A Final Defense of Dilma Rousseff

Brian Winter – Americas Quarterly, 05/11/2016

Back in March 2014, when the Petrobras scandal was just getting started, some of President Dilma Rousseff’s top aides saw a golden opportunity to kill the investigation – or at least badly wound it.

Márcio Anselmo, the Federal Police deputy in charge of the probe, had given an interview (which can be seen here) to Jornal Nacional, Brazil’s most-watched news program. On-camera and on-the-record, Anselmo and others laid out the main points of the case, which would soon become notorious: A former Petrobras board member who had accepted a Land Rover as a bribe, the money launderer whose plea-bargain testimony would prove key, and the sordid connections with some of the country’s biggest construction companies.

Everyone in Brasília knew the stakes were huge. The election was just six months away, and Rousseff was facing a tight race. But some ministers were convinced the TV interview was actually a blessing in disguise. They believed Anselmo had broken a dictatorship-era statute that, they argued, prohibited Federal Police officials from discussing cases in progress with the media. Fire him, they urged Rousseff. Fire him now and attack the investigators for using the media to selectively leak information damaging to the government.

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