Odebrecht Owns It, Venezuela Ignores It


The nice thing about writing this one for WaPo is that, for once, I was able to break free from the tyranny of “allegedly.” Journos will know what I mean: way too often, you’re stuck with that ugly qualifier. You may know in your heart of hearts that the basterd you’re writing about is a total steaming pile of guilt, but until a court of law has says so, the lawyers will force you into conjugating the story in a key of “allegedly”, just to cover their back.

With Odebrecht, it doesn’t go like that: they admit it. They admit it all. In lurid detail. Their seventy-seven top executives signed their seventy-seven names to to a multibillion-dollar deal that spares no detail about the industrial-scale corruption machine they ran. They own it all!

So for once you can set aside the ‘allegedly’s and just say it: Odebrecht bribed Venezuelan officials to the tune of $98 million. That’s a fact. And nobody in Venezuela is getting in trouble for it.

As a Venezuelan, though, I almost envy the Brazilians. At least they’re expressing a suitable sense of indignation over the whole mess. My home country received the second-largest quantity of bribes paid out by Odebrecht: nearly $100 million to obtain contracts for projects that were mostly never finished. While the revelations have continued rocking the Brazilian political establishment to its core, sending top politicians to jail and ending a slew of high-flying careers, in Venezuela there’s been nary a response.

Our job is to kick and scream against the normalization of this shit until kingdom come. It’s not normal, and the moment you roll your eyes and say “tell me something I don’t know”, the bad guys win.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. That aint completely true quico. They are abot to blame capriles for it. According to the government he is the only one that took those 100$ MM. And I purposely omitted the word “allegedly” as that word is non-existent in the venezuelan’s government dictionary

  2. “Odebrecht bribed Venezuelan officials to the tune of $98 million.”

    The Derwick bros must be laughing at this. “A mere &98 M? Peanuts!! We walked away with more than $1000 M, didn’t deliver anything decent, if at all, life is good in Europe and the Caribbean!”

  3. $98 mill. is understated by a few 10’s of times, only because, perhaps, larger figures can’t be proved (yet). Venezuelan Governments have been corrupt since time immemorial, with older aspirations being retirement to Paris, more recent ones to Miami/environs. It is estimated that 1/3 of the $trillion income of the Chavez years was ripped off by corruption. If all the corner stones laid by, Chavez/cronies/successors for major projects which were financed but never even begun, much less begun but not ever finished, were stacked upon each other, they would probably reach higher than the Tower O Pisa, and also be leaning, due to defective quarrying of the stones.

  4. Those small bits of international justice just warm your heart up, I agree that $98 million is chump change, still you can’t help but smile every time they put one of those assholes behind bars.

    If someday we manage to start putting people in jail, these are the cases that will matter, that’s the evidence they won’t be able to shred, burn or delete.

    • Maybe chump change by comparison, but it’s still a lot of money. Money that can be used to purchase medicines, food, etc. (maybe not in the amounts required by the cuntry, but still) Also, to me a thief is a thief regardless of how much he steals, and as such he/she should pay for it.

  5. Francisco, you have got to take a vacation for a week, and clear your head. Of course this corruption is bad, but I am sure you would agree, that if this government falls, this case will pale to others that will be discovered.

    I have been reading the chronicles for over a year, and what you and others write is informative, intellectual, and some are quite entertaining. My hat is off to you and your communication skills.

    Maybe I am so fascinated, because I hitchhiked from South Africa to Kenya, when I was 19 for 2 years, stopping (by chance) in Zimbabwe for 10 months in 1982. What a wonderful, beautiful country. Even though the war with ian smith ended the year before, the people (black and white) were welcoming and great. But, one could feel the Police state was consolidating, in fact I was tossed in jail for 3 days for simply being in the wrong place.

    Today, the country, as you know is a mess. It was not sudden, but a slow creep, with less and less freedoms, and more and more state decrees, and take overs. Rampant spending, then inflation, and one million dollar notes to buy a loft of bread. It is very interesting to note, that after the war, the whites that remained, for the most welcomed the new government, and changes.

    In their elections, though-out the years, the people voted always (ok mostly) by tribe. Mugabe, belonging to the dominant Shona tribe, always won over the Ndebele. Point being that the elections were NOT based on who was better for the Nation, but who was better for me. Of course, education was lacking for a generation, under white rule, so the nation was at a disadvantage from the start. And the intellectual left took advantage of the people’s naivete.

    Venezuela, has the Chavista Tribe. It seems (I am a novice) that people have voted ME ME ME for the last 15 years. Vote Chavista and the government will give ME something. This is a very hard thing to change. Especially, since the Venezulean people have had for 2 generations (and know they will have for another 2) their rich Papa Oil.

    So how will the story unfold? No one of course knows, but FOR EVERYONE OUT THERE THINKING THE END IS NEAR, take note of the disaster of Zimbabwe, 35 YEARS LATER. It has not ended, and will not end.

