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What is the Odebrecht corruption scandal in Latin America, and who is implicated?

What is the Odebrecht corruption scandal in Latin America, and who is implicated?
Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Marta Rodriguez MartinezBlanca Castro
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From Mexico to Argentina, the Odebrecht corruption scandal has rocked Latin America to its core.


On Wednesday morning, Peruvians were waking up to the news that their former president Alan Garcia had shot himself after police arrived to arrest him in a bribery probe.

The 69-year-old former president was set to be arrested as part of the Odebrecht corruption scandal, which has put other Latin American leaders in jail.

Odebrecht is a Brazilian construction firm that was involved in the building of venues for the 2016 Olympics and 2014 football World Cup.

It triggered Latin America's biggest corruption scandal when it admitted in 2016 that it had paid kickbacks to politicians across the region to secure lucrative contracts.

Garcia — who governed from 1985-1990 and 2006-2011 — was taken to a hospital in a critical condition in Lima but later died, according to the leader of his political party. But he wasn’t the only former Peruvian president to be involved in the corruption scandal. Four other ex-presidents and the leader of the opposition, Keiko Fujimori, ensured Peru had one of the worst records on the continent.

Everything started in Brazil when Sergio Moro, now the country’s justice minister but then a judge in Curitiba — the capital of the southern Brazilian state of Paraná — lead the corruption investigation also known as Operation “Lava Jato,” which revealed a complex scheme of bribes implemented by Odebrecht to pay politicians and parties in the region and civil servants in two African countries.

The scandal was made public in 2014 when it revealed that Paulo Roberto Costa, the former supply director of the state-owned oil company Petrobras, was involved and led to the ousting of former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.

Rousseff was responsible for managing Petrobras during her mandate as Minister of Mines and Energy (2003-2005).

But that was only the tip of the iceberg. The list of public construction projects linked to Odebrecht is endless: metros lines in Venezuela, an irrigation project in Peru, a billion dollar port in Cuba, electric dams in Panama, trams in Colombia, and the Olympic complex in Brazil. Across the ocean, one of Africa’s biggest hydroelectric dams was built in Angola.


In December 2016, the United States Department of Justice sentenced Odebrecht to pay a 3.500 million dollar fine after hearing the testimonies of some of the executives. Its general director Marcelo Odebrecht was condemned to 19 years in prison in Brazil.

The case detailed that the company paid nearly 788 million dollars in bribes in connection with more than 100 projects in 12 countries between 2001 and 2006.

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