Rep. Carlos Curbelo recently called on his opponent to return a contribution from a Democratic congresswoman his spokesperson labeled a “Maduro and Castro sympathizer.”
However, Curbelo, a Miami Republican, had no problem taking thousands of dollars from the Maduro regime’s American lobbyists.
Last year, Curbelo for Congress received $2,000 from the political action committee of Squire Patton Boggs, a lobbying firm that, between 2014 and 2015, made more than $1 million representing Citgo, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan regime’s national oil company.
Nicolas Maduro became president of Venezuela in March 2013, and the Houston-based Citgo is one of the country’s most lucrative assets that helps to finance the Maduro regime’s corruption.
Curbelo’s campaign had called on his Democratic opponent, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, to return a $3,500 contribution she received from Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who, after Fidel Castro’s death in 2016, said, “We need to stop and pause and mourn his loss.”
Curbelo’s campaign has also taken $2,000 from John Keast, a lobbyist with Cornerstone Government Affairs, one of the three Washington lobbying firms that has continued to lobby for Citgo in 2018.
Meanwhile, Curbelo has also taken individual donations from Patton Boggs lobbyist and former American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas, whose now-defunct law firm, Tew Cardena, represented some of the regime’s most corrupt cronies.
Tew Cardenas, which shuttered in 2014, represented allies of the Venezuelan government that were accused of orchestrating some of the largest-scale embezzlement schemes in the notoriously corrupt country.
Some of these clients included the owners of Derwick Associates, a public works contractor that allegedly received more than $1 billion in contracts from the Venezuelan government between 2009 and 2010.
According to Otto Reich, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, the firm’s owners skimmed a significant chunk of that amount off the top and paid $50 million in kickbacks to the president of the country’s National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello.
Cabello remains one of the most powerful figures in the Maduro government, and in May, the Department of Treasury sanctioned him for money laundering and drug trafficking.
In 2014, Human Rights Foundation President Thor Halvorssen sued the owners of Derwick Associates for its role in the embezzlement and kickback scheme.
Derwick’s attorney, Joe DeMaria of Tew Cardenas, smeared Halvorrsen in the press, calling him a “cocky blogger,” and defended his clients, saying they “supply electricity to million of Venezuelans.” Since the Chavez government nationalized Venezuela’s electricity sector in 2007, the country has suffered from chronic electricity shortages as bloated contracts have been doled out to contractors like Derwick.
Earlier, in 2007, Tew Cardenas represented Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, a Venezuelan billionaire who became rich off of the Chavez government, in a dispute with the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Cardenas gave two $1,000 donations to Curbelo between 2013 and 2014, when his old firm was representing Derwick’s owners in the litigation against Halvorssen.
Cardenas and Curbelo appear to remain close. In February, the two of them conducted a panel together at an event sponsored by the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean.