The Italian left-wing “Five Star Movement” (M5S) received 3.5 million Euros (about $4 million) from Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez in 2010, the Spanish newspaper ABC revealed this week.
The Five Star Movement is an Italian populist Leftist movement founded in 2009 by comedian Beppe Grillo and web strategist Gianroberto Casaleggio. The Movement is known to be Eurosceptic and environmentalist. According to the Movement’s website, it is “neither Left or Right-Wing, but for ideas” – most of which fall on the left side of the spectrum. ABC describes the party as having “ecological, anti-imperialist, and -Europeanist inspiration.”
Casaleggio died in 2016; the party is currently led by Vito Crimi after Luigi Di Maio resigned as the party’s leader last January.
In 2018, the Five Star Movement won a simple majority in Italy’s legislative election, but not enough to avoid a coalition government with La Lega, a populist party. The government lasted a little less than a year after La Lega leader Matteo Salvini pulled out his party’s support and presented a no-confidence vote in the coalition.
Now, a Venezuelan regime document indicates that Bolivarian socialist money may have helped M5S get as far as it did.
ABC published an image of a document from the Venezuelan Defense Ministry dated July 5, 2010, allegedly a memorandum to the director-general of military intelligence at the time from the yet-unidentified “director of special affairs.”
“It is known that, in fact, a suitcase was sent with 3.5 million Euros in cash. It came from the secret expenditures of the country, administered by the Interior Minister, Tarek El Aissami,” the document reads. It goes on to state that the nation’s top diplomat at the time, current dictator Nicolás Maduro, approved the transfer to Gianroberto Casaleggio, identified as “the promoter of a revolutionary, anti-capitalist leftist movement in the Republic of Italy.”
Nearly everyone on the Venezuelan side mentioned in the document is wanted for various international crimes.
El Aissami, who “administered” the payment, is a high-ranking regime official in Venezuela that has held various positions including vice president. Currently, he is the nation’s Oil Minister, in charge of the world’s second-largest oil reserves.
The U.S. government has identified El Aissami as Maduro’s link to the Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah and the Iranian government generally. Experts believe him to be an influential Hezbollah fundraiser who has allegedly helped sneak terrorists into the country.
The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has heavily sanctioned el Aissami under the “Drug Kingpin” act for his involvement in narcotics trafficking. Last year, ICE published a wanted poster for Maduro’s oil minister, asking Americans, “have you seen this most wanted fugitive?”
— ICE (@ICEgov) July 31, 2019
The General Director of Military Intelligence identified as having written the memorandum at the time would have been General Hugo “The Chicken” Carvajal, one of the regime’s top-tier drug lords, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2011, the department indicted Carvajal for “large-scale drug-trafficking activities,” including a 5.6-ton cocaine shipment.
The U.S. Department of Justice also approved Carvajal’s extradition in November from Spain for allegedly engaging in drug trafficking and supplying weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist terrorist organization. Carvajal remains a fugitive.
Maduro is currently being indicted by the U.S. government in a massive drug trafficking conspiracy involving narco-terrorism. Announcing the indictment, Attorney General William Barr also accused Maduro of allowing narco-guerilla FARC to use Venezuelan airspace to transport cocaine to North America.
Since the rise of the Five Star Movement to power in 2018, Italian journalists have repeatedly questioned its financing. News magazine L’Espresso wrote that the Movement “created a system of dusty deposits full of anonymous, acronyms, opaque voices and fictitious often difficult to reconstruct.”
While the financial ties between the Italian group and Venezuela remain opaque, the Five Star Movement has consistently issued public support for the socialist regime. In 2017, members of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Italian Chamber of Deputies (Manlio Di Stéfano) and the Senate (Vito Petrocelli y Ornella Bertorotta) visited Caracas to commemorate the 4th anniversary of Hugo Chávez’s passing.
“On our trip,” said Di Stéfano, “we will bring the voice of a free, independent, movement, unlike other parties in Italy, whose goals are dictated by the interests of the big corporations who fund them.”
“He [Di Stéfano] did not specify, however, if the M5S foreign policy will also promote the respect of the autonomy of powers and the defense of democratic freedoms, first of all that of expression, which in Italy have also been defended, even above all, in the terrible ‘years of lead’”, noted La Voce d’Italia.
Rafael Valera is the Communications Director of the Venezuelan conservative movement Rumbo Libertad.