Eligio Cedeño: A banker battles Hugo Chavez

Eligio Cedeño: A banker battles Hugo Chavez
Mark III Photonics
Hugo Chvez

The woman's knuckles whiten as she grips the wheel and jerks the car onto a narrow Caracas street. She has already mapped the safest route out of the city countless times. But tonight she repeatedly checks the rear-view mirror to be sure there's no tail. Even at 3 a.m., lights from the barrios stare down from the hills like all-seeing eyes.

A man slumps low in the passenger seat next to her, his sunglasses and hat hiding his face. With good reason: For eight days, his visage has been splashed across newspaper front pages and TV screens across Venezuela. A government website calls for his capture "vivo o muerto": dead or alive.

They head northwest until the capital's glittering skyscrapers disappear behind El Ávila mountain. Only then does the man begin to relax. For a week he has hidden in a tiny apartment. Before that, there were 33 months in a six-by-nine-foot jail cell. Yet his journey is far from over.

Banker Eligio Cedeño was imprisoned for three years without a conviction.
George Martinez
Banker Eligio Cedeño was imprisoned for three years without a conviction.
Broker Tomás Vásquez Estrella wore a wire to help the FBI arrest a Venezuelan official who was extorting him.
George Martinez
Broker Tomás Vásquez Estrella wore a wire to help the FBI arrest a Venezuelan official who was extorting him.

An hour after leaving the city, the car pulls into an empty sports complex in the resort city of La Guaira. The woman cuts the headlights and parks next to a dirt soccer field overlooking the ocean. As salt spray whips the windshield, she hurriedly opens the rear door. The man unfurls a parachute and attaches it to what looks like a giant metal fan. The two friends exchange a quick embrace. Then he lifts the paraglider onto his back, starts the motor, and soars off into the night.

Several hours later, the small Caribbean fishing village of Adícora slowly stirs to life. It's a week before Christmas, and decorations dance in the wind. On the beach, a handful of fishermen prepare their brightly painted peñeros to go out on the water.

Suddenly, one of the anglers spots a strange black dot against the sunrise. A figure slowly takes shape as the paraglider whines closer. Finally, a middle-aged man in baggy surf shorts and a T-shirt lands on the beach with a soft thud like a Navy SEAL. He pulls off his helmet to reveal an orange and black mop of poorly bleached curls and a gnarly sunburn.

Eligio Cedeño, Venezuela's most wanted man, tosses his flight equipment into the ocean and walks over to the stunned fishermen. "How much to take me to Curaçao?" he asks in an affected gringo accent.

"How much do you have?" one leather-skinned seaman shoots back. The stranger tosses him a rucksack. Inside are 30,000 bolívares, roughly $5,000. "Will that do?"

If the fisherman recognizes his famous passenger, he doesn't let on. Without a word, he pushes his small wooden boat onto the water and fires up the outboard motor. Cedeño — bitter enemy of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez — jumps aboard.

Cedeño's remarkable escape in 2009 from Caracas to Curaçao and eventually Miami ended a judicial hell in which bogus charges gave way to farcical trials and three years in a windowless cell. His flight unleashed a whirlwind crackdown on judges, lawyers, friends, and fellow bankers — scores of whom have since also fled to South Florida, which boasts the largest Venezuelan population outside the South American nation.

But in a bizarre reversal of fortune, the case of Eligio Cedeño has come back to haunt Hugo Chávez and threaten his grip on Venezuela. Cedeño's imprisonment has shaken the fiery leader's international standing. Meanwhile, an extortion attempt by Venezuelan officials against one of Cedeño's best friends has exposed the corruption at the core of Chávez's Bolivarian Revolution.

Perhaps worse for Chávez, Cedeño has reprised his role as chief backer of the opposition ahead of next year's Venezuelan presidential elections. Armed with $160 million and powerful friends across the Americas, he is the most recognizable face of South Florida's swelling Venezuelan population. It's an exilio vino tinto that, like its Cuban predecessor 50 years ago, will stop at nothing when it comes to unseating the comandante.

Hugo Chávez shifted uncomfortably in his dark suit and tie. Sweat beaded on his broad forehead. Running dead last among four presidential candidates, the military commander-turned-socialist firebrand had agreed to attend a weekly forum called "Get to Know Your Candidate." But the expensive event was the type of capitalist excess that he railed against: a private gathering of executives from multinational corporations and superrich Venezuelan bankers. Chávez sat alone at a table awaiting his chance to tell the oligarchs how they were ruining the oil-soaked country.

The year was 1998. At age 33, Eligio Cedeño was the youngest man in the room, but by no means was he the least wealthy. With light-brown skin, curly hair, and an aquiline nose, the precocious banker looked like a younger version of the candidate brooding across the room. Curious about Chávez, Cedeño walked over and introduced himself. As soon as he described his childhood in La Bombilla, a ramshackle barrio in an impoverished area of eastern Caracas known as Petare, a light switched on in the future leader's eyes.

