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Why did Venezuela give half a million dollars to Donald Trump?

US president received $106.7 million in inauguration donations, twice amount given to Obama

Donald Trump raised a record $106.7 million for his presidential inauguration festivities in January, more than double the amount collected by Barack Obama in 2009. The donor list disputes Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington, in allusion to the financial machine that influences US politics.

Donald Trump's inauguration on January 20.
Donald Trump's inauguration on January 20. AP

According to official data released on Wednesday, the most generous donor was casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a highly influential figure in Republican circles, who gave $5 million to Trump. Adelson’s plans to build Europe’s largest casino in Madrid were rejected by the Spanish government in 2013.

Perhaps the least-expected donor was Citgo, the US affiliate of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, which wrote out a check for $500,000 for Trump’s inauguration.

Trump has criticized President Maduro for his handling of anti-government protests

The donation overshadowed the amounts provided by Pepsi ($250,000) or Walmart ($150,000), matching JP Morgan Chase and Exxon’s contributions. Whatever Venezuela’s intentions in showing such generosity, it has done nothing to dampen Trump’s criticism of President Nicolás Maduro, who faces continued protests at home and international criticism for his handling of the political and economic crisis in the South American country.

US presidents establish their own criteria for donations. Trump put no upper limit on checks. In 2009, Obama refused gifts from businesses and lobbyists, while limiting amounts to $50,000. But four years later, for his second inauguration, the Democrat accepted money from business (up to $1 million), as well as individual donations of up to $250,000.

Many of the companies that donated to Trump had previously given to Obama. Now, as then, there are interests at stake that depend on a decision by the most powerful man on the planet.

Among the most generous donors was telecoms operator AT&T, which gave $2.1 million

For example, aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Lockheed Martin each gave $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, the same amount Boeing gave to Obama in 2013, according the Reuters news agency. Before his inauguration on January 20, Trump was scathing in his criticism of the cost of the planes both manufacturers sell to the US government.

The financial sector, which will be hoping the president will relax some of the restrictions imposed on it by Obama following the crisis of 2008, was also generous with Trump: banking and brokerage firm Charles Schwab and Bank of America Corp each contributed $1 million.

Among the most generous donors was telecoms operator AT&T, which gave $2.1 million. The company is awaiting the government’s approval of its merger with Time Warner. It contributed $4.6 million to Obama’s second inauguration.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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