Brazil: Coup gov't hit with new fraud scandals

August 12, 2016

Fans at Rio Olympics hold “Fora Temer” (“Temer out”) signs. August 10.

As Brazil's media focuses its attention on the Rio Olympics, new revelations continue to shine a light on the glaring contradictions in the unelected government's efforts to impeach suspended President Dilma Rousseff for allegations of fraud.

The latest bombshell disclosure — relegated to the inside pages of Brazil's biggest daily newspapers — accuses unelected “interim” president Michel Temer and his foreign minister Jose Serra of receiving millions of dollars in corporate kickbacks.

A report by Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo said Serra accepted more than US$12 million in slush fund money from the construction company Odebrecht to finance his unsuccessful 2010 presidential campaign against Rousseff.

The allegations were made by Odebrecht executives, including jailed CEO Marcelo Odebrecht in a plea bargain deal with prosecutors as part of the corruption investigations known as Operation Car Wash. The operation centres on fraud in the state oil company Petrobras.

Part of the payment was reportedly made through Serra's offshore bank accounts, which Odebrecht reportedly identified via bank statements.

Serra — who also unsuccessfully ran for president against Rousseff's predecessor Luis Inacio Lula da Silva in 2002 — denied the allegations. He says he ran his 2010 campaign “in accordance with the law” and that any financial matters were the responsibility of his Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB).

Meanwhile, the Odebrecht plea bargain has also revealed that the company secretly paid over US$3 million to Temer's 2014 campaign for vice president on a ticket with Rousseff, Brazilian daily Veja said.

Temer's conservative Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) was in a coalition with Rousseff's Workers' Party (PT) at the time. That relationship formally broke down in the run-up to her suspension from office in May — a move widely condemned by both Brazilians and the international community as a parliamentary coup.

Temer is already banned from running for public office for eight years over charges that he violated campaign finance laws. Coup leaders, however, have made it clear they intend to install him as president in the event that Rousseff is impeached in a trial later this month.

Three of Temer's ministers have resigned as a result of corruption charges since being installed in office in May.

Despite the revelations, the front pages of Brazil's major newspapers on August 8 were overwhelmingly dominated by coverage of the Olympics. Brazil's corporate mainstream media, especially the newspaper O Globo, have repeatedly been accused of whipping up support for a coup.

The major corruption revelations, solidifying Temer and Serra's suspected involvement in the Petrobras scandal, come as high-level members of the opposition are pushing for an investigation of the PT for allegations of using Petrobras revenues to finance electoral campaigns.

Those allegations, while unproven, could lead to the revocation of the political party that has won the last four presidential elections in the country.

Gilmar Mendes, president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and member of the Supreme Court, ordered additional investigations into irregularities in the PT's finances on August 5, even though the books had already been reviewed following the last election and no wrongdoing was found, Brasil de Fato reported. Temer met with Mendes in the vice-presidential palace at the end of May.

Although members of Rousseff's PT have been embroiled in the Petrobras scandal, the suspended president herself is not accused of financial impropriety or personal enrichment. This stands in contrast with many of her top rivals pushing for her impeachment on the grounds that it is an attempt to root out government corruption.

Damning wiretap recordings, leaked as part of a plea bargain deal for former state oil executive Sergio Machado, have also revealed that top opposition members sought to put a stop to Operation Car Wash corruption investigations through Rousseff's ouster. To this end, they schemed with members of the Supreme Court.

Despite Temer's widespread unpopularity and mounting evidence of corruption against him and his lieutenants, the Senate voted on August 10 to plow ahead with the impeachment process.

If two-thirds of the body votes later this month to impeach Rousseff, she will be permanently removed from office, installing Temer for the remainder of her term.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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