"You understand then," Chávez said conspiratorially. "These businessmen have been corrupting our politicians for decades. Look!" he said, sweeping his hand toward Cedeño's friends and business partners. "Venezuela has become an utter embarrassment. What this country needs is for someone to rule with a firm hand." Coming from a man who had launched a coup only six years earlier — and had served two years in jail for the deadly uprising — Chávez's words were no idle threat. They were a road map to revolution.

1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
31 comments
USA1
USA1

Verdad que abrir una pagina y toparse con la jeta de mono del tipejo de Chavez, es terrorismo mediatico.

Paz-y-union-para-venezuela
Paz-y-union-para-venezuela

la verdad no se puede tapar con un dedo, SR CEDEÑO QUE DIOS LO BENDIGA, GUIE SU CORAZON, gente buena que no se presto para vender este pais, que no se humilla, que quiere vivir libre, que saLe de la pobreza, puede tener errores, quien no es humano verdad? donde hay justicia los errores se pagan pero cuando se quiere hacer el daño por no servirle al proposito del que cree ser dueño entonces vemos UNA INMENSA INJUSTICIA COMO ESTA DIOS TE BENDIGA, DIOS VENDIGA VENEZUELA, PAZ Y CERENIDAD,

Pidolapazparavenezuela
Pidolapazparavenezuela

la verdad no se puede tapar con un dedo, SR CEDEÑO QUE DIOS LO BENDIGA, GUIE SU CORAZON, gente buena que no se presto para vender este pais, que no se humilla, que quiere vivir libre, que saLe de la pobreza, puede tener errores, quien no es humano verdad? donde hay justicia los errores se pagan pero cuando se quiere hacer el daño por no servirle al proposito del que cree ser dueño entonces vemos UNA INMENSA INJUSTICIA COMO ESTA DIOS TE BENDIGA, DIOS VENDIGA VENEZUELA, PAZ Y CERENIDAD,

Unomas
Unomas

la verdad no se puede tapar con un dedo, SR CEDEÑO QUE DIOS LO BENDIGA, GUIE SU CORAZON, gente buena que no se presto para vender este pais, que no se humilla, que quiere vivir libre, que saLe de la pobreza, puede tener errores, quien no es humano verdad? donde hay justicia los errores se pagan pero cuando se quiere hacer el daño por no servirle al proposito del que cree ser dueño entonces vemos UNA INMENSA INJUSTICIA COMO ESTA DIOS TE BENDIGA, DIOS VENDIGA VENEZUELA, PAZ Y CERENIDAD,

allen
allen

How long you going to keep this stupid same story as fresh news?Your page is real stale.

Billmart
Billmart

Existen miles de ladronees de marca mayor en el exilio en Miami y similar a este tipo. Porque este reportero y este periodico se identifican con esta clase de gente ??? ... porque pretenden que sintamos lastima por esa clase de peces gordos, ladrones y corruptos vendepatrias ???

Billmart
Billmart

Well, I read the whole history, before realize it was written by the Miami NewTimes News, nothing really new from biases kind of newspaper and similar to The Miami Herald style. Why we do not see the same type of news in any other newspaper around the country ??? ... well, those are maybe a littel more serious kind of media, right !!

Bridget
Bridget

Tomas Vasquez is a THIEF, you sir were taken for a fool on this article. While Eligio civil rights were most definitely violated to put that thief in the same category is ridicoulous.

MrChe
MrChe

Cedeno looks like Chavez, i wonder now maybe chavez had a son with another woman.. thats why Cedeno is pissed...hah..at the end i dont cinpatized with Cedeno... He is a banker... come on.. he is living the life in Miami with all his Venezualans agry friends..and Chavez he is a jackass..

Pepe
Pepe

This guy is as corrupt as chavez is. So don't listen to any of this marketing article

pat mourassa
pat mourassa

And we should feel sorry for that BANKER THIEF.

raymon v
raymon v

NOBODY COMPLAINTS ABOUT CHAVEZ, HE IS AN ANGEL. LOVE YOU PAPI

raymon v
raymon v

VIVA HUGO, VIVA FIDEL, VIVA LA REVOLUCION

Trerer
Trerer

I wonder HOW did he fly the glider... is not as easy as they said here. They dont said either he knew how to

Iceberg
Iceberg

i'm sick of all these venezuelans bitching all the time about chavez....why don't they go back and do something about it, instead of yelling and complaining from the comfort of their doral estates!!!

Marymarina
Marymarina

THE USA have become the Venezuelan's corrupt bankers paradise....they come to the USA looking for political asylum..with multi million dollars bank accounts... and they get the "GREEN CARDS"... Not all Venezuelan's bankers are corrupt and some of them have made a legitimate fortune...but most of them are bandits and their moneys are not legal....who cares..they USA give them GREEN CARDS...

