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.

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