The Dirty Business with the Car Wash

The fifth largest country in the world is called a defective democracy. Because what is happening these days, just revealed the level of corruption that had been taken place in the last 20 years in this South American country. Yesterday was the sad climax of the corruption scandal, which has started in March 2014 as “Operação Lava Jato” (Operation car wash) by the Polícia Federal and led to the illegal arrest of the 35th Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, named Lula.

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Last night thousands of Brazilians went to the streets in 18 states to protest against the ex-president Lula and his official successor Dilma Rousseff. Tires were burned, demonstrators were even restrained with tear gas in the capital Brasilia. But this won’t be the end of the conflict. Because after the release of a telephone call between Lula and Dilma feelings whipped up and it’s probably just a matter of time before the lack of confidence in politics will end in an escalation. The telephone call was about Dilma’s idea that the arrested ex-president should become the head of her cabinet. The 68-year-old stated as a reason that she needs her predecessor as a consultant in the severe economic crisis which dominates the Brazilian economy since years. But a ministerial official would make Lula immune to any prosecution. That means that he can’t be prosecuted for his alleged deceptive practices in the corruption scandal, which took place from 2004 to 2012. And that even shrinks more the already low trust of many Brazilians in their political and judicial system. This one could see yesterday. Residents loudly protested against Dilma’s speech in the late evening hours by beating with a spoon on their pans and turning lights on and off. Two established signs of political protest. Other Brazilians, predominantly white, upper class residents, went to the streets and vented their displeasure with “Adeus, Lula” constant calling.

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One of the main actors in the corruption scandal is the “doleiro” Alberto Youssef, who even claims that Dilma was involved in money laundering. She was from 2003 to 2010 the chairman of the board of the Brazilian oil company Petróleo Brasileiro S.A., better known as Petrobras. Youssef acted as intermediary for this concern and did in its order illegal payments to various building contractors, ministers and even MPs. Dilma and Lula have known about it, says Youssef. Popularity ratings confirm that many Brazilians believe in the complicity of the President. Could Dilma still prevail the presidency over the conservative Aécio Neves with a narrow majority in 2014, her popular ratings are now at only 10 percent. Many Brazilians even demand an impeachment, an ouster which was enforced effectively once in the history of the South American country against the President Fernando Collor de Mello. However, an enmeshment couldn’t be proved until now by the Polícia Federal.

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The beginning of probably one of the biggest corruption scandal in Brazil’s history was rather unspectacular. A hint from the CEO of the manufacturing company Dunel Indústria e Comércio, Hermes Magnus, was the starting point of the Polícia Federal’s investigation against the “Posto da Torre”, a gas station in Brasilia. Its owners were well-known politicians such as José Dirceu. Because it’s allowed to have another job besides the ministerial office, at first glance there is no problem. But a connection to money launderer Youssef could be proved. He wasn’t just a co-owner of the gas station, but also settled illegal payments on behalf of the former president of Petrobras, Paulo Roberto Costa, to politicians, MPs and building contractors. The grants aggregates to more than 7.3 billion euros. Petrobras played a key role. The oil company systematically placed overpriced contracts in exchange to bribe money to Brazil’s largest construction companies, including Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa, OAS, Andrade Gutierrez and Queiroz Galvão, from 2004 to 2012. The additional income was forwarded to prominent MPs, ministers and managers and transferred to overseas accounts. In addition, seats in the cabinet and in the boards of the corporations as well as election campaigns were purchased with bribe money. Even the election of Dilma in 2010 is suspected to have been financed with illegal money. The campaign manager of Lula and Dilma just as 38 Congress members, including the President of the Senate, are in custody now. Particularly, the governing party Partido dos Trabalhadores and two other opposition parties are in the focus of the investigation.

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Leading head of the anti-corruption investigation is the Circuit Judge Sérgio Moro. He is criticized by his opponents to do a selective evidence and pleads in mitigation for some dubious confessions. And indeed corruption allegations against the president of the opposition party, the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB), Aécio Neves, weren’t investigated. But his enmeshment in the Petrobras scandal is just a ridiculous gaffe compared to the shelved corruption affairs in which he even was the head of the criminal activity: the tax scandal Banestado (EUR 28.8 billion loss) and the bribe money affair in the metro project in São Paulo (10 billion euros of damage). Already four key witnesses in the Lava Jato investigations have testified against Aécio but the chief prosecutor Rodrigo Janot has neither brought a charge against him nor started investigations. And even more outrageous is the fact that Moros wife Rosângela Wolff de Quadros Moro works as a legal advisor for the PSDB. And his father was one founder of the Social Democratics, the political origin of this party. And if this wasn’t enough strange coincidence: Rosângela’s law office named Zucolotto Associados advocates multinational oil companies, including helix, whose parent company Shell is interested in the privatization of Petrobras.

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In contrast to the cover-up of the deceptive practices of the opposition parties and -politicians the actions of the governing party are downright persecuted in the Brazilian media as a witch hunt. The center of this mudslinging represent Dilma and Lula, which secretly wiretapped and published phone call totally turned the political atmospheric picture. More demonstrations have been announced for the coming days. The proclamation came – how could it be otherwise – from Aécio and his opposition supporter which were mainly elected by the white, upper-class Brazilians. These are exactly those people who vehemently oppose Dilma and Lula and declare null and void Lula’s achievements for the social system considering the corruption.

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Four months before the Summer Olympics’ opening, Brazil is on the edge of an internal political escalation that will probably ruin the economy sooner or later. Today’s decision of the Brazilian Administrative Court could ease the tension because the judges decided that Lula isn’t allowed to get a ministerial office due to the investigations.

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