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Harry Minetree: Open letter to Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez Frias



Friday, March 03, 2006

Harry Minetree: Open letter to Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez Frias

Dear President Chavez:

I am an established US journalist. I was a war correspondent for twenty-five years (Time-Life), mostly in Africa and, among others, produced the controversial, anti-Reagan, pro-Latin invasion documentary film, “A Reporter in Grenada” (PBS, BBC); it won several international awards, including a Gold Medal from the International Conference on Broadcasting in Paris.

First, I want to thank you for reading this letter. It proves you are indeed a man of all people, including those who are Venezuelans in spirit.

Secondly, I wish to thank Eva Golinger, who has remained constant in her efforts to help me settle this matter.

In July 2004, Luis Marin summoned me to CITGO’s Tulsa headquarters to discuss the production of a documentary film on the August referendum. If I were to accept the job, Mr. Marin said my mission would be “…to find the truth and film it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

He offered me US$30,000 to cover crew salaries, equipment rentals and expenses for a two-week shoot. My personal fee for two months producing and promoting the film would be $120,000 US. I would also receive “a significant bonus” for providing Mr. Marin with an introduction to Bill Clinton.

The $30,000 would be paid in cash increments through the Houston law firm of Robert G. Taylor, who would be reimbursed by CITGO. Mr. Taylor, who was present at the meeting, had dictated the written agreement on which Mr. Marin’s proposal to me was based. Ray Nava, an associate of Mr. Marin’s, would deliver US cash to me in Caracas. Nava was also present at the Tulsa meeting

Mr. Marin added that he would arrange for me to have an exclusive, on-camera interview with you, Mr. President. He gave me the phone number of a contact in Caracas — a fine young man named Umberto or Gilberto.

I agreed to Mr. Marinís terms, and we shook hands all around. Afterwards, I flew to Houston with Robert Taylor in his Learjet. Mr. Taylor gave me a letter introducing me as an investigator for his law firm, and $9,500 cash — the first of the three promised payments for production financing.

In Caracas, I hired a crew and started shooting immediately — interviews in barrios, at sidewalk cafes, salsa clubs, shopping malls, nightclubs, etc. We traveled to the beaches where the working class swim, and to the private bathing clubs frequented by the Opposition. We toured the wealthy residential areas, then went to your hometown, Mr. President, where we interviewed one of your teachers, your high school baseball coach, and several friends and admirers. Back in Caracas, we did a wonderful interview with an old-line communist actor, Julio Mota; another with a hardline critic of your administration, Patricia Poleo. Luis Marin and Robert Taylor were informed daily of our progress.

Meanwhile, I was in constant contact with Gilberto who, unfortunately, was making little progress arranging an interview with you. Eventually, Luis directed me to Andres Izarra — who returned none of my calls and answered none of my emails.

Ray Nava delivered the first cash payment to my apartment. There were problems, he said. He appeared to be high on something, possibly cocaine. Ray offered to lend me a pistol. Then offered to give me his young girlfriend for sexual purposes. He said everyone knew that “Chavez” had rigged the referendum vote; it was all a fraud. He said Luis Marin would be fired soon. Then he offered to introduce me to some Senators who knew the “real story” and to a “well informed” anti-Chavez writer. I told Nava to get the hell out of my apartment and not to come back. Later that evening, he phoned and threatened me. I said I would meet him in the street — he lived nearby. I waited; he didn’t appear.

The following day, I phoned Luis Marin and recounted my conversation with Ray Nava. Marin said he would take care of everything.

That was the last I heard from anyone. I received no more money, and there was no explanation why. Luis Marin refused to take my calls or to respond to my emails. I owed the crew, I owed rent. I was owed personal expenses and, if this was indeed the end of the project, CITGO had breached our contract and owed me $131,000, including the unpaid production money.

I later learned that Ray Nava had implied to Luis that I worked for the CIA; he said my crew and I had filmed nothing. The facts are that we had shot seven hours of terrific footage. And I had pre-sold the film to CNN, contingent on the interview with you. Ray Nava also told Luis and Rob Taylor that the crew and I were spending production money on liquor and teenage whores, implying, once again, that we were hobnobbing with Opposition big shots!

Since then, Mr. President, I have met with Ambassador Alvarez, spoken and exchanged emails with Fernando Garay, Mr. Kabboul and Martin Sanchez. No one among them questioned that CITGO had breached our contract (Mr. Garay said there was no record of it). But no one called back after our discussions, and no one has done anything toward settling this matter.

Indeed, Robert Taylor washed his hands of the entire situation when Ray Nava told him, Mr. President, that he is your illegitimate son! If this is true, sir, I must commend you on your precocious talent as a lover, since you could not have been more than six years old when little Ray was conceived!

I look forward to your good advice and to settling this matter.

God Bless the Bolivarian Revolution and you.

Harry Minetree
telephone +1/ (702) 658.4760
cellphone +1/ (702) 460.6679
6024 Dorrell Lane,
Las Vegas, NV 89131

PS I should mention that a CITGO executive named Alfredo attended the Tulsa meeting. And, most, importantly a CITGO secretary recorded and took notes of the entire meeting. I contacted Marin’s assistant Carol Martin, but she claimed not to know who had recorded the meeting. I thought at the time she did not wish to become involved. hm

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