Andrew Jacobs – The New York Times, 05/01/2016
BRASÍLIA — They were idealists, united in the struggle against Brazil’s military dictators.
As democracy flourished, so did their careers. One of them, Paulo Ziulkoski, became the leader of an association of Brazilian cities. The other, Dilma Rousseff, rose even higher, becoming the president of Latin America’s largest country.
But their friendship soon fell apart. During a contentious meeting with the nation’s mayors in 2012, Ms. Rousseff rejected pleas for a share of Brazil’s soaring oil revenues. After the room erupted in jeers, Mr. Ziulkoski said, she stormed up to him, poked a finger in his face and humiliated him with a string of expletives.
Nick Miroff and Dom Phillips – Washington Post, 04/15/2016
BRASILIA — It was called the “Brazil model,” or simply “the Lula model,” back when this country’s economy was roaring and its president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was a superstar of the developing world.
By balancing support for big business with big social-welfare programs, the union boss turned statesman presided over an era of growth that lifted tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. Lula’s presidency cut a new template for a Latin American left that had long insisted class struggle and revolution were the only road to fairness. The coronation came when Brazil was chosen to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, confirming its rise as a global power.
Now Brazil is limping to the Games. Its economy is facing its worst crisis since the 1930s. A Zika virus epidemic rages. And on Sunday, lawmakers will vote on whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s hand-picked successor. Impeachment appears increasingly likely.
Brian Winter – Americas Quarterly, 04/06/2016
When Argentina’s economy collapsed in late 2001, everybody was absolutely sure whose fault it was. Aloof, hermetic and increasingly prone to slurring his words in public, President Fernando de la Rúa had managed to trash the government’s fiscal accounts in just two years in power. Steakhouses and nightclubs were empty, unemployment was nearing 20 percent and cash was so scarce that much of the economy reverted to the barter system – trading haircuts for groceries, family heirlooms for rent. As Christmas approached, looting broke out at supermarkets and anti-government protests turned violent. Finally, on the evening of December 20, De la Rúa hand-wrote a resignation letter, muttered something to his secretary about collecting the soaps from his private bathroom, climbed the stairs to the palace roof and flew away in a helicopter.
Perfect, Argentines said. Now we can get out of this mess. But the next president was so overwhelmed by the challenge that he quit too, setting off a chain reaction that would ultimately see five different presidents in only two weeks. Appalled, Argentine protesters adopted a new slogan – ¡Que se vayan todos! or “They all must go!” Banging pots and pans, millions took to the streets to demand that the entire political class – the president, Congress, everybody – step aside to allow for a top-to-bottom renewal.
Fast-forward 15 years, and Brazil is now having a similar moment. The economy is not as bad as Argentina’s was, and nobody has yet boarded any helicopters. But the Brazilian public appears to be arriving at the same conclusion – that nobody currently on the political stage is competent or clean enough to address the enormous crises facing the country.
Reed Johnson and Luciana Magalhaes – Wall Street Journal, 04/01/2016
SÃO PAULO—Many Brazilians regard Judge Sergio Moro as a folk hero for his aggressive investigation of a giant corruption scandal implicating dozens of politicians and businessmen. But this week, Brazil’s Supreme Court dealt Mr. Moro a symbolic if incremental setback, telling him to hold off in his pursuit of his highest-profile target, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The cat-and-mouse contest between Mr. Moro and Mr. da Silva has riveted Brazilians since March 4, when the judge issued a warrant allowing federal police to detain the former president for questioning about his alleged role in the multiyear bid-rigging-and-bribery scheme surrounding state oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras.
Tensions escalated days later when President Dilma Rousseff offered Mr. da Silva, her political mentor, a cabinet post as chief of staff. The appointment, which is still in limbo due to another judge’s ruling, would effectively shield Mr. da Silva from prosecution, under a legal provision that ministers and sitting legislators can be investigated and indicted only by the Supreme Court.
Simon Romero – New York Times, 04/04/2016
BRASÍLIA — The silver-haired senator from Brazil’s western frontier was still in his pajamas when federal police agents banged on the door of his suite at the Royal Tulip, the futuristic luxury hotel that serves as a bastion for much of Brazil’s political elite. It was 6 a.m.
The agents were armed with a secret recording that sounded like the plot for a Hollywood thriller. The senator, Delcídio do Amaral, had been caught detailing an elaborate plan for an oilman ensnared in Brazil’s spiraling graft scandal to flee the country on a private plane.
Mr. Amaral, 61, was until his arrest in Brasília that morning in late November the governing party’s most powerful leader in the Senate. He quickly sought a plea agreement, but prosecutors let him fester in prison for weeks, making a deal only after the disgraced senator provided one stunning disclosure after another that betrayed his former comrades and brought the government of President Dilma Rousseff ever closer to collapse.
The Economist- 03/26/2016
DILMA ROUSSEFF’S difficulties have been deepening for months. The massive scandal surrounding Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant of which she was once chairman, has implicated some of the people closest to her. She presides over an economy suffering its worst recession since the 1930s, largely because of mistakes she made during her first term. Her political weakness has rendered her government almost powerless in the face of rising unemployment and falling living standards. Her approval ratings are barely in double digits and millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets to chant “Fora Dilma!”, or “Dilma out!”
And yet, until now, Brazil’s president could fairly claim that the legitimacy conferred by her re-election in 2014 was intact, and that none of the allegations made against her justified her impeachment. Like the judges and police who are pursuing some of the most senior figures in her Workers’ Party (PT), she could declare with a straight face her desire to see justice done.
Now she has cast away that raiment of credibility (seearticle). On March 16th Ms Rousseff made the extraordinary decision to appoint her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to be her chief of staff. She portrayed this as a shrewd hire. Lula, as he is known to all, is a canny political operator: he could help the president survive Congress’s attempt to impeach her and perhaps even stabilise the economy. But just days before, Lula had been briefly detained for questioning at the order of Sérgio Moro, the federal judge in charge of the Petrobras investigation (dubbed lava jato, or “car wash”), who suspects that the former president profited from the bribery scheme (see Bello). Prosecutors in the state of São Paulo have accused Lula of hiding his ownership of a beach-front condominium. He denies these charges. By acquiring the rank of a government minister, Lula would have partial immunity: only the country’s supreme court could try him. In the event, a judge on the court has suspended his appointment.
Caroline Stauffer and Guillermo Parra-Bernal – Reuters, 03/22/2016
Grupo Odebrecht SA [ODBES.UL], the engineering firm at the heart of Brazil’s biggest ever graft probe, on Tuesday agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, in a move likely to send shockwaves across political parties that for years illegally siphoned money from state contracts.
Executives at Salvador, Brazil-based Odebrecht targeted by the probe, known as “Operation Car Wash,” will ask for plea bargain deals with prosecutors, a company statement said. It marked a radical shift for Odebrecht, which had previously done little to cooperate in the two-year-old probe. The company said the decision was made to help “build a better Brazil.”
The news came as the team of investigators in the probe on Tuesday uncovered systematic corruption at Odebrecht, with an office to pay bribes on work for World Cup soccer stadiums and Olympics legacy projects. Raids carried out at dawn uncovered a parallel bribery scheme that helped extract money from state-controlled oil producer Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras PETR4.SA.