Photo Jonathan Blair

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Lava Jato: beware throwing the baby with the bathwater

The trove of documents that The Intercept is posting online shows increasingly clearly that Lava Jato Judge Moro and key prosecutors were targeting Lula to make sure that he would not run in 2016, thus opening the way for a victory of the Right.
Those who denounced the impeachment of Dilma and the arrest of Lula as a coup--among whom I was not--look increasingly right. The whole affair, well beyond clownish, violent and vulgar Bolsonaro, points to deep flaws in the country's institutional make-up and to strict limits to its supposedly democratic status.
It would be tempting, therefore, to dismiss Lava Jato as a scheme, as the pure artefact of an attempt by the Right to get back to power, which would be a mistake.
Let's indeed not through the baby with the bathwater: though the proof against him personally look increasingly fraught, corruption was rife under the governments of Lula and his chosen successor, Dilma Rousseff (against whom nothing has been found) government.
As the latest issue of David Fleischer's Brazil Focus (August 17-23) reminds us, the scale of those scandals is just mind boggling. In one of the latest instalments of the investigation, two of the PT's finance ministers are targeted: Antonio Palocci, who is already in prison and collaborating with the police, and Guido Mantega, "the longest-serving finance Minister in the history of Brazil," still free.
The latter is accused by Palocci of having received $R50 million Reais (about US$15 million) from Odebrecht, the big engineering firm that was at the core of the scandal. As Palocci is clearly trying to save his skin, this may or not be true, but in the meantime, judges and the Swiss authorities, on the request of Brazil, have frozen the bank accounts of Mantega: $R 50 million in Brazil, and $US 50 million in Switzerland, for a total of about US $65 million dollars.
Mantega should obviously be considered innocent until proven guilty, but this guy is the foreign-born son of Italian immigrants, he has a BA in Economics and a PhD in Sociology from the University of São Paulo. He has been close to Lula since the 1990s, he has taught in universities, worked for think tanks, and he was, for a while, an advisor in the PT administration of the City of São Paulo. His only real claim to fame is this long stint as Finance Minister for Lula and Dilma. And now, no doubt among many other assets, he has US$50 million in a Swiss bank account?
As the evidence piles up, of Moro's scheming and of engineering firms, banks and PT operators' getting immensely rich, Lula--and possibly Dilma too--looks increasingly like a pathetic tool cleverly used by a cynical mafia of conservative political entrepreneurs and long-time "friends" and "collaborators."
It is to cry.