of nation and that once they change the institutional framework, it can be claimed that Venezuela's decisions are legal. This will keep some windows in the financial system open and the international community debating whether Venezuela is or fails to be a rogue state. Meanwhile the country will continue to enjoy the status of a nation state when it really is a crime haven.