Tuesday 31 May 2016

Brazil's new anti-corruption minister involved in corruption

Brazil's New Anti-Corruption Minister Quits After Leak Exposes His Involvement In Corruption Scandal

30 May, 2016

Our prediction that the cabinet of Brazil's new president Michel Temer would not last long received its first validation just 10 days after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, when a recording was leaked in which Brazil's new Planning Minister under Temer, Romero Juca, was overheard explaining how the removal of Rousseff would "prevent the wide corruption probe dubbed Carwash from proceeding." This prompted many to wonder if Rousseff was indeed correct all along claiming a silent, US-sponsored coup had taken place in Brazil, one in which the cost of sweeping the Carwash scandal under the rug was her own scalp.

Incidentally, Juca quit shortly thereafter to preserve the new president's reputation as corruption-free as possible.

Then earlier today, things for the new, just as corrupt as his predecessor president, Michel Temer got particularly awkward, not to mention painfully ironic, when none other than Brazil's Transparency and Anti-Corruption Minister, Fabiano Silveira resigned on Monday after leaked recordings suggested he tried to derail a sprawling corruption probe, the latest cabinet casualty impacting interim President Michel Temer's administration.

No amount of commentary can do justice to the gruesome farce that Brazilian economics is quickly devolving into. That said, it was perfectly predictable. On May 12, the day Rousseff was removed from power, we asked if Temer "can he avoid ouster himself"?

Among his documented transgressions, he signed off on some of the allegedly illegal budget measures that led to the impeachment drive against Rousseff and has been implicated, though never charged, in several corruption investigations.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, Temer is one of the country's least popular politicians but has managed to climb his way to the top, in large part by building close relationships with fellow politicians as leader of the large but fractured Brazilian Democratic Movement Party.
Think Frank Underwood.

However, unlike Underwood, Temer may not last long, for the simple reason that the people who greeted him as a savior from Rousseff's corruption may very soon turn on him just as fast.

Silveira, the man Temer tasked with fighting corruption since he took office on May 12, announced his plans to step down in a letter, according to the presidential palace's media office. No replacement for Silveira has yet been named.

Silveira and Senate President Renan Calheiros became the latest officials ensnared by leaked recordings secretly made by a former oil industry executive as part of a plea bargain. The same tapes led to the resignation last week of the abovementioned Romero Juca, whom Temer had named as planning minister.

According to Reuters, in parts of the recordings, aired by TV Globo late on Sunday, Silveira criticizes prosecutors in the probe focused on state-controlled oil company PetrĂ³leo Brasileiro SA, known as Petrobras, which has already implicated dozens of politicians and led to the imprisonment of top executives.

In the conversation, recorded at Calheiros' home three months before Silveira became a Cabinet minister, Silveira advises the Senate leader on how best to defend himself from the probe into Petrobras.
In the report, Globo TV also said some audio indicated that Silveira on several occasions spoke with prosecutors in charge of the Petrobras case to find out what information they might have on Calheiros, which he reported back to the Senate leader.   Silveira is heard saying prosecutors were "totally lost."

For those still wondering if Brazil's anti-corruption minister just resigned less than three weeks after taking the post becuase he was busted for corruption - on the record - the answer is yes.

Where it gets better is that nobody knows how many other members of the Temer cabinet will fall as a result of the ongoing leaks of phone recordings.

The former head of the transportation arm of Petrobras, Sergio Machado, who is under investigation as part of the graft probe and has turned state's witness, recorded the meeting and conversations with other politicians to obtain leniency from prosecutors. Silveira was a counsellor on the National Justice Counsel, a judicial watchdog agency, at the time of the meeting.

The reaction was swift: on Monday, Ministry of Transparency staff marched to the presidential palace in Brasilia to demand Silveira's ouster and restoration of the comptroller general's office, which Temer renamed to show his commitment to fighting corruption.

That particular "commitment" is not working out too great.

All employees with management duties at the ministry resigned their posts to press their demands, according to union leader Rudinei Marques.
Protesting employees had earlier prevented Silveira from entering the ministry building. They then washed its facade with soap and water to symbolize Temer's need to clean up his government.

The only problem is that the corruption in Temer's government starts with Temer himself, who according to many is far more corrupt than Rousseff ever was.  Which is probably way Reuters adds that Temer will meet with Brazil's prosecutor general later today to discuss the leaked recordings.

Several members of Temer's cabinet are under investigation in the Petrobras probe. Rousseff, facing an impeachment trial in the Senate on charges of breaking budget laws, and others have said Temer plotted her downfall to stifle the investigation.

Temer has strongly denied the allegation, although with every new scandal and resignation, less and less people believe the false narrative.

As a result of the recordings, the new government could face declining support for Rousseff's ouster by the Senate, which needs a two-thirds majority to convict her in a trial expected to last through August.The two-year probe into billions in graft at Petrobras has led to jail time for executives from Brazil's top construction firms as well as investigations of dozens of politicians, including several members of Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, and Rousseff's Workers Party.

At the end of the day, everyone in Brazil's political ruling class is corrupt: as such that is hardly grounds for dismissal as Brazil would simply have no politicians left. 

The question the people needs to answer is which politician is best suited to get the country out of the unprecedented economic depression it finds itself in less than two months before the Summer Olympics are set to begin in Rio.

Then again, the choice may already have been made: earlier today, Brazil's FUP Oil Union, one of the two main oil labor unions in the country, said it plans a one-day national strike on June 10. It workers will protest against acting president Michel Temer, FUP said adding that Temer's government lacks legitimacy. The FUP workers specifically are worried that they will lose benefits under the new administration, and Petrobras could be privatized.

The conclusion is that Temer's honeymoon period has officially ran out, and at this point absent some dramatic shift in his administration, Temer himself may be impeached in very short notice. Perhaps it is not too late for the ambitious former vice president and current president to watch House of Cards from the beginning, just to reminds himself how these things are done... if only on Netflix.

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