By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff announced on Wednesday, March 18th, anti-corruption measures which she says will inhibit and punish irregularities in the public administration. According to the President these measures will go a long way to curbing widespread corruption which have tainted and weakened her administration.
The measures come in the wake of Sunday’s nationwide protests, which led to more than one million people to the streets to march against corruption and the current government. The latest opinions polls have also registered President Rousseff with the highest rejection rate of any Brazilian leader since impeached former President Fernando Collor de Mello, in 1992.
“Corruption offends and humiliates workers, reduces the importance of honest work,” said President Rousseff during the speech to announce the measures. “Corruption hurts businessmen, hurts workers, hits and offends honest men and women.”
Among the anti-corruption measures announced is the reduction of the number of government jobs, the criminalization of Caixa 2 (slush funds) with sentences of three to six years in jail, criminalization of illicit enrichment with sentences of three to eight years in jail, the immediate confiscation of assets of people involved in corruption, and the requirement that appointed government officials have no criminal convictions.
“My commitment combating corruption is coherent with my personal life, with my political policies and is coherent with my performance as president,” said Rousseff during her speech.
Some, however, say that the administration did not go far enough when preparing the anti-corruption measures. “The current discourse focuses on punitive measures. The person commits an illicit act and suffers the consequence,” said Natalia Paiva, director of Transparencia Brasil, an NGO dedicated to combating corruption in an interview to Agencia Brasil.
“We believe to be able to adopt strategic measures to combat corruption where the main focus should be in prevention. Improvement of the institutions is needed so that measures are implemented to avoid illicit actions from starting,” she added.
Opposition Congressional leaders were harsher in criticizing the measures. “Many of these measures have been approved by the Senate and are now in the Chamber of Deputies to be voted on,” said PSDB Senate leader Cássio Cunha Lima. “What the President is attempting is an inefficient game of marketing. Of confusing public opinion and transfer blame.”
For Senator Ronaldo Caiado, DEM Senate leader, it is ironic that President Rousseff is presenting an anti-corruption plan when the treasurer of her PT party is one of the accused. “How is she [President Rousseff] going to present an anti-corruption plan if not even the treasurer of her party has been dismissed?”
Most of the anti-corruption pressure felt by the Rousseff administration stems from the Petrobras scandal. The state-owned oil giant has been under fire after a federal police investigation revealed that some of its directors received millions of dollars worth of bribes for contracts.
The year-long investigation has led so far to indictments for bribery and money laundering of former Petrobras directors as well as top executives of the largest construction conglomerates in the country. Over forty politicians are also under investigation, accused of receiving illegal campaign funds from these companies, including both the presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.