Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last week and this have proven beyond any doubt that Brazilian politicians have no sense of shame whatsoever. Lula (who instituted and oversaw both the Mensalão and Petrolão scandals) said that if he’s convicted, being honest in Brazil just isn’t worth it.
A few days ago, the chair of the Senate Ethics committee said that Aécio Neves was a “victim” because he was recorded asking for R$2 million in graft.
Worse yet, President Temer said there’s no proof of any wrongdoing by him, just because he snuck Joesley Baptista in the back door of his residence and talked calmly about bribes being paid to stop the Lava Jato investigations, not to mention telling Joesley which of his advisers he should contact about graft possibilities.
A while back, President Temer said that mere accusations from plea bargainers were not enough reason for him to sack any of his cabinet ministers, but that he would do so if they were formally charged by the Federal Prosecutor. They were so charged, but he shamelessly backtracked and said they needed to be convicted before he’d sack them.
He himself has now been formally charged with passive corruption — the Federal Prosecutor says he was the beneficiary of the R$500.000 bag of cash delivered by JBS to one of his aides. His reaction is to deny everything, and to work behind the scenes in Congress to ensure he never stands trial as long as he’s President.
The formal charge was submitted to the STF, which will send it to the President of the Chamber of Deputies, who will have it analyzed by the Committee on Justice and the Constitution. The Committee can hear defences by Temer, and will then make a recommendation to the full Chamber as to whether the STF should be able to try Temer.
The full Chamber will vote, and under the Constitution, the criminal trial will not happen unless 2/3 of the Deputies vote to proceed—that’s 342 out of 513. In other words, if 172 Deputies shamelessly abstain or vote against trial, Temer is home safe.
In the meantime, Temer and his backers in Congress are shamelessly working to shift assignments to ensure their cohorts participate at the Committee level. Afterwards, in the full Chamber, those of Temer’s cabinet ministers who were federal deputies will shamelessly resign and retake their parliamentary seats, so they can vote to whitewash President Temer.
All this is happening because TSE, Brazil’s Electoral Court, voted 4-3 not to overturn the 2014 elections, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence of misuse of power by the Dilma/Temer ticket. The deciding vote, shamelessly cast by STF Justice Gilmar Mendes, said that, despite all the evidence of lawbreaking, it was more important to ensure the current administration stayed in power.
Gilmar Mendes and other Justices have repeatedly mouthed the platitude that we should not “demonize” all politicians, because democratic republics cannot be run without politicians. The problem with that position is that truly democratic republics require their politicians to have a sense of shame.
The Curmudgeon is unable to name one single politician having power in Brasília who has a sense of shame. That is a death knell for Brazil’s democracy, and is a very great shame indeed.