While the nation mourns the 71 deaths from the air crash involving the Chapecoense soccer team, parliamentarians in Brazil quietly approve measures that favor impunity and corruption.
Former president of the Republic was impeached over the crime of fiscal responsibility, former president of the Chamber of Deputies with legitimacy revoked over money laundering denunciations,and current Senate president became a defendant investigated for public money misappropriation, dozens of senators and deputies accused, in addition to hundreds of businessmen and heads of state-owned companies imprisoned for kickbacks receiving and corruption.
This is the political scenario characterizing today’s Brazil: scandals after scandals, an atmosphere of distrust by voters towards parliamentarians, and the fear among politicians of the consequences that a recent plea bargaining must bring.
The operation against the powerful ones
And in the midst of the chaotic situation, an initiative by the Brazilian Federal Police has acted in a fundamental way so that irregularities discoveries could come to light, and which recently received the anti-corruption award from the Transparency International NGO ― the so called Car Wash Operation (Operação Lava Jato).
According to the NGO, the operation began as a local money laundering investigation, evolving and then becoming the largest corruption investigation in Brazil, unraveling one of the world’s largest corruption scandals, investigating, prosecuting and obtaining heavy penalties against some of the most powerful members of Brazil’s political and economic elite.
So far, 240 denunciations have been made, with 118 convictions totalizing 1,2 thousand years of prison sentences, what includes upper echelon politicians, and businessmen once considered untouchable. And numbers tend to increase.
A plea bargaining, dubbed “End of the World Plea“, was signed this week by construction company Odebrecht and Car Wash prosecutors, which could compromise more than 200 politicians, public officials, business owners and executives. Odebrecht is the largest contractor in the country accused of being the leader of a cartel of contractors who participated in a money misappropriation scheme from a Brazilian state oil company, Petrobras. The scheme, which lasted for at least 10 years, involved heads of the state-owned company, large contractors and politicians, who may have embezzled more than $10 billion from public coffers, as well as a decline in the company’s shares and prosecutions by foreign investors.
The cowardly maneuver that favors impunity in Brazil
In the face of the whole situation of filth and demoralization, the Public Prosecutor’s Office sent to Congress a package containing ten anti-corruption measures, supported by the signature of two million voters, and considered essential in the fight against corruption. However, in the dead of night on November 30th, deputies ― taking advantage of the national mourning for the fall of the airplane which carried the Chapecoense soccer team, and which caused 71 deaths ― disfigured the package presented, voting amendments and overthrowing several important points of the proposal.
The deputies overturned the criminalization of illicit enrichment and the reward for anyone reporting corruption crimes. Out of ten measures, only two have been fully kept. Furthermore, there has been included and approved the “Abuse of Authority Law”, which weakens the authority of public prosecutors and creates a personal risk for those agents to continue any investigation on powerful parliamentarians, politicians and businessmen.
According to prosecutors, “We are civil servants, we have a career and we will no longer be protected by law. If we accuse, we can be charged. The approved tool is a measure to intimidate the prosecution and the Judiciary under the malignant guise of crimes of abuse of authority.” Besides, believe me if you want, but the law in question was proposed by a deputy investigated by the Federal Supreme Court for corruption.
The deep-rooted evil of corruption
Corruption is the worst kind of betrayal a governor can commit toward his people; it is the cruellest indirect crime against humanity, the one which kills the most, for its victims are thousands ― the children who are starving because the money for school lunch has been embezzled so to afford the businessman’s luxury dinner. The families disrupted by reasons of drugs and crimes due to the lack of resources for social and educational projects, along with the parents who cannot find a job because the money for employment investment was used for the construction of a swimming pool in the politician’s mansion.
Sometimes I wonder how can someone be so selfish and cruel as to worry about their own enrichment, and forget about the thousands of other people struggling just to have something to eat. How can someone who steals money from workers’ taxes be able to live with their own conscience? How can this individual sleep at night in his comfortable bed and in his safe house knowing that by his actions thousands of other people live without security, without food, without hope?
Corruption occurs when personal interests surpass collective interests and laws. And that goes from day-to-day acts, to the big money misappropriation schemes.
Now, if we want to demand from our politicians a more ethical and correct position, why don’t we act according to what we claim for? In fact, a country’s government is the reflection of its people and its culture. The politicians who occupy those seats in the public bodies were chosen by none other than ourselves.
When we try to gain advantage over any situation, when we commit tax evasion, when we cut in line, when we omit ourselves in face of a change we earned more than we were supposed to, when we respect the law for fear rather than by an ethical issue we are all contributing to politicians committing illicit acts.
Let us each do our part, complying with the laws and acting properly to our duties as citizens, and exercising our democratic right to demand from our politicians. This way, we will be turning our countries into places where justice and ethics truly prevail.