A project that Brazilian entrepreneurs have dreamed of for two decades led the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Alberto França, to leave Itamaraty to work in one of the largest companies in the sector when it was about to be struck. by Operation Lava Jato.
France left the civil service in March 2015 to join the office of the mining company Andrade Gutierrez in Brasilia and remained there until March 2017, when it decided to end the activities of the department in which the diplomat and returned to foreign affairs. Ministry.
The Chancellor has always treated the period with discretion in his schedule, describing it only as an “authorization to do private business”, and only began to refer to Andrade Gutierrez after his appointment as minister. Itamaraty did not respond to a request for an interview on the subject.
At the time of hiring the diplomat, Lava Jato had opened an investigation into Andrade Gutierrez’s involvement in the bribery scheme uncovered at Petrobras, but there was still no evidence against him, and none of his leaders had is the subject of searches or warrants. jail.
The construction company wanted to develop its activities abroad and was looking for professionals with experience in Latin America. Although it had major contracts in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, its presence in the region was far less than that of its main competitor, Odebrecht.
France had worked for a few years on economic issues in Bolivia and had participated in discussions on an ambitious energy integration project which envisaged the construction of two hydropower plants in the neighboring country, followed with interest by Andrade Gutierrez and Odebrecht.
His involvement in the matter caught the attention of entrepreneurs and it was the business card that led to Andrade Gutierrez’s invitation, according to people who were living with the diplomat at the time he negotiated his hiring and period during which he worked for the mining construction company. .
The Chancellor has served on one of the company’s corporate and strategic affairs boards. Another Itamaraty accredited diplomat at the time, Rodrigo da Costa Fonseca, worked on the development of Andrade Gutierrez’s projects in Africa. He also declined to give an interview.
“France has always been interested in the private sector and thought it would be a good opportunity,” said Ambassador Renato Mosca, its leader at the presidential ceremony under the leadership of Dilma Rousseff (PT). “Despite the risks with Lava Jato, I thought I could stand out to have a clean record.”
The situation changed dramatically in June 2015, three months after France arrived, when federal police arrested then-group chairman Otávio Marques de Azevedo and other executives accused of bribing politicians and employees of the state-owned companies they did it with. Business.
The entrepreneur was quickly prevented from contracting with the public sector and without access to credit, leaving the development of new projects in the background. In 2016, she entered into a leniency agreement to work with Lava Jato in exchange for lighter penalties for her leaders.
Like other companies involved in the transaction, Andrade Gutierrez continued to encounter difficulties even after the decision to cooperate with the investigations. The reorganization of the group to deal with the crisis led to the closure of several areas, including the one where diplomats were working.
Wanted by Folha, the company did not want to discuss in detail the activities of France and confined itself to affirming by means of a note that the Chancellor participated “in the transformation of the company with regard to its position. relative to the market. […], on the basis of strict ethical standards “.
The hydroelectric dams that brought France closer to entrepreneurs began to be discussed by Brazil and Bolivia in 2003, at the start of the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) government, when then minister Dilma Rousseff suggested that the two countries are developing a project together in this area.
The idea was to take advantage of the potential of the Madeira River, which rises in the Andes and flows into the Amazon River, to meet Brazil’s growing energy demand and at the same time diversify the sources available in Bolivia, which has always had abundant gas fields.
In 2004, Odebrecht sought a direct approach with the Bolivian government to start studies and get ahead of other entrepreneurs if the idea went ahead, but the initiative was unsuccessful and was aborted after the election. of nationalist Evo Morales as President of Bolivia, two years. later.
Brazil alone has touched part of the plan and built two hydroelectric power stations in Rondônia. Santo Antônio, commissioned in 2012, was built and is still operated by a company in which Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez are partners. The other factory, Jirau, is controlled by the French group Engie.
France has worked at the Brazilian Embassy in La Paz on two occasions and became directly involved in the subject in the second passage, when a group of researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro began working with the Bolivians to review the idea of a joint venture.
“The turmoil that has marked politics in Brazil and Bolivia in recent years has hampered the project, but it makes sense for both countries and it will be inevitable to resume it one day,” said Prof. Nivalde de Castro, head of the UFRJ group, which even published an article written in four hands with France.
The focus of the plan is the construction of a new factory on the border between the two countries, near Guajará-Mirim (RO), with a capacity equivalent to that built in Rondônia. The business would be developed by a binational company, like Itaipu, built with Paraguay.
France left Bolivia at the end of 2011. Back in Brazil, she started working on the presidential ceremony, but continued to follow the subject closely, devoting herself to an academic thesis in the graduate course at Itamaraty. and responding to corporate invitations to conferences.
Approved with praise in 2013, the thesis attributes the failure of Odebrecht’s first leadership with the Bolivians to the company’s “erroneous decision” to seek an agreement with the neighboring country without having “prior negotiation of an international agreement” , that is, without including Itamaraty in the conversation.
The thesis was adapted for a book published by the Alexandre de Gusmão Foundation, linked to Itamaraty, the same year France graduated to work at Andrade Gutierrez. The diplomat wrote the presentation of the book on the days he was packing the drawers for transfer to the private sector.
At the start of 2015, entrepreneurs were already in Lava Jato’s sights, but continued to be interested in the issue. Representatives from Andrade Gutierrez and Odebrecht attended meetings with Castro and other UFRJ researchers at the time to discuss the possibilities of the project.
In July 2015, Eletrobrás and the Bolivian state-owned company Ende signed a memorandum to start studies for the construction of the binational power plant at the border and another in Cachoeira Esperança, Bolivia. The work only started in 2017, under the Michel Temer government, and was only completed today.
After leaving Andrade Gutierrez, France headed the science and technology division of Itamaraty and returned to work at the Planalto Palace. With the change of government, he assumed the head of the presidential ceremony and won the trust of Jair Bolsonaro, now paving the way for his appointment.