Ricardo Hausmann slammed banks for doing business with Venezuela’s elected government. But financial disclosure forms filed with Harvard show the putsch-plotting economist earned fees from kings, dictators, and military occupiers.
By Anya Parampil
Before joining Venezuela’s US-recognized coup regime, Harvard Professor Ricardo Hausmann raked in dozens of payments from major Wall Street financial institutions, the World Bank, and repressive and theocratic governments in exchange for speaking engagements and consulting jobs.
According to information filed with the Harvard Kennedy School, the coup official accepted fees for a total of 61 “outside professional activities” between the years 2012 and 2019, and has shielded the identities of additional benefactors behind the veil of his own private consulting firms.
Hausmann’s disclosures raise questions about his genuine commitment to ideals such as “democracy” and “freedom.” While he has denounced creditors for doing business with Venezuela’s government, Hausmann previously provided paid services to the theocratic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as the state of Israel.
What’s more, the professor-turned-coup plotter appears to have taken measures to shield the full record of his financial dealings.
In 2019, he reported receiving income from his own private consulting firm, Ricardo Hausmann Consulting. Since private consulting companies allow individuals like Hausmann to conceal their complete client list, it is impossible to know which entities paid the coup official this year, when exactly they paid him, or how much money he received.
Juan Guaido selected Hausmann to serve as his representative to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in March. He replaced an official who had been appointed by Venezuela’s elected government in what was described by Reuters as “a major setback for the Maduro government.”
In August, Venezuela’s National Assembly appointed Hausmann to a six-person panel tasked with renegotiating the country’s debt on behalf of the Guaido administration.
Contacted by The Grayzone and asked whether he planned to disclose his private consulting clients, Hausmann insisted: “I exercise no government functions. I do not run an organization, I am not paid by the Venezuelan government and I do not manage a public budget.”
It was an odd reply for someone who frequently appears to speak on behalf of an administration that claims to be a legitimate, internationally-recognized government.
This May, Hausmann told the Financial Times, “What the government is offering is an orderly process in which we can recognise the claims on the government and restructure them so they are in line with the country’s capacity to pay.”
He was clearly speaking in his capacity as an advisor to Guaido.
Widely recognized as the most reputable member of Guaido’s shadow administration, Hausmann is far more influential than any ordinary advisor. As one of Guaido’s top advisors, the professor would play a major role in reshaping Venezuelan economic policy if the US were to prevail in its bid for regime change in Caracas.
Big bucks from big banks
According to disclosures to the Harvard Kennedy School, Hausmann has delivered paid speeches before a who’s who of Wall Street behemoths, including JP Morgan Chase (2014), Bank of America Merrill Lynch (2014), and Citigroup (2012, 2014).
He offered similar services to Switzerland’s largest financial institution, UBS, in 2013. That year, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, one of Spain’s largest banks, enlisted him as a paid speaker. The economist also worked as a paid board member of the Spanish energy, telecommunications, and transportation multinational, Abengoa, between 2013 and 2016.
Hausmann maintained a close relationship with so-called international “development” financiers during this time as well, including his future employer, the IADB, which paid him for addresses delivered in 2015 and 2016. He worked as a paid consultant for the bank in 2013.
Additionally, Hausmann was compensated for his participation in the World Bank’s 2015 “Distinguished Speaker Series,” having worked as a paid consultant at the bank two years prior.
The professor also delivered four speeches for the World Bank’s institutional twin, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), though he reported that the engagements were unpaid.
A veteran shock therapist pushes military intervention
As previously documented by this reporter, Hausmann was part of a group which oversaw the implementation of a devastating IMF austerity package during the late 1980s in Venezuela. The policy decimated the country’s already meager social state, sparking massive social unrest which ultimately set the stage for Hugo Chavez’s democratic election in 1998.
Hausmann apparently took no lessons from his previous experience, openly stating that Venezuela should rely more heavily on the IMF in his capacity as Guaido’s top economic advisor.
In a July op-ed published in collaboration with his coup-colleagues, Hausmann argued that Guaido’s “interim government will need a program with the International Monetary Fund in order to access the financing… that will be essential for Venezuela’s economic recovery”.
The article was published in Project Syndicate, an outlet which has employed Hausmann as a paid columnist since 2014.
In a 2018 Project Syndicate Op-Ed, he proposed a military invasion of his homeland, arguing “military intervention by a coalition of regional forces may be the only way to end a man-made famine threatening millions of lives.”
