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Tuna Businessman Jailed 4 Years Without Trial Venezuela, April 10, 13

Much has been said and written about the Venezuelan tuna businessman Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco in recent days; about his release being argued based on humanitarian grounds, due to the deterioration of his health by being detained for nearly four years without trial.
Fernandez Barrueco, the Colombian-Venezuelan “entrepreneur” and multimillionaire businessman has been in jail in Caracas on bank fraud charges. He was arrested in Caracas by the authorities accused of several crimes allegedly arising from irregularities with four banks and he was the main shareholder of the Ecuadorian tuna cannery Pespesca Corp and several tuna purse seiners. Furthermore, his name was mentioned in relation to other illegal activities; part of them involving FARC: the Colombian based revolutionary guerilla and terrorist army.

Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco

In 2009, Fernandez Barrueco has actually been accused of “misappropriation” of funds from investors, undue credit approval and conspiracy. Since that time he has been imprisoned.

The charges go back to the 2009 Venezuelan bank crisis, when he led a group of investors interested in keeping afloat four banks: Canarias, Confederado, Bolivar and Banpro. At the same time he was interested in acquiring Banco Canarias, an operation that never materialized. Fernandez Barrueco said he never belonged to the board of any of these financial institutions and had no interference in their decision making, and claims to be innocent of the charges.

In his early years, Fernandez Barrueco purchased a rice processing factory, and then he set out to build one of the largest business empires in the country. At its peak, the business reached 270 different companies dedicated to the fishing and processing of tuna and to other food products. He also consolidated one of the largest fishing fleets in Latin America. This led him to create 14,000 direct jobs and around 35,000 indirect jobs.

This business group was a great help to the government of Hugo Chavez when, in 2002, it contributed to the food supply during the so-called oil strike period. Large quantities of canned tuna were imported from Ecuador to keep the food supply ongoing. This led to animosity against him by a part of the country tha, by that time, was on the brink of tension because of the political reality that was going on in Venezuela.
Fernandez Barrueco has been labeled in many different ways. Both dominant Venezuelan political camps kicked him to the side not serving their interests, leaving him in a kind of no-man’s-land. His case will be worthy of future study, not because of the legal scenes he is being subjected to, but because of the polarization effect within the political scheme that can trap someone, who says he had dedicated his life to produce food and provide work for many.