Category Archives: Brazil

Leak shows Car Wash operation ‘Depends on the Americans’

Dallagnol messages

Car Wash Prosecutor Dallagnol and the message to Judge Moro revealing link to the US

247 12 June 2019

Car Wash prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol told Judge Moro that certain details of the operation would “depend on the articulation with the Americans”, in a further set of messages published this Wednesday (June 12) by the site The Intercept.

In the message published by the The Intercept Brasil, Moro complained that the operation could not be “stopped” too long”, to which Dallagnol responded – in a scandalous promiscuos and partisan relationship between the judge and the Prosecutor – saying they had to await the articulation with the Americans.

Read the excerpt of the messages published:

“Moro – 18:44:08 – Is it not too long without an operation?
Deltan – 20:05:32 – Yes, it is. The problem is that the operations are with the same people who are working on the charge against Lula. We decided to postpone everything until that charge is brought, except for the taccla  op because of the risk of leaking, but it depends on the articulation with the Americans
Deltan – 20:05:45 – (What is being done)
Deltan – 20:05:59 – We are scheduled to charge on the 14th
Moro – 20:53:39 – OK”

Odebrecht plea bargain also makes Federal Prosecution Service into a millionaire fund manager

Odebrecht
2 April 2019

By Pedro Canario

The plea bargain agreement Odebrecht signed with the Federal Prosecution Service in December 2016 is quite similar to agreement with Petrobras. Both provide for the setting up of a judicial account under the tutelage of the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba, with the money being at the disposal of the  FPS to do with it as they wish.

Odebrecht agreement with the FPS also allows Car Wash prosecutors to manage the fine paid by the engineering company.

In the Odebrecht case, the company undertook to pay $ 2.9 billion as a fine for their misdeeds, to be divided by the FPS amongst themselves, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Prosecutor-General of Switzerland. The part that is to remain in Brazil is to be under the charge of the Car Wash prosecutors in Curitiba.

According to the agreement, this money is to be for reparation of ” material and non- material damages” caused by the corruption at Odebrecht. According to the explanation given by the FPS in Parana to ConJur, 80% of the money will remain in Brazil, 10% with the USA and 10%, in Switzerland. Thus, the FPS will be responsible for managing R$ 6,8 billion.

Of that amount that is to remain in Brazil, 97.5% is to go to “public bodies, companies and foundations and mixed economy companies” damaged by the deeds of the engineering company. In other words, $ 1.71 billion is to be directed at the discretion of the FPS. The other 2.5% is to go to the Federal purse in compensation for having committed administrative impropriety.

The sharing out of the money is set forth in paragraph 3 of clause 7 of the agreement, according to which the “total amount is to go to the Federal Prosecution Service”. In response to questions from ConJur however, the FPS asserts that “the agreement does not give the resources to the Federal Prosecution Service nor place them under management by the Prosecution Service”. According to the official explanation, the money will be paid to the “victims”, wherever the FPS is responsible the administrative impropriety suit adheres to the FPS agreement.

Although the agreement is public and one of its clauses says that the money will be at the disposal of the FPS, its destination is described in a secret clause of the document, “Appendix 5”. This document was not published by the Prosecution Service and is being dealt with carefully by the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba, which was led by the now Minister of Justice Sergio Moro throughout Operation Car Wash. At least three times, Moro denied requests for access to this appendix under the argument that it could harm investigations underway.

The agreement with Odebrecht is dated December 2016 and is therefore older than the Petrobras one signed in September 2018 and published in January this year. But many of the elements that raise suspicions about the intentions of the Car Wash prosecutors and its anti-corruption crusade were already there — and have not been seen.

In the case of Petrobras, annexes of the agreement were published recently and revealed these intentions: the setting up of a foundation in which the money, $ 650 million, is to be directed at interventions to combat corruption. This fund is to be managed by the operation Car Wash prosecutors in Curitiba. Naturally, it will be sent to friendly bodies. This text was suspended by Justice Alexandre de Moraes of the Federal Supreme Court.

