The good folks from Reporters Without Borders published in its We Fight Censorship website a post entitled "Corruption Off Limits on Venezuelan Internet", where censorship of this website in Venezuela is exposed. To be frank, I was expecting a reaction from those exposed, i.e. Derwick Associates (now rebranded as Derwick, as shown in letter below). In its "clarification" letter to Reporters Without Borders, Derwick claims the following:
El pasado 29 de marzo su organización se hizo eco de una información que relaciona a Derwick con el bloqueo que las autoridades de CONATEL ordenaron sobre el blog www.infodio.com.
Translation: "On 29 March, your organization echoed information pertaining the relation between Derwick and the ban that CONATEL authorities ordered against infodio.com".
So here's Derwick, pretending to be completely unrelated to the ban that the Venezuelan telecoms watchdog imposed on this website. Readers may remember that this site was censored in Venezuela, on 16 January 2014, right after publishing a post about an amended claim that Otto Reich had introduced in his RICO lawsuit against Derwick, and its execs Alejandro Betancourt, Pedro Trebbau and Francisco D'Agostino. I had heard from readers using Inter as ISP that they could not access infodio.com in Venezuela, so I took to Twitter to ask for corroboration. Some said they could access it, some said they couldn't. But what started with Inter soon became a general ban. By 17 January Inter, Movistar, Supercable and CANTV users reported that they couldn't access this site.
On 18 July 2013, reputed Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda reported that "some Bolichicos had paid $45 million for one of the most important cable operators in the country", adding that the deal had been done in Texas:
"45 millones de dólares habría sido la suma pagada por algunos “bolichicos”, los muy jóvenes empresarios boliburgueses que crecieron a la sombra del drama eléctrico, por uno de los operadores de cable más importantes del país. La firma fue en Texas…"
Later on that day, I commented on the deal, based on information I had received from a source:
"Bocaranda likes cryptic language and is having to defend himself in chavista kangaroo courts nowadays, so let me spell his message out: Derwick Associates has purchased Intercable, from HM Capital Partners, for $45 million."
Months will pass, and then I heard about the deal again, from a completely different source, who told me that Yosef Maiman (shareholder of Inter) had sold a stake to Alejandro Betancourt and Francisco D'Agostino. The correct thing for me to do was to ask HM Capital and Yosef Maiman whether there was any truth to the allegations (apart from bribing attempts by stepfather of Alejandro Betancourt, none of the Derwick execs has ever replied to my requests for comment). I also sent a request for comment to Bernard Aronson, from ACON Investment. The reason being, ACON Investments is quoted in press releases about a $100 million worth of equity given to ProEnergy Services, which is the subcontractor that Derwick used in all of its Venezuela projects. Then there's Daniel Jinich, Managing Partner at ACON, which he joined after a time with HM Capital. Given what I heard about HM Capital's involvement in the deal, I thought appropriate to try and get a word from then. Alas no one replied.
So what do we have here? An "energy company" that claims that it has nothing to do with provision of internet services, or indeed with Inter, sends a letter to Reporters Without Borders and reveals that CONATEL authorities ordered ISPs to censor this site. My question is: how does Derwick know that CONATEL issued an order to have this site banned, if it has got nothing to do with provision of internet services? Do we have to assume that energy companies are also informed by CONATEL -as a matter of practice- about their censorship measures?
But then, Derwick answers the question:
...la acción ordenada por las autoridades deriva de una acción legal interpuesta por personas que no tienen ni han tenido vínculo alguno con nuestra organización.
Read, the order [to ban infodio.com] comes from a legal action filed by people that have no relation whatsoever with Derwick. My question is: what legal action is Derwick privy of, from people that have "no relation whatsoever" with their organization? Therefore, not only is Derwick au courrant of CONATEL's censorship orders, it also knows the reasons for such orders!
I believe that letter from Derwick only serves one purpose: to undermine their credibility even more (if that's possible).
Sources have told me that Derwick has, in fact, an excellent relation with SEBIN (Venezuela's intelligence service), as journalist Cesar Batiz can attest. Furthermore, I have been told that Derwick gave a direct order to Rolando Esser de Lima (CANTV's Security Chief) to block infodio.com. While it's almost impossible to demonstrate this, unless my kind informants make good on their promise to leak the actual order, it remains a fact that Inter was the first ISP that blocked this site, and others followed. It also remains a fact that, as of this writing, infodio.com continues to be censored by mentioned ISPs, including CANTV, the State owned telecoms giant that accounts for 80% of internet traffic in Venezuela. Finally, it is also true that the measure came after I posted an update on the RICO lawsuit against Derwick in New York.
Then we have the little details, such as Derwick's claims to be privy of information that, by the very nature of their line of business, it should not be privy of, or letter sent to Reporters Without Borders dated the day before it was actually written (as per metadata), mind you, it would appear that Derwick is determined to completely bury their already battered credibility.