Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Late last year, the Curmudgeon wrote that “the institutional foundations of Brazil are under attack from each other, and from within.” Sadly, this state of affairs continues apace. Worse yet, no one seems to care.
Recently there were grandiose plans for mammoth demonstrations throughout Brazil on Sunday March 26th, designed to support the Lava-Jato investigations and protest the curtailment thereof. Events have overtaken this momentum, and the demonstrations fizzled out.
The main reason is Janot’s List. Through leaks, it has become known that most members of the political power structure cobbled together after Dilma was deposed are also under investigation for illicit and illegal activities.
This news, albeit not unexpected, was calamitous for the “protest” leaders, whose ire has long been directed at Lula, Dilma and PT. Once the population learned that PMDB, PSDB, and PP were also involved up to their gunwales, the wind went out of the demonstrator’s sails.
The response of the legislative branch to Janot’s List has been two-fold: (a) an attempt to amnesty all politicians who used “caixa 2” contributions in their election campaigns; and (b) an attempt to institute the closed “party list” electoral system, where the party leaders choose the party candidates, and voters cannot vote for individuals.
The response of the judicial branch has been most visible at the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), which has been investigating claims of violations during the 2014 presidential elections that would disqualify the Dilma/Temer ticket. There are judges on that court trying to sabotage the investigations. The executive branch is about to appoint two new members to the TSE, who are known to disapprove of the investigations.
The justification for all these moves is that Brazil needs “institutional stability”, as it recovers from the disastrous economic situation engendered by thirteen years of Lula/Dilma rule and institutes much-needed reforms: tax reform, political reform, social security reform, labor law reform.
Some reform is definitely needed. Unfortunately, the PMDB/PSDB/PP oligarchs leading the “reform” movement have now been shown, by Janot’s List, to have been at least as corrupt as any of the PT leaders now facing or serving jail time.
The reforms are, to put it mildly, politically unpopular. Those politicians who promote them are in danger of losing their positions, perquisites and patrimony. They will be in even greater danger when it’s shown (and it will be shown) that they were (and are) corrupt.
Hence the attempts to stall or cover up Lava Jato, and to amnesty criminals; all these measures will ensure that the current power brokers remain in office until at least 2022 and, probably, beyond.
The proponents of “political stability” look to Italy for inspiration. There, the established politicians successfully outlasted the “Mani Puliti” investigations, and continued to run the country in the same old corrupt fashion. Brazil does not deserve the same fate.