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Corruption among members of Brazil's congress is “across the board”

Friday, December 11th 2015 - 07:54 UTC
Full article 4 comments
The architect of the impeachment drive, house speaker Eduardo Cunha, has been charged with taking as much as $40 million in bribes. The architect of the impeachment drive, house speaker Eduardo Cunha, has been charged with taking as much as $40 million in bribes.

Corruption among members of Brazil's Congress is 'across the board', involves most parties and the whole system, and as such the recent beginning of impeachment proceedings against president Dilma Rousseff is no exception.

 In effect of the 65 congressional deputies elected in controversial circumstances Tuesday to a committee scrutinizing the impeachment case, about 30% face criminal probes, according to a detailed count by specialist website Congresso em Foco.

The architect of the impeachment drive himself, house speaker Eduardo Cunha, has been charged with taking as much as $40 million in bribes. He allegedly stashed the loot -- part of a vast corruption network centered on state oil giant Petrobras -- in secret Swiss accounts.

Dozens of other senators and deputies also face Petrobras-related charges.

“There's no white knight,” says University of Brasilia politics expert David Fleischer. “There's no national savior riding from the horizon”.

Tuesday's election of the impeachment commission encapsulated the mix of bad tempers and questionable legality plaguing the capital Brasilia.

Pro-Rousseff and opposition deputies pushed and screamed during voting to form the commission, which will recommend whether or not Congress should impeach the president. The Supreme Court intervened hours later to suspend the commission for a week, citing irregularities.

The O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper called the scenes “a scandalous and depressing spectacle.” The chamber was turned into a circus. We are living in a degrading and humiliating situation,“ said Julio Delgado, from the Brazilian Socialist Party.

On Thursday, another group of deputies punched and shoved each other on national television. This time they were members of the house ethics committee, which has repeatedly tried and failed to decide whether it should open a probe into the powerful Cunha.

Fleischer estimated that about 20% of Congress members as a whole face criminal investigations, many of them linked to Petrobras.

These include senior figures like key Rousseff ally Senator Delcidio do Amaral and even a former president, Fernando Collor de Mello. Collor resigned from the presidency in 1992 during his own impeachment trial, before making a comeback as a senator.

For Fleischer, the fighting in the chamber was a new low point. ”Because it's an ethics committee, you wouldn't really expect that.“

Fleischer said Brazilians are well aware of ”corruption across the board,“ but that in the face of recession and growing joblessness Rousseff naturally gets the blame.

”They take their vengeance out on Dilma because they are going through a terrible crisis,“ he said. ”The president is a sort of lightening rod.“

In declaring her innocence, Rousseff has made pointed references to Cunha, even without naming him, saying, ”I have no accounts abroad, I've never hidden assets from the public,“ and underlining that she has not been accused of stealing or taking bribes.

However, analysts say she's tainted by the fact that her Workers' Party and much of her inner circle have been implicated in the Petrobras scheme.

If Rousseff is impeached, her vice president, Michel Temer, would automatically take over. ”He has a clean slate and no serious accusations against him,“ Fleischer said. ”So far.”

Categories: Politics, Brazil.

Top Comments

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  • Skip

    I'm starting to understand why Brasileiro supports a military coup.

    Dec 11th, 2015 - 08:03 am 0
  • Jack Bauer

    With VERY FEW exceptions, Congress is made up of a bunch of corrupt morons. While they profess morality and condemn the practises of their “noble colleagues” (ironically, that's how they address each other while in session), most of them are being prosecuted (or have been condemned) for something or other...Indeed a circus.
    The punch-up which occurred yesterday is not the first time this has happened, and might be interesting to note, it is a fairly common occurrence in many Legislatures of small towns. It simply reflects the lack of education of those who are meant to represent the people....which are mostly, not much better.
    But one way to avoid getting punched or kicked by a 'noble colleague' because he disagrees with you, is to say , “Noble colleague, why don't you go and f*ck yourself ?”, in a polite, controlled tone of voice.....It's all about not sounding too aggressive, to avoid being accused of lack of (parliamentary) décor.

    @1 Skip
    The BRasshole doesn't REALLY support a military coup....he only prefers it to what he calls a 'right-wing take-over' by the PSDB and parts of the PT's current (but not for long) ally, the PMDB. But the military option might even become reality, depending on the outcome of the impeachment process and the social unrest that could result from it .... unfortunately with only one exception (FHC , from 1995 to 2002), the civilian governments have proved they are not ready for democracy.

    Dec 11th, 2015 - 02:43 pm 0
  • Skip

    I know that Jack. I'm just taking the piss.

    Messy democracy isn't so much the problem. All countries have it to a degree and it isn't always a hindrance to good governments.

    However corruption is. Brazil needs to tackle the ingrained sense of privilege that so many politicians have. Brazil really needs to remove the parliamentary immunity that politicians enjoy. A blanket immunity means they can hide from their crimes or even affect laws to reduce their crimes.

    Thankfully we have parliamentary privilege here. They are only protected from prosecution from things they say while in parliament. But should they commit a crime then they get arrested like any normal person. Attracts a different calibre of representative.

    Dec 11th, 2015 - 09:03 pm 0
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