Opinion by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last week, by a 4-3 decision, Brazil’s highest electoral court (TSE) decided to absolve the Dilma/Temer 2014 campaign ticket of charges that they had abused the powers of office by receiving graft. The decision is extraordinary for any number of reasons.
The most important is that it has definitely undermined the confidence Brazilians have placed in their judicial system. No thinking person still has any hope for the executive or legislative branches, which are as marbled by corruption as Wagyu beef is by fat. The judiciary was the last, best hope of most citizens, who dreamt of eliminating corruption.
The TSE decision dashed a pail of very cold water on that dream. As one commentator put it, the decision was the first to absolve a defendant by reason of too much evidence of his guilt.
The Curmudgeon explains. At the time of the initial suit, filed immediately after the 2013 elections, the vast corruption scheme organized by construction giant Odebrecht had not yet been unearthed. The TSE reporting judge voted to dismiss the complaint but TSE Presiding Judge Gilmar Mendes persuaded a majority of the court not to dismiss, saying there was sufficient evidence to proceed.
Under a new reporting judge, TSE began its own investigations, and, naturally, included therein the testimony given the Lava Jato (Car Wash) judges by Odebrecht and corrupt election marketeers João Santana and Monica Moura, showing beyond any doubt how the Petrobras payments had been directed to the re-election campaign. It was expected that, as a result, TSE would vote resoundingly to invalidate the election results.
But because Dilma had been impeached, Gilmar Mendes openly switched sides to support keeping his buddy Temer in office. He purposefully delayed the TSE proceedings until the terms of two sitting TSE judges expired, so Temer could name their replacements. To the surprise of no one at all, both newly appointed judges voted, as did Mendes, to exclude from the trial the incriminating evidence obtained from Odebrecht and the marketeers.
Without that evidence, it was but a small step to absolve Temer and validate the 2014 election