The Sole Authority of the southern states of Monagas and Anzoátegui acknowledges that it received several transfers from the Brazilian construction company, but for issuing a book. Anyway, his is just a footnote in the list of payments without invoice made by the Brazilians. Where are the big shots? In the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, silence is also a message.
He does not know. He says he does not understand it. He cannot explain how his name came to appear on the Odebrecht lists. The Venezuelan engineer Lucas Valera was surprised to see himself involved in a list of clandestine transfers, which the Brazilian construction giant distributed from 2006 to 2008. It is about 377 thousand US dollars, which he affirms he does not remember. "Why should I know?" He asks. "I do not know…"
His transfer appears as fifth in a list of 18 transfers that Odebrecht acknowledged and submitted to the Peruvian justice as part of a process of "effective collaboration." Prosecutor Hamilton Castro presented that document on February 9. It has become one of the most important documents in the process that calls for the appearance of former President Alejandro Toledo, the copy of which -now leaked for this report- points Valera as the only individual in a tangle of companies and transfers in Peru related to the Odebrecht case.
The payments came from four offshore companies. Klienfeld Services Limited stands out. It is the already infamous firm that served Odebrecht to inject fresh money into the last re-election campaign of former President Hugo Chávez, according to the testimony that Brazilian publicist Joao Santana and his wife Mónica Moura gave a year ago in exchange for procedural benefits in the snowball rolling from Brazil known as Lava Jato.
Valera’s transfer, unlike the other 17, was made to a personal account in his name and, just in case, reiterated with the home area in Caracas. He, however, insists that he has nothing to do with this; that he does not know Josef Maiman or any of the other characters that the Peruvian Prosecutor has accused as frontmen of former President Toledo; that there must be an error. "You talk about Peru and if the President were in front of me I would not even know who he is."
The name Odebrecht is not alien to Valera. After all, he spent more than five years of his life working with them in the construction of the second bridge over the Orinoco River, as general project coordinator for Corporación Venezolana de Guayana. In 2003, he was even seen on the national radio and television station at the front of the work in a live transmission, which connected him from the south of Venezuela, in the state of Bolívar, with the Miraflores Palace. "Good afternoon President (...) This is a railway bridge that will allow us to link Bolívar, Anzoátegui and Monagas states through 166 kilometers of roads."
Odebrecht was already becoming the most spoiled Brazilian giant in Venezuela. But Valera's career did not start there, on the verge of the Bolivarian government or the Brazilians. On January 31, 1997, he was designated by the government of Rafael Caldera - in Official Gazette number 37.138 - as the Sole Area Authority to the south of the Anzoátegui and Monagas states, and a few days later he became part of the "Tender Commission of the Concession for the project, construction and exploitation, conservation and maintenance of the road system made up by the Mixed Bridge over the Orinoco River in Ciudad Guayana."
The dream of a lifetime: connecting eastern Venezuela with the south. Maybe that was one of the reasons that brought him closer to the late President Chávez, of whom he keeps photos sitting in school desks analyzing the plans of that 3.15-km (1.95-mi) portent with four circulation channels and a railway in the center. "He fell in love with the project," he recalls. "I admired him a lot because he was a very decisive, decision-making person, but unfortunately he died and we are in this situation."
The rest of this story is already known. Odebrecht settled in Venezuela with over 32 works like the postponed line 5 of Metro de Caracas and the Tocoma hydroelectric dam, which, unlike the scandal in other countries, the work is not even completed, e.g., the case of the Cacique Nigale bridge in Lake Maracaibo, in which the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) arrested two professionals two weeks ago —two Brazilian journalists from the Rede Record television station, Leandro Stoliar and Gilzon Souza, and the coordinators of the Zulia chapter of “Transparencia Venezuela”, Jesús Urbina and María José Túa— while taking notes and photos of another of the works of the unfinished museum of the Brazilian construction company in Venezuela.
After all, the second bridge of the Orinoco River, or Orinoquia Bridge, was built, along with 160 kilometers (nearly 100 miles) of road, within five years, even though the Vasco da Gama bridge in Lisbon, five times longer, was ready in just three years at a similar cost: 1,166 million US dollars.
Although the amount of the original project tripled to more than 1.2 billion US dollars, Orinoquia is one of the best business cards for Brazilians in Venezuela. Valera insists on that. In fact, he admits that he did receive deposits from the company, but not for any kind of bribes, but for a book.
-They paid me some money for having issued a book that condenses the whole process of building the bridge.
-A book for 377 thousand US dollars? Not even Vargas Llosa...
-Well, it was a huge book that they used to celebrate the 10 or 15 years of Odebrecht in Venezuela, I believe. I do not remember the amount right now. I have to check because I asked them for cash advances of the total amount they were going to pay me for the book.
-Then there were several deposits?
