Lava Jato and Bolsonaro

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By GILBERTO LOPES*

The Careful Devastation of a Country and the Lava Jato Cafajestes

President Joe Biden faces the challenge of repositioning the United States' role in the world after the problems created by the Trump administration's decisions. Samantha Power, senior director of the US National Security Council in President Barack Obama's first term, who later served as ambassador to the UN, presented some alternatives in an article published in the magazine Foreign Affairs in January. Entitled “The power of being able to do” (“The can-do power”), Power claims the ability of the United States to regain global leadership. For this, he suggests three areas of work: the distribution of vaccines against Covid-19; greater facilities for foreigners to study in the United States; and the fight against corruption, both at home and abroad.

It is this last proposal – which Power called “Corruption Crackdown”, for which he called for a “high profile” policy – ​​which ties in with the topic of this article. “The United States is the core of a global financial system that between 1999 and 2017 handled at least $XNUMX trillion in funds linked to arms and drug dealers, money laundering, sanctions evasion and corrupt officials,” he said. The dimension of a problem that apparently the United States did not address with the diligence it deserved is surprising.

Power's observation points more precisely to the political possibilities that this fight against corruption offers Washington. In the article, he recalls that, in recent years, “the revelations that the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht paid 788 million dollars in bribes in Latin America destroyed important political leaders and changed politics in several countries in the region”.

devastating operations

In the case of Brazil – as we know it today – the result of these operations was devastating. Operation Lava Jato, carried out by a group of judges and prosecutors, was, for years, presented by the United States as a model in the fight against corruption. “Launched in March 2014 with a focus on investigating deviations at Petrobras, Lava Jato ended up severely undermining the structures of the political system in its first four years”, reads an article on February 3 in the Deutsche Welle, about what he called the “melancholic end” of the most belligerent Lava Jato group, which operated in the state of Paraná, in the south of the country.

It was not a new story. As early as 2013, Edward Snowden, an analyst at the US National Security Agency (NSA), had revealed the Agency's interests in Brazilian companies, especially Petrobras and large construction companies, such as Odebrecht. The enormous pre-salt reserves, on the Brazilian central coast, had just been discovered and the NSA program, whose declared objective was to protect the United States from terrorist threats, was focused on purely commercial objectives in Brazil.

In September 2018, as part of Lava Jato's investigations into irregularities committed by Petrobras, the company signed an agreement with the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission to pay US$853 million to put an end to to these investigations. The case involved irregular actions by former directors and executives of the company on the US stock exchange. The company was accused of falsifying accounting records to facilitate the payment of bribes to politicians and political parties in Brazil. But, in the sequence, another scandal emerged, when negotiations were revealed for a large part of the fine to be handed over to the Public Ministry in Brazil and administered by the same Lava Jato prosecutors, in exchange for the delivery of confidential information from Petrobras to the US government. . A round deal, with extraordinary strategic repercussions, both economically and politically.

Lava Jato's long arm

In July 2019, when The Intercept Brazil had already released the first information about the so-called “Vaza Jato”, with complaints about illegal conduct by Lava Jato, two prosecutors from Rio de Janeiro responsible for these investigations came to Costa Rica to participate in a workshop on cases of corruption and crimes of money laundering. Of money. The activity was sponsored by the US government. “The workshop was developed under the coordination of the Transparency and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of Compliance of the Judiciary”, reads on a website of the Judiciary of Costa Rica.

It was a bilateral cooperation project between the Costa Rican Judiciary, the US Embassy and the National Center for State Courts, called “Strengthening institutional human capacity in detecting fraud or corruption and anti-corruption methods”, which sponsored the visit to Costa Rica by Lava Jato prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro, José Augusto Simões Barros and Carlos Alberto Gomes Aguiar. At that moment, the arbitrariness committed by the Lava Jato operation in Brazil was beginning to be disclosed, without the extent and gravity of the abuses committed being known. But in the opinion of the Rio de Janeiro prosecutors, published by the newspaper La Nación, the questions asked “to judge Sergio Moro for alleged irregularities in the process that led to the arrest of the popular former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva” were unfounded and were “focused on 'legally weakening' the arrest of the former socialist leader” .

The purpose of the leaks, they said, was “to affect the reputation of the people who are working on Lava Jato”. In their opinion, Judge Moro's conversations with prosecutors – unacceptable in any judicial system – were “normal conversations between people who are investigating an issue. It is our job”, said Aguiar. “Our action was not against politicians, because political activity is essential for a society. Our action was against organized crime. Against those who disguised themselves as politicians to commit crimes. Our action was against the corrupt. It's natural for them to react by saying that we act politically," they later said at a conference in Costa Rican Bar Association. “If we didn't act ethically, we would all lose. If I tell my kids (I have two) that it's important to be honest, but I don't show them with attitudes how relevant this message is, I'll give them a mixed reading. We have to show good examples at home, respecting each other,” they added.

 Neoliberalism and privatizations

In July last year, economist Rosa Marques, a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, published a study on the effects of Lava Jato on the Brazilian economy. The operation caused the dismantling of “important sectors of the national economy, mainly the oil industry and its supply chain, such as civil construction, metalworking, the naval industry, heavy engineering, in addition to the Brazilian nuclear program. In its first year alone, it is estimated that Lava Jato withdrew around 142,6 billion reais from the Brazilian economy. That is: the operation produced at least three times more economic losses than what it assesses to have been diverted with corruption”.