    What has happened is that corruption, has become institutionalize. The only way to “get ahead” is to know someone, and play the game. The poor remain poor and uneducated. The free thinkers have but one choice. LEAVE.

    I truly hope that there are many powerful, honorable Venezulean, Military men that will overthrow the Government, because it is my opinion, which is not worth much of course, as I do not have a stake in the game, isthat this is the only blood “less” way out.

    Otherwise, it will be either be full civil war, or submission.

    From the comments, I have read all this year, my bet is on submission, as there (at least where I read) little talk of fight, and all talk of “rule of law”, and “Constitution” baloney.

    The educated, the free thinkers, the innovators will all leave (because – who wouldn’t) and the poor and uneducated will remain with less and less of the remaining Constitution, while King Maduro or mostly likely a known or unknown Military strong Man will emerge.

    Its The Cuban scenero. The best and brightest move to USA, Spain, and Latin Capitals, and the submissive, uneducated, poor remain.

    • Dale, You make some pretty good points, except for two very large differences between Venezuela and Cuba:

      1. Cuba is much smaller. About 15% of the Cubans fled Cuba, leaving the “submissive” and controllable behind. That was about a million and a half people. The U.S., Spain and Europe were able to absorb them. The population of Venezuela is three times as large. A similar percentage would be four and half million people, at a time when a lot of the world is not very welcoming to immigrants. The rest of the world is not going to sit still and let Venezuela produce a disastrous and costly refugee crisis.

      2. Cuba is an island. Its borders were much easier to control.

      Zimbabwe does not represent and apt parallel because the historical forces involved and the cultures are vastly different.

      I still think that the Venezuelan people will eventually confront the regime and win. They could have done so and won a long time ago, except that the regime has been effective at dividing the opposition and removing any leaders from the game that appear effective. All that means is that when the blow-up does happen, it will be much more chaotic than otherwise.

      Mind you, the regime is following the plan you outlined, and they believe that they can succeed. I just think that they are wrong.

  6. Wow, for a non-Venezuelan/resident, I find your insight/Zimbabwean-Cuban comparison right on. I don’t see the Pueblo “fight”. 90% are poor/under-educated/mostly dependent on the Govt. for jobs/handouts/ largess, and 10% are looking to leave when/if possible. The Military are bought off/controlled by Cuban spies. Venezuelans have been me, me, me (first) for generations….

  7. “until a court of law has says so, the lawyers will force you into conjugating the story in a key of “allegedly”, just to cover their back.”
    In Venezuela, not lawyers, but pure common and moral sense, should keep you from not conjugating stories, after the courts have had their say, as “allegedly”.

  8. Fukuyama has discovered in his historical studies that for a liberal democracy to thrive you need to have at least 30 to 40% of the population form part of a middle class (defined not just by their income but their mode of thinking and judging) otherwise the system would be frail and subject to retrogression to more primitive forms of public life, to somekind of authoritarism or dressed up social chaos….!!

    More common democracy was the child of an enlightened authoritarian system which created the conditions for such middle class to rise and start using their influence to improve political life …..were are we in this process…??

  9. I’ve noticed over the past year the following. Venezuelans can tolerate a lot. Take away almost everything they have and still they can get by. But I predict if the government can’t keep the internet going, they’ll be finished! Deny the country the web and the populace will rise up really pissed off! Quite how they’ve managed to keep it going when everything else is so scarce shows they know it’s true too.

  10. Dale hit some key points, but the sting in the tail was the bit about “35 years later,” and the mess in Zimbabwe is still dragging on – as it has dragged on for 17 years in Venezuela, the last four or five of which have been pretty dire. At no time has there been any sustained suggestion that the population has the will and fortitude to face down their tormentors. Not to say there are not heroes in every city in Venezuela, but mobilizing the masses will probably take someone like LL who will probably never see the light of day so long as the Chavistas are in power. The term “you get what you deserve” is harsh, but one thing is for certain: till the pueblo believes they deserve more, and are wiling to sacrifice to get it, the Chavistas will keep on keeping on, ludicrous and evil as that is. And I have relatives working in hospitals with no medicine who have to decide, daily, who will live and who will die of of thing as simple to treat as dehydration, and that really is criminal and makes me want to drive me car over everyone who ever looted the treasury. But till that feeling takes hold of the population at large, we will keep logging on here reading about the next corrupt this or that while nothing whatsoever happens in response. And that, too, is criminal. Easy to say here in the states, where the best and worse of us can only talk. And I’m tiring of the talk. Time to take action already…

