Joao Santana, the Brazilian campaign guru behind Chavez’s last electoral victory in 2012 and Nicolas Maduro’s narrow win in 2013 was sentenced yesterday to eight years and four months in prison for his involvement in the Operation Lavajato. His wife, Monica Moura got a similar jail sentence than his husband for the same charge (money laundering).

In his sentence ruling, notorious Brazilian Federal Judge Sergio Moro lays it down it pretty clearly:

“It is time for electoral marketing professionals to take their share of responsibility for accepting unregistered and source money and criminal causes in election campaigns…”

Santana, who was known as the “president-maker” for his successful campaigns in the region (from Lula and Dilma in Brazil to Danilo Medina in the Dominican Republic) was arrested last year. According to a recent investigative report from Venezuelan news site Armando.Info, Moura declared to the court that Chavez’s last campaign cost 35 million dollars and that the money for it came from offshore bank accounts linked to Odebrecht’s very sophisticated bribing structure.

But Santana’s legacy in Venezuela will be always linked to the quite polished and emotionally effective campaigns he created for Chavismo in 2012 and 2013. And he delivered one hell of a 30-second spot for Nicolas Maduro back then, using Chavez’s final instructions for his succesion as a ghostly, powerful rallying cry. The rest of Maduro’s spots relied a bit too much on the cheese factor, but that one, with the thumping heartbeat, still resonates.

It’s quite weird that I had the opportunity to cover the rise and fall of Joao Santana: At his highest point, he was the subject of my second post ever for CC and now here I am, almost five years later writing about the fact that he will face years behind bars (pending appeal). Unbelievable.

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


  1. Now that I think about it, I probably voted for Chávez in 2012 and don’t remember. That campaign was brilliant, and this song will forever stay in my head. Forever.

    • Actually, I’ve never voted for Chavez in my life. Not even once. My opinion is about how the campaign was designed and executed (with the help of having the all the State’s resources at its disposal, according to then Minister Jorge Giordani). I’ve covered all the campaigns in recent years here in CC and honestly, that campaign was well-done. That doesn’t mean Capriles’ campaign was bad (it did better than expected but not without its flaws). It’s just my analysis.

  2. A “well executed” campaign, devoid of any useful goal, and filled with useless cheesery and emotional manipulation.

    And then chavistas claim that “they have a plan and a discourse”, pathetic.

    • João ‘Goebbels’ Santana’s propaganda only works when the majority of the population are both poor (government dependent) and politically uneducated.

      Let’s not forget that he requires a nearly unlimited budget to do his ‘magic’ too.

      The countries in which he elected presidents says all:

      Dominican Republic
      El Salvador

      Not a single developed country.

      There must be some GDP per capita figure, or PISA score threshold, that says when a country is more or less vulnerable to this kind of criminal propaganda. And we’d better find a way to soon neutralize the next generation of liers, oops, political marketeers, that will replace Santana if we ever want to get out of this chronic economic/political hell.

  3. So we revel in a persons talents for devising a farsical but ´effective’ form of political advertisement ….which means seeing politics as showbiz , as entertainment , as a means of fraudently arousing peoples most frivolous emotions so they vote for a particular candidate whatever the actual merits or flaws of the candidate …….this is democracy at its most obscene !!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here