New corruption scandal a further blow to Brazil’s democracy


Brazil: anti-corruption protest

Brazilian President Michel Temer is once again under fire, this time amid reports that prosecutors have obtained recordings of him discussing hush money payments with a jailed associate. The obstruction of justice allegations have sparked street protests and calls for his impeachment by Brazilian lawmakersSTRATFOR reports:

According to a May 17 report from O Globo, the president was caught on tape asking the chairman of Brazil’s JBS meat-packing company, Joesley Batista, to buy the silence of Eduardo Cunha, the former president of the lower house who has been in prison since November 2016. Batista has been under investigation for his company’s alleged involvement in a corruption scheme aimed at getting special financial favors from the country’s state-owned national development bank, BNDES. 

Until this week, Mr Temer, 76, had dodged direct implication while president in Lava Jato (and an associated scandal at Odebrecht, the construction company, that the US Department of Justice has called the “largest foreign bribery case in history”), The FT adds:

His ability to avoid trouble sometimes seemed too good to be true; a third of his cabinet is under investigation. So it proved. The Supreme Court has authorised an investigation into Mr Temer’s case. After losing one president to impeachment last year, Brazil has entered uncharted waters. There are many scenarios but the key underlying question is when this acute uncertainty might be resolved rather than how.

Brazilian engineering conglomerate Odebrecht admitted to illegal payments in Angola, in a case exposed by campaigning journalist Rafa Marques de Morais (right), one of several anti-corruption activists scheduled to receive the National Endowment for Democracy’s prestigious Democracy Award in a Capitol Hill ceremony next month.

The near-immunity that Brazil’s federal legislators enjoy has bred impunity, Bloomberg adds:

They should lose their special legal standing before the Supreme Court. The appeals process should be streamlined, statutes of limitation lengthened, and penalties increased.

More broadly, Brazil needs to fix an electoral system that has made campaigns absurdly expensive and turned its legislature into a multi-party bazaar where political support is for sale. The problem is all too obvious: The country’s politicians must act to curb their own privileges.

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