Why is a top to Marco Rubio increasing his stake in Bayer while others flee?
Yet, it is AEI’s top individual donor noted in the accidental “schedule of contributors” disclosure who is most telling about the private biotech interests guiding the Trump administration’s Venezuela policy. Paul Singer, the controversial billionaire hedge fund manager, has long been a major donor to neoconservative and Zionist causes — helping fund the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the successor to the Project for a New American Century (PNAC); and the neoconservative and islamophobic Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), in addition to the AEI.
Singer is notably one of the top political donors to Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and has been intimately involved in the recent chaos in Venezuela. He has been called one of the architects of the administration’s current regime-change policy, and was the top donor to Rubio’s presidential campaign, as well as a key figure behind the controversial “dossier” on Donald Trump that was compiled by Fusion GPS. Indeed, Singer had been the first person to hire Fusion GPS to do “opposition research” on Trump. However, Singer has largely since evaded much scrutiny for his role in the dossier’s creation, likely because he became a key donor to Trump following his election win in 2016, giving $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund.
Singer has a storied history in South America, though he has been relatively quiet about Venezuela. However, a long-time manager of Singer’s hedge fund, Jay Newman, recently told Bloomberg that a Guaidó-led government would recognise that foreign creditors “aren’t the enemy,” and hinted that Newman himself was weighing whether to join a growing “list of bond veterans [that have] already begun staking out positions, anticipating a $60 billion debt restructuring once the U.S.-backed Guaidó manages to oust President Nicolas Maduro and take control.” In addition, the Washington Free Beacon, which is largely funded by Singer, has been a vocal advocate for the Trump administration’s regime-change policy in Venezuela.
Beyond that, Singer’s Elliott Management Corporation gave Roger Noriega, the former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs under Bush, $60,000 in 2007 to lobby on the issue of sovereign debt and for “federal advocacy on behalf of U.S. investors in Latin America.” During the time Noriega was on Singer’s payroll, he wrote articles linking Argentina and Venezuela to Iran’s nonexistent nuclear program. At the time, Singer was aggressively pursuing the government of Argentina in an effort to obtain more money from the country’s prior default on its sovereign debt.
While Singer has been mum himself on Venezuela, he has been making business decisions that have raised eyebrows, such as significantly increasing his stake in Bayer. This move seems at odds with Bayer’s financial troubles, a direct result of the slew of court cases regarding the link between Monsanto’s glyphosate and cancer. The first ruling that signaled trouble for Monsanto and its new parent company Bayer took place last August, but Singer increased his stake in the company starting last December, even though it was already clear by then that Bayer’s financial troubles in relation to the glyphosate court cases were only beginning.
Since the year began, Bayer’s problems with the Monsanto merger have only worsened, with Bayer’s CEO recently stating that the lawsuits had “massively affected” the company’s stock prices and financial performance.
Forcing open a new market for RoundUp
Part of Singer’s interest in Bayer may relate to Venezuela, given that Juan Guaido’s “Plan País” to “rescue” the Venezuelan economy includes a focus on the country’s agricultural sector. Notably, prior to and under Chavismo, agricultural productivity and investment in the agricultural sector took a backseat to oil production, resulting in under 25 percent of Venezuelan land being used for agricultural purposes despite the fact that the nation has a wealth of arable land. The result has been that Venezuela needs to import much of its food from abroad, most of which originate in Colombia or the United States.
Under Chávez and his successor, Maduro, there has been a renewed focus on small-scale farming, food sovereignty and organic agriculture. However, if Maduro is ousted and Guaidó moves to implement his “Plan País,” the opposition’s coziness with foreign corporations, the interests of U.S. coup architects in Bayer/Monsanto, and the opposition’s past efforts to overturn the GM seed ban all suggest that a new market for Bayer/Monsanto products — particularly glyphosate — will open up.
South America has long been a key market for Monsanto and — as the company’s problems began to mount prior to the merger with Bayer — it became a lifeline for the company due to less stringent environmental and consumer regulations that many Western countries. In recent years, when South American governments have opened their countries to more “market-friendly” policies in their agricultural sectors, Monsanto has made millions.
For instance, when Brazil sought to expand biotechnology (i.e. GM seed) investment in 2012, Monsanto saw a 21% increase in its sales of GM corn seed alone, generating an additional $1 billion in profits for the company. A similar comeback scenario is needed more than every by Bayer/Monsanto, as Monsanto’s legal troubles saw the company’s profits plunge late last year.
With countries around the world now weighing glyphosate bans as a result of increased litigation over the chemical’s links to cancer, Bayer needs a new market for the chemical to avoid financial ruin. As Singer now has a significant stake in the company, he — along with the politicians and think tanks he funds — may see promise in the end of the anti-GM seed ban that a Guaidó-led government would bring.
Furthermore, given that Guaidó’s top adviser wants the Trump administration to have a direct role in governing Venezuela if Maduro is ousted, it seems likely that Singer would leverage his connections to keep Bayer/Monsanto afloat amid the growing controversy surrounding glyphosate. Such behavior on the part of Singer would hardly be surprising in light of the fact that international financial media have characterised him as a “ruthless opportunist” and “overly aggressive.”
Such an outcome would be in keeping with the increased profit margins for Monsanto and related companies that have followed its expansion into countries following U.S.-backed coups. For instance, after the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014, the loans given to Ukraine by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank forced the country to open up and expand the use of “biotechnology” and GM crops in its agricultural sector, and Monsanto, in particular, made millions as the prior government’s ban on GM seeds and their associated agrochemicals was reversed. If Maduro is ousted, a similar scenario is likely to play out in Venezuela, given that the Guaidó-led government made known its intention to borrow heavily from these institutions just days after Guaidó declared himself “interim president.