While Brazil's media focuses its attention on the Rio Olympics, new revelations continue to shine a light on the glaring contradictions inhererent 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.
According to a report by the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, Temer’s interim Foreign Minister Jose Serra accepted more than US$12 million—23 million Brazilian reals—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, which centers on fraud in the state oil company Petrobras. Part of the payment was reported 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, claiming that he ran his 2010 campaign “in accordance with the law” and that any financial matters were the responsibility of his Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB, Folha reported.
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Meanwhile, the Odebrecht plea bargain has also revealed that the company secretly paid over US$3 million, or 10 million reals, to Temer’s 2014 campaign for vice president on a ticket with Rousseff after he asked Odebrecht for “financial support,” according to the Brazilian daily Veja. Temer’s conservative Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, was in a coalition with Rousseff’s Workers’ Party at the time, a relationship that formally broke down in the runup to her suspension from office in May, in 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 and has compiled a “dirty record” in elections, although the coup leaders have made it clear that 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 over the weekend, come Monday morning the front pages of Brazil’s major newspapers 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, while reporting by The Intercept accused Folha of committing journalistic fraud.
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 Workers Party, known by its Portuguese acronymn, 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.
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Gilmar Mendes, president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and member of the Supreme Court, last Friday ordered additional investigations into irregularities in the PT’s finances, 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, unlike 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 and schemed with members of the Supreme Court to make it happen.
Despite Temer's widespread unpopularity, and mounting evidence of corruption against him and his lieutenants, the Senate voted in the early hours of Wednesday morning to plow ahead with the impeachment process. If two-thirds of the body votes later this month to impeach her, she will be permanently removed from office, installing Temer for the remainder of her term.