The Odebrecht agreement has been better protected. But we do already know, for example, that the money that is to remain in Brazil will not be sent to a Treasury account, as mandated by Supreme Court jurisprudence. It is to be under the control of members of the self-proclaimed Car Wash task force.

Rendering services
In exchange, they undertake to “manage” together with the Comptroller-General of the Union, with the Attorney-General of the Union and the Accounts Court of the Union so that they do not question the amount of the fine nor accuse the company and their directors of administrative impropriety.

Car Wash prosecutors
In exchange for managing the millionaire fine, Car Wash prosecutors undertake to ‘manage’ so that oversight bodies do not interfere in the agreement
Reproduction/YouTube

In bureaucratic jargon, “manage” means articulating and in some cases making non-official requests. In the case of public agents receiving money to do so in the name of private individuals, it is administrative advocacy, explained one specialist who spoke to ConJur on the condition of not being identified.

The U.S. chapter of the agreement has less to do with power and more to do with business. Amongst the various requirements Odebrecht has undertaken to meet is the nomination of an “external monitor of compliance with the agreement” to submit reports every 120 days.

These reports must be shown to the board of directors of the company and to the head of the FCPA division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The last item of the last annex of the agreement with the DoJ explains that the reports expected by the U.S. government will “probably include proprietary, financial, commercial and secret competition information”.

FCPA is the abbreviation for the U.S. international anti-corruption law. It exists to punish companies abroad that trade on the U.S. stock exchanges or with U.S. companies. But analysts have pointed out that the law has been used as an instrument of expansion of the economic influence of the U.S. government through private companies in other countries.

This analysis is not very popular amongst prosecutors at the DoJ who discredit the argument whenever they can. But the fact is that at the start of operation Car Wash, Odebrecht had 240,000 employees. According to the company, there are now 60,000.

Defence case
The defence for ex-President Lula, made by the lawyer Cristiano Zanin Martins, has been trying to access the documents for the agreement since May 2017, without success. Moro has turned down three requests for access in the space of little more than one year. The first denial was in September 2017, when the then judge said that handing over a copy of the document could harm other investigations underway. On May 24th of the next year, he was more clear: “There is no need for access to the case documents of the plea bargain “. In the third denial, in August 2018, he merely repeated the decision of the previous year.

Lula
Since May 2017, ex-President Lula has tried to obtain access to the case documents of the Odebrecht agreement with the FPS, unsuccessfully
Ricardo Stuckert

In February, Zanin filed a motion with the Supreme Court alleging violation of Binding Ruling 14 of the STF over the denials. The ruling guarantees the defence access to all elements of the inquiry already documented, provided the access does not harm diligences underway — exactly the argument used by Moro.

According to the lawyer, access to the documents could corroborate the defence case that Lula never received any payment for any “service” rendered to Odebrecht, and that the charges made against him have not been repeated in the U.S. They were brought in Brazil to ensure benefits for the Odebrecht family and for ex-executives of the company.

Moro argued that access to the agreement documents is not necessary. But Zanin uses the example of Petrobras: the agreement was signed in September 2018 and was published on January 30th of this year. Only weeks later, details of the setting up of the fund by the FPS were published — and the information was seen to be essential to the process, to the point of a Supreme Court Justice suspending that part until further information becomes available to judge the merits.

There and here
Lula’s defence have spoken of two main reasons for having access to the agreement documents. The first is that, in appendix 5, says the claim, there is information on the destination of the money paid by Odebrecht by way of the fine, and the FPS is arguing that Lula pay a fine in indemnification for the damages caused to the country for his corrupt deeds. But he is charged with receiving an apartment from the construction company. If both he and the company pay fines for the same facts, there would be punishment twice over, argues Zanin, which would harm the ex-President.

