Friday, 18 March 2016

What’s going on in Brazil? #04 - Politics crazy week especial edition


Lots of you asked me to explain or to give my opinion about all the crazy things that are happening right now in Brazil, sooo I figured I’d put together one of these. I’ll start with a small introduction of the political scenario and names people outside the country have to know in order to understand the situation cause I’m trying to be didactic here. Written 18/03/2016. Beware, it’s big and I didn’t ever cover all I wanted.

Brazil is a presidentialism with a multiparty system, and although we have hundreds of parties, there’s three bigger ones that are the focus of this crisis: PT (stands for Workers Party, self proclaimed left-central wing, current hold of the presidency with Dilma Rousseff and before her, from 2003 on, with Lula), PSDB (stands for Brazilian Party of the Social Democracy, totally right wing, holds the government of some important states and a considerable share of congress/senate, etc. Important names include Governor Geraldo Alckimin of São Paulo, Senator Aecio Neves [who ran for president against Rousseff and lost last year]. Senator José Serra [who ran for president a bunch of times too and lost] and ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso [98-2002]) and PMDB (Stands for Brazilian party of the Democratic Movement, ironically enough, as you’ll find out through the text. Center party who will literally support anyone who’s good for them. Right now they control most of the ministries, the presidency of the Senate [Renan Calheiros] , the presidency of the chamber of deputies [Eduardo Cunha], and the vice-presidency [Michel Temer], which is to say, in case of Rousseff leaving the presidency, all possible immediate substitutes are from there. Some of them declare themselves as opposition, some declare support to the government, which makes it the most confusing and unpredictable party ever). Also, it is important to keep in mind that we had a couple of decades of real harsh dictatorship last century and that democracy as it is is a relatively new reality to the country (1985 on). 

 The political crisis, the economical crisis, and the corruption investigations

For a few years now, our economy has been going badly. But it got particularly worse after 2013′s elections (where Rousseff was re-elected with approximately 55 million votes against about 50 million votes to senator Aecio Neves from PSDB). The more the political crisis was installed, the worse the economy got. And where does the political crisis come from? Corruption scandals. Now, keep in mind that all through Brazilian history people have accused others of corruption to take government, but I’ll explain the accusations against everyone bellow because, differently from the past, this time several people were actually investigated and even arrested. And some…were not.

Accusations against Rousseff, PT, and the goverment in general

- A name you should know: Lava-Jato, literally means car wash, and it’s the name of the operation to investigate all this, by the Federal Police. PT-related politicians (and others, from many other smaller parties, and people from PMDB too) are accused of embezzlement from state companies, especially Petrobrás (brazilian petrol company), which made the company’s actions lose A LOT of value and money and the economy drop more. Also embezzlement related to the construction of hydroelectric/nuclear plants and other important constructions. Specifically, people accuse Rousseff of being negligent in the buying of an oil refinery when she was the Minister of Energy and Mines and of having purposefully belated payments to banks in order to make state’s finances look better, which are some of the arguments the opposition is using in their several fillings for Impeachment processes. More importantly for this weeks news are the accusations against ex-president Luis Inacio (Lula) da Silva: the fostering of construction companies in bids in exchange for personal favors or bribes (those being a 3-store apartment at São Paulos littoral and a country house, none of which are actually in his name, but we’ll get to that later).

Corruption in the opposition and PMDB

Although some people seem to think that PT is the root of all evil, there are, surprise surprise, A LOT of accusations against the opposition too. Here’s how most of the Lava-Jato investigation is going: people who got caught are spilling their guts in order to get reduced sentences, and lots and lots of politicians names are coming out. Remember Senator Aecio Neves, who lost the presidential race in 2013? Well, he’s been making some noise accusing the government and protesting for a better country…….He’s also been mentioned five different times just in Lava Jato. Other, previous, accusations against him include the building of a small airport in his uncle’s land for private use with public money, the embezzling of money from the state of Minas Gerais (of which he was a governor) department of health, relations to the contraband of a few thousand kilos of cocaine and others. Governor of São Paulo Geraldo Alckmin and Senator José Serra? Accused of a gigantic scheme of cartel-formation in São Paulos subways and possible embezzling out of the money destined to food in public schools (yeah, kinda stealing kids lunch money but big). And the most important to this week: Eduardo Cunha (PMDB, but proclaimed opposition, president of the chamber of deputies), accused of hiding money in Switzerland accounts (and therefore or illegal gain) is being processed to decide whether he can keep his position in government or should be impeached… But he can still work meanwhile, and he has a lot of control in congress. Most of the processes against the opposition have been (suspiciously enough) archived, and the investigations not entirely pursued, though.

