BRASÍLIA, Brazil – Rodrigo Janot, the Attorney General of the Federative Republic of Brazil, has denounced President Michel Temer of corruption again, just a month after the Brazilian leader managed to evade other corruption charges through a parliamentary vote.
Janot accused Temer of obstruction of justice and for participating in a criminal enterprise that has, according to the Attorney General, raised some 590 million Brazilian reais (or $160 million USD) in bribes on behalf of Temer’s catch-all but currently right-leaning Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB).
Just over 90 days ago, Temer became the first sitting leader in Brazilian history to be directly accused of crimes of corruption by the nation’s highest legal authority when Janot filed a suit against him.
In that suit, Temer was accused of corruption through the testimony of the now-arrested Joesley Batista, the owner of the world’s biggest meatpacking company JBS, who said that Temer accepted and in some cases even asked for bribes for his party in exchange for lucrative government contracts.
In the subsequent step of that indictment, however, Temer saved himself as he has done in the past by using his tireless networking skills and countless alliances. He formed partnerships with hundreds of other politicians, many of whom are corrupt, and made deals to avoid implicating those other politicians in exchange for their allegiance.
In order for the indictment to take effect and force Temer to step down for a period of six months to face the charges, at least two-thirds of Congress needed to vote against him. In the end, Temer received 263 votes of confidence, almost 100 more than the 172 he needed in order to override Janot’s implication and stop the suit from advancing to the Supreme Court.
For their part, those disgraced politicians (as nearly 60 percent have some sort of criminal case opened against them) said they voted in Temer’s favor in order to preserve political stability in the country and to further his free market-oriented reforms.
Those same politicians, however, had no issue in voting to impeach former leader Dilma Rousseff of the center-left Workers Party (PT) due to shifting budget tactics in what was an unprecedented and irregular procedure. To this day, Rousseff has not been accused of any crimes of corruption.
Instead of punishing Rousseff’s party via democratic elections, politicians like Temer took advantage of public discontent over a stagnant economy and rampant cases of corruption (in which most of those politicians and their parties are involved, Temer’s PMDB more so than any other) and used Rousseff as a scapegoat.
Rousseff and her lawyers, meanwhile, said that she was removed from power by other politicians with the sole purpose of putting an end to the massive corruption investigation Operation Lava Jato, which focused mostly on the Petrobras scandal in which prosecutors allege that over $1 billion was doled out and laundered to the the semi-state-owned energy company’s executives in exchange for valuable contracts with construction and engineering companies.
With Rousseff out of the way, her legal team argued, the investigation would be sidetracked or stopped altogether by the interim government. In turn, the citizenry would not object to the stoppage of the investigation because the most powerful politician in the country would be impeached as the biggest result of the ‘anti-corruption’ campaign and other politicians would be safe.
It would seem as if Rousseff’s arguments proved true as any subsequent investigations into corruption allegations have been stopped or severely limited by Temer and his inner circle, as clearly seen in the last congressional vote.
When Rousseff’s approval ratings reached rock bottom at 13 percent, Temer himself (then her vice-president) said that a politician with such low figures could not stay in power. As of early September, polling firm Datafolha placed Temer’s approval rating at just 7 percent.
With several recent high-profile arrests of businessmen and political figures, along with the fact that eight of Temer’s ministers are being investigated for corruption, the said “inner circle” is shrinking and the complicated web of votes-for-silence alliances may be unraveling. More convicts will trade information in exchange for lighter sentences and there can only be so many lower-ranking figures that are brought down as sacrifices before Temer, the prize, is finally caught.
Perhaps it is for this reason that Janot, who is retiring very soon, has decided to file corruption charges against Temer again, this time including the obstruction of justice charge as Temer repeatedly attempted to have audiotapes confirming his participation in the illicit acts thrown out as evidence.
The PMDB, in defending itself and its star politician, said that “society will know the real reasons behind the accusations against our members,” seemingly oblivious to the irony of its statement given their history with Rousseff’s impeachment and record as the most corrupt political party in Brazil.
With the weakening of Temer, no matter how slow the process may be, Janot (and his future replacement) is seeking to chip away at the unelected President of Brazil piece by piece until a removal from power seems to be inevitable. In the face of these accusations, the 513-seat Chamber of Deputies will vote again to see if Temer will receive another reprieve but even if he does, the case has gathered too much steam to stop now.