Justice Fachin
There was no “flagrant illegality” in Moro’s decisions denying Lula’s defence access to the agreement of Odebrecht with the FPS, says Justice Luiz Edson Fachin
Rosinei Coutinho / SCO STF

Lula also asked to see what there was in the My Web Day system. This concerns a parallel accounts software to control the bribes paid, owed and received, used by the “structured operations sector”, the bribes department, as the newspapers called it. But when the Federal Police obtained access to the system, they reported the lack of integrity of the files, with data deleted or corrupted.

For Lula’s lawyer, the fact of these files being corrupted argue in favour of his client. Odebrecht told different stories in Brazil and in the USA. Here they said hey bribed Lula for him to intercede on behalf of the company at Petrobras. One of these interventions was for the nomination of ex-directors responsible for maintaining the tender fraud scheme functioning.

But to the DoJ, the Odebrecht executives described how the cartel worked that engineering companies set up to defraud Petrobras tenders and over bill for civil construction contracts, but nothing about Lula.

No smoke
At the Supreme Court, Justice Luiz Edson Fachin also denied the request for access. According to him, there was no “flagrant illegality” in Moro’s decisions, and therefore there was no reason to grant the motion. The decision was made on March 15 of this year, and also calls for further information from the self-proclaimed Car Wash task force.

The current head of the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba, Luiz Antonio Bonat, repeated to Fachin the arguments of his predecessor: allowing access to the agreement documents would harm investigations underway. He added that the documents Lula asked to see, “in the main, corresponded to information which had no wider relevance”. “However, there is no obstacle to providing this information”, Bonat concluded in his ruling.

In response, Lula’s defence asked Fachin to reconsider the previous decision and that it would suspend the criminal case against the ex-President in the case of the apartment. “Is it possible to guarantee that the version of facts from Odebrecht in the plea bargain agreement documents is the same as that given in the court cases? Or are there things in the agreement documents approved there not relevant to the petitioner’s defence?”

Click here to read the Odebrecht agreement with the FPS
Click here to read the Odebrecht agreement with the DoJ
Click
here to read the Lula petition to obtain access to the agreement documents
Click
here to read the Justice Fachin ruling on the Lula petition
Click
here to read the judge Luiz Antonio Bonat document to the Supreme Court on the Odebrecht agreement
Click
here to read the request for reconsideration submitted to Justice Fachin

Claim 33.543
Criminal case 5063130-17.2016.4.04.7000, at Federal Justice in Parana

Pedro Canario is chief editor at Consultor Juridico.

“It is Babel”, says Brazilian Supreme Justice on the US$ 680 million for Car Wash Foundation

marco-aurelioTales Faria at UOL

Justice Marco Aurélio Mello of the Brazilan Supreme Federal Court considers the destination of US$ 650 million to a foundation managed by the Operation Car Wash (Lava Jato) prosecutors to promote anti-corruption policies to be absurd. The money was deposited in January. It is the fruit of an agreement between US authorities, Petrobras and the team of the so-called Republic of Curitiba where Lava Jato is based. It represents 80% of the capital the Brazilian state company had to return to the US Treasury due to the irregularities found in Car Wash. According to Marco Aurélio Mello, such a destination, besides being illegal, sets up a super-entity and bypasses any oversight or control of its accounts. To this blog, he argued:

As has always been sustained by the Supreme Court, public bodies are funded only through the budget approved by the legislature. The mixing of public and private is not in the interests of the State, is not in the interests of society. It is  pernicious to allow ‘super-entities’, and not to allow financial oversight. It is a loss of parameters, it is out of control, it is an administrative mess. It is Babel.

The power conferred on the prosecutors of Paraná is provoking fear in Bolsonaro’s closest circles. Allies of the President argue that he puts off to a possible second mandate his proposal to repeal re-election. Without the chance to run again, Bolsonaro would leave his government vulnerable during the campaign “Moro 2022”.

