Cedeño flung open the door to the Alba Caracas Hotel guest room where he had decided to hide out, and flipped on the TV set. Pictures of his face and headlines like, "Banker Eligio Cedeño Flees the Country," flashed on the screen. And there was the country's attorney general, describing his release as a conspiracy or a jailbreak.

Then Judge Afiuni appeared onscreen — in handcuffs. She was charged with "corruption, abuse of authority, aiding escape, and criminal association."

Coño, they arrested the judge? Cedeño thought. Now there was no way in hell he was going to turn himself in again — he would never get out. Police would arrive any minute. Cedeño called a friend and told her where to pick him up. Then he turned off his phone for good.

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 Cedeño hid out in western Caracas, he watched a swift and brutal crackdown unfold on his friends, relatives, and colleagues. His employees were interrogated, his house and office ransacked. His lawyer, José Rafael Parra, spent two days in jail while prosecutors considered charging him in what they called Cedeño's "escape."

The next day, Chávez appeared on television in his trademark blue military shirt and crewcut. He wagged a finger self-righteously in front of a portrait of his icon, Simón Bolívar. "María Lourdes Afiuni made a deal with the constables and... one of these bandits that was in prison... a bandit named Eligio Cedeño," he fumed. "This bandit of a judge... didn't say anything to any prosecutor. She sent for the prisoner, put him in the courtroom, and then took him out through the back door. He escaped. Well, she's in jail...This is worse than a murder! We have to give this judge and the people who did this... 30 years in prison in the name of the dignity of this country."

The fallout quickly spiraled well beyond Cedeño's family and legal team. Tomás Vásquez Estrella — Cedeño's close friend and a brokerage firm owner — decided to flee. He had watched friends and colleagues depart the country, and then visited Cedeño in jail for advice on how to keep government auditors at bay. When the witch-hunt began, the portly 36-year-old bought a ticket on the next flight to South Florida. He didn't know if he'd ever return.

"Chávez had declared war on the financial sector," Vásquez says. "I was fighting for my company — and my life."

Eight months after leaving Venezuela, Vásquez sat at a smooth white marble table inside the swanky Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Biscayne Bay. Across from him was Rafael Ramos de la Rosa, a moon-faced Venezuelan official with a gray widow's peak. Ramos was wearing slacks and a white collared shirt, as if on a business trip. But he was already sipping his third whiskey of the sweltering August night.

"You're close to Eligio, so you're fucked," Ramos said matter-of-factly. He set his empty tumbler down and ordered another. When the waiter left, he quickly got back to business.

"I need to resolve this issue with you in this trip," he said.

The issue, it would later come out in federal court, was Ramos's demand for a huge bribe. As Vásquez had feared, the Venezuelan Securities Commission had taken over his company, Uno Valores, on December 17, the same day Eligio Cedeño fled to Curaçao. The Chávez administration was nationalizing large swathes of the financial sector, and Vásquez's firm was a perfect mix of money and connections to Cedeño.

Ramos had served as an auditor after the nationalization, but he wasn't in Miami for Chávez, nor for socialism. He was here for plata. Four months earlier, through an intermediary, he had told Vásquez he would have to pay $1.5 million to get his company back. If the businessman didn't fork over the cash, came the added warning, he would go to jail.

"What I can give you is a weapon to defend yourself," Ramos said at the hotel. "[I need] half of [the money] right now and the other half when [I] speak to [my boss]."

When the conversation ended, Ramos headed upstairs and Vásquez drove off in his Audi SUV. But instead of going home to Sunny Isles Beach, he steered to a parking lot in nearby Brickell. Half a dozen FBI agents congratulated him.

Unknown to Ramos, Vásquez for months had been recording their conversations. At the Mandarin, he used a mike hidden in his designer watch. Two months later, the feds sprang their trap, arresting Ramos moments after he accepted the $750,000 extortion check.

Ramos's bust in Miami had all the justice that Cedeño's arrest in Caracas had lacked. The investigation had begun when Vásquez called his friend Cedeño in June to tell him that he was being blackmailed.

"This isn't Venezuela," Cedeño told his buddy. "You have to report this."

The Ramos case is a rare window into the corruption eating away at the Bolivarian Republic. Although Chávez's social programs have boosted poor citizens' income, widespread graft and malfeasance have negated those advances. Transparency International, a Berlin-based nongovernmental organization that monitors graft, ranks Venezuela as the most corrupt country in the Western Hemisphere.

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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.

 
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