Brazil’s leading anti-corruption Justice announces he is stepping down

July 2, 2014

MercoPress, 6/30/2014

“He came to say goodbye, given that he will retire next month,” Renan Calheiros told reporters after a private meeting with the jurist. “It was a surprise and we’re very sorry, since he’s one of the best models the country has,” the senator added.

The chief justice met earlier Thursday with President Dilma Rousseff to inform her of his decision.

Barbosa, 59, was the first black jurist to head Brazil’s Supreme Court, elected by his 10 fellow justices in October 2012.

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Fifa’s corruption divides Brazilian football from its roots

May 28, 2014

Owen Gibson – The Guardian, 5/26/2014

It will surprise precisely no one who has taken even a passing interest in his life and career, but Eric Cantona is no great fan of football’s governing bodies.

Having recently returned from Rio de Janeiro, where he has been making a documentary about Brazilian football and politics that will receive its UK premiere at Amnesty International’s Sidelines film festival next month, he has a jaundiced view of Fifa’s modus operandi.

As a player he spent much of a mercurial, stellar career at odds with the establishment and retirement has not mellowed him. Now, as a film-maker, he is taking aim at the power structures that underpin the game.

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Brazil is tired of being scolded

May 27, 2014

Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times, 5/26/2014

 By now, Brazil should probably have been grounded for life, without video games or dessert.

Last month, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee, John Coates, said that Rio de Janeiro’s preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics were the worst he had ever seen.

Before that, Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA — the Federation of International Football Associations — claimed that Brazil was further behind in its preparations for this summer’s World Cup than any previous host nation, even though it had had seven full years to prepare. Then, in March, FIFA’s secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, declared we could risk being “the worst organizers” of the “worst event.” He had previously said that Brazil needed “a kick up the backside.”

Well, that was harsh. Brazilians, long treated as obedient children on the world stage, have always submitted to the superior wisdom of foreign authorities. Fifty years ago, after President João Goulart was deposed by a right-wing military coup, the American presence in our political scene was so conspicuous that a humorist announced a mock-campaign for the United States ambassador: “Enough of middlemen — Lincoln Gordon for president!”

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Brazil’s love of “pork” explains obesity levels

May 8, 2014

Joe Leahy – The Financial Times, 5/7/2014

Looking for a job where you barely have to turn up for work, get paid about 27 times the minimum wage and can retire early on the handsome pension benefits? If the answer is “Yes”, why not try Brazil’s Congress?

One recent recruit – whose name must be withheld to protect the guilty – tells of how she passed the tough course to qualify as an analyst in Congress in Brasília and arrived at her post, ready and enthusiastic, to start work. Her conditions were hardly onerous: she was required to work eight hours a day for R$19,000 ($8,500) a month. But even this was too much in the eyes of her manager, who told her to stop embarrassing her co-workers and go home after only four hours – like they did.

Tales of public servants abusing their positions at taxpayer expense are hardly confined to Brazil. But as Latin America’s biggest country gears up for presidential elections in October, the topic of big and wasteful government, while the subject of grumbles, barely features in the general debate.

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With Brazil’s Petrobras under fire for corruption, have Brazilians had enough?

April 18, 2014

Whitney Eulich – The Christian Science Monitor, 4/18/2014

Brazil’s leading Worker’s Party is under intense scrutiny this week amid Senate hearings and mounting allegations of corruption at Petrobras, the state-run oil company.

This is the second high-profile corruption scandal to plague the ruling party in the past decade. The landmark 2005 Mensalão case, where 38 national politicians were accused of crimes ranging from money laundering to tax evasion in a vote-buying scandal, ended in the conviction of 25 people in 2012. In recent weeks, pressure on the Worker’s Party (PT) has mounted amid allegations that Petrobras paid nearly triple the market rate for a refinery in Texas, and that management accepted millions of dollars in bribes from a Dutch oil-rig supplier.

Latin America has long been associated with widespread corruption and impunity – seen in everything from tax evasion to the flaunting of red lights at intersections. As corruption cases become more visible in Brazil, however, laws to battle them have been passed and political representatives have pushed for public inquiries into wrongdoing. Yet while the issue is garnering attention, attitudes are changing only slowly.

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Two heads are worse than one

April 4, 2014

The Economist, 4/5/2014

“UNIQUE.” That is how Credit Suisse, a bank, sums up Petrobras. It has a point. Most companies’ stocks would sag on the sort of news Brazil’s oil giant has faced in the past three weeks. A federal investigation was opened, into alleged backhanders paid to its employees by a Dutch company in exchange for oil-platform and drilling contracts. (Both companies deny the allegations.) A parliamentary inquiry is imminent, into the purchase in 2006 of a refinery in Texas which cost $1.2 billion but is now worth no more than $180m. A former director has been arrested in a money-laundering probe. If that were not enough, on March 24th Standard & Poor’s, a ratings agency, downgraded its corporate debt. Yet Petrobras’s shares have risen by 30%.

The reason for this seemingly irrational exuberance is that investors consider Petrobras’s prospects to be inversely linked to those of Brazil’s government, led by the president, Dilma Rousseff. The rally began with rumours (later proved premature) that Ms Rousseff’s poll lead over her likeliest challengers in a presidential election this October was dwindling. The government owns a majority stake in the company and makes most of the strategic decisions over the head of Maria das Graças Foster, the chief executive.

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Brazil’s president faces revolt by coalition allies

March 13, 2014

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 3/12/2014

The rift between President Dilma Rousseff and her main political allies widened on Wednesday one day after they voted in Congress to look into bribery allegations leveled at Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras.

Disgruntled congressmen from coalition parties summoned an array of Rousseff’s cabinet members to appear before various congressional committees in a new display of discontent.

They also invited Maria das Graças Foster, the chief executive officer of state-controlled oil producer Petróleo Brasileiro SA, to answer questions about the allegations that a Dutch company paid bribes to company officials to win contracts for floating oil platforms.

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Brazil police to probe Petrobras bribery allegations

March 13, 2014

Reuters, 3/13/2014

Brazil‘s federal police will investigate allegations that officials from state-run oil company Petroleo Brasiliero SA accepted bribes from Dutch ship leaser SBM Offshore NV, newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported on Thursday.

Petrobras, as the company is known, last month began an internal investigation of the matter after an unidentified former employee at SBM Offshore alleged that Petrobras officials were paid $139 million in bribes through an intermediary over contracts for floating oil platforms.

A press officer at the federal police in Brasilia declined to comment on the Folha report, which comes two days after Brazil’s lower house of Congress voted to set up a special committee to monitor the Petrobras investigation.

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Rousseff remains favorite to win Brazil re-election

February 24, 2014

Rogerio Jelmayer – The Wall Street Journal, 2/23/2014

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff remains the favorite to win re-election in October with a comfortable lead over possible contenders, according to a poll published Sunday.

The Datafolha polling institute said Ms. Rousseff has recovered much of the support she had lost in the wake of mass street protests in the middle of last year.

Millions of Brazilians demonstrated in cities across the country of 200 million people. They had many complaints, but most were focused on perceived corruption and on the poor quality of public services, such as health care and education.

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