Sergio Moro is the leading judge behind Operation Car Wash which found alleged corruption in Lula’s PT government, sentenced him to prison and took him out of the running for the Brazilian Presidency, and who then became Justice Minister in the government that took power in Lula’s absence.

The foundation proposed is dangerous because with the same bias that took out Lula from the election, if present in the efforts of education and propaganda, could simply be used to support judge Moro’s political ambitions to get elected to lead the next government.

In the style of Moro – spying and extortion to persecute Cristina Kirchner

carlos-stornelli-marcelo-dalessio

Carlos Stornelli (left), Marcelo D’Alessio (right)

Argentinean federal judge Alejo Ramos Padilla charged the false lawyer Marcelo D’Alessio as a member of an illegal organisation “dedicated to carrying out intelligence and psychological operations against various persons who were then blackmailed or coerced, until they panicked, finally declaring themselves in a certain way and becoming “repentant witnesses”, the Argentinean version of the “plea bargains” so common in the Brazilian Operation Car Wash (Lava-Jato).

The key point in this case is that the judge considers there to be an accord between the intelligence services and the Justice Department that goes against the democratic system using blackmail, coercion, dossiers, distortion and false lawyers demanding money of people, and furthermore, to set up and run judicial cases.

All this is very similar to the judicial scheme carried out in Brazil by the ex-judge Sergio Moro (now recompensed with the post of Minister of Justice in the government of Jair Bolsonaro), regarding bribes linked to the multinational Odebrecht, which had the aim of imprisoning ex-President Lula da Silva and of impeding him from participating in the elections. In the Argentinean case, they are seeking the imprisonment of ex-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, to stop her from running against the current President Mauricio Macri seeking re-election in October.

In the 220 pages of his resolution, Judge Ramos Padilla showed there was a close link between the prosecutor Carlos Stornelli (an Argentinean Deltan Dallagnol) and the supposed lawyer D’Alessio, evident from the many messages and audios exchanged over Whatsapp, and by a four hour meeting between them at the Pinamar resort, as well as handwritten messages in notebooks seized during investigations. Due to this, the magistrate requested the Prosecution Service to investigate the prosecutor, and to begin the due process, if considered pertinent.

In this first resolution, the task is to describe the mechanisms of the crime, as to how Stornelli and D’Alessio extorted the businessman Pedro Etchebest, or how they used a hidden camera against the lawyer José Manuel Ubeira, or used the “repentant witness” statement of Leonardo Fariña, or coerced an ex-member of staff of the Venezuelan state company PDVSA to declare himself repentant.

Despite Stornelli refusing to hand over his mobile phones to enable the frequency and kind of contacts with D’Alessio to be determined – who is the nephew of the Clerk-General of the government, Carlos Marcelo D’Alessio – a third businessman appeared denouncing D’Alessio for extortion and involving the lawyer Rodrigo Gonzalez and the judicial operator of the newspaper Clarín, Daniel Santoro, although they have denied the charge.

The meeting place of the four, Stornelli, D’Alessio, Gonzalez and Santoro, was the restaurant El Obrero, decorated with photos of President Macri. Its owner is a partner in another business venture, of Charly Liñani – denounced by the ex-presidential secretary Pablo Barreiro, of the Cristina Kirchner government, for attempted extortion, committed together with D’Alessio and Gonzalez, as revealed by the journalist Horacio Verbitsky on his site Cohete a la Luna.

The messages and audios also show attempts to use Leonardo Fariña, forcing him to make the declarations required to incriminate Cristina Kirchner. Fariña presented himself spontaneously to the court, and told how D’Alessio offered him to take part in the extortion against Etchebest. That charge has been presented to the Justice Department.

The judicial dispatch includes various audios in which, by means of a plan to extort, one can glimpse the possibility of including the businessman Mariano Martínez Rojas, responsible for the fraud against the workers of the newspaper Tiempo Argentino intended to dismantle the outlet, which now functions as a cooperative of journalists. The blackmail involving Martínez Rojas attempted to make him testify against the Peronista governor of the province of Formosa, Gildo Insfran.

