ITALIAN prosecutors are looking into a report which alleges that the Venezuelan government gave €3.5million to one of the founders of the 5 Star party.
Spanish newspaper ABC had alleged that Nicolas Maduro – then Venezuelan foreign minister – signed off the transfer to Gianroberto Casaleggio, the late co-founder of the 5 Star Movement, in 2010.
An expert has told Redaction Politics that while he believes the report is likely false, there could have been some desire in Caracas at the time to secure a valuable alliance in Europe.
The 5 Star Movement was only founded a year before the transfer reportedly took place, but performed excellently in the 2013 election, garnering 25 per cent of the vote.
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Five years later, it would secure almost a third of the electorate, helping it into a ruling coalition.
While not a left-wing party by any means – it has taken a hardline stance on asylum and immigration while in power – its populist and anti-establishment ethos may have made it the most viable party to ally with, when the rest of Europe was still ruled by liberal parties.
Italy the only major European nation who didn’t recognise Juan Guaido as the interim President last year.
ABC claimed the money was sent to ensure 5 Star developed into a “revolutionary and anti-capitalist left-wing movement.”
No specific people are being targeted by the inquiry and there are no allegations of any crime, a judicial source told Reuters.
Current Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza denied all allegations and said: “The mythomania of the global right-wing media is part of an anti-journalistic anthology.
“They recycle fake news with shameless sensationalism. We will take legal action in this and other cases.”
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5 Star spokesperson Tiziana Beghin toed a similar line, adding: “The story of the briefcase full of cash delivered directly to Gianroberto Casaleggio is worthy of a spy story of the best James Bond film.”
Professor Daniel Hellinger of Webster University told Redaction Politics that he shares Mr Crimi’s dismissal of the report, however.
He said: “The allegations are about an alleged cash transfer in 2010–10 years ago, before 5 Star was in the government.
“Chavez was alive, and Maduro was foreign minister–which doesn’t necessarily mean he approved on anything.
“It’s hard to evaluate this report. It comes from a right-wing newspaper in Spain, and wealthy Venezuelans there are trying to discredit the left in general.
“Many are tied into Steve Bannon’s network of right wing populists. So it’s hard to trust the information.
“At the same time, it is conceivable that Venezuela, then awash in petrodollars, might have seen 5 Star as a potential ally within European Union politics. Bottom line, I wouldn’t entirely dismiss the report, but I would not trust it either.”
Daniel Hellinger is Professor of International Relations at Webster University and is currently working on the third edition of his text, Comparative Politics of Latin America: Can Democracy Last?
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