An overwhelming majority of Brazilians are demanding the immediate compliance of the criminal rulings which sentenced 25 high ranking officials in the so called ‘trial of the century’ for their involvement in corruption practices back in 2005 and which at the time almost toppled the administration of then president Lula da Silva.
The data was revealed by a public opinion poll from Datafolha which adds that 14% of those interviewed consider there should be a retrial while 12% abstain from replying on the issue. According to Datafolha 4.717 people were interviewed in 196 Brazilian cities on 27 and 28 June.
Corruption and impunity have been some of the main targets of the current wave of protests that since 10 June have taken to the streets of Brazil’s main cities, and which continued even during the recent soccer Confederation Cup finally won by the national team, defeating in the final the until then unbeaten and World Cup Spanish squad.
The ‘trial of the century’ took place last year and concluded with serious sentences against 25 of the accused, all of them politicians and business people, which were found guilty of illegal financing of political campaigns and bribing members of Congress to support Lula da Silva’s administration sponsored legislation.
The Brazilian Supreme Tribunal (Supreme Court) ruled that eleven of the guilty will have to go to jail; another eleven will have to abide with semi-open regime, meaning they have to sleep in jail while another three will avoid incarceration since they were given sentences of less than three years.
However none of the sentences have been complied since the Tribunal must examine the latest appeals from the defence.
The chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa last February said the Court expected to conclude with the appeals and execute the sentences by the end of the first half of the year, but his forecast has not been accomplished.
Sentencing adds up to 280 years of jail and the most severe was for publicist Marcos Valerio Fernandes (40 years) who made available his organization and companies for the network of corruption organized by the ruling Workers Party of former president Lula da Silva when he first gained office in 2002.
Among the politicians the most relevant is Jose Dirceu, former cabinet chief and at the time the ‘strong man’ of President Lula da Silva’s government, and who has proved one of his most faithful advisors and aids in the last three decades. Dirceu was catalogued by the court as the “head of the gang” and was sentenced to ten years in jail.
As a consequence of the 2005 corruption scandal or ‘mensolao’ (monthly payments to members of congress), the Lula da Silva administration was almost forced out of office and his original team of advisors and close aids both in government and the party had to step down. A new generation moved in among which the current president and successor of Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff.
Chief Justice Barbosa, who happens to be black and from very humble background and sponsored to the post by the ruling coalition, proved to be one of the most severe magistrates during the ‘trial of the century’ and the strongest anti corruption campaigner. Opinion polls during the days of street turmoil in Brazil showed him as the most trusted Brazilian and 45% said they would like to vote him for president.
Feeling the ire of public opinion, the Brazilian congress voted overwhelmingly to reject a constitutional amendment that would have curbed prosecutors’ powers to investigate politicians. It also lifted the congressional privileges to a member of the Lower House long time sentenced to jail for corruption but who never expected to comply with the sentence.
Publicist Marcos Valerio Fernandes under oath swore that then president Lula da Silva was on occasions present when the organization of the bribes network and particularly how to collect the funds from government offices and private donations to fund them. He revealed that together with Dirceu they worked in an office next to, and with direct communication to Lula da Silva’s presidential desk.