The operation to transform another executive into a repentant witness – Gonzalo Brusa Duvat, who worked in a branch of Venezuelan oil company PDVSA in Argentina – has the same characteristics. Duvat was threatened with an economic criminal judicial case, but would guarantee that the process would disappear in the files if he accepted to declare himself “repentant” for Stornelli.

Once softened up with the threat of a legal suit against him, D’Alessio and the journalist for Clarin, Daniel Santoro, published articles about the declaration by Duvat as repentant, which was announced with pomp and circumstance in dozens of audios and Whatsapp messages. The judge said the precise role of Santoro and of other journalists involved still had to be analysed.

What surprised analysts is that D’Alessio managed to join Stornelli’s investigation team, who is a Federal prosecutor, without being a lawyer and without being registered to work at the Prosecution Service. The other assistants of the prosecutor soon delivered a copy of the declaration D’Alessio later sent to another conservative journalist, Eduardo Feinman – a situation which is at the very least unusual and unprecedented.

Another surprise was the transcription made by the magistrate of a phone tap dated February 4th, in which the false lawyer speaks to someone identified as Andrés Goldemberg: “I am at your disposal, if you need to extract someone”. It also mentions he is able to make available an aeroplane with 14 seats to carry out the operation.

“(The evidence) leads me to the conviction that at least within his post at the Prosecution Service, there was a promiscuous situation (of Stornelli), generating relationships of complicity and mutual collaboration which should not have been permitted, with the consent of the prosecutor, including the carrying out of intelligence and psychological operations to achieve the expected results in the judicial investigations or to attend to the magistrate himself”, wrote the judge.

Rubén Armendariz is a Uruguayan journalist and political scientist, associated with the Latin-American Strategic Analysis Centre (CLAE)
Published originally at estrategia.la

Lula at his grandson’s funeral

Lula grandson funeral

On leaving the cemetery, Lula stood up on the Federal Police car and waved to his supporters. When he got down, the Federal Police agent said: “You should not have done that”.

“You know that I had to”, responded Lula.

Brazilian government sees Catholic Church as potential opposition

Heleno-BolsonaroLeft: Augusto Heleno, and right: President Bolsonaro

Estado de São Paulo Tânia Monteiro

The Planalto Palace wants to contain what it considers the advance of the Catholic Church in the leadership of the opposition to the Jair Bolsonaro government in the vacuum of the defeat and loss of space of the left-wing political parties. In the evaluation of the President’s team, the Catholic Church is a traditional ally of the PT (Worker’s Party) and is being articulated to influence debates previously carried out by the party in the interior of the country and in the urban peripheries. The alert to the government came from reports from the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) and from the military high command. The reports tell of recent meetings of Brazilian cardinals with Pope Francisco in the Vatican to discuss the holding of the Synod on the Amazon, to be held in Rome in October, bringing together bishops from all the continents.

During the 23 day event, the Vatican will discuss the situation of the Amazon and cover topics considered by the Brazilian government as an “agenda of the left”. The debate will deal with the situation of indigenous peoples, climate change caused by deforestation and quilombolas (lands for ex-slave communities). “We are concerned and want to neutralize this”, said the chief minister of the Office for Institutional Security (GSI), Augusto Heleno, who is leading the counter-offensive.

On the basis of documents circulating in the Planalto, GSI officers have evaluated that sectors of the Catholic Church allied to social movements and parties of the left, members of the so-called “progressive clergy”, intend to take advantage of the Synod to criticise the Bolsonaro government and to have an international impact. “We think this is interference in the internal affairs of Brazil”, said Heleno. ABIN offices in Manaus, Belém, Maraba, in the south-east of Pará (the epicentre of land conflicts), and Boa Vista (which monitor the presence of foreigners in indigenous Yanomami lands and Raposa Serra do Sol) are being mobilized to accompany preparatory meetings for the Synod in parishes and dioceses. The GSI also obtained information from the Military Command in Amazonas, based in Manaus, and from the Northern Military Command in Belém. On the basis of intelligence reports, the Federal government will seek out state governors, mayors and even ecclesiastical authorities who have good relations with the military, especially in border regions, to strengthen their attempt to neutralize the Synod.