What happened this week???

So, with all that in mind, we can start listing the latest political twists and turns.

- 04/03 is the day the mess started, when ex-president Lula was forced to depose for the Federal Police, conducted by police cars and everything, for the reasons mentioned above. Another important name now is of the Federal Judge Sérgio Moro, who conducts the investigations in Lava-Jato, and ordered this after the ex-president didn’t show up for deposition a few days previously. Some jurists judge that the forceful conduction wasn’t necessary and potentially illegal, but there isn’t a consensus. Judge Sergio Moro alleges that everything he did was to protect the ex-presidents image, but when you get a 24-hour news cover of a person with helicopters in their house and at the place of deposition and literally entire newspapers dedicated to cover a deposition one might point out otherwise. But what’s the real problem against the accusations against Lula? Well, as said before, none of the houses are in his name, but in friends or families names, so to convict him, one would have to prove the ownership first. 

- 13/03, Sunday, a protest is organized around the country, summoned first by PSDB “against corruption” (you can laugh, it IS funny to have them ask for a protest like that) and for the Impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. As it is, it gets bigger and several other movements join in calling for people to participate dressing green-and-yellow on the streets, and the protest is huge. The organizers estimate 6,8 million people went to the streets around the country, the police estimated 3,6 million, but, anyhow, a lot of people. My personal problem with those protests is that there ARE people there who are in for military intervention or the election of people like Bolsonaro (…think trump, then take the money away, you’ll get the figure) and that most people don’t get how their support of some of these groups might as well be encouragement for a coup. Best part of it was that Aecio Neves (PSDB), one of the main speakers summoning people, got booed when he tried to visit the manifestations at Paulista Avenue together with Alckimin.

- 14/03, Monday, the complete deposition of Lula is published, people start commenting (and making memes), and a rumor that he might take office to get privileged forum starts to arise. 

- 15/03, Tuesday, the complete plea bargain of Senator Delcídio do Amaral, regarding the corruption scandals, comes to public. Looooots of names mentioned. Most important points now were the Ministry of Education (Aloísio Mercadente, PT)  having offered money in exchange for the omission of information in his deposition and the mention again of Senator Aecio Neves related to secret Liechtenstein bank accounts.

- 16/03, Wednesday afternoon, government announces ex-president Lula will be the new Chief of Staff in order to try to make the dialogue between parties better (he’s a respected politician and that really could work, to be fair, but it also does give him the privileges of having to interrupt the investigations and proceed to take them to Supreme Court, which could take years).

- 16/03, Wednesday night, Judge Sergio Moro makes public the recording of the tapping of “Lula’s” phone (an assessor, really, but he was the one who used it)… Particularly, of his conversations with President Dilma Rousseff. Here’s the problem: As soon as it was announced that Lula was to take office, Judge Sergio Moro, supposedly, ordered police to stop the recordings, cause then they would be illegal… But the recordings take a couple of hours more to actually stop because of “problems in communicating with the company who does it”, and the Judge, allegedly not realizing there were a couple of illegal hours recorded in the bunch, publishes the whole thing. Except that in those hours Lula and Dilma Rousseff had spoken, and, especially out of context, the talk was VERY compromising. And it spread like wildfire in the media for the next few hours, making people go to the streets to protest against Lula taking office. The recordings were of Roussef telling him she’s sending him his possession term for him to sign and use “in case of need” (interpreted as “in case police knocks on your door”). Although theoretically the recordings are illegal, once they’ve been published everywhere it’s pretty hard to escape it, and obviously lots of people start accusing Moro of being partial and possibly corrupt, again, while other people are just losing their minds on the Lula/Dilma thing.

- 17/03, Thursday morning, ex-president Lula takes office and in the ceremony president Dilma Rousseff alleges that what she meant in that conversation was that it was for him to use in case he “couldn’t make it to São Paulo, since his wife is sick”.

- 17/03, Thursday, about an hour or two later… A judge published an injunction (filled by people) that stops Lula from exercising office, based on the accusations of justice obstruction and so on. At night, the injunction would be put down, and another would would appear, from a different judge. The Chamber of Deputies starts to pick the 65 deputies who will judge the Impeachment of Rousseff process recently approved by Eduardo Cunha. All afternoon and night some people (but in smaller number than the previous days) would go to the streets.

- 18/03, afternoon, second injunction against Lula taking office is put down, no others have been approved yet. “Pro-government” (”against-a-coup”) protests happen in the country, with no official counts yet.

So far, this is it, this is the mess. People tore between a bad situation and the possibilities of worse situations and the tension of a country that at any time now might be turned upside down. And no, there is not really a “good side” to support here.

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