A batch of official documents related to Odebrecht contracts in Venezuela has been leaked to this site. It is quite the task to recall similar corruption schemes, anywhere on earth. In short, Brazilian Presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, as well as the highest echelons of the ruling Workers Party, acted as pawns in a gargantuan corruption scheme set up by Odebrecht. Lula and Dilma were basically Odebrecht's glorified sales reps. But if Odebrecht was the mastermind in Brazil, the keenest criminal partners were found across the border in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez first, and then anointed heir Nicolas Maduro, kept granting no-bid, massive infrastructure contracts to Odebrecht throughout the years. Official documents -signed by Maduro- show that, only in transport projects (railways, metro, terminals, etc.) Odebrecht got over $15 billion from Venezuela since 2011.
The source of the documents just could not be better: Euzenando Azevedo, Odebrecht's man in Venezuela. Azevedo turned in a bunch of evidence to prosecutors behind the Lava Jato probe, by most accounts Brazil's largest ever corruption scandal.
Azevedo tells of meetings with Americo Mata (Maduro's henchman), and of how Max Arvelaiz, former Venezuelan Ambassador to Brazil cum Oliver Stone sidekick and "movie producer", coordinated Odebrecht bribes and channelled $35 million to Nicolas Maduro, through political campaign strategists Joao Santana, wife Monica Moura and Workers Party founder (and one of Lula's most trusted lieutenants) Jose Dirceu. In exchange for the bribe, Maduro approved billions in payments to Odebrecht.
Odebrecht is an equal opportunity provider of bribes: "opposition" leader Henrique Capriles Radonski also got $15 million in 2013.
Azevedo also said Odebrecht's yearly invoicing to Venezuela amounted to some $2.5 billion (by 2013).
The documents are official funding requests presented to Nicolas Maduro by various chavista officials: Elias Jaua, General Juan de Jesus Garcia Toussaintt, Haiman El Troudi, Rafael Ramirez, and General Rodolfo Marco Torres.
Explanations included show that funding requests are ongoing, that is every year fresh funds are requested to "carry on" with described projects, none of which are anywhere near completion. While totals for each project are given, there is no tally of disboursements to date. Maduro not only approves funds, he also gives instructions -under "Comentarios del Presidente Nicolas Maduro"- as to sources to be tapped for funding: Chinese Fund, Miranda Fund, FONDEN, PDVSA / BRASKEM, BNDES, Deutsche Bank, and BNP Paribas. Ergo Chinese, Russians (FONDEN), Brazilians, international banks and chavismo were fueling Odebrecht's corruption.
Some sources are used for the local currency requirement component (BsF) while others are tapped for Euro or USD needs. Nearly all projects have a combination of foreign currency needs. Maduro's freedom to manage Venezuela's public money as he wishes is evident throughout.
Another shocking aspect has to do with accountability. As seen on the left, Maduro gets to decide whether his decisions regarding expenditure of billions of dollars is to be communicated to the nation, or be kept secret.
Under "Tratamiento Comunicacional Propuesto" or Communication Strategy, there is a number of options:
- to announce publicly,
- to delay public announcement,
- to not divulge ("no divulgar"),
- and to tweet about it.
As described above, these set of documents are only related to transport projects granted to Odebrecht in Venezuela, namely:
- Metro Cable Mariche,
- Sist. CCS – Guarenas (Patios y Talleres),
- Linea 5 Metro CCS,
- Linea 6 Metro CCS,
- Metro Cable SAN AGUSTIN,
- Linea 2 Metro CCS,
- Linea 3 Metro Los Teques,
- Estacion Ayacucho (Teques),
- and Metro Cable Petare y Antimano.
But these, of course, are not all contracts given. In 2014 we reported that Odebrecht was involved in 32 projects, according to official data from Venezuela's Registry of Contractors (now deleted).
Odebrecht is involved in Tocoma, one of the world's largest hydroelectric projects. Expert Jose Aguilar, consulted on the matter, said that Odebrecht's involvement in energy projects in Venezuela exceed $4 billion. Then, bridges over the Orinoco river and Lake Maracaibo add more billions to the tally: just one of them, the so called third bridge over the Orinoco river, has gotten $2.8 billion according to Venezuelan sources and, again, is nowhere near completion. The Cacique Nigale bridge in Maracaibo, that got some $300 million in 2014, has little to show for.
Such opacity in official information about public expenditure make very difficult the task of calculating how much Odebrecth's adventures has cost Venezuelan taxpayers. Luisa Ortega Diaz, who was Venezuela's Attorney General between 2007 and 2017, sat on this information. For ten long years, she witnessed all these off-the-books, no-bid deals between Chavez, Lula, Dilma and Maduro, and did absolutely nothing. The new Attorney General, Tareck William Saab, is equally corrupt.
Odebrecht got, easily, over $25 billion worth of no-bid contracts in Venezuela. It is preposterous to argue that the only corruption started with the $35 million that Max Arvelaiz got for the Nicolas Maduro's presidential campaign in 2013. By that time Chavez and Lula had been cooking deals to favour Odebrecht for over a decade. By 2010, Odebrecht had some $5.4 billion worth of contracts going. Lava Jato may well be Brazil's largest corruption scandal, but next to Venezuela's graft, it is child's play.