Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last Friday, Candidate Dilma, at a press conference, said “the rôle of the press is not to investigate, but to divulge information.” As one might expect, this set off a flurry of “information divulging” by the Brazilian press, unanimously critical of her position. On Sunday, realizing she had shot herself in the foot, Candidate Dilma began to backtrack.
The background for the Friday outburst is, of course, the ongoing Petrobras scandal, which threatens to wreak havoc with several ever-so-important political allies of Candidate Dilma. The “premium delator” (see the Curmudgeon on Illation and Delation for the denotation and connotation of these words) Paulo Roberto Costa has (apparently) reached a deal with federal prosecutors that will let him walk free in exchange for fingering other guilty parties.
Candidate Dilma was asked about this at a press conference and she waxed irate, claiming she had requested the Prosecutor’s office to hand over to her the testimony it was gathering from Mr. Costa, but had been denied! How, she asked, was it possible for journalists to obtain copies, but not the President of the Republic?
Now, that’s not a bad question to ask, because the investigation and the entire case are under a judicial secrecy order, meaning no one who is not directly involved can see what’s in the record. So, how did a large circulation magazine find out about the list of supposed wrong-doers? Obviously, there was a leak.
The spin doctors had Candidate Dilma say “criaram uma confusão danada” (roughly “they created a helluva commotion”) over her statement and had her admit that “investigative journalism can furnish evidence.” But only evidence, lest there’s a risk the “real” investigation be compromised. She cited Watergate as an example where journalists furnished evidence and the prosecutors got convictions.
Candidate Dilma must not remember what Watergate was about. It was about crimes (e.g. breaking and entering) committed to help the Republican election campaign. The “Lava Jato” investigation was begun by federal police and prosecutors before any leaks were made, but the leaks indicate that the money laundering was to help election campaigns of several Brazilian political parties.
Candidate Dilma further did not say why she herself wanted to see what the journalists had seen. After all, the investigation is ongoing, the police and prosecutors are assembling evidence, and only after they finish will they bring charges where appropriate. There is nothing the President of Brazil can do to change that, and the President of Brazil knows that.
Candidate Dilma, on the other hand, would dearly love to obtain that same information in order to help with damage control for the upcoming elections. The sooner she learns the weak points, the sooner counter-measures can begin.
If what President Dilma really wanted was more expeditious action by prosecutors, she should have said so. But she didn’t say that last Friday because, in fact, Candidate Dilma’s worst nightmare is that the police and prosecutors will finish their investigation before October 5th, Election Day, and indict a number of políticos who have been part of the government coalition.
If that happens, Candidate Dilma could come third in the vote, and not even make the run-off election on October 26th.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 36 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)