Home Politics Congress Plus 55: How Odebrecht allegedly bought out the Brazilian Congress

Plus 55: How Odebrecht allegedly bought out the Brazilian Congress

If Odebrecht were a party, it would have one of Congress' largest caucuses. And probably the most loyal one

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For decades, Brazil has been under a kleptocracy of unknown proportions. While Brazilians have never felt fully represented by their politicians, nobody could know how construction firms, especially Odebrecht, controlled the political establishment.

“You don’t have a sustainable relationship based on quid pro quo. If everytime you need something the guy say he wants some money. It’s not sustainable. In general, the long relationships are those in which the guy always helps you and you’re always helping him.” That’s how Marcelo Odebrecht, the former CEO of Brazil’s largest construction group, talked about his relationship with Congress.

His firm has “purchased” at least 12 tax laws since 2005. As a matter of fact, if Odebrecht were a party, it would have one of Congress’ largest caucuses. And probably the most loyal one. Odebrecht’s method was simple: financial cooptation. By buying out congressmen, the company gathered much more than simple partners. It had accomplices.

So far, we know that the “Odebrecht caucus” had at least 24 senators (out of 81) and 39 representatives (out of 513). However, its power far exceeded the number of politicians. After all, the members of Congress on Odebrecht’s pocket included the heads of both congressional houses. Not to mention 8 members of the cabinet.

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