  11. The bad guys already won. Besides, do you think if the opposition magically took power and a Brazilian construction company was handing out $98 million in bribes, they wouldn’t take them? The reason a golpista scumbag like Chavez was able to take power in the first place and win election after election is because in Venezuela nadie tiene moral. Venezuelan politics has always just been about groups of sin verguenza a-holes fighting for the right to suck off the oil tit. Granted, the country has never seen a clique quite as depraved as Chavez y sus lacayos. But Venezuela is now beyond the point where it could quickly return to even run-of-the-mill banana republic levels of incompetence and corruption. Venezuelan society was flimsy as hell before, but after 18 years of being debased and degraded, there’s nothing left to save. The military in particular seems to have become completely compromised. The idea that the current military leadership would oust Maduro is a wishful thinking fantasy at this point. Much more likely is that it would oust any opposition government that by some miracle was allowed to be voted into power. This is why damn near anyone who has been able to leave Venezuela, has left Venezuela. Why would any honest, hard-working, talented person waste their life on such a forsaken place? All that’s left is to chronicle the misery porn and see how pathetic and absurd things get. Venezuela is not a country anymore, it’s a carcass being picked clean by hyenas.

  12. Adding to the point Bill Bass raised; Odebrecht, and eventually the former Brazilian governement, only fell because of two Brazilian states that are very different from Venezuela culturally and economically, and even from other Brazilian states, especially from the ones geographically closer to the Venezuelan border.

    Paraná, where all actions against Odebrecht came from and where Marcelo Odebrecht is currenlty jailed, has far more than ’30 to 40% of the population as middle class’. Besides, economically, it has a tradition as an agribusiness and industrial hub, handouts being distributed only to a small fraction of the population, there’s zero oil there too.

    São Paulo, where the bulk of the anti-government demonstrations came from, is similar to Paraná culturally and economically.

    Lula has been recorded mocking the Christian faith of the judges and prosecutors that are after him (their values): “They are evangelical and feel that they are Heaven sent.” He was recorded calling Curitiba, the city where judge Moro is located and the capital of Paraná, as “Republic of Curitiba”, shocked that he although he could bribe his way out anywhere, there he couldn’t. In his mind, a country within other, and he wasn’t that wrong in that assessment. One of Lula’s lawyers has been recorded mocking Paraná as provincial state, some sort of ‘redneck association’ for English speakers to understand. Again, he was mocking the people’s values, ‘their mode of thinking and judging’ to use Bill Bass’ words.

    I’m 100% sure that if it wasn’t for these two states (São Paulo and Paraná), which are well defined in Bill Bass comment above and account for 50 million people, Brazil would be in the same path as Venezuela, if not in worse shape, as NOTHING WOULD EVER COME from the other 25 Venezuelan-esque Brazilian states.


    • The “federative unit” in Brazil with the highest per capita income is Brasilia, nearly double that of Sao Paolo and nearly 3 times the average for Brazil. That points out the parasitic nature of government. We see something similar in the US, where 5 out of the 6 counties with the highest per capita income in the US are in the DC metropolitan area.

      For the good of Brazil, let us hope that it ain’t just Lula and his pals who are going down.



      • Oh, definitely! Washington DC and Brasília DF are both sides of the same coin.

        They produce nothing, are totally detached from the rest of the people, know no economic crisis nor unemployment, 99% of them have never created a single job in their lives, and yet they have the highest wages of the country. Seems fair, right?

        Public service shouldn’t be about productive people carrying parasites on their backs. I mean, public service shouldn’t even pay high wages, it’s a matter of vocation to help your own people, either you have or not. If you want high wages, go to the private sector.

        No wonder Americans elected Trump, and the rednecks from Paraná and Sao Paulo will elect their Trump in a few years, remember this name: João Doria Júnior.

    • A new government could launch civil actions in World Court against companies and persons involved in fraud. However, these cases would be very messy and very costly. Can you imagine the discovery process? Do you think that the Chavistas will leave the documents in the files that would implicate them personally? But, it is still possible that the new government could launch a massive legal and accounting team to build these fraud cases. I would like to see this done, however I tend to doubt that it will happen. In the end, it will be a political decision, not a financial one.

  13. It’s a stunning example of how intimidation of the press works. People think they know how corrupt this regime is and that is all we need to know. It isn’t, and they don’t, and that is why the regime has eliminated a free press.

  14. One aspect of corruption which is not often mentioned is that sometimes companies are extorted into engaging in corruption because there is no other way of surviving as a business but by bribing people in govt , sometimes just to get ordinary things done which in politically more mature countries can be had for nothing. The assumption is that its the companies corrupting innocent officials who otherwise would not countenance corruption , more often than not corruption is part of the normal customary way of doing things in a great many countries …., In other places corruption is handled in more subtle , less visible ways , in Japan for instance where you are visited by accountants and lawyers wearing ties and bearing briefcases and presentations cards to propose you a business deal which will be to your ‘advantage’.

    Remember in the old days of a relative who worked in Peru for a transnational , he had the difficult job of collecting due payments from the govt and being told that unless a bribe was paid to certain officials their already performed service would not be paid or when they opened a competitive bid for the purchase of a particular set of goods and having a customer whom you charged a price higher than the one you were offering to the peru govt use the goods purchased from you to win the bid …….at a higher price…..!!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here