Brazil’s congressional heads denied involvement in the country’s largest graft scandal after being named among dozens of politicians for investigation. Renan Calheiros and Eduardo Cunha, the heads of the Senate and Lower House respectively, and Rio de Janeiro Senator Lindbergh Farias all rejected allegations of graft in the Petrobras kickback scheme dubbed “Carwash.”
Lindbergh Farias told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper in an interview on Sunday that while he may have acted improperly, his actions weren’t illegal. The senator said he took a two-million-real-donation (US$650,000) from Andrade Gutiérrez SA, a Rio-based construction company.
“Do you really think someone said: ‘Look, this money that I’m going to help you with is a bribe?’ That doesn’t happen,” said Farias. “How was I supposed to know that the money from a big company for my campaign was coming from a process like this one?”
The inquiry is related to alleged kickbacks at the state-controlled Petrobras, which may have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to political parties, possibly up to 4 billion dollars.
Meanwhile opposition leader Aécio Neves, in a statement after Rousseff’s national television address on Sunday evening, said the president had again failed to tell Brazilians the truth or admit her mistakes. Neves said Rousseff had chosen to “invent scapegoats, outsource responsibilities... and (provided) the population with an unrealistic plot... (it was) not a criticism, not an apology.” He called the Petrobras revelations a “monstrous criminal scheme.”
Likewise on Sunday Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo caused some controversy when it printed an op-ed by Miguel Reale Júnior calling for the president’s resignation.
Reale Júnior, a lawyer and professor at the University of Sao Paulo, served as justice minister in the government of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
In the piece, Reale Júnior argued that Rousseff lacked the “essential confidence and independence” to “disinfect” Brazil from the Petrobras scandal. O Estado, by circulation the fourth-biggest newspaper in the country, supported Rousseff’s rivals in 2010 and 2014.