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.
Joaquim Falcão – Folha de S. Paulo, 7/31/2015
Major investigations on corruption are changing Brazil’s justice system for the better.
A new, pragmatic generation of judges, prosecutors and police investigators put facts above doctrine. Brazil’s criminal Justice will not be the same after the Mensalão scandal – a congressional vote buying scheme tried in the country’s Supreme Court in 2012 – and the ongoing Lava Jato operation on massive fraud committed against state oil giant Petrobras. The unprecedented sentencing to jail terms of previously powerful government officials and members of Congress, in the Mensalão case, has created expectations and voters pressure for outcomes in the more serious Petrolão scandal.
Changes have occurred both in the practice of law by judges, prosecutors, investigators and lawyers, as well as in the doctrines and the courts, reflecting a generational change among Brazilian federal judges, prosecutors, and investigators. They are younger and have joined the judicial system at an earlier stage of their lives. They grew up in era of era of democracy and freedom of the press, decadence of traditional political parties and a society increasingly indignant about private appropriation of public goods. They are prone to protect the public’s interest and have no fear to carry out their constitutional duties.
Read original article in Portuguese here
Michael Smith, Sabrina Valle, Blake Schmidt – BloombergBusiness, 05/08/2015
In mid-2013, Brazilian federal police investigator Erika Mialik Marena noticed something strange.
Alberto Youssef, suspected of running an illicit black-market bank for the rich, had paid 250,000 reais (about $125,000 at the time) for a Land Rover. The black Evoque SUV ended up as a gift for Paulo Roberto Costa, formerly a division manager at Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras. “We were investigating a money-laundering case, and Petrobras wasn’t our target at all,” says Marena. “Paulo was just another client of his. So we started to ask, ‘Why is he getting an expensive car from a money launderer? Who is that guy?’”
Marena had spent the previous decade building cases against money launderers, and Youssef had been a perennial target. He’d been arrested at least nine times for using private jets, armored cars, clandestine pickups by bagmen, and a web of front companies to move illicit cash. But Youssef had been spared serious jail time by testifying repeatedly against other doleiros, Brazilian slang for specialists in laundering unreported cash.
Shannon Sims – OZY, 7/25/2014
A chance encounter sometimes makes history.
Like when lawyer Ricardo Lewandowski’s mom invited his good childhood friend Laerte Demarchi to lunch in the early 1990s.
“I told her I already had plans, that I was meeting a union organizer at my dad’s restaurant,” Demarchi recalls. “She said to bring him over, too.”
“He came to say goodbye, given that he will retire next month,” Renan Calheiros told reporters after a private meeting with the jurist. “It was a surprise and we’re very sorry, since he’s one of the best models the country has,” the senator added.
The chief justice met earlier Thursday with President Dilma Rousseff to inform her of his decision.
Barbosa, 59, was the first black jurist to head Brazil’s Supreme Court, elected by his 10 fellow justices in October 2012.
Joe Leahy – The Financial Times, 2/18/2014
The period before Brazil’s annual carnival in late February is normally short of news. But this month, the nation’s media has been buzzing with the case of a man who fled the country after being convicted in Brazil’s biggest corruption case.
Henrique Pizzolato, the former marketing director of Banco do Brasil, the state-controlled bank, was allegedly found living in his nephew’s apartment in Maranello, Italy, by Italian police and is facing possible extradition.
He disappeared from Brazil last year after being sentenced to more than 12 years jail for his role in the Mensalão case, in which some of the nation’s most senior politicians were found guilty of vote-buying in Congress using public money.
Matthew Taylor, Current History: A Journal of Contemporary Affairs 1/30/2014
Brazil is in a funk. The past year has brought violent protests, a new wave of corruption scandals, and wariness about the country’s economic future. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was known for his cheerful, tireless repetition of the message that “never before in the history of this country” had Brazil accomplished so much. The contrast with his handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, was epitomized at the final match of the Confederations Cup, a major soccer tournament in June 2013, when Rousseff visibly stiffened as the crowd loudly booed her.
Even the World Cup, which galvanized the public into euphoric outpourings of national pride when seven years ago Brazil was chosen to host the 2014 championship, is now a source of bitter recriminations over misspent national treasure. Brazilians are on pins and needles in anticipation of the June 12 opening game, and many are apprehensive about a variety of potential embarrassments, such as incomplete stadiums and airports, public protests, and criminal violence. For the first time, the national team seems the least of people’s worries.
Even so, in contrast to other moments of recent Brazilian history when dreams of greatness crashed to earth—such as the economic “miracle” of the 1970s or the 1992 impeachment of the first directly elected president, Fernando Collor de Mello—a sober and reflexive realism abounds in today’s popular zeitgeist. Rather than despair, the prevailing sense is that Brazil is doing better and should continue to improve, propelled by the economic conquests, social gains, and institutional reforms produced by a generation of democracy. Although the Rousseff administration seems to be suffering an inordinate spate of bad news, Dilma (as she is called by most Brazilians) remains at the top of the polls for the October elections, with a better-than even chance of reelection.
Matthew Taylor is Assistance Professor at the School of International Service at American University