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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In her first year, Brazil President Dilma Rousseff cleans house

December 14, 2011

Juan Forero –  The Washington Post, 12/14/2011

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff's removal of scandal-tainted cabinet ministers shows her political independence, analysts say. Photo Credit: Eraldo Peres/AP

Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute, gives insight on President Dilma’s first year in office. 

When Brazilian Labor Minister Carlos Lupi was scrambling to save his job after being accused of corruption earlier this year, he was defiant at first, saying that “only a bullet” would force him from office.

Then he tried sweet-talking his way out of trouble, apologizing to Brazil’s irritated president, Dilma Rousseff, and assuring her in public comments, “I love you.”

But Rousseff, the country’s first female president and a no-nonsense technocrat who is about to complete her first year on the job, has shown little patience for any whiff of corruption in a cabinet that includes several holdovers from the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. So last week, Lupi became the sixth scandal-tainted member of her cabinet to be ousted — the latest in a string of departures that the president has signaled may continue.

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Brazilians march against corruption to mark independence day

September 7, 2011

Greg Michener – Christian Science Monitor, 09/07/2011

Despite a rash of recent corruption scandals in Brazil, bright spots are appearing, including today’s ‘March Against Corruption’ in support of President Rousseff’s efforts to clean up the capital.

The performance of Brazil’s Congress, and particularly the governing coalition, makes one wonder whether the nation’s deliberative process should be moved somewhere else – far away from the alleged ‘representatives of the people.’

Congress is where the government’s coalition ‘allies’ select their robber baron cabinet ministers, the same ones that have been resigning one after the next in the wake of President Dilma Rousseff’s spring cleaning. Yet despite the rash of corruption scandals over the past months, and one particularly egregious ‘secret vote’ that recently absolved a deputy of grand corruption charges, a few bright spots have begun to appear. These include a parliamentary movement against corruption and a September 7 “March Against Corruption” in support of President Rousseff’s efforts to purge Brasilia.

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Dilma tries to drain the swamp

August 22, 2011

The Economist – From the print edition, 08/20/2011

As another minister goes, Brazil’s president may find that the price of trying to clean up politics involves forgoing reforms the country needs

SHE arrived in the presidential palace with a reputation as a no-nonsense manager, but one who had never previously held elected office. Almost eight months into her term as Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff has found herself sucked into the political swamp that is Brasília. She has reacted firmly to corruption scandals, and is striving to trim budget pork and to fill senior government jobs on merit rather than through political connections. Her reward has been signs of mutiny in her coalition. With the world economy deteriorating, whether Ms Rousseff can impose her authority on her allies matters a lot for Brazil’s prospects.

In June the president dawdled before dispensing with Antonio Palocci, her chief of staff, after allegations of past influence-peddling had made his position untenable. Since then she has been quick to nip any scandal in the bud. When Veja, a weekly magazine, published evidence of systematic overbilling on contracts at the transport ministry, the president fired dozens of officials, including the minister. Next Veja reported on similar overpayments and kickbacks at the agriculture ministry. The number two at the ministry was sacked; on August 17th the minister, Wagner Rossi, a sidekick of the vice-president, Michel Temer, resigned. This month police arrested more than 30 officials in the tourism ministry, including the deputy minister, on suspicion of stealing public money intended for training hotel staff ahead of the 2014 football World Cup. In the midst of all this the president sacked the defence minister after he insulted some of her closest aides in an interview.

In all this Ms Rousseff is slowly putting her own stamp on a government that she inherited from her predecessor and political mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. But the multiple scandals are straining her ramshackle coalition. This consists of over a dozen parties, ranging from communist to right-wing populist, that between them give her the nominal support of around three-quarters of Congress. The main interest of some of the coalition’s smaller members is not ideology but the extraction of jobs and money—for personal gain or party financing—from government. They are annoyed that Ms Rousseff has tried to rewrite the rules of the game.

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