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.
Adrián Perdomo Mata has just entered the list of sanctioned entities of the US Department of the Treasury, as president of Minerven, the state company in charge of exploring, exporting and processing precious metals, particularly gold from the Guayana mines. His arrival in office coincided with the boom in exports of Venezuelan gold to new destinations, like Turkey, to finance food imports. Behind these secretive operations is the shadow of Alex Saab and Álvaro Pulido, the main beneficiaries of the sales of food for the Local Supply and Production Committee (Clap). Perdomo worked with them before Nicolás Maduro placed him in charge of the Venezuelan gold.
Gassan Salama, a Palestinian-cause activist, born in Colombia and naturalized Panamanian, frequently posts messages supporting the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions on his social media accounts. But that leaning is not the main sign to doubt his impartiality as an observer of the elections in Venezuela, a role he played in the contested elections whereby Nicolás Maduro ratified himself as president. In fact, Salama, an entrepreneur and politician who has carried out controversial searches for submarine wrecks in Caribbean waters, found his true treasure in the main social aid and control program of Chavismo, the Clap, for which he receives millions of euros.
While the key role of Colombian entrepreneurs Alex Saab Morán and Álvaro Pulido Vargas in the import scheme of Nicolás Maduro’s Government program has come to light, almost nothing has been said about the participation of the traders who act as suppliers from Mexico. These are economic groups that, even before doing business with Venezuela, were not alien to public controversy.
Even though there are new brands, a new physical-chemical analysis requested by Armando.Info to UCV researchers shows that the milk powder currently distributed through the Venezuelan Government's food aid program, still has poor nutritional performance that jeopardizes the health of those who consume it. In the meantime, a mysterious supplier manages to monopolize the increasing imports and sales from Mexico to Venezuela.
Two entrepreneurs from Peru, Yosef Maiman and Sabih Saylan, participated as intermediaries in the irregular payments of Odebrecht, through offshore structures, to the former president of that country. They are part of a "shell companies" structure built by Mossack Fonseca, as shareholders of the private cable TV and telephone operator in Venezuela, Inter. Even the Panamanian law firm suspected that it was being used for money laundry. Meanwhile, another firm of the group contracted works with the Chavista State.
Turkey and the coastal emirates of the Arabian Peninsula are now the homes of companies that supply the main social -and clientelist- program of the Government of Venezuela. Although the move from Mexico and Hong Kong, seems geographically epic, the companies has not changed hands. They are still owned by Colombian entrepreneurs Alex Nain Saab Morán and Álvaro Pulido Vargas, who control since 2016 a good part of the Import of food financed with public funds. Around the world for a business.
When Vice President Delcy Rodríguez turned to a group of Mexican friends and partners to lessen the new electricity emergency in Venezuela, she laid the foundation stone of a shortcut through which Chavismo and its commercial allies have dodged the sanctions imposed by Washington on PDVSA’s exports of crude oil. Since then, with Alex Saab, Joaquín Leal and Alessandro Bazzoni as key figures, the circuit has spread to some thirty countries to trade other Venezuelan commodities. This is part of the revelations of this joint investigative series between the newspaper El País and Armando.info, developed from a leak of thousands of documents.
Leaked documents on Libre Abordo and the rest of the shady network that Joaquín Leal managed from Mexico, with tentacles reaching 30 countries, ―aimed to trade PDVSA crude oil and other raw materials that the Caracas regime needed to place in international markets in spite of the sanctions― show that the businessman claimed to have the approval of the Mexican government and supplies from Segalmex, an official entity. Beyond this smoking gun, there is evidence that Leal had privileged access to the vice foreign minister for Latin America and the Caribbean, Maximiliano Reyes.
The business structure that Alex Saab had registered in Turkey—revealed in 2018 in an article by Armando.info—was merely a false start for his plans to export Venezuelan coal. Almost simultaneously, the Colombian merchant made contact with his Mexican counterpart, Joaquín Leal, to plot a network that would not only market crude oil from Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, as part of a maneuver to bypass the sanctions imposed by Washington, but would also take charge of a scheme to export coal from the mines of Zulia, in western Venezuela. The dirty play allowed that thousands of tons, valued in millions of dollars, ended up in ports in Mexico and Central America.
As part of their business network based in Mexico, with one foot in Dubai, the two traders devised a way to replace the operation of the large international credit card franchises if they were to abandon the Venezuelan market because of Washington’s sanctions. The developed electronic payment system, “Paquete Alcance,” aimed to get hundreds of millions of dollars in remittances sent by expatriates and use them to finance purchases at CLAP stores.
Scions of different lineages of tycoons in Venezuela, Francisco D’Agostino and Eduardo Cisneros are non-blood relatives. They were also partners for a short time in Elemento Oil & Gas Ltd, a Malta-based company, over which the young Cisneros eventually took full ownership. Elemento was a protagonist in the secret network of Venezuelan crude oil marketing that Joaquín Leal activated from Mexico. However, when it came to imposing sanctions, Washington penalized D’Agostino only… Why?
Through a company registered in Mexico – Consorcio Panamericano de Exportación – with no known trajectory or experience, Joaquín Leal made a daring proposal to the Venezuelan Guyana Corporation to “reactivate” the aluminum industry, paralyzed after March 2019 blackout. The business proposed to pay the power supply of state-owned companies in exchange for payment-in-kind with the metal.