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Odebrecht, the corruption scandal that expands in Latin America

Brazilian construction company Odebrecht has made corruption almost something institutional in more than a dozen countries in Latin America, in which it is already one of the largest and most mediatic investigations against the purchase of favors throughout the subcontinent, with former presidents involved , like the Brazilian Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Peruvian Pedro Pablo Kuczynski or the Paraguayan Horacio Cartes.

It was the end of 2016 when some senior executives of the Brazilian firm acknowledged before the United States Justice that bribes had been made throughout the region for a value of more than 700 million euros in order to obtain contracts for more than 100 projects throughout the region, from the Dominican Republic to Argentina.

The Brazilian media operation, known as ‘Lava Jato’ (‘Lava Cars’, in Portuguese) has as its main corrupting agent Odebrecht, which supposedly would have on the payroll such relevant figures of Latin American politics as the ex-presidents of Brazil Lula ( 2003-2011) and Michel Temer (2016-2018); to those of Peru, Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), Ollanta Humala (2011-2016) and his ubiquitous wife Nadine Heredia, and Kuczynski.

The investigations have even been opened to elucidate whether the electoral campaigns of other former presidents such as the Panamanian Ricardo Martinelli or the Colombian Juan Manuel Santos were funded; or to discover, for example, if Cartes (2013-2018), on whom weighs a search and capture order, had something to do with a money laundering plot related to ‘Lava Jato’.

The cases of corruption in which Odebrecht has woven its networks have ended the career of politicians and businessmen. The case of the former Peruvian president Álan García (2006-2011), who chose to shoot himself in the head when he was going to be arrested, stands out. He left a note in which he defended his innocence and said that he left his body “as a sign of contempt” towards his adversaries.

Also in Peru, Kuczynski assumed the Presidency in 2016, but two years later, he had to leave office after he was accused of association to commit crimes and money laundering in relation to the ‘Lava Jato’ case. Currently, he is serving a 36-year sentence under house arrest.

It is in the Andean country where it seems that the Brazilian company has woven its most extensive networks of corruption, without having Brazil, because in addition to those already mentioned it is also being investigated for its alleged involvement Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori ( 1990-2000).

The head of Fuerza Popular, the main Peruvian opposition party, was released from jail last November after almost a year of pretrial detention, waiting for Justice to decide definitively if it condemns Fujimori for a crime of money laundering for allegedly receiving bribes from the Brazilian construction company.

Five years ago, the Brazilian Prosecutor’s Office was investigating a corrupt plot related to the oil company Petrobras, whose 64 percent belong to the Brazilian State, when it began to focus its investigations on Marcelo Odebrecht, former president of the construction company, who had been financing political parties Brazilians in exchange for public contracts.

The relationship with Petrobras was discovered in 2014, after the Brazilian authorities discovered a money exchange in a gas station in Brasilia, the capital.

Thanks to the testimonies provided by several businessmen of the construction company, in exchange for criminal benefits, the Brazilian Prosecutor’s Office began the arrest of numerous politicians in the country, who in turn became reporters to avoid entering prison or major penalties.

The Workers Party (PT) was the most splashed political formation, with hundreds of its members detained. The judicial authorities denounced that Odebrecht and other large construction companies had distributed the million dollar concessions of Petrobras in exchange for money for the then ruling party and its allies.

However, there are some voices that denounce that the investigations are based solely on the allegations, without further evidence than the same statements of people who when they testified were being investigated for corruption and agreed to speak in exchange for a favorable treatment, not only in Brazil, but also in other countries of the subcontinent.

In that sense, from the PT they denounced that Lula was suffering “a political persecution” since it was made public that he aspired to stand for the 2018 elections, which he could not attend after being arrested, and finally convicted. The winner of these presidential elections was the ultraconservative Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro elected Judge Sergio Moro as Minister of Justice, one of the most prominent figures of the ‘Operation Lava Jato’, who along with his prosecutors launched several PT politicians accused of charging bribes to finance the formation.

Among them is the former Minister of Finance Antonio Palocci, of the few accused of enriching themselves with these privileges and, precisely, the main witness who has the accusation against Lula. Like others involved, Palocci sealed a collaboration agreement in exchange for information that could involve the former president and other members of the PT.

Although uncovered years ago, the Odebrecht case continues to bring shocking revelations that make it impossible to foresee when it will end up being amortized at the political level, in a regional context of agitation over protests that have erupted in several countries with complaints ranging from social inequality to corruption. .

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