The Estado de São Paulo newspaper found that the GSI plans to involve the Itamaraty Foreign Office to monitor discussions abroad, and the Ministry of the Environment to detect any participation of NGOs and environmentalists. Asking to remain anonymous, another military officer from the Bolsonaro team said that the Synod is against “all” policies of the government for the Amazon; which seeks to defend the “sovereignty” of the region. “The meeting will serve to inflame the ideological discourse of the left”, he said.

As soon as the first reports from ABIN arrived at the Planalto Palace, the generals soon made a connection with the criticisms of the National Bishops Conference of Brazil (CNBB) towards Bolsonaro during the electoral campaign. Bodies linked to the CNBB, such as the Missionary Indigenous Council (CIMI) and the Pastoral Lands Commission (CPT), were not kind in their attacks, and continued after the election and swearing in of Bolsonaro to the Presidency. All of them are historical allies of the PT Worker’s Party. The Prisoner’s Pastoral, for example, issued a press release last week criticising the anti-crime package of the Minister of Justice, Sérgio Moro, who as a judge sentenced ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Lava Jato.

In the campaign, the Land Pastoral published a report from Bishop André de Witte of Bahia that indicated Bolsonaro as a “real danger”. The networks supporting Bolsonaro counter-attacked spreading word on the internet that Pope Francisco was a “communist”. As a result, Bolsonaro gave up on the CNBB and invested incessant support for the evangelical churches. At first, he wanted the ex-Senator and gospel singer Magno Malta (PR-ES) to run as his Vice-President. Once elected, he nominated the pastor Damares Alves, assistant to Malta for the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights.

History. The tense relationship between the military and the Catholic Church began back in 1964 and has remained even in the “de-tension” governments of Generals Ernesto Geisel and João Figueiredo, the last President of the military dictatorship. The CNBB maintained friendly relations with the democratic governments, but was classified as an arm of the PT Worker’s Party by Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The body criticised the agrarian policy of the FHC government and the decision of his PSDB party to end religious education in public schools.

The government of ex-President Lula, who was close to Don Claudio Hummes, ex-Cardinal of São Paulo, was surprised in 2005 by the hunger strike of the Bishop of Barra in Bahia, Don Luiz Cappio, who opposed the transposition of the São Francisco River.

With the arrival of Dilma Rousseff, the relationship between the CNBB and the PT Worker’s Party was damaged. The body held a series of events to criticise the President, especially on questions such as abortion and agrarian reform. However, the CNBB was opposed to the impeachment process, alleging that it “weakened” the institutions.

‘Let’s get right into this’, said Heleno

The Minister of the Office for Institutional Security (GSI), Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, said there was a “concern” in the Planalto about the meetings and preparatory meetings of the Synod on the Amazon, which were held in the Brazilian States. ”There has been influence from the Catholic Church and NGOs on the forest”, he said.

The closest adviser of President Jair Bolsonaro, Heleno criticised the activity of the Catholic Church, but said their capacity for causing problems for the government was not high. ”It will not be a problem. The work of the government of neutralizing impacts of the meeting will only strengthen Brazilian sovereignty and impede that foreign interests are able to prevail in the Amazon”, he said. “The question will be studied carefully by the GSI. Let’s get right into this.”

Both the Minister Augusto Heleno and the ex-commander of the Army, Eduardo Villas Boas, now assistant to the GSI and in charge of the monitoring of the Synod, were military commanders in Manaus. The Vice-President Hamilton Mourão also worked in the region, leading the 2nd Jungle Infantry Brigade in São Gabriel da Cachoeira.