Citing other studies, Marques stated that, in three years, between December 2013 and December 2016, Petrobras reduced the number of its employees from 446 thousand to just over 186 thousand. Even more important than the effects of Lava Jato on the performance of these companies was the result for the country's economy. According to the economist, the dismantling of these economic sectors accelerated a process that had already started with the auctions of the best pre-salt areas, given to large foreign capital. “A regressive agenda” – says Marques – “of a neoliberal agenda of which Lava Jato was part”.

New complaints

The first revelations made by the Intercept Brazil about the illegalities of Lava Jato, about its political objectives, became smaller after the revelation, last month, of the conversations between the then judge Moro, the prosecutor Deltan Dellagnol and the Lava Jato team in Paraná.

Among the disclosed conversations, there is one that reveals a relationship between Judge Gabriela Hardt (who took over from Judge Moro when he was appointed Minister of Justice by Bolsonaro) and Moro himself. Being both married (not to each other), the judge threatened to sue anyone who referred to the case. The truth is that, on social networks, it is already said that the two discussed, at the motel, the sentences that would later be handed down against Lula and other accused. Hardt took office amid speculation that she would be even tougher than the judge in her handling of the case of former President Lula, Lava Jato's main target. And so it was. Among other things, she did not allow him to leave prison to attend his brother's funeral.

Publicity by the magazine Veja part of this archive “is enough to definitively implode not the operation itself, sufficiently demoralized, but the Brazilian penal system itself”, said journalist Luis Nassif on January 29. In the future – he adds –, “there will be a balance sheet of the destruction of the country, aiming at subjecting it to the most deleterious financialization, which concentrates income, destroys basic social rights, destroys jobs and companies, in partnership with a genocidal yet to be judged”. and imprisoned in an international court”.

As is clear today, all Lava Jato operations had one main objective: to prevent Lula from being a candidate in the 2018 elections, in which he was the overwhelming favorite. His conviction – in violation of all judicial procedures, as demonstrated today – and imprisonment – ​​with the consequent loss of political rights, according to Brazilian law – allowed Bolsonaro to win the elections and become president of Brazil. “There are many political scientists who claim that the bombastic excesses of Lava Jato ended up fueling a feeling of anti-politics in various layers of the population that paved the way for an extreme right-wing radical like Bolsonaro to have greater acceptance in an election”, said the Deutsche Welle in your note.

endless crisis

it was the same Deutsche Welle who titled “Endless Crisis: Bolsonaro’s Second Year” an article published on December 30, in which he analyzed the first half of the president’s four-year term. The most dramatic expression of this crisis is the handling of the pandemic.

And it is probably the situation in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas, that expresses this drama most strongly. “What is happening in Manaus is appalling. The Amazonian people are torn apart. Manaus became a kind of non-stop horror movie. There are thousands of very deep human pains. Children, parents, siblings, friends devastated by the loss of their loved ones”, Antonio Lisboa posted on his Facebook last January 28th. “I have edited, translated and subtitled many videos in recent years, with images of international reports on the most varied topics related to Brazil and I have watched many others. But the ones I've been subtitling since yesterday don't compare to anything I've seen.” The oxygen was gone, the sick were dying without being able to breathe, while the president said that it was not his responsibility to guarantee the supply of oxygen to the hospitals. "I think the president has lost his humanity." “The president doesn't care, he ignores; this is very serious”, said the Archbishop of Manaus, Monsignor Leonardo Steiner.

“Behind this there is a way of thinking about the economy. This way of governing that has been called neoliberalism”. “Hunger, say economists and social scientists, should hit the Brazilian people hard again, if the federal government's decision not to renew emergency aid is confirmed. Studies point out that the cut will throw about 63 million Brazilians below the poverty line; and about 20 million in extreme poverty”. “I am afraid of a social upheaval. The poor are many,” he added.

With around 9,5 million cases, Brazil, with 230 deaths, is second only to the United States, which has more than 475 in this tragic number. “Failure in the face of the pandemic is repeated monotonously in all the plans and areas of action of a government that is content to assist”, said economist José Luis Fiori, in an article published on December 31. Estimates point to a 5% drop in GDP last year, the same as the investment rate, which fell from 20,9% in 2013 to 15,4% in 2019 and is expected to fall even further in 2020, according to the international agencies. Foreign capital outflows increased from 44,9 billion reais in 2019 to 87,5 billion reais last year. The country is facing the threat of an energy blackout and a deterioration of its infrastructure and its position in the various indicators of the population's quality of life. “It is impossible to complete this assessment of the ruins of this government without mentioning the destruction of Brazil's international image, carried out in an explicit and slanderous way by the biblical and delusional idiot who occupies the chancellery. The same one who commanded the tragicomic 'humanitarian invasion' of Venezuela in 2019, at the head of his failed Lima Group; the same one that failed in its attempt to imitate the United States and promote a change of government and regime in Bolivia, through a coup d'état”, says Fiori.

How does this government sustain itself despite the destruction it is leaving in its wake? The answer is absolutely clear today, he concludes: it is a simulacrum of a military government. “The president himself and his deputy are military, one captain and the other a reserve general. But in addition to them, 11 of the current 23 government ministers are also military, and the Minister of Health himself is an active-duty general, all at the head of a veritable army made up of 6.157 active-duty and reserve officers who occupy key posts in various levels of government”. Fiori finally remembers that it was the then commander of the Army, General Eduardo Villas Bôas, who decided, in 2018, to personally endorse and supervise “the operation that led to the presidency of the country an aggressive, crude and despicable psychopath, surrounded by a bunch of scoundrels without no moral principles, and true ideological buffoons, who together pretend to govern Brazil, for two years”.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

 

 

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