After the mensalão case rocked Brazil’s ruling party, it seems it’s now the turn of the Social Democrats (PSDB), the main opposition party. The Attorney General’s office and the police are investigating the allegations against the PSDB and if its leaders received kickbacks from a scheme involving the maintenance of train and metro lines in Sao Paulo.
German company Siemens has accused former São Paulo governor José Serra and current Governor Gerardo Alckim, figureheads of the PSDB, of allowing companies building and maintaining train and metro lines in São Paulo to form a cartel that defrauded the state of hundreds of millions of Reais.
Former governor Mário Covas, under whom the cartel allegedly formed, died in 2001 and is considered an exemplary political figure in Brazil.
Serra ran twice as a presidential candidate: first against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and then against current President Dilma Rousseff. He lost to both in runoff votes. Serra has denied wrongdoing and said he knew nothing about the alleged cartel.
Alckim, meanwhile, has said his state government is the first that has tried to investigate the claims made by Siemens.
Representatives of the PSDB have said that the accusations are politically motivated and believe the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) is behind them. But any evidence of wrongdoing would complicate the efforts of Alckmin to hang on to the state next year, and might divert the party’s attention away from the national campaign.
The PT, meanwhile, is battling its own corruption case, the mensalão, or monthly payments to members of congres. Twenty five top party officials and private businesspeople have been sentenced to prison terms for organizing a vote-buying scheme during Lula da Silva’s first term in office.
The leaders of both parties exchanged accusations this week and the PT threatened to create a parliamentary commission to investigate the claims against Serra and the PSDB.
This new corruption scandal, locally known as the “metro cartel” scheme, emerged as massive protests engulf the country’s main cities. Protesters are demanding political reform, including more transparency in the way parties finance themselves.
Rousseff’s presidency has suffered considerably. A poll by Ibope showed her approval rating went from 63% last year to just 42% this month. But even with this drop, she still looks likely to win a second term in office.