Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Yesterday’s news is that the Lava-Jato (“Car Wash”) investigation being carried out by the Federal Police has resulted in the arrest and interrogation of dozens of executives of HUGE construction companies, all of which had HUGE contracts (billions) with Petrobras, and all of which were HUGE (official) contributors to the campaign funds of PT and other political parties.

The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster
The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.

Assuming the news reports of the investigative findings are true, it turns out that these very same companies were also huge UNOFFICIAL contributors to the campaign funds of PT and other political parties. “Unofficial” sometimes translates into “under the table” or “off books” or “corrupt” but the best translation is “illegal”.

This news comes as no surprise to anyone who has lived in Brazil for decades and who has ever had any dealings with the oil patch [full disclosure: this includes The Curmudgeon]. Petrobras always treated oil and gas, at all levels, as its own feudal fiefdom. Everyone assumed that in order to get any Petrobras contract at all, somebody had to be paid off. But most assumed that it was only Petrobras employees who were on the take. Yesterday’s news is that the graft was far more extensive than previously imagined, and includes politicians.

Petrobras, of course, has always denied this.
Petrobras, of course, has always been lying.
Petrobras, of course, has nothing to say today.

Petrobras was born a monopoly, and has remained so for sixty years, in almost all areas connected with oil and gas. Monopolists, someone once said, do not seek power, they seek the easy life. The easy life in Brazil for Petrobras has meant facilitating contributions, official and unofficial, to the election campaigns of the politicians who run the country – and Petrobras. The refineries in Pasadena and Abreu e Lima vastly increased the “unofficial” contributions and, in the end, were their undoing.

The easy life is over.

Hallelujah!

The Curmudgeon plans to emit more short(ish) Smidgens opportunely. Stay tuned.

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