Brazil opens inquiry into claims of wrongdoing by ex-president

April 8, 2013

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 04/06/2013

Brazil’s Public Ministry, a body of independent public prosecutors, has begun an investigation into a claim connecting former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to a vast vote-buying scheme that involved the channeling of funds to the governing Workers’ Party.

The inquiry, which was announced in the capital, Brasília, on Friday and comes after several months of analyzing testimony, opens a new phase in what has arguably been Brazil’s largest corruption scandal, already involving the conviction of Mr. da Silva’s powerful former chief of staff, José Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva, on conspiracy and bribery charges last year.

The move by the Public Ministry, which asked the federal police to carry out the investigation, is thought to be the first time that Mr. da Silva has been directly investigated in connection to the scheme, called the mensalão, or big monthly allowance, for the regular payments that some lawmakers received. The scandal emerged in 2005, during Mr. da Silva’s first term as president. At 67, he remains a towering figure in Brazilian politics.

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Calls for an investigation into Brazil’s ex-leader

December 13, 2012

Bradley Brooks – AP, 12/13/2012

Pressure is growing for prosecutors to open an investigation into popular former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva amid new accusations he knew about a cash-for-votes in Congress scheme that has seen convictions of 25 people, including his one-time chief of staff.

Silva, who left office in 2010 with an 87 percent approval rating and was once called “the most popular politician on Earth” by President Barack Obama, has so far dodged accusations against him. He denies any wrongdoing in what is seen as the biggest corruption case in Brazil’s history.

But now newspaper editorials, opposition politicians and some average Brazilian voters are saying they want to see the Attorney General’s Office order an investigation into allegations made by a top figure in the corruption case that Silva approved of the scheme and used cash from it while in office.

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Will Brazil’s ‘mensalao’ corruption trial bring change?

December 7, 2012

Joao Fellet, Alessandra Correa – BBC Brasil, 12/07/2012

When, four months ago, Brazil’s Supreme Court began to judge one of the largest political scandals in the country’s recent history, many wondered if the trial could really deliver a decisive blow against corruption.

As the case approaches its end, a total of 25 out of 37 defendants have been convicted, some of them key political figures.

There is still room for those who were convicted to appeal, but few think the court will change its ruling and absolve them.

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Brazil faces a new corruption scandal

November 30, 2012

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 11/30/2012

Even as President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil has moved energetically to stamp out corruption in her government, a new scandal is surging to the fore, centered on charges of influence peddling by an aide to the popular former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The latest revelations have put the governing Workers Party on the defensive yet again, as investigators expose a bribery scheme across several high echelons of government.

The scheme largely involved selling falsified public documents needed for transportation projects, and it extended into the attorney general’s office, the Education Ministry and the regulatory agencies for civil aviation and ports, according to the federal police, which carried out raids of government offices here in São Paulo and in the capital, Brasília, in recent days.

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New Corruption Charges Hit Brazil’s Ruling Party

November 28, 2012

John Lyons – The Wall Street Journal, 11/28/2012

In Brazil, fresh corruption charges are threatening to shake the Workers Party of President Dilma Rousseff anew, even as judges are doling out jail terms in a previous embezzlement scandal that brought down senior party officials and tarred the legacy of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

On Wednesday, the senate said it would hold hearings into the new allegations on an undetermined date and call the country’s justice minister and attorney general to testify. The two aren’t suspected of wrongdoing.

So far, Federal Police have charged a group of officials, including a one-time aide to Mr. da Silva, in a cash-for-influence scheme that appears to have reached into numerous government agencies. The aide, Rosemary Noronha, was appointed presidential chief of staff for Sao Paulo by Mr. da Silva and held that position until she was fired on Saturday after the charges against her were unveiled.

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Brazil could break the mold in anti-graft battle

August 9, 2012

Andres Oppenheimer – The Miami Herald, 08/08/2012

You have to give credit to Brazil for what it’s doing to combat corruption and solve the worst political scandal in the country’s recent history.

It’s not unusual for Latin American countries to prosecute politicians for real or imagined corrupt practices: in fact, most new governments go after their political rivals from preceding governments as soon as they can. But Brazil is doing something much more noteworthy: it is prosecuting prominent leaders of the ruling party.

Thirty-eight top officials and allies of President Dilma Rousseff and former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva’s Workers Party, including former Lula da Silva all-powerful chief of staff Jose Dirceu, are being tried before Brazil’s Supreme Court for diverting public funds to buy votes in Congress between 2002 and 2005.

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Corruption weighs on Brazilian politics

December 20, 2011

Luis Henrique Vieira – Latin America News Dispatch, 12/19/2011

It’s no news to the international community that Brazil struggles with corruption. Early this month, Brazilian President Dilma Roussef fired her sixth minister over corruption charges. There are two more accused ministers on the line who may be fired after the new year.

The worst punishment top politicians can receive in Brazil is to be fired from an important post. They are often prosecuted, but Brazilian justice is so slow that the statute of limitations for most of the cases expires. A few politicians are taking anti-corruption stances, but participation in demonstrations is not yet significant.  “We need an ‘Operation Clean Hands’ in Brazil as soon as possible,” Senator Pedro Simon of the state of Rio Grande do Sul has said.

In a movement led by the Brazilian Association of Lawyers to promote political demonstrations against corruption in Brazil’s major capitals, Simon and Senator Jarbas Vasconcelos from the state of Pernambuco have failed to ignite public anger against corrupt politicians. Most of the demonstrations have not gathered more than a few hundred people.

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