What has been happening to Brazil goes beyond a mere economic recession or a moral downfall, it has actually become, for a few years now, a crisis of representation.
Indignation, frustration, hopelessness. These are a few words to describe how Brazilians are feeling in front of what has been known as the largest corruption and money laundering investigation the nation has ever experienced. It is important to highlight, though, that the words above serve not as a criticism to the investigation itself and the work it has been executing, but to the dirt it has been bringing to light: each new scandal brought up by the Lava Jato Operation feels like a stab right through the people’s heart.
The strong links between the Planalto — equivalent to the White House — and the Congress with important company owners and businessmen in a scheme of bribery and overpriced billionaire contracts feels more like a betrayal to the public opinion. Moreover, there is a president impeached, the vice who took its place accused of corruption, and an ex-president who could possibly win the next elections in 2018 condemned recently for money laundering, etc.
Below you will get to know about some of the high spots of this widespread crisis which has lead Brazil to be on some of the world’s main information vehicles lately.
Dilma Rousseff impeached
It has been almost a year now since Brazil’s first female president was impeached on the charge of Fiscal pedaling — a governmental creative accounting technique involving the use of state-owned banks to front funds required for paying general government obligations without officially declaring a loan. Thus hiding these transfers from public scrutiny and delaying repayment from the Treasury to these banks, then implying a positive balance sheet that does not really exist.
In a process characterized by many as a coup, as the Fiscal pedaling had also been committed by other governments and did not imply punishment, Rousseff’s impeachment divided the nation as never before, with some stating it was rather a political move by an opposition who wanted the president away from power.
However, if there was one thing the whole nation agreed with was the lack of seriousness and immaturity with which the Congress treated the subject. In a session decisive for the country’s future, congressmen voted for Dilma’s impeachment process to go on with posters, flags, and shouts. At the microphone, the parliamentarians dedicated their vows to their States, their families, to the evangelicals, to God, and so on. From “to my daughter about to be born” to a confetti cannon being shot, those chosen to represent the Brazilian people gave a show similar to a circus.
The things are, however, that according to data prepared for the Los Angeles Times by the local organization Transparencia Brasil, of 65 members on the impeachment committee in the Senate, 37 faced charges of corruption or other serious crimes. That is, in the commission judging if Rousseff committed a crime, about 60% were under suspicion of having done the same. Moreover, of the 513 members of the Lower House in Congress, 303 face charges or are being investigated for serious crimes. In the Senate, the same goes for 49 of 81 members.
Ironically, Eduardo Cunha, then president of the Lower House in Congress, sentenced on March 30, 2017, under the Lava Jato Operation, by Judge Sérgio Moro, to 15 years and 4 months of imprisonment for crimes of passive corruption, money laundering and evasion of foreign exchange, and one of the greatest oppositions of Dilma Rousseff, before initiating the commission which later decided that Dilma’s impeachment process would go on said the exact following words: “May God have mercy upon this nation. I vote yes”.
The new president Michel Temer’s scandal
Rousseff then was replaced by her vice, Michel Temer, who now faces a process which could lead to his imprisonment due to the plea bargaining of executives from JBS —
a large meat processing company in the world and the target of five operations of the Federal Police, which investigate millionaire bribes to public agents.
Temer has lost popularity and legitimacy by being accused of engaging directly in a corruption scandal denounced by JBS executives in mid-May. After dismissing the idea of a resignation, Temer and his defense sought to delegitimize the evidence against him, especially an audio recorded by the Executive Joesley Batista in a secret meeting with the president in March — audio which Temer’s defense claims to have been edited, which in turn was denied by the Federal Police.
With these and other indications in hand, the Prosecutor General of the Republic Rodrigo Janot filed a formal complaint against the president to the Federal Supreme Court, an action unheard of since the 1988 Constitution. In the complaint, Janot accuses Temer of committing the crime of passive corruption — he would be the final recipient of the money handed over by a JBS executive to Congressman Rodrigo Rocha Loures. Temer indicated Loures to Joesley like the man of his confidence, as recorded in the audio released in May.
However, the process against the President of the Republic in a case of common crimes in the Supreme Court does not depend only on the Supreme Court. Even before the Court starts investigations, the Lower House in Congress must authorize the start of the proceedings, with a majority of at least two-thirds of the house. Yes, the same Lower House who put Temer in power during the “circus”.
The result: 40 deputies against 25 voted in favor of the investigation on Temer not to continue after last-minute exchanges of members of the commission, promoted by parties allied with the president.
Ex-president Lula’s condemnation
Once the most popular president in Brazil’s recent history, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, mostly known as simply Lula, has been sentenced to nine years and six months in prison after being found guilty on corruption and money-laundering charges.
The president held real chances of winning the 2018 elections and divides opinions across the country in favor of his figure and against it. Now, for many, his condemnation seems to be the end of all hope. Born into poverty in the country’s arid North-East, uneducated, Union leader, Lula captivated the workers and the humble people. His condemnation strengthens, even more, the stigma on politics in Brazil: that politics contaminate even the most honest individuals.
A Worrying Representativeness Crisis
As well described in an article by Jonathan Watts in The Guardian for those who want extra stuff to deepen in the subject of Brazil’s corruption operation, “What began as an investigation into money laundering quickly turned into something much greater, uncovering a vast and intricate web of political and corporate racketeering”. The Lava Jato Operation, or Car Wash Operation (see article “Today’s Brazil: Political, Economic And Moral Downfall” on the Pavlovic Today), has even become a movie (see a trailer here) and might become a series, apart from being prized the Anti-Corruption Award 2016 by the Transparency International.
Brazil’s political situation has also been compared to the series “House of Cards”, with declarations in Portuguese from the series’ official profile on Twitter stating things like “It is hard to compete”. They even created a quiz named “Did it happen in Brazil or House of Cards?”.
It might sound funny, but actually, it mostly reinforces among Brazilians the feeling of emptiness we are witnessing when it regards to representativeness. Those who we chose to supposedly act on our behalfs are either under investigation or being condemned, with each time a new scandal being brought up as the Operation digs deeper.
Just like a pain which remains there and refuses to leave, Brazilians are slowly learning how to live with the bitterness of corruption. It seems as if we got used to it, and that is extremely dangerous. Corruption is not normal, it is an evil full of roots, and the good thing is that millennials are starting each time more to be concerned about it.
The problem is: who to vote for when 2018 comes? There are no options available as far as we can think. Politicians have upset us enough. Another dangerous thing: populism. Especially now, people are fragile and vulnerable to every small voice full of illusions. The risks for extremism to rise, as happened worldwide lately, are huge. The United States went through that, France and United Kingdom. Now raises the concern for Brazil.
There is even a candidate very popular among social media called Jair Bolsonaro, who appears at second in recent polls — behind only of Lula, whom if legal resources don’t work, will be not allowed to run in 2018.
Ex-army captain Jair Bolsonaro, like Trump, is a profuse user of social media who reject political correctness firmly and has a knack for controversial statements that have made him as much loved as he is hated. Bolsonaro is either acclaimed or criticized for his opposition to same-sex marriage and racial quotas in universities, apart from his burning hatred for communism.
In any case, caution is needed, and the hope for a change in 2018 is required. May the vote be the people’s strongest defense against a bunch of dishonest and distorted men.