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Tags: Brazil | Corruption | Lula | Petrobas | Rouseff

Brazil Needs Deep Reform

Luis Fleischman By Tuesday, 26 April 2016 12:54 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

On April 17, the Brazilian lower house of Congress voted by more than a two-thirds majority to impeach the current president, Dilma Rousseff.

The Senate will vote on the impeachment, but contrary to the lower house, a simple majority would be enough to approve such impeachment.

If the Senate approves impeachment proceedings, Rousseff will have to step down transferring powers to her vice-president Michel Temer.

If she is absolved she would remain in her position.

The rationale for her prosecution is that she violated fiscal rules by hiding the budget deficit and by illegally using money from state-owned banks at the time she was running for re-election.

Interestingly enough, such accusations, although significant in terms of money, look minor in comparison to the huge corruption scandals the ruling Workers Party (PT) have been involved with.

The corruption scandals involve a complex scheme, exposing the largest public corruption crime in Brazilian history.

Since 2003, the year Rousseff’s mentor and founder of the PT, Jose Luis Inazio “Lula” Da Silva took over the reins of power in Brazil, construction companies formed a cartel to overcharge Petrobras for building contracts.

A portion of this overcharge was used to bribe Petrobras executives.

They would then pay part of that money to politicians who were in on the deal.

Prosecutors allege that a big part of this money was used to fund the Workers Party's political campaigns. Indeed the PT or PT officials are mainly responsible — and the largest beneficiaries of the scheme — although they are definitely not alone.

Lula, is also suspected of diverting money from Petrobras to fund election campaigns and other personal benefits considered to be illegal.

Worse, accusations against the former president, prompted Rousseff to give Lula a cabinet position making him her chief of staff.

By offering him this position, Rousseff understood that it would protect him, in the short-term, from prosecutors who have charged him with money laundering and fraud.

Rousseff, believed that the popularity of the former president would make him immune to the judgement of public opinion.

As the scandal evolved, the PT coalition partners began to abandon Rousseff.

It started with the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) and the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) and was followed by the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and the Progressive Party (PP).

The impeachment of Rousseff is certainly a lesson to those who believe that popular appeal is the key to rule.

The independent and assertive role played by the Brazilian judiciary has been remarkable.

However, even if Rousseff loses her job as a result of the impeachment (which will probably be the case) the day after will be no less problematic.

With Rousseff’s departure, the person to assume power is the vice-president, Michel Temer of the PMDB.

The PMDB, itself, is involved in these acts of corruption.

There are also accusations against Temer and suspicions that he also, like Rousseff, authorized fake fiscal reports.

Paradoxically, the president of the lower chamber, Eduardo Cunha, who has led the impeachment campaign in his chamber, is accused of having laundered the money he received in bribes, estimated to be about $40 million.

Furthermore, of the 513 members of the lower house, 303 are facing some sort of charge or accusation. Likewise, in the upper house, 49 out of 81senators also have charges or accusations for some violation.

In other words, 60 percent of the same Congress that is impeaching Rousseff has also been involved in illegal activities.

Certainly, Rousseff as head of the Workers Party and as a former minister of energy, and as a board member of Petrobras should certainly bear responsibility for the corruption that the party is very much a part of.

To be sure, this impeachment was inspired by the judicial authority recommending it.

Having said all of the above, we also warn that the entire political system will have no legitimacy if the judicial system cannot punish and bring to justice everyone who violated the law. This means everyone including members of the government and the opposition.

If the outstanding work of the judges ends after the deposing of Rousseff, it will be counterproductive.

The only formula for stability is to elect a legitimate president and a legitimate Congress; and the judiciary must continue consolidate its independence.

Corruption, as we pointed out in numerous articles, makes the country lawless and vulnerable to organized crime, terrorist groups, and other nefarious external influences.
The epicenter of the current anti-corruption movement is definitely in Brazil but, hopefully it will expand to other countries. In some countries corruption is causing public anger such as in Guatemala, where a corrupt president was forced to resign (in Argentina, under President Mauricio Macri, the justice system has moved against corrupt individuals associated with former president Cristina Kirchner).

The movement against corruption is only now beginning in the region.

It needs to be further encouraged and strengthened, even if this would be an arduous challenge.

Luis Fleischman has worked as adviser for the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy on issues related to Latin America. He is the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." Fleischman is an adjunct professor of sociology and political science at Florida Atlantic University Honors College and FAU Lifelong Learning Society. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.


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The center of the anti-corruption movement is Brazil. Hopefully it will expand. In some countries corruption is causing public anger. The movement against corruption is only now beginning in the region. It needs to be further encouraged and strengthened, even if this would be an arduous challenge.
Brazil, Corruption, Lula, Petrobas, Rouseff
Tuesday, 26 April 2016 12:54 PM
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