The art of overthrowing governments

Marcelo Guimarães Lima, Interior with children, 2021.


US foreign policy and Sérgio Moro's Lava Jato threw Brazil into Bolsonarist hell

In the 2000s, US foreign policy had the clear objective of executing its program to combat terrorism. The government of George W. Bush then implemented its Global War on Terror against the so-called Axis of Evil, following a political line of “those who are not with us are against us”. However, at the time, the Lula government and Itamaraty were not willing to embark on the US adventure, which bothered Washington due to the lack of cooperation.

Along with international security issues, the Brazilian government at the time collected some friction with the US, maintaining a conflictive relationship even within a (historical) spectrum of dependence and subordination. Two aspects are emblematic of these clashes. First, the process of internationalization of Brazilian companies, financed by BNDES such as Petrobras and Odebrecht, which generated market competition with US companies in some sectors, especially in the Americas.

Second, the political leadership of the Brazilian state in forming Latin American coalitions without US participation, such as the formation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and its South American Defense Council and the Community of Latin American States and Caribbean (CELAC) – in addition to strengthening MERCOSUR. In general terms, the Brazilian foreign policy arising from a neo-developmentalist program, organized by the PT governments, worried the White House.

Autonomy in foreign policy and the rise of as a regional economic and geopolitical power would not be tolerated. But the task of intervening in the Brazilian political process and reversing the situation became more difficult when Edward Snowden showed that the US Security Agency (NSA) was spying on President Dilma Rousseff and Petrobras, which strained relations between the two states.

Then the agenda of combating corruption comes into play. US state agency agents mobilized a 1977 US law, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which allows the Department of Justice (Department of Justice/ DOJ) investigate and punish foreign companies that commit crimes of corruption, even if they did not occur in the national territory. Based on this law, the Yankee State investigated and punished Brazilian companies targeted by Lava Jato, such as Petrobras and Odebrecht. Dissemination of the FCPA was accomplished through Project Bridges, a training activity offered by US embassies around the world to consolidate bilateral law enforcement operations.

The FPCA and Projeto Pontes have promoted partnerships with police and prosecutors in almost every US state and the resources of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ's domestic intelligence service and investigative police sector) to investigate transnational corruption increased by 300%. It is noteworthy that later, in 2017, the US National Security Strategy document lists the fight against foreign corruption as a priority for the internal security of Americans.

In legal terms, it can be said that the Yankee State has expanded the application of its law and increased its jurisdiction in the world. In other words, it can be said that the DOJ provided the legal veneer for the political dimension of US imperialism, whose objectives were captured by the press from the Vaza Jato documents. Between 2013 and 2014 DOJ attorneys sent their agents to Brazil – who remained here for years – to instruct Brazilian attorneys on the FCPA. One of them, Leslie Caldwell, said in a lecture in November 2014 that “the fight against foreign corruption is not a service we provide to the international community, but rather a necessary enforcement measure to protect our own interests in matters of national security and that of our companies, so that they are globally competitive”.

In the same year, the Lava Jato task force was formed by the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office in Curitiba, with the collaboration of the DOJ, the FBI and other US State agencies. Police officers have no jurisdiction outside their home countries and, under Brazilian law, foreign agents cannot carry out investigations in national territory without express authorization from the Ministry of Justice. But Lava Jato circumvented central authority to deliberately and consensually work with US imperialism.

Overthrowing non-aligned governments is nothing new for Washington. However, this time the resource used was the instrumentalization of the anti-corruption banner for political purposes by the DOJ and Lava Jato. This process is intertwined with Sérgio Moro's political activity, even before the formation of the task force. The newspaper Le Monde and the Wikileaks revealed that in 2007 Sergio Moro participated in a meeting of the US State Department (equivalent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), with representatives of the DOJ, the FBI, and the State Department itself.

In 2012, Sérgio Moro was appointed to join Rosa Weber's cabinet, as the minister needed assistants with knowledge of transnational crimes. Weber later positioned himself in favor of easing the need for evidence in cases of corruption. It is worth mentioning that in 2013, due to international pressure, the Brazilian parliament voted on the anti-corruption law, incorporating FCPA mechanisms. Moro and Lava Jato, with their media and spectacular (and in some cases illegal) operations, were responsible for the overthrow of the Dilma government, the arrest of former President Lula and the rise of neo-fascism in the country with the election of Bolsonaro.

The problem is not fighting corruption, but the instrumentalization of this fight for political and economic ends, such as overthrowing governments that are not aligned with the US and favoring US companies. During the Moro government, US influence in the Brazilian bureaucracy increased. He made at least three trips to the United States while he was Minister of State and favored the presence of foreign agents in an intelligence center on the triple border of Foz do Iguaçu.

The case of the Integrated Border Operations Center, which began operating in 2019, is significant. The Yankee State had been pressuring the Brazilian governments for some time to investigate alleged terrorist activities in the region, however it ran into resistance from PT governments. A month before the inauguration of the Center, Moro was a tour guide for US agents to see the facilities at the Itaipu Power Plant.

Sérgio Moro left the Bolsonaro government probably because his project of power, as a representative of US imperialism, had to continue instrumentalizing the fight against corruption, but he ran into the shield of the corrupt acts of the government, which he helped to elect. In 2020, Sérgio Moro went to work in the United States, at the company Alvarez & Marsal, whose service is the management of the recovery of large companies, such as those destroyed by the DOJ abroad and by Lava Jato. The company is formed by former agents of state agencies, such as the DOJ, FBI and NSA. The former minister became a partner of his former collaborators.

The figure of Moro represents a profound, complex and hidden process in international politics: the maintenance of US supremacy, which needs to defeat other states' autonomy projects in the international system, and interference in the internal affairs of countries (imperialism). In practice, this process consisted of a coup d'état in 2016 and the rise of a government that combines fascism and neoliberalism and projects the installation of a dictatorship on a daily basis. US foreign policy and Sérgio Moro’s Lava Jato threw Brazil into Bolsonarist hell: dismantling of national economic infrastructure and public services, political persecution and almost 700 deaths in a pandemic ignored by the government, in addition to unemployment, recession, inflation and famine.

Meanwhile, Sérgio Moro, back in Brazil and breaking with Bolsonarism, continues his political activity, first as a pre-candidate for the so-called third way for President, now as a (dehydrated) candidate for federal deputy. His allies, both on the physiological right and on the neoliberal right – Luciano Bivar, João Dória, Milton Leite, José Agripino Maia, José Carlos Aleluia, Deltan Dellagnol, Rodrigo Garcia, Rodrigo Maia, among others – share the same political position as the former minister. : subservience to foreign capital and aversion to national projects of autonomy and development. In yet another chapter of his political activities as a terminator of the future, Moro became a defendant in a popular action, filed by PT deputies, to be sentenced to reimburse the public coffers because of the damage caused to the Brazilian economy during his performance in Lava Jato .

* Caio Bugiato Professor of Political Science and International Relations at UFRRJ and at the Graduate Program in International Relations at UFABC.


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