What is the Synod? It is the global meeting of Vatican bishops to discuss the situation of indigenous tribes, riverside populations and other peoples of the Amazon, the development policies of governments of the region, climate change and land conflicts.

Participants 250 bishops.

Synod Calendar

19 January 2019: symbolic opening with the visit of Pope Francisco to Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian jungle;

7 to 9 March: preparatory seminar in the Arch-Diocese of Manaus;

6 to 29 October: final phase in the Vatican, with Mass in the Basilica of Saint Peter celebrated by Pope Francisco.

Theme of the meeting

Amazon: new paths for the Catholic Church and for a whole ecology.

The three directives of the event

“To see” the clamour of the Amazonian peoples;

“To discern” the Gospel in the forest. The cries of the indigenous peoples is like the cries of the people of God in Egypt;

“To act” in the defence of a Church with an “Amazonian face”

From the Barracks to the Courtroom: US ‘Lawfare’ in Action

bolsonaro

Wayne Madsen | 18.01.2019

Somewhere along the line in recent history, some US think tank in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency must have come up with the idea that overthrowing governments in Latin America by military coups came with bad optics for the coup plotters. Often, democratically-elected Latin American leaders were demonized by a cabal of military officers who left their barracks and laid siege to the presidential palaces. After taking control of the national radio stations, these generals would announce they had seized control of the government to “protect” the people from “communism” or some other concocted bogeyman.

Beginning in the early 2000s, another plan was devised by US national security planners ensconced in their faux academia “think tanks.” Their plan was simple: overthrow anti-American elected leaders in Latin America through the courts. In effect, lawyers and judges, not generals, caudillos, or military juntas, would carry out coups by abusing constitutional provisions and laws as a clever ruse.

Under Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, the Central Intelligence Agency relied on the old tried and true method of promoting coups via the façade of a “popular” rebellion. After the 1973 CIA-directed coup in Chile, which saw Socialist president Salvador Allende die in a hail of bullets fired from aircraft and tanks at the La Moneda presidential palace, the CIA began to look at other avenues to overthrow presidents in the Western Hemisphere.

For decades, CIA-influenced media, including the dubious Wikipedia, have insisted Allende committed suicide with an AK-47 assault rifle presented to him by Cuban leader Fidel Castro. However, nature would later provide the evidence that Allende was assassinated. The proof came in a 300-page top secret report found in the debris of the house of a former military officer. The house had been destroyed in the 2011 Chilean earthquake. The story of Allende’s “suicide” was spread around CIA-friendly media to mask the agency’s role in yet another assassination of a foreign leader. The CIA’s media manipulation was honed during its pre-eminent role in covering up the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King. For the CIA, however, assassinations were costly in terms of the agency’s public image, so some other method of dispatching targeted leaders was in order.

A formerly CONFIDENTIAL CIA “Intelligence Memorandum,” dated December 29, 1975, concluded that Latin America had to be weaned away from “Third Worldism.” The conclusion was based on the votes of certain Latin American countries that had voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism. The countries were Brazil, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana, and Mexico. Eleven other countries in the Western Hemisphere abstained.

As the bloody coups in Chile, the Dominican Republic, and other countries showed, there had to be a simpler and less lethal way for the US to bring about undemocratic changes in governments in the hemisphere.

If the CIA were able to infiltrate a nation’s judiciary and law enforcement structures — the latter having already been thoroughly subsumed through CIA-financed “training programs” – it could bring spurious charges against targeted heads of state. This form of coup d’état would become known as “lawfare.”

