The move to impeach Dilma Rousseff, the President of Brazil, has its roots in the battle to privatize the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras and to divide up the spoils of the pre-salt mega-oil field among the major oil companies. There are other elements besides this one, but that is key factor. The motive is one of gain.
The campaign of impeachment took root less than a hundred days into her second term in office. In that election she won a majority of just over 51% of the vote, but her hands were tied by the outcome of the election, where the balance of power in Congress swung in favour of her coalition partner party, the PMDB. This party then won the vote within Congress for the Leader of the House, Eduardo Cunha, and the Leader of the Senate, Renan Calheiros.
This supposed ally in government then turned on Dilma Rousseff, alleging impropriety in her administration, kicking off the campaign for her impeachment.
These allegations against her managed to bite recently with the setting up of a Commission of Impeachment, with the Lower House voting for impeachment on April 17th.
The fight has become desperate because she has passed a law severely restricting election campaign finance by companies, and because of the investigations into the handing out of bribes by two state owned companies Furnas and Petrobras, which have long financed campaigns by her two great rival parties, the PSDB and the PMDB.
The operation to investigate the Petrobras scandal is called Lava Jato (Car Wash), a corruption scheme set up in 1997, during the Presidential term of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and despite all the noise and frenzied activity, has been criticised by lawyers for its heavy-handed use of coercive questioning, preventive detention without conviction and rewarding of judicial agreements in exchange for lighter sentences to name names at the expense of impartiality. Judges and legal experts have said the operation led by Judge Moro is at times simply illegal and often biased to implicate the PT project, which for the last 12 years has made many advances against the neo-liberal project that has become the unquestioned norm in the big media and private financial interests.
Recently Judge Moro, released telephone intercepts of conversations of ex-President Lula and President Dilma in an attempt to forestall Lula’s appointment to a chief of cabinet post in Moro’s campaign to implicate these two in the corruption scandal. Conversations were released directly to the Globo quasi-monopoly media conglomerate, knowing this would have a friendly reception and wide diffusion, even of phone intercepts made after he had withdrawn the warrant. As a result, the Supreme Court Judge, Gilmar Mendes, suspended the appointment by Dilma of Lula to the cabinet office minister to organise the government’s support basis in Congress.
Allegations that Lula was appointed as a cabinet minister recently to avoid criminal investigation by lower courts fail to consider his skill as a negotiator as being the reason for his posting. He is a broad-minded negotiator, something he learned when he was a trade union leader during the military dictatorship at a time when such activism entailed the possibility of being jailed and tortured. His negotiating style is one of inclusion rather than confrontational, and enabled him to lead the country successfully during the two terms of his Presidency.
With the government coalition torn by divisions, the voting base in Congress has become completely fluid and unstable, and it is the job of the Minister for the Cabinet to negotiate these positions constantly on behalf of the government. That is why he was brought in, and the oppositions claims that it was to avoid investigation, throwing mud in every direction, knowing that some of it may stick.
The pro-impeachment campaign has been financed at the very least by three of Brazil’s richest businessmen and quite possibly by U.S. interests such as the Koch brothers, amongst others. When the first large demonstrations erupted, some of the banners carried by protestors were written in English rather than Portuguese, something never before seen in Brazil.
What has been seen and acknowledged before is the uncertainty of obtaining impartial justice. Many of the legal actions and hearings involved in these scandals can take years or be decided by judges who are openly biased, such as Gilmar Mendes, a Federal Supreme Court Judge who is known for his sitting on lawsuits which, amongst other reasons, are contrary to his stated political views, for favouring the unlimited financing of political parties and politicians by companies, in favour of privatization and against the Worker’s Party.
Gilmar Mendes was appointed by Lula’s predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who privatized a whole range of state companies, and Gilmar Mendes has also made controversial decisions, such as releasing the banker, Daniel Dantas, charged with siphoning off public funds, financial crimes and attempted bribery. Dantas has been quoted as saying “I am only afraid of the courts of first instance, because up there I can resolve it”, meaning the upper courts. In Federal Police Operation Satyagraha, Daniel Dantas was imprisoned but later released on a ruling by Gilmar Mendes, and the whole legal process was later overturned on a technicality by the Supreme Court of Justice.
In the Mensalão or Big Monthly Pay-off trial, leading Worker’s Party governmental and associated figures were convicted on what was later seen to be unproven factual grounds, carried away by the emotionally charged climate that had been induced in the country by the media.
In this series of articles, the background and explanation of why this has become such a critical battlefield will be outlined. Dilma’s impeachment is the anti-democratic campaign’s last thrust to make the dirt stick from corruption operations, Lava Jato and the Mensalão, that were known to have been set up during the previous regime’s stay in power. Petrobras and the Pre-Salt mega-oil field have become strategic pieces in the energy and the privatization of one of the last state-held companies coveted by the oil majors, and who have actively lobbied the anti-PT politicians. The Dilma government has enabled legislation to outlaw company financing of politicians and political parties and turned off the flow of money from the huge state-owned Furnas power company to the opposition parties. Also Brazil and the BRICS countries have been making their own arrangements to bypass the well-known Washington Consensus geopolitical institutions. That is why the Brazilian Worker’s Party PT programme is suffering this wave of opposition and why the Worker’s Party gets up the noses of the status quo.
One problem that has come up again and again that in Brazil, which is the so-called independence of the Judiciary. This is a fault of conception and has led to Judicial abuses, because they can consider themselves above the Constitution. This has been shown time after time, and is a lack of humility, and failure to perceive that there is interdependence between the powers, that the Executive and the Legislature are also part of government, that there should be balance. This was idealised in the Constitution of the U.S.A., but even there this has failed to be practised, with Constitutional guarantees having been eroded most obviously since 9/11, and quite possibly with roots before that, not unlike what has happened in Brazil.
This pseudo-independence of the Judiciary means that judges can behave arbitrarily, and some have shown that they do. I believe this is a lack of clarity of thought, and leaves scope for much abuse, choosing in accordance with their own prejudices or that of their sponsors, quite possibly paymasters.
One ex-agent of Federal Police, Armando Coelho Neto, who is an ex-President of the Federal Police Chiefs Association has clearly stated that there is a campaign within the Federal Police against the Worker’s Party, which is an arm of the Judiciary. A truthful and objective assessment of the evidence will show this to be so, as I shall outline in this series of articles.