The half-hour conversation would put Cedeño on a life-altering collision course with the Venezuelan strongman. "Chávez told me exactly who he was," Cedeño remembers. "He was a very bitter person, full of resentment... I realized then that he despised people like me."

Within months of their meeting, Cedeño had become one of Chávez's chief opponents. The banker began funding Claudio Fermín — a centrist, establishment candidate — only to see him plummet in popularity. Chávez delivered fiery speeches denouncing corruption and promising to eradicate poverty. Then, on December 6, 1998, he garnered 56 percent of the vote to become president.

Cedeño was worried, but not surprised. "There were lots of guys like that in my neighborhood, bad guys who always picked a fight with everyone," he says. "I couldn't help but know them because I was their victim. They robbed us, harassed us, did whatever they wanted with us."

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.

As remarkable as Chávez's rise to power was, Cedeño's success was even more spectacular. He was born December 1, 1964. Home was a one-room, dirt-floor house. There was no electricity and no running water. What little money the family had evaporated when his father left two months after Eligio's birth. His mother had to find work as a cleaning lady.

The family was destitute, but Eligio and his older brother Luís excelled at school, where they swapped their one good shirt between periods. After class, one brother would study from a single ragged textbook while the other helped their mom clean office buildings. That education would fuel Eligio's extraordinary rise to wealth and power, but life in the barrio taught him other lessons. Once, when Eligio was 16 years old, he and Luís were walking down Avenida Sucre when kids their age robbed them at gunpoint. Eligio vowed to escape poverty.

Soon he landed a coveted internship with Citibank. He worked long hours studying for a marketing degree on nights and weekends. After five years, he was hired by Banco Internacional, a Venezuelan bank. His meager salary finally afforded him an apartment of his own. When he moved in, the 21-year-old took his first hot shower. He gave his savings to his mother, who still lived in the barrio.

A few years later, Cedeño joined a brokerage firm named Banco Noroco. The quiet, unassuming bookworm was an unstoppable trader. By age 28, he was vice president. "I could calculate the interest on a given type of bond off the top of my head," he says. His brilliance was driven by sheer need. "I was hungry. I had to work in order to buy my family food."

When a 1994 financial crisis claimed 17 of the top banks in Venezuela, Cedeño saw opportunity. He started his own brokerage firm with $2 million in investments. Profits exploded. In 1999, Cedeño pumped $20 million into troubled financial institutions such as Banco Canarias, Bolivar Banco, and BanPro. Three years later, his investments were worth $150 million.

"Eligio is a risk-taker," says Tomás Vásquez Estrella, a close friend and banker who worked with Cedeño at Banco Canarias. "He was easily one of the best traders in Venezuela."

Wealth brought political influence. Against the advice of other bankers, he insisted on speaking out against what he saw as Chávez's Fidel Castro-like takeover of the economy, including price controls, a fixed bolívar-dollar exchange rate, and tight restrictions on foreign currency. He began marching alongside Carlos Ortega — one of the country's most powerful union bosses — and other business leaders opposed to Chávez.

"The government hated me because I gave openly and without reservations to the opposition," Cedeño says.

Within his first year as president, Chávez had dissolved the national assembly, rewritten the constitution, and begun distributing oil wealth to the poor. The capital was gripped by massive protests. On April 11, 2002, shooting broke out near the presidential palace, killing 20 and plunging the country to the brink of civil war. Chávez was briefly ousted from power in what he and his supporters called a coup. When the president returned a few days later, Ortega organized a massive strike. But Chávez survived again, and Ortega was charged with rebellion and treason. He fled to Costa Rica.

That's when Cedeño's troubles with the government began. In November 2003, officials accused him of helping a small company called Microstar illegally exchange $27 million in bolívares. The investigation dragged on for two years. During that time, Cedeño says, he was pressured by government officials to do business with them in return for dropping the charges. He refused.

Then, on March 1, 2005, state police caught Ortega on the lam near Caracas. (He had returned to lead the opposition.) He was quickly sentenced to 16 years in the fearsome Ramos Verde military prison for leading the anti-Chávez strike.

Cedeño visited often, promising to help with his appeal. "Eligio was one of the few friends of that economic level who had the courage to come and visit me," remembers Ortega, who later escaped and fled the country for good.

Then, in November 2005, prosecutors indicted Cedeño in the Microstar case on trumped-up charges of smuggling and import tax evasion. Eighteen months later, shortly after Ortega's escape, Cedeño was finally arrested.

« Previous Page
 |
 
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 ???

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.!

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 !!

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.

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.

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.

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

Yolomato
Yolomato

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

raymon v
raymon v

paja en tu boca marica come pinga capitalista

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...

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!

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.

USA1
USA1

America Letrina

Juan Carlos P
Juan Carlos P

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

 
Loading...