Think corruption in Brazil’s World Cup is bad? The Odebrecht case in Venezuela
Brazilians are meant to be incensed with Dilma Roussef for what they perceive as squandering public money and corruption in contracting construction companies for infrastructure projects related to the coming World Cup. The big winners are privately-held companies, among which Odebrecht, the one that has benefited the most according to Bloomberg. While I can’t tell whether Odebrecht won those contracts from Roussef’s government in open and legitimate bidding processes, as it should have, it is worth shedding some light on Odebrecht’s operations in Venezuela.
Odebrecht refers to 21 projects, either finished or ongoing, in its Venezuela page. Most of them are massive infrastructure projects (subway systems, bridges over Orinoco and Maracaibo Lake, hydroelectric dams, etc.) worth hundreds or billions of dollars. The official database of public contractors in Venezuela contains details of 32 projects in which Odebrecht is involved. However there is scant information about exactly how much public money has chavismo given to Odebrecht over the years. Some sources say is $20 billion, though it is difficult to know for certain, as most projects incur into cost overruns due to corruption, overpriced materials, etc. Other sources have claimed that, by end of 2010, Venezuela owed Odebrecht over $1 billion (of a total $5.4 billion), and its contracts with Venezuela represented 38% of the company’s operations outside of Brazil.
What is practically impossible to find is information about public calls to tender, made by the Venezuelan government, won by Odebrecht. Contracts appear to have been granted “a dedo“, meaning Hugo Chavez deciding after a little chat with Lula, or Dilma, to grant billions of dollars worth of contracts to the Brazilian giant. In the absence of open bids for such contracts in Venezuela, just how can Odebrecht explain its “success” in our country? The answer lies in Odebrecht’s contributions to Lula’s Workers Party.
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