Opinion by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One of the main reasons President Trump won the U.S. Presidential election was his constant proclamation during his campaign that he would “drain the swamp”. The swamp in question was Washington DC, which, by metonymy, means the U.S. Federal Government.
Here in Brazil the festering, noxious swamp is also the Federal Government, but the people seeking drainage are not presidents, nor presidential candidates, nor former presidents—rather, to the contrary, these notables are now defendants.
Yesterday’s political bombshells implicated both President Temer and Senator Aécio Neves in criminal activities, based on disclosures by Joesley Batista, the owner and chief executive of JBS, the gigantic Brazilian “animal protein” company whose rise to worldwide prominence occurred as a direct result of incentives from former President Lula.
Joesley Batista has said President Temer knew of and approved paying a bribe to disgraced former Chamber of Deputies President Eduardo Cunha, in order to keep him quiet — in plain English: “hush money”. He also said that Senator Neves asked him for R$2 million for his defense against Lava Jato accusations of corruption.
Worse yet, for both Temer and Neves, Batista recorded the conversations where the graft occurred, and yesterday he went to Justice Fachin of the STF and handed in the tapes, as part of his plea bargain. Fachin didn’t hesitate — he released the information and suspended Neves’s senatorial position.
All this occurred just days after the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced it would begin the trial of the 2014 Dilma/Temer campaign ticket for violations of electoral law. A guilty verdict would remove Temer from office and generate an emergency election for President.
The problem with all this is that the emergency election would be indirect — Congress would be the only voters. Given the rampant corruption in Congress, all of whose leaders are under investigation for corruption, Brazilians can only despair for their government.
The Brazilian metaphor for impending disaster is “a vaca foi pro brejo” or “the cow went to the swamp”. The Brazilian swamp now hosts an entire herd of cattle, up to their pasterns in muddy quicksand.