We usually think of Nicolás Maduro as a comically inept doofus prone to confusing the words penises and breads in Spanish. Perhaps that’s why the picture we get from the recently released deposition of disgraced Brazilian campaign strategist Mônica Moura is so shocking.

According to Moura, like some tropical version of Tony Soprano, Maduro himself handed her suitcases full of cash at his office at the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and at Miraflores Palace —an untraceable $11 million payment for Chávez’s 2012 reelection campaign.

Moura says she believes that Maduro was calling all the shots concerning campaign payments, and was extremely distrustful and controlling. The man described by Moura suggests a Maduro who is way cannier, more ruthless and smarter than the bumbling idiot of penes/panes fame.

In 2012, Hugo Chávez won reelection using an upbeat, polished and unquestionably superb reelection campaign that was 100% made in Brazil. Sometimes, I still hum this song unconsciously —against my better judgement. Every bit of it was devised by Moura and her husband, João Santana. The two were once star political strategists and have recently been convicted for money laundering under the now infamous Lava Jato corruption probe.

Judging by Moura’s testimony, what was happening backstage was way more interesting than anything in the videos produced by the campaign.

Moura says that, right from their first visit in 2011, they realized Chávez was already very sick with cancer.

Moura and Santana were personally asked by Lula to manage Chávez’s campaign. The headquarters of the campaign in Caracas were located in the posh Caracas Country Club neighborhood (Oh! the irony). The couple was supposed to get paid US$35 million for their work, for which the government always delayed and avoided the signing of a contract. Odebrecht paid US$7 million and Andrade Gutierrez (the Brazilian construction company carrying out several major projects in Venezuela) paid US$5 million more to Santana and Moura. This is in addition to the US$12 million in cash paid by Maduro for the campaign. Moura and Santana were never paid in full. The total sum was impossible to collect after Chávez’s death.

The key contact between Brazilian companies and Santana and Moura was the French-Venezuelan diplomat-cum-Hollywood producer Maximilian Sánchez Arveláez.

Moura says that, right from their first visit in 2011, they realized Chávez was already very sick with cancer.

An annex to the deposition includes an analysis made by Moura and Santana’s consulting firm in 2013 that describes an “ambiguous and tense” relationship between Nicolás Maduro and Diosdado Cabello. Although this is being reported as part of the testimony, by several outlets, it’ s not referenced in the deposition.

In any other country, even one with a high tolerance for corruption, this type of allegation would be explosive. But it’s become clear to everyone that Venezuela is run like a criminal organization and this goes way back to the Chávez era. When it comes to the rot at the heart of the state, nothing shocks us anymore.

I’m left to mull over Moura’s portrait of Maduro. It’s a scary reminder that the man who’s managed to survive and win the chavismo power Hunger Games, who has no qualms over the deaths of 48 protesters, or the thousands of arbitrary detentions, who would rather transform the country into a soviet republic than to negotiate a transition, will not go down without a fight.

It’s also a reminder that we have spent 18 years underestimating chavismo and it’s about time that we stopped.

15 COMMENTS

  1. You know, the problem is not that these people are funding campaigns with illegal money.
    The deeper problem is to have an Electoral System (like so many other Democracies) so vulnerable to manipulation that all you need to win is money.
    I also heard that Chavistas were paying $100 per every vote for Maduro, according to the Cilia Flores narco-nephews testimony.

    When you see these things, you realize there is a problem and you are supposed to do something to fix it
    So what you do?
    1. Change the Election System or
    2. Ask the People to please stop doing bad things?

    By the way, I just got a reminder in my computer to update the antivirus. i don’t want to be prey of ransomware.

  2. Excellent article. I have said that, contrary to the Latin American dictators of the past: trujillo, Somoza, Rojas Pinilla, Velasco Alvarado, even Peron, who only were dictators in their own backyards,this new breed of Latin American authoritarian or plain dictators Chávez, Maduro, Lula, Dilma, Nestor, Cristina, Evo, Rafael Correa, Ortega, Raul Castro and minor collaborators like Jose Mujica, Zelaya, Lugo and the guys from the Frente Farabundo Martí in El Salvador. made up a big gang of thieves, narcos and killers which used the money from their people to consolidate their political power, generating hyper-corruption in the region. It took fate to intervene and erase Chavez and Nestor Kirchner from the political map and the civic insurrection of Brazilians to reject Lula and Dilma, to allow for the implosion of this gang.
    The surviving members of the gang are still loose. The noose should be tightened

    • Their boss, their controller, the mastermind behind all the ruin and destruction of Venezuela is still at loose:

      The castrista dictatorship.

  3. “It’s also a reminder that we have spent 18 years underestimating chavismo and it’s about time that we stopped.”

    Also, a reminder on how the “viejas locas del cafetal” were right all this time.

  4. I find the whole “different intelligences” thing a bit vague and “feel good”, but well, I think it applies here. Maduro is an idiot in a lot of things; he cant talk without anybody with half a brain reaching that conclusion.

    That doesnt mean he is absolutely naive. He is president of one of the most corrupt governments in the world, you think that doesnt require at least the animal cunning to know who and how to bribe and ask for bribe?

    Dont underestimate the enemy, but dont overestimate them either. Maduro is a dim apparatchik without the mental capacity necessary for actually being a good president. That doesnt mean he cant excel at being a bad one.

    • At this juncture it doesn’t really matter if he can’t pronounce Washington correctly or didn’t get an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School or know about monetary policy. He is a ruthless, canny guy with both the army and gangs of thugs at his disposal to remain in power and no shames in using them. Besides, it’s been reported by many people that he is smarter than the image he projects and that the doofus image is not an accident, it has been a way of survival.

      • Cesar, in all honesty, he is a doofus, simply following orders/strategies from his evil/experienced Castro-Communist masters. Only a real doofus would overstay his welcome to the extent of risking being imprisoned for life, if not lynched first….

  5. The piece is rite on…except….you fail to mention that every major step by the regime has been planned…..step back and look at this whole body of work since Mauro was elected……its all to plan…”doubt it is Maduros plan”anticipated every move from the opposition….stepped on their throats…..virtually powerless…..they will follow through with their plan Zammora…..everyone who matters is on board……i think he sleeps like a baby

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