Pentacles9
Pentacles9

Unfortunately, it is the bankers who have caused the global economic crisis. I have no sympathy for bankers, especially after the bailout which occured here in the US, at taxpayer expense. These criminals basically robbed us taxpayers so they can continue to play casino with our economy, and the economies of other countries. It is not socialism, capitalism, or any ism, it is power purchased with money in corrupt hands which has ruined the world.

Johnvicario
Johnvicario

i wonder how Mr. Cedeno made such a fortune.....only in such a corrupt country that happens.. I am agains Chavez...but he has been right in sending to jail so many bankers that had made fortunes in only a couple of year....ironically, the once that escape from Venezuela come to Miami and apply for an assylum VISA., that so far have been granted by the USA to so many corrupt Venezuelan bankers...So if you have a lot of money...no matter how you made it..and you are "lucky enough" to be a Chavez enemy...you ran away and get the american dream..A big house.. expensive car....shopping designer clothes...wearing expensive jewerly...and with a GREEN CARD.....THE US Goverment should be more selective granting those visas...

USA1
USA1

America Letrina

fagchavez
fagchavez

jajaja. vendepatrias solo porque no quieren aceptar unos cargos falsos que les impuso la marica de chavez? por favor...

USA1
USA1

Co mo tu!. Besa k.u.l.o comunista y cobarde asqueroso. vete pa'l ca.ra.jo.!

rodrigo
rodrigo

Sometimes not all newspapers have interest that is truthful, investigative journalists still exist that perform deep investigations of cases that people only mention what is said officially, without knowing the truth of the facts.

fernado briceno
fernado briceno

Ladron es Ramos y su combo, pero ha esos si no los nombran, que se aprovecharon de toda esta situacion para saquear a las Casas de Bolsa en Venezuela

adolfo rodriguez
adolfo rodriguez

How easy it is to write the word thief without putting your full name, at least put it, and be more courageous is very easy to point.

Required my ass
Required my ass

Interpol just removed him from their Red List. If the authorities don't think he's a thief, why do you? And why would a thief go to the authorities to help convict a blackmailer? Sounds like you're buying into Chavez propaganda.

Yolomato
Yolomato

pura paja lo que sale de esa boca sucia que tienes!!!!! SILENCIO BECERRO!!!! ya caeran o moriran tus heroes!

Sfuh Ugd
Sfuh Ugd

i wonder how Mr. Cedeno made such a fortune.....only in such a corrupt country that happens..WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS...LOL...HE OWNS A BANK GIVE ME A BREAK.

I am agains Chavez...but he has been right in sending to jail so many bankers that had made fortunes in only a couple of year....YOU DONT KNOW WHAT YOURE TALKING ABOUT I BET YOU DONT EVEN KNOW WHERE VENEZUELA IS IN A MAP

ironically, the once that escape from Venezuela come to Miami and apply for an assylum VISA., that so far have been granted by the USA to so many corrupt Venezuelan bankers...THEYRE NOT GRANTED A VISA BECAUSE THEY APPLY FOR AN ASSYLUM THEYRE GRANTED A VISA BECAUSE THEY HAVE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND INVESTMENT PROPERTIES IN THE U.S. AND THEY PAY UNCLE SAM EVERY YEAR

So if you have a lot of money...no matter how you made it..and you are "lucky enough" to be a Chavez enemy...you ran away and get the american dream..WHAT? LOL. WHAT AMERICAN DREAM THESE PEOPLE HAVE MANY HOUSES IN MANY COUNTRIES AND TONS OF MILLIONS THERES NO AMERICAN DREAM, AMERICAN DREAM IS ONLY FOR POOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU

A big house.. expensive car....shopping designer clothes...wearing expensive jewerly...and with a GREEN CARD.....HE'S HAD ALL THOSE EXPENSIVE THINGS SINCE HE WAS BORN OR YOU THINK HE HASNT? DO YOUR RESEARCH HE COMES FROM A RICH FAMILY

THE US Goverment should be more selective granting those visas...BABY THE US GOVERNMENT WORKS LIKE THIS: YOU PAY, YOU GET.

MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOURE TALKING ABOUT BEFORE TALKIN SHIT ABOUT US VENEZUELANS!

Juan Carlos P
Juan Carlos P

Watch you are becoming part of it you live in the same continent asshole! UNITED SUCKS OF AMERICA

raymon v
raymon v

paja en tu boca marica come pinga capitalista

Geap1944
Geap1944

This is the same Chavista innuendo that the blogger writes. Some of his bankers turned out to be corrupt, so to confuse public opinion he intervenes most banks and brokerage firms so that some get confused and can't distinguish between the honest ones and the corrupt ones. Next thing you have people saying that if he is a banker, then he must be corrupt, without presenting any evidence.

 
Loading...