Project Syndicate is home to some of the most well-known names in mainstream economic and foreign policy circles, from Nouriel Rabini to Joseph Stiglitz to Bernard-Henri Levi to Richard Haass, the current president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The outlet is supported by grants from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and George Soros’s Open Society Network.
Reporting a $1.1 million dollar contribution to Project Syndicate in 2002, Open Society touted the organization’s “success in fostering the discourse and transparency essential to open society by bringing crucial issues to the attention of policymakers and the public.”
Hausmann has taken his talents beyond the world of industry and finance capital, providing governments around the world with his services.
Promoting democracy, making dollars from dictators
In 2012, Hausmann delivered a paid speech to the Prime Minister’s Annual Conference for Cooperation and Growth, a yearly meeting of business leaders held in Israel.
Venezuela’s government officially broke ties with the state of Israel over its 2008-09 assault on the Gaza Strip, which left 1,391 Palestinians dead in the besieged coastal enclave, including 454 women and children. After launching his coup attempt, Guaido promised to reestablish diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv, telling Israel Hayom that he was even considering opening up an embassy in Jerusalem.
The same year that Hausmann rubbed shoulders with high-level Israeli officials, he reported furnishing paid consulting services to Saudi Arabia’s National Industrial Cluster Development Program, a government initiative established to expand the theocratic kingdom’s mining industry.
He was also a paid advisor for Saudi’s Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources in the years 2014 and 2015, and a paid participant in its Global Competitiveness Forum in 2015.
In fact, Hausmann’s position at Harvard appears to be funded by Saudi-related interests. He is listed on his bio as the Rafik Hariri Professor of the Practice of International Political Economy. Hariri was a Lebanese businessman and prime minister who earned his fortune in Saudi Arabia and owed his entire political career to support from the kingdom.
Hausmann was compensated for speeches and consulting services he performed for governments around the globe, from Peru (2012) to Brazil (2015) to Kazakhstan (2014 and 2015).
Kazakhstan was ruled by one man, Nursultan Nazarbayev, from 1991 until this March.
As someone who blasted investment bankers at Goldman Sachs for propping up what he viewed as the dictatorial Venezuelan government through its “morally indefensible” act of purchasing the country’s debt in 2017, Hausmann’s willingness to deal with some of the world’s most un-democratic regimes, including an outright religious theocracy, is hypocritical at best.
“I have worked in over 50 countries,” Hausmann told The Grayzone when asked how he justified accepting the money. “Some may be of your political liking, such as China, Vietnam, Ethiopia or South Africa. Others less so. In the Arab world I have worked on Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Oman.”
His Harvard disclosures offer only a partial snapshot of the professor’s entire list of financial backers.
Hausmann was paid by at least one speakers bureau or private consulting firm every year since 2012, which means that other financial, industrial, or government interests had the opportunity to compensate the economist while masking their identity behind a third party.
The mystery of Ricardo Hausmann Consulting
In 2012 and 2013, Hausmann maintained a private consulting firm, Growth Ventures LLC. According to corporate records, Hausmann ran the firm alongside his former colleague at Harvard’s Center for International Development, Marcela Escobari, as well as MIT Professor Cesar Hidalgo.
Escobari later went on to run the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean under the Obama Administration, and is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution – which also happened to pay Hausmann for a speech in 2016.
Hausmann has run his own firm, Ricardo Hausmann Consulting, since 2014. According to documents filed with Maryland’s Secretary of the Commonwealth (SOC), Hausmann operated the firm with in partnership with Esobari.
The economist reported earning payments from the company in the years 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 – despite the fact that Maryland’s SOC declared the firm’s “dissolution by Court Order or by the SOC” in June of 2018.
“As a matter of academic practice, I disclose all my external activities whether remunerated or pro bono,” Hausmann claimed in his response to The Grayzone.
Hausmann would not answer The Grayzone when asked multiple times whether he planned to disclose the clients of his private firm in the interest of transparency, especially now that he supposedly represents the Venezuelan government.
If his disclosure form is accurate, Hausmann may still be “consulting” for various clients and raking in their cash while advising the Guaido shadow administration.
In a normal, ethical governing structure, opaque practices like these could result in scandal, investigations, and worse. But if the saga of Trump’s coup attempt in Venezuela has demonstrated anything, it’s that Guaido’s “government” and those who comprise it are anything but ordinary.
Anya Parampil is a journalist based in Washington, DC. She has produced and reported several documentaries, including on-the-ground reports from the Korean peninsula, Palestine, Venezuela, and Honduras.