A hasty renovation
According to a project report prepared by Pablo Jos Gonzlez Hernndez, then executive director of Bandes Development Funds, and Edme Betancourt, then president of the bank, the renovation of the office represented an obligation to “comply with the provisions of the agreement on large volumes and long-term funding “that” establishes the establishment of a joint China-Venezuela office. “
However, in that plan, published in Official Gazette 39.511, there is no express mention of the extravagant cost the office would need to keep track of projects resulting from the second $ 20 billion grant fund, signed on September 10. 2010. In fact, the documents twice indicate that the space belonged to the management headed by Gnzalez Hernndez, when in fact it was an area already reserved for the administration of the China Fund.
The renovations were carried out “in a hurry”, from September, November 2, 2010 being set as the date of reopening. The Joint Office was finally reopened on the evening of Friday, December 17. The ceremony was attended by the Minister of Planning and Finance Jorge Giordani, who stressed the fact of having a place for “a strict monitoring of the progress of the projects agreed between the two countries”. It constituted, as he said in his speech, “an element of greater security and peace of mind for the Chinese partners and for the Venezuelan government”.
At this point, the budgets for the works financed with the common funds had to be approved by the Chinese authorities and most of the contracts went directly to Chinese state-owned enterprises such as Sinohydro, Citic Construction or China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC).
The Chamber of Secrets
Access to the China-Venezuela joint office is limited. If someone tells the reception of Centro Financiero Latino that they are going to the 23rd floor (where the office is located), security warns that only authorized personnel “can go there. But once inside, it is possible to go to this floor and see a space divided into three offices with a total area of 633 square meters.
It was an area inaccessible even to members of the staff of Bandes, which is headquartered near the Oficina Conjunta, on another avenue in central Caracas. A former bank clerk says it was all very “airtight and delicate. In the lobby, you can see a painting of a horse and a long dark brown sofa with a broken arm. Foam padding appears inconspicuously. On either side, four wooden chairs matched to a large table with elegant legs, on which rest four solitary books of Venezuelan government propaganda, the furniture contrasts sharply with the typical gray secretarial booth and the metal and plastic seats of the reception.
It is in this reception room that the only signs of life appear. Between the flags of China and Venezuela on the flagpole and under the name of the pact, survives an aloe vera bush in a clay pot with a red ribbon tied to one of its stems. Next to it is another sad plant of tropical origin. These plants are the luckiest. In the neighboring pots, only hard, dry soil remains.
The interior of the common office is less luminous. Clicking footsteps as you walk along its unoccupied spaces. Some lamps flicker, just enough to notice the dirt stains on the lower part of the white walls. A homemade shower towel hangs from one of the doors in the women’s bedroom, and in the men’s bedroom there is an open dishwasher with a sponge on top that doubles as a hand washing soap. and maybe lunch boxes.
The other two large areas of the office on the 23rd floor are dark. From the hallway outside it looks like it has been abandoned, with almost no decorative items and basic furnishings that appear to have been installed in a recent move.
The cost per square meter of this office, in the heart of the capital of Venezuela – a country plunged into an economic crisis without precedent in a country – was US $ 259,000, nine times that of Hong Kong, considered the price. most expensive of offices per square meter anywhere in the world, according to the Global Property Guide.
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