This Woman Holds the Key to the Fate of Brazil

Mac Margolis – Bloomberg, 06/13/2016

Until a couple of weeks ago, not many Brazilians had heard of Eronildes Vasconcelos. Fellow parishioners in Salvador, her home town in northeast Brazil, know the churchgoing 44-year-old widowand mother of two as a junior member of the country’s growing evangelical Christian congressional caucus.

But thanks to the unlikely role she’s been called on to play in shaping the outcome of Brazil’s widening political corruption scandal, Vasconcelos has become a national celebrity of sorts. Her every hosanna now galvanizes public attention from Twitter to the Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia.

Vasconcelos — or Aunt Eron, as she prefers — is no power broker. She just happens to sit on the congressional ethics committee, where she’s wound up with the decisive vote on the fate of one of the country’s most notorious political operators, speaker of the lower house Eduardo Cunha.

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Brazil police officer, symbol of corruption crackdown, arrested

Brad Brooks – Reuters, 06/08/2016

He is a symbol of Brazil’s biggest corruption investigation – a ballyhooed battle against impunity for powerful politicians and businessmen.

But on Wednesday, federal police agent Newton Ishii sat in the same jail where he had been photographed and shown on TV escorting countless high-profile politicians and executives linked to a kickback scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA).

It is a long fall for Ishii, perhaps the first Brazilian policeman ever to be exalted in a Carnival song, sung by party-goers who wore masks bearing his likeness and dressed in his black police garb.

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Poll shows majority of Brazilians want new elections

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 06/08/2016

More than a quarter of Brazilians view interim President Michel Temer’s government negatively and a majority want new elections this year, according to a poll on Wednesday that suggested scandals and policy reversals had dented his popularity.

Temer’s government, which began on May 12 when Brazil’s Senate suspended leftist President Dilma Rousseff for breaking budget laws, received a negative rating from 28 percent of Brazilians, according to the CNT/MDA poll.

Only 11.3 percent of those questioned gave it a positive rating, while 30.2 percent found it “regular”.

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Brazil Police Raid Office of Olympic Site Building Consortium

Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 06/07/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO—Brazil’s Federal Police raided the headquarters of a consortium of companies building one of the main 2016 Olympic centers on Tuesday, fueling concerns that malfeasance may have tainted Games-related construction projects.

Investigators say they have uncovered evidence of fraud and falsification of documents related to disposal of construction waste—mainly dirt— at Rio’s Deodoro sports complex. A federal judge has also frozen 128 million reais ($37 million) in federal funding from state bank Caixa Econômica Federal to pay for the project.

The consortium building Deodoro consists of Brazilian construction giants Queiroz Galvão and OAS SA, both of which have been implicated in a massive graft scandalsurrounding state oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras. Several executives from OAS have been sentenced to up to 16 years in prison for corruption-related offenses, and the company is in bankruptcy protection. Two executives of Queiroz Galvão, which is under investigation, were temporarily arrested in late 2014.

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Facts And Fictions Behind The Pending Impeachment Of Brazil’s President Dilma

Forbes – Kenneth Rapoza, 06/06/2016

Next month is the last stand for Brazil’s Workers’ Party (PT). Some will cheer. Some will cry.Judging by polls, most are ready to move on.  The market gives her a 10% chance of beating the odds.

Suspended president Dilma Rousseff  of the Workers’ Party has 20 days to defend herself in a Senate trial that, for now, is set to begin in early July.

When that day comes, Dilma and Brazil will once again make world news. Should she stay? Should she go? Is it a coup? Is it not a coup? Yadda yadda yadda.

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Brazil’s Gold Medal for Corruption

The Editorial Board – The New York Times, 06/06/2016

Michel Temer, Brazil’s interim president, displayed poor judgment on his first day in office last month when he appointed an all-white, all-male cabinet. This understandably angered many in racially diverse Brazil.

Their outrage was compounded by the fact that seven of the new ministershad been tainted by a corruption scandal and investigation that have shaken Brazilian politics. The appointments added to the suspicion that the temporary ouster of President Dilma Rousseff last month over allegations that she resorted to unlawful budget-balancing tricks had an ulterior motive: to make the investigation go away. Earlier this year, Ms. Rousseff said that allowing the inquiry into kickbacks at Petrobras, the state oil company, to run its course would be healthy for Brazil in the long run.

