The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, seeks to uncover the web of corruption of the governments of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff regarding the loans to Cuba and Venezuela.
The Brazilian President asked the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) to “open the black box” and to explain some of the loans earmarked for the governments of Chavez and Castro. According to presidential spokesman, Otavio do Rego Barros, Bolsonaro hopes that Gustavo Montezano, the new head of the country’s leading development bank, will identify where the resources destined for infrastructure works were invested, both in Cuba and Venezuela.
On the night of Monday, 17th June, the Ministry of Economy announced Montezano as the new President of BNDES. The President had harshly criticized Joaquim Levy, the former head of the entity, and Levy resigned on Sunday.
At the press conference, Rego Barros explained the reasons behind Bolsonaro’s decision. Barros also stressed that people who have held positions of responsibility during the governments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, both members of the Workers Party (PT), should not be part of the current government.
One has to remember that on 26th May 2009, Lula and Chavez met in Brazil to decide that the BNDES would finance new lines in the Caracas metro. Lula accepted this proposal and lent 747 USD for construction works that the Brazilian business conglomerate, Odebrecht, would carry out. Later, irregularities were found in the construction.
According to reports by Brazilian media, Venezuela, Cuba, and Mozambique owe more than 2000 million Brazilian reals (about 510 million USD) to the BNDES. 80% of this sum is money that Venezuela owes, lent during the government of Hugo Chavez.
The metro is three times more expensive
The construction of Line 5 of the Caracas Metro was one of the most costly and slowest works in the region, thanks to the ties between Lula da Silva and Chávez as they encouraged the participation of BNDES to finance the project.
The contract signed with Odebrecht in 2006 was without any bidding process. The work began in 2007 with the promise that Caracas would have a new metro line in September 2012. However, construction is still incomplete.
Between 2007 and 2017, the overall progress of the project has been less than half. According to a report presented by Haiman El Troudi, the former President of the Caracas Metro and the minister of Terrestrial Transport and Public Works, only 47% of the construction was complete.
According to the Concova portal, in the twelve years Odebrecht has been carrying out the work, the cost has tripled. The cost per kilometer went from 86 million USD to 237 million USD making it the most expensive construction project in Latin America.
The transfer of money for the construction of Metro Line 2 is also under investigation. The Court of Accounts of the Union of Brazil suspects that BNDES demanded more money than required for the work.
Chávez asked Lula to finance Cuban port
Veja magazine reported in 2017 that Hugo Chavez asked the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to take charge of the Mariel Port in Cuba, to help his ally, Fidel Castro.
Emilio Odebrecht testified before the Brazilian justice system that he asked Chávez to speak with former President Lula da Silva to finance the work in Cuba.
Odebrecht informed Chávez that his company worked in the United States and that due to the restrictions of the Havana embargo, “it was not easy to establish a financial scheme.”
According to Odebrecht, “under normal conditions” there would never have been a project in Cuba, nor would BNDES finance work for the Cuban government, but being an idea of Lula and Chavez, the former Brazilian President himself had “maneuvered to interfere in the bank’s decisions and free up funds” to carry out the project in the port.