BRASILIA May 11 A Brazilian strategist was paid
$20 million under-the-table for the 2012 re-election campaign of
the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, much of it handed over
in cash by the man who now leads Venezuela, President Nicolas
Maduro, according to a plea bargain statement made public on
Strategist Joao Santana, nicknamed the "maker of presidents"
for helping Brazil's leftist leaders hold power for 13 years,
was arrested last year with his wife Monica Moura and they now
are serving 8-year prison sentences for million-dollar payments
from bribe money in the sprawling Car Wash graft investigation.
In a deposition to Brazilian prosecutors in March, Moura
detailed similar illegal, under-the-table payments totaling
$53.9 million, mostly paid by Brazilian engineering companies,
for their work abroad advising election campaigns in Panama, El
Salvador, Angola and Venezuela.
Moura, who looked after the couple's finances, told
prosecutors that Maduro, then Chavez's foreign minister,
personally paid her with cash in bags in his office in Caracas.
Maduro handed her $11 millions in an unspecified number of
meetings and provided her with a bodyguard for her security when
she left the foreign ministry, Moura said.
She said $7 million was paid offshore to the couple by
Odebrecht, Brazil's largest engineering conglomerate that has
admitted to bribing government officials for contracts in Brazil
and a dozen other countries, and another $2 million by Brazilian
builder Andrade Gutierrez. She said the Venezuelan government
never paid a remaining $15 million for the 2012 campaign.
The Maduro government did not immediately reply to requests
for comment on Moura's statement.
Maduro, a former bus driver, is facing mounting unrest as
his opponents take to the streets in growing numbers demanding
overdue elections. At least 39 people have died in the unrest
since early April.
Santana helped Brazil's first working class president Luiz
Inacio Lula da Silva get re-elected in 2006 and managed two
successful presidential bids by his hand-picked successor Dilma
Rousseff in 2010 and 2014.
Rousseff was impeached last year, ending a 13-year run in
office by Lula's Workers Party. Lula is facing five trials on
corruption and obstruction of justice indictments and appeared
in court on Wednesday to deny a luxury beachfront apartment was
a gift from a government contractor.
LULA AND DILMA KNEW
Both Santana and Moura stated in their plea bargain
depositions that Lula and Rousseff knew illegal funds were being
used in the campaigns the couple worked on and that they were
being paid in dollars deposited in offshore accounts.
Rousseff said in a statement the couple were lying. Lula's
lawyers said the plea bargain statements by two defendants
proved nothing and were part of "political persecution" of the
Santana advised winning presidential candidates Mauricio
Funes in El Salvador and Danilo Medina in the Dominican
Lula asked Santana to work for Angolan President Jose
Eduardo dos Santos, Africa’s second-longest serving leader who
was having trouble finding a strategist, Moura told prosecutors.
She said Odebrecht picked up the $20-million bill.
Santana also worked against his will for defeated Panamanian
presidential candidate José Domingos Arias at Lula's request and
with Odebrecht paying the couple $11.4 million, Moura said.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing
by Michael Perry)