When Sen. Marco Rubio told the Senate last month that Venezuelan government officials were buying “golden iPhones” while living in Miami mansions, he was not joking. An América TV report uncovers the lavish mansions of the Chavista elite, while the government at home arrests thousands and an intelligence chief is found dead.
América TV, an Argentine news outlet, sent roving reporter Javier Ceriani to visit a number of well connected Venezuelan Chavistas living in the neighborhood of Cocoplum, Miami. The reporter visits million-dollar homes, finds lavish yachts sitting in local marinas under the name of Venezuelan elites, and is ultimately told by most service staffs in these homes to go away.
In particular, Ceriani investigates Raúl Gorrin, Gustavo Perdomo, and Ángel Meza – the owners of Venezuelan media company Globovisión. Globovisión was formerly an opposition television station that Hugo Chávez regularly threatened to shut down. Eventually, the Venezuelan government bought out the station and put it under the custody of the aforementioned owners, who prevent any anti-Chavista messaging from hitting airwaves.
“What is Raúl Gorrin, the owner of Globovisión, doing on American imperialist soil, when he is a dauphin of Bolivarian socialism?” Ceriani asks. He does not find any of his targets, but does confirm that they own these homes in Miami, as well as a number of yachts.
Ceriani’s full four-part report can be seen (in Spanish) here.
While Sen. Rubio, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and others in American government have been calling for sanctions on these individuals, a bill has yet to pass condemning these individuals for contributing to the maintenance of a totalitarian regime.
President Nicolás Maduro has ordered thousands of human rights-violating attacks and arrests on anti-government protesters since the current wave of uprisings. Infobae reports that 2,500 individuals have been detained since the beginning of protests this February, when the government arrested opposition leader Leopoldo López. While most of those arrested were student protesters, two mayors were among those arrested and sentenced to years in prison, while 30 soldiers were arrested for allegedly staging a coup. The figure placing arrests in the thousands followed a condemnation by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, which lamented in a statement this week “the fragility of the Judicial Branch and its lack of independence or impartiality, which impacts in a negative way the exercise of the right of access to justice.”
The violence that plagues the average Venezuelan – the nation has the second-highest murder rate in the world, and 41 have been killed since the beginning of protests in February – has begun to permeate the very well protected bubble of Venezuelan elite. Eliecer Otaiza, the former head of the Venezuelan intelligence service and a close friend of Hugo Chávez, was shot dead while in the outskirts of Caracas. He was found without identification on his person but near his car, which appeared to have been stolen.
Most Venezuelan elite are safe, however, and many are exploiting the benefits of American capitalism, of which they deprive their citizens, on visits to Miami. As the inflation rate in Venezuela hits 60%, Maduro has imposed a rationing system that has left many families without basic needs, such as butter, milk, grain, and toilet paper.