A dozen Venezuelan politicians appear among the beneficiaries of the Brazilian contractor and the names of Elías Jaua, a deputy, and Francisco Rangel Gómez, governor of Bolívar state in Venezuela, stand out. Odebrecht’s representative in Venezuela, Euzenando Azevedo, confessed to everything in Brazil and his testimony -leaked in this article- remarks that the list includes prominent individuals from Venezuela’s government but also leaders of the opposition such as Manuel Rosales, Carlos Ocariz and Antonio Ledezma.
Odebrecht had no favorites in its support to Venezuela’s government or its opposition. The Brazilian contractor –which is currently facing the greatest corruption scandal in Latin America– funded several of the regional campaigns carried out by adherents of the government. However, behind the scenes, it secretly did the same with leaders of the opposition. Currently, there is access to a list of names and it starts with none other than Diosdado Cabello who is second in command and, it is said, could preside the National Constituent Assembly that the Bolivarian Revolution intends to establish.
In 2008, Odebrecht sponsored Diosdado’s campaign and covered its costs. That was the same election that he ended up losing, along with the chance of being reelected governor of Miranda state. That year, his opponent, Henrique Capriles, kicked him out of the game and, as for today, it can be stated that Cabello lost even with the economic support of the Brazilian constructor giant. These claims are based on the testimony that Odebrecht’s Executive Director in Venezuela, Euzenando Azevedo, gave to the Brazilian legal authorities and whose evidence was leaked for this news story.
Azevedo decided to cooperate with the investigation of the case Lava Jato (Car Wash Operation) at the end of last year. On December, 15th, far away from Caracas and detached from the compromises of his position, he finally revealed to attorneys Heitor Alves Soares and Leonardo Cervino Martinelli that, year after year, an approximate of $3 million, signed under the name of the Brazilian constructor giant, were destined to fund campaigns of local politicians.
Even though none of the 32 key works Odebrecht took on in Venezuela were allotted to the local government, the company’s motto was to get allies through the funding of leaders and political parties. “The authorities and civil servants that were, in some way, involved in the works could create setbacks. This was generically avoided with systematic donations in every election.” said Azevedo. “These donations were done so the executions to complete the projects were facilitated in every level and it meant the approval of environmental, municipal or state permits.”
Even in front of the attorneys, who were taking detailed notes of ins and outs of the Lava Jato Operation in Venezuela, Azevedo cautiously avoided to mention the exact amount of money that the company provided to Diosdado’s campaign, and also about the details entailing the money transfers. However, Odebrecht’s strongest man in Venezuela –privileged witness in Caracas- did mention other names that, in the case of the opposition, go from former governors of Zulia state, Manuel Rosales and Pablo Pérez, to Sucre municipality’s mayor, Carlos Ocariz, and his counterpart in the metropolitan area of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, today a government’s political prisoner.
The Odebrecht told all of them not to interfere with their works, even if they were leaders of an opposition to the government; also, to facilitate local permits necessary to make progress in the many ongoing building projects that, unlike in other countries, have not been completed due to red tape, lack of resources and political unwillingness.
It is common knowledge that the Brazilians funded the campaign of Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, and his contender, Henrique Capriles in 2013. A bundle of documents –leaked for this and other articles- show that, contrary to the official discourse, Odebrecht’s alliance with the Venezuelan government was circumstantial. In fact, behind Chavez’s back, the company supported the political campaign of the opposition’s standard bearer, Manuel Rosales, in 2006.
These were the words stated by none other than Euzenando Azevedo in the office that Brazil’s Attorney General has in the north-eastern state of Sergipe. This is the same businessman that had a free entry to Miraflores Presidential Palace, direct phone dial to the Presidential Office and was fully in line with Chávez himself. The former president would only render him courtesies and fine words in his public speeches. “He is already Venezuelan. Have you become a Venezuelan citizen yet? Come on, if you haven’t done it already…” joked el comandante (aka Chávez) on October, 9th, 2006 before giving Azevedo floor on national TV during the unveiling of Caracas’ Metro route El Valle-La Rinconada, Line 3.
Odebrecht’s proconsul in Caracas, apart from the hints made by Chavez in the previously mentioned episode, never had a Venezuelan passport. That could explain why Azevedo decided to answer to his country’s plea for justice and went back to Brazil were he hides from the consequences of his confession about Odebrecht’s role in the “Bolivarian Axis”.
Apart from Maduro and Capriles, his testimony includes a dozen of political leaders who were funded directly from Brazil, particularly chavistas (adherents of the Venezuela’s government) like former Vice President now a deputy, Elías Jaua; Bolívar State’s governor, Francisco Rangel Gómez, and Los Teques’ mayor, Francisco Garcés. It is also important to mention the deceased and former governor of Guárico State, William Lara; former mayor of Maracaibo, Gian Carlo Di Martino, and the President of the Metro in Los Teques, Farith Fraija, when he was aiming to become part of the city council.
Venezuelan laws do not allow external funding in their political campaigns; however, it is not about the legal loopholes, it is about the big corruption plot that Odebrecht and other Brazilian constructors focused on the overpricing in their works, bribes, and political favors that were later asked after the elections.
In the world of politics, nothing is free after all. If Odebrecht used to pay $3million a year (between 2003 and 2013), it means they paid a total of $30 million in political favors.
(*) This is an investigative work by the Structured Journalistic Investigation Network of IDL-Reporteros in Peru, La Prensa in Panamá, La Nación in Argentina, Sudestada in Uruguay and Armando.info in Venezuela.
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