The leader of the French left, Jean Luc Melenchon, recently condemned the use of lawfare against former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula, as he is popularly known, has been imprisoned since April 2018 on trumped up charges of corruption. Melenchon told the Brazilian press that “lawfare is now used in all countries to get rid of progressive leaders. This is what they did with Lula.” Melenchon added, “the judge [Sergio Moro] who condemned Lula is now a minister [minister of justice and public security] of Jair Bolsonaro, the new president of Brazil.” Lula was sentenced to 12 years in prison on politically-motivated money-laundering charges ginned up by Moro and other neo-fascists in the Brazilian judiciary. Bolsonaro, a champion of Brazil’s former military dictatorship and an admirer of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Donald Trump, has vowed to keep Lula in prison. Lula would have defeated Bolsonaro for the presidency had he been released from prison and allowed to run for political office. However, Moro and his fellow lawfare practitioners ensured that appeals to the Brazilian Supreme Court for Lula’s release were all dead-on-arrival.

Melenchon also stated “Lula has been a direct victim of accusations to destroy his work and image, built in more than 40 years of public life.” British human rights attorney Geoffrey Robertson QC echoed Melenchon in comments made to the “New Internationalist” in January 2018. Robertson cited the “extraordinarily aggressive measures” taken to imprison Lula and prevent him from running for president. Robertson cited as Lula’s enemies the judiciary, media, and “the great sinews of wealth and power in Brazil.”

Lawfare coups have been embraced by both Republican and Democratic administrations over almost two decades. The first example of a coup by semi-constitutional fiat was the February 28, 2004 forced removal from office of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. US Marines and American mercenaries escorted Aristide and his party from the presidential palace to a white plane with no other markings except for an American flag on the tail. The United States claimed Aristide voluntarily resigned his office, something that Aristide and his advisers vehemently denied. Aristide was literally tossed off the plane, along with his wife, in Bangui, Central African Republic. Through the abuse of “national emergency” provisions, the United States installed Haiti’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Boniface Alexandre, in the presidential palace. The coup began after CIA-supported rebels and narcotics-gangs seized control of northern Haiti and marched to the capital of Port-au-Prince with the intention of ousting Aristide.

The second lawfare coup was against Honduras’s president, Manuel Zelaya. Staged on June 28, 2009, the coup was approved in advance by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as leaked cables from the US embassy in Tegucigalpa attest. Coup leader Roberto Micheletti cited the Honduran Constitution and a decision by the Supreme Court as providing legitimacy for Zelaya being marched from his home in his pajamas to a waiting plane that flew him to Costa Rica. The military junta that replaced Zelaya said that his letter of resignation had been approved by the National Assembly. Zelaya declared the letter to be a forgery.

The third major lawfare coup came in 2012. Paraguay’s democratically-elected president, Fernando Lugo, was ousted in a political impeachment carried out by right-wing forces in the Paraguayan Congress and Senate, with the full support of the US-trained and equipped Paraguayan military. From Washington, Secretary Clinton moved hastily to recognize the right-wing vice president, Federico Franco, and his new right-wing government to replace the center-left government of Lugo. As with Haiti and Honduras, the Paraguayan coup was accomplished with the thin veneer of the constitution.

In 2016, it was Brazil’s turn in the lawfare arena. The impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff of the left-wing Workers’ Party ensured that Michel Temer, her right-wing vice president, assumed the presidency. Without Rousseff in the presidential palace, her predecessor, Lula, became fair game for the right-wing.

Next on the American hit list was Venezuela. On December 6, 2015, the US-backed rightist opposition won control over the National Assembly. The rightists immediately commenced procedures to remove progressive socialist President Nicolas Maduro from power through dubious “constitutional” means. However, the plan faltered in Venezuela. In reaction, Washington applied crippling economic sanctions on the country, something that was to be repeated by the Trump administration against both Venezuela and the democratically-elected government of President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

Pro-democracy forces in Latin America and elsewhere no longer have to worry about sudden troop movements and tanks converging on presidential palaces, but armies of judges and lawyers armed with nothing more than constitutional provisions and criminal codes stretched to the point of incredulity.