The radical left-wing party Podemos (“We Can”) of Spain, which became the sensation of the European Parliament elections after winning a stunning five seats and 1.2 million votes on its first try, accepted millions of Euros from Hugo Chávez’s repressive socialist regime in Venezuela, money on which it never paid requisite taxes.
Podemos, led by far-left leader Pablo Iglesias, is seen as a counter-movement to many of the surprise achievements by center-right independent parties elsewhere on the continent. The resulting political party from Spain’s version of the Occupy Movement, Los Indignados, Podemos established the counternarrative many on the left needed in the aftermath of the European Parliament elections. While Spain gave Podemos viable legislative power, the UK advanced the ideas of UKIP, and France’s National Front, under the auspices of new leader Marine Le Pen, made unprecedented inroads with voters.
Despite its asserted independence, the group was directly tied to the Venezuelan socialist regime of Hugo Chávez. Spanish newspaper El Pais revealed this week that the think tank associated with Podemos, the Center for Political and Social Studies (CEPS), received 3.7 million Euros (more than $5 million) from the Chávez regime since 2002. El Pais uncovered the numbers in records at Spain’s Ministry of Culture. Iglesias was part of CEPS since 2006 and part of its board of directors beginning in 2008. It is believed that money from CEPS of Venezuelan origin was used to fuel the Podemos party.
CEPS describes itself as “a non-partisan political organization dedicated to the production of critical thought and cultural and intellectual works to form consensus among the left.”
Iglesias has denied the links between CEPS and the Podemos party. “There are many consultants that work in Venezuela for opposition parties and can charge 6,000, 7,000, 8,000 Euros a month,” he explained in a previous interview flagged by El Pais. “No CEPS consultant has charged similar quantities.”
The money’s nefarious origin is not the only problem with the links between CEPS and the Venezuelan regime. As CEPS is a non-profit organization, it is tax-exempt in Spain, raising many questions as to the legality of a potential use of CEPS funding to strengthen the backbone of Podemos’s infancy as a party.
In a statement, the party denied any involvement with the Venezuelan regime or any international government. “Since our founding, the only sources of funding are and have been voluntary donations from the people, which we would like to once again thank,” the statement read.