11 Venezuelan Diplomats in US Defected, as Diplomatic Mission Scammed its Citizens of Millions

Activist from CodePink took the stage on Thursday during a press conference by Venezuela’s new diplomatic members under interim Venezuelan President Juan Guaido. Photo: MLN

By Ninoska Marcano M. (MLN)- Eleven Venezuelan diplomats in the United States have defected from President Nicola’s Maduro’s government, and the diplomatic missions scammed its citizens of millions worth since opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president last month, a representative of the new diplomatic mission, said on Thursday.

“The scam was in the millions, they took more than 3,500 passports and passport extension money. The damage was to thousands of people here,” said Gustavo Marcano, senior aide to Venezuela’s new diplomatic envoy in Washington DC.

Marcano said his team is working to find out how many people and the exact amount in dollars for the scam.

The diplomat told reporters that bank accounts for the Venezuelan embassies and consulates in the United States had been frozen, and his team halted all efforts by Maduro’s diplomatic mission to sale diplomatic headquarters in the US.  He went on to explain the historic Venezuelan New York consulate building next to St. Patrick’s cathedral was put up for sale by Maduro’s administration for an estimated $80 million dollars.   

The senior diplomatic aide warned that all Venezuelans citizens in the US should not use the current Venezuelan’s government immigration and customs webpage known as SAIME, because they still take the processing fees even though they can’t complete any immigration process for its expats.

 “[Maduro’s] regime closed and dismantled Venezuela’s entire consular network system in the United States. At this time all of the consulates and embassies have ceased to function…. We urge Venezuelans requiring consular services not to make any payments through SAIME online or they will lose their money,” he said explaining they take in the money but can’t provide the services needed.

When asked what should Venezuelans in need of officials documents should do, he said they would be giving instructions next week, and asked to be patient as they are undergoing an extraordinary situation but reassured reporters that they are working wih the State Department on the matter.

The diplomat said they also met earlier on Thursday with 11 of the 56 diplomats that defected and these officials are now part of Guiado’s diplomatic mission and these diplomatic officials have agreed to work with the new team and help restore Venezuela’s consular services in the United States.

“This is an extraordinary situation, but we are working to restore Venezuela’s consular missions in the United States,” he said.

Carlos Vecchio, the Charge d’ Affaires, and the new Venezuelan representative in Washignton D.C. also present during the press conference told reporters that those officials who defected from Maduro’s government would continue to be employed under Guaido’s interim government.

Vecchio explained their efforts to restore consular services in the US is a priority for his team, and they will be providing further information next week, as they have divided their goals into what he called two phases.

Vecchio who said he does not hold the key to the actual physical building of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington D.C. said his main job has been to protect the country’s assets abroad, but his team is working in acquiring new equipment so they can restart the consular processes such as the renovation of passports among other functions.

“They are not only stopping the foods that is going into Venezuela, they are also closing the services to the Venezuelans in the United States…they took all the equipment, paper work and seals,” he said.   

The diplomatic officials held the conference at a Washington think tank that let them borrow their offices for the event.

The press conference was briefly interrupted by two protesters from the activist group CodePink. While one woman took control of the microphone and addressed the audience shouting that Guaido’s team was “fraud” and was part of a U.S. orchestrated coup, another jumped on stage with a large poster that read “No coup in Venezuela”.

Members of CodePink have been  present in nearly all events summoned by the Venezuelan new intertim president administration here in Washington D.C.

To date, according to OAS figures, approximately 3 million Venezuelans are displaced and have left their country due to hyperinflation, lack of food and medicines and the growing violence under President Maduro’s regime.

Since January 23, Venezuela has had a parallel government headed by interim President Juan Guaido, as the international community drifted away from Nicolas Maduro administration, and recognized Juan Guaido as the nation’s interim head of state.Guaido invoked the Constitution to assume the interim presidency on January 23, 2019.

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