By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Venezuela's CNE electoral board ruled in the early hours of Wednesday that Maduro regime candidate Justo Noguera is the new governor of gold-rich Bolivar state in Eastern Venezuela, as opposition candidate Andres Velasquez continues heading protests against that result.
But even before the CNE changed their results page around midnight, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro had proclaimed that he had won the Bolivar state governorship 10 hours earlier in a press conference.
And just who is Justo Jose Noguera Pietri?
In 2014, as commander of the National Guard he headed the violent repression of demonstrations in 2014, during which 43 demonstrators and security forces were killed. Months after the demonstrations ended, the US sanctioned him a Specially Designated National.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control published this short bio of the new governor of Bolivar state when it placed him on the SDN list in 2015: “NOGUERA PIETRI, Justo Jose (Spanish: NOGUERA PIETRI, Justo José); DOB 15 Mar 1961; POB Piritu, Venezuela; nationality Venezuela; citizen Venezuela; Gender Male; Cedula No. 5.944.426 (Venezuela); Passport B0942407 (Venezuela) expires 18 Dec 2006; alt. Passport 018295955 (Venezuela); President of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana (CVG); former Major General, General Commander of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) (individual) [VENEZUELA]”.
Noguera was a member of the first batch of seven Venezuelan current and/or former officials sanctioned as SDNs by the U.S. in 2015. More have been added to the list since, including President Nicolas Maduro and Vice President Tareck El Aissami this year by the Donald Trump administration.
So far, some 46 Venezuelans, mostly government officials and military, have received some sort of designation by the U.S., either SDN or similar.
As a SDN, the new governor of Bolivar has had all of its properties in the U.S. frozen and his entry has been blocked, as he has determined to be, according to an executive order signed by then President Barack Obama, to be one of “Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela”.
Through Noguera, the Maduro-controlled CNE has awarded Venezuela’s ruling party PSUV its 18th state government, as the fallout of the Sunday October 15th election continues to raise eyebrows and stir tempers inside and outside the oil-rich country. So far, 15 countries, from neighboring Colombia, to the United States and France, have denounced the regional elections’ results as unreliable, with a dozen Latin American countries in the “Group of Lima” asking for an internationally-supervised audit.
Besides being an SDN, Noguera was not born in Bolivar state but in Miranda. However, he does have plenty of Bolivar experience: as head of the heavy-industries and mining concern CVG, output there dropped to unprecedented lows, according to “Transparencia Venezuela”, the local chapter of anti-corruption NGO “Transparency International”. CVG is used as a model here of how not to run a state-owned company.