-While the bridge was in progress, I asked them to make several payments for the book.
- Were the deposits made in a Luxembourg account?
-I do not know. They opened that account. They can move the money in that account.
- Why did you open a company in Panama in 2013 with two family members who have also worked at Odebrecht?
-It is a company that is not operational, where some economic studies were done, which is practically dead after the oil crisis.
The information about Valera is, in any case, a footnote in the list of payments that the Brazilian company brought to Venezuela and the rest of Latin America. It is no longer just Toledo, also former president Ollanta Humala was appointed in this third week of February 2017 in Peru. As well as the children of former Panamanian leader Ricardo Martinelli or officials and campaigns of Colombian archrivals Álvaro Uribe and Juan Manuel Santos, not to mention the former president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Odebrecht did not discriminate in ideologies. Though there are no names in Venezuela. The big shots do not appear, despite the fact that Odebrecht distributed at least 98 million US dollars in bribes.
Something had to happen for the Manuel Piar hydroelectric plant in Tocoma, in the state of Bolívar, stood out among the notes that the Federal Police of Brazil found in the notebook that the CEO of the construction company, Marcelo Odebrecht, stored in the cell phone confiscated from him. There were even textual references to the "(Venezuelan) opposition" and deputy Diosdado Cabello. "Diosdado was in Brazil with the ambassador. Will he have to take the box?" he warned on his cell phone.
Even worse is the confession of Brazilian publicist Joao Santana, considered a campaign guru in Argentina, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and, of course, Venezuela, where he coined the slogan "Chávez, heart of the fatherland". "It was about non-accountable payments for the electoral campaign of Venezuela, with Fernando Migliaccio, executive of Odebrecht in Brazil, being directly responsible," said the wife of the publicist, Monica Moura, who was in charge of the administration.
Now there are hardly any references to scraps, little more than anecdotes. Valera says he can assure that there were no bribes or surcharges in the construction field. "Not a dime was paid for the bridge. What's more, everything was done through the Ministry of Finance," he insists. "The one who was a friend of President Chávez was the director in Venezuela, Euzenando (Azevedo). He invited him. We transmitted five Aló Presidente (Hello President) programs from there."
Not in vain, on November 13, 2006, Chávez made a special mention about the representative of Odebrecht in Venezuela, during the inauguration of the second bridge over the Orinoco River. " A very special hug for Euzenando and a very, very special congratulation on his unwavering will of steel in giving impetus to the work and the different works in progress in Venezuela. A great friend, a Pernambucan also," he said at the foot of the bridge in the presence of Lula and the owners of the construction company, Emilio and Marcelo Odebrecht.
But as a prudent and discreet man, the tall Brazilian with good hair and good manners has known how to be invisible these days, when a large number of those who served as Odebrecht viceroys in Latin America have agreed to open their mouths in exchange for negotiating their future. On December 17 of last year he landed in Caracas aboard flight 223 from Panama. Although there is someone who does it well away from the country that was the last time he was seen in Venezuela, arriving in a blue jacket and white shirt.
The Prosecutor of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Díaz, reported on January 26 that they had requested an arrest warrant - with an alert in Interpol - against a person linked to the company. She did not reveal his name, although it is presumed to be Euzenando Azevedo for whom Chávez did not spare good words. That one does know who the big shots are.
(*)This report is published in alliance with the journalists of the Network of Structured Journalistic Investigations, which includes IDL-Reporteros in Peru, La Prensa in Panama, and Armando.info in Venezuela.
Beyond the names of political figures and Government officials involved, the corruption plot deployed by the Brazilian construction company in Venezuela brought huge amounts of money in irregular payments into circulation. In Swiss banks, the transit of at least 235 million dollars was detected, mostly bribes linked to the Tocoma hydroelectric project, which after feeding the accounts of intermediaries reached their destination. For now, investigations determine that the capillarity through which the funds flowed led to art merchants, patriarchs of civil engineering dynasties, and even sports managers.
Euzenando Azevedo had the doors of the Miraflores Palace open with Chávez and at the same time, he had a direct line with CEO Marcelo Odebrecht. Then, he became a key witness in the parade of plea bargains of the Lava Jato case. However, despite the many privileges, his testimony fell short. He failed to inform about some bank accounts in Switzerland that reveal that he kept money with one of the commissioners he had reported, Venezuelan lawyer Héctor Dáger.
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Neither the revolutionary commander of Venezuela, nor the charismatic president Lula of Brazil, but the senior staff of the construction company turned into the Major Elector when the Brazilian Senate had to vote on the incorporation of Caracas into the trading bloc. Based on the transcripts of the Lava Jato case, Marcelo Odebrecht personally led the lobbying campaign aimed to break the three-year blockage that prevented the entry of the Chavista regime into the club. The operation included the recruitment of three key Senators from the Workers' Party, as allies.
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