Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As expected by most observers, the Brazilian lower house voted to back President Temer, shielding him from prosecution at the STF for charges of passive corruption. This vote almost guarantees that Temer will complete Dilma’s second term and serve as President until January 2019.
The word “almost” is needed, because the mainstream media claim that federal prosecutor Janot will bring another set of charges against Temer, this time for obstruction of justice. Both sets are based upon the surreptitious recording made by Joesley Batista of his after-hours chat with Temer at the official residence.
Nevertheless, unless the prosecution produces evidence for this new charge that is stronger than that presented for the first set of charges, it is difficult to see how it will change the votes of any federal Deputy. In order to obtain legislative consent to prosecute for an ordinary crime, Janot needs a smoking gun, or “lipstick on the drawers” as the Brazilians quaintly say.
So far, at least, Janot doesn’t have it. If he did, he would have presented the strongest evidence first, rather than sending up a trial balloon.
The vote in the Chamber was clearly a political vote, as many of the Deputies stated when voting. A majority of the Chamber believe that Temer is better equipped to carry out the reforms they wish to enact than Rodrigo Maia, who would have assumed the Presidency if Temer were to stand trial.
Many Deputies admitted they were voting to block prosecution only while Temer is in office, as they claim to favor prosecution after he leaves office. In other words, they are less concerned about Temer possibly being a crook than about the legislative agenda for the next eighteen months.
This lack of concern is yet another manifestation of the widespread “rouba mas faz” syndrome, where Brazilians vote for crooks because they believe the crooks will get done the things they want done, by fair means or foul. Another way to express this syndrome is “the end justifies the means”.
In a serious country, where the rule of law obtains, criminal means do not justify political ends.