Former Venezuelan national treasurer Claudia Patricia Díaz Guillén, extradited from Spain to the United States to answer for three crimes related to money laundering, pleaded not guilty this Tuesday (
) in the courts of West Palm Beach, which is north of Miami (Florida). The defense asked that the former Venezuelan official be granted bail.
Diaz Guillén was the nurse of the late dictator Hugo Chávez before becoming the country’s treasurer. Her husband, Chávez’s former security chief, Adrián Velásquez, is also facing charges and awaiting extradition to the US after exhausting judicial remedies in Spain.
They became known as “nurse” and Chávez’s “bodyguard”. Together, they are accused of receiving at least US$4.2 million in a bribery scheme, which involved businessman Raúl Gorrín, owner of the last major private television network in the country, Globovisión.
De According to the US Attorney’s Office, Gorrín paid millions of dollars in bribes to two former Venezuelan national treasurers, Díaz Guillén and Alejandro Andrade Cedeño, to secure the rights to carry out foreign exchange transactions at favorable rates.
According to the indictment, Gorrín “electronically transferred money for the benefit of Andrade and Diaz, including money for private jets, yachts, houses, champion horses, sophisticated watches and a fashion line.” The Venezuelan media entrepreneur was formally accused in August of 2018 as an accomplice of “conspiracy to launder money” and “money laundering”, but is on the run from US justice.
Andrade was sentenced to 25 years in prison in November 2018, after reaching a court settlement. He admitted that he received more than US$ 1 billion from Gorrín and others involved.
Diaz Guillén fears returning to Venezuela
Diaz Guillén’s relations with the current dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, seem not to be peaceful. Still in 2016, she and her husband settled in Spain and say they cannot return to their country of origin. They were arrested in 2018 in Madrid.
On the occasion, Chávez’s nurse said, in response to the BBC: “Venezuelans would torture us, violate all our rights , which themselves have already been violated”. Even so, Spain’s National Audience approved the extradition, at the request of the Venezuelan authorities. But Díaz Guillén’s defense appealed the decision, claiming that it would put his client’s life at “serious risk”.
How she became treasurer
Díaz Guillén was in the military before joining the Guard of Honor in 2001, in charge of Chávez’s security. Afterwards, she combined a military career with obtaining degrees in Nursing and Law at the Universidad Central de Venezuela.
However, in 2001, the same year when Chávez was diagnosed with cancer, she resigned from her nursing duties and assumed the post of head of the National Treasury Office for two years. Afterwards, she became executive secretary of the National Development Fund.
According to statements made by Díaz Guillén at the time, shortly after Chávez’s death in 2013 , also shortly after being fired from public office, she and her husband were threatened with death and told to leave the country.