Venezuela owes Brazilian construction firms more than $2 bn, daily says

Sao Paulo, Mar 5 (EFE).- Venezuela's government owes as much as $2.5 billion to Brazilian construction companies carrying out infrastructure and sanitation projects in the neighboring country, Sao Paulo business daily Valor Economico said Wednesday.

Brazilian builders' combined portfolio of projects in Venezuela is valued at some $20 billion and, according to sector sources, several of those companies have been affected in recent days by serious payment delays.

Political ties between Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro are not as close as those that existed between their predecessors, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the late Hugo Chavez, enabling China to make more inroads in Venezuela, the article said.

Lula visited Venezuela 16 times between 2003 and 2010, while Chavez, who died of cancer a year ago, made 20 trips to Brazil.

Rousseff has visited Caracas three times, once in 2011 when Chavez was still president, while Maduro has only made one trip to Brasilia since taking office in April 2013.

The article said 70 percent of the money Venezuela owes Brazilian construction companies corresponds to services provided by Odebrecht, whose relationship with Venezuela's leftist government may have soured in 2012 over suspicion it was siding with opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Odebrecht, however, told Valor the payment delays are "normal" in the construction sector.

The Salvador-based conglomerate has 13,000 employees in Venezuela and participates in a range of projects there, including construction of two metro lines in Caracas, a new runway for the capital's Maiquetia International Airport, a hydroelectric plant and two bridges.