Two weeks after the new interim government was seated, Romero Jucá, Mr. Temer’s planning minister, resigned after a newspaper reported on a recorded phone conversation in which Mr. Jucá appeared to endorse the dismissal of Ms. Rousseff as part of a deal among lawmakers to “protect everyone” embroiled in the scandal. That was the only way, he said, to assure that Brazil “would return to being calm.” Late last month, Fabiano Silveira, the minister of transparency, charged with fighting corruption, was forced to resign after a similarly embarrassing leak of a surreptitiously recorded conversation.

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Brazil’s Senate Begins Debate on Ousting Dilma Rousseff After Months of Turmoil

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 05/11/2016

BRASÍLIA — After months of tirades, secret maneuvering and legal appeals,Brazil’s Senate began debating on Wednesday whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, suspend her from office and put her on trial.

The debate, followed by a vote as early as Wednesday evening, is a watershed in the power struggle consuming Brazil, a country that experienced a rare stretch of stability over the last two decades as it strengthened its economy and achieved greater prominence on the world stage.

Now, those gains are unraveling. Brazil is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, huge corruption cases across the political spectrum and a bitter feud among its scandal-plagued leaders — just months before the world heads to Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Olympics.

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Corruption is not new to Brazil, so why is it threatening the presidency now?

Ryan E. Carlin, Gregory J. Love and Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo – The Washington Post, 05/05/2016

Ronald Reagan was famously called “the Teflon president” for his ability to deflect scandals that might have sunk his popularity. So why couldn’t Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff tap into this same protection?

Following the lower house’s overwhelming vote on April 17 to impeach Rousseff, Brazil’s government sits on the brink of collapse. An onslaught of corruption charges against the president and her Workers Party (PT) has emboldened her political opponents. In response to allegations of an elaborate kickback scheme that funneled bribes to politicians via the state-run oil firm, Petrobras, Brazil’s elites — including the government’s largest coalition partner, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) — and the public have abandoned Rousseff’s government. Her approval stands at a historically low 9 to 10 percent.

Media coverage of these scandals has been scathing and unrelenting. Yet high-level corruption is hardly new in Brazil. In fact, Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, also from the PT, was himself at the center of several scandals. In 2005, the expansive mensalão investigation of PT payoffs for legislative support threatened to derail his bid for reelection. And yet Lula proved to be a Teflon president and cruised to an easy victory in 2006 — and then helped his chosen successor win the presidency in 2010.

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Brazil’s Vice President, Michel Temer, won’t face inquiry over Petrobras

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 05/03/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s vice president, Michel Temer, who is preparing to take control of the country’s embattled government as early as next week, will not face an investigation over testimony implicating him in the colossal graft scandal engulfing Petrobras, the national oil company, federal investigators said Tuesday.

Rodrigo Janot, the prosecutor general, determined that the accusations against Mr. Temer were not substantial enough at this point to merit an inquiry, according to a spokeswoman for Mr. Janot’s office in the capital, Brasília. Mr. Temer, 75, has been maneuvering to replace President Dilma Rousseff if the Senate votes next week to suspend her and put her on trial.

The decision bolsters Mr. Temer’s standing at a critical juncture when powerful figures across Brazil’s political class are battling accusations of corruption and abuse of power, including various top allies that Mr. Temer is considering for cabinet posts as well as officials in Ms. Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party.

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Populist policies let Brazil’s tomorrow slip away

Eduardo Porter – The New York Times, 05/03/3016

Not too long ago, Brazilians might have been counted as the most optimistic people in the world. From 2008 to 2013, as the United States and Europe grappled with the aftermath of a crisis wrought by blind trust in unfettered finance, Brazil’s income per person grew 12 percent after inflation. Wages soared. The poverty rate plummeted. Even income inequality narrowed.

Brazil remained only a high-middle-income country, in the technospeak of the International Monetary Fund. But for the first time in forever, the eternal “country of tomorrow,” as Brazilians often ruefully described their nation, saw itself instead as a rampant member of the emerging cohort ofBRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) — maybe even closer than China to making the jump into the ranks of the world’s richest nations.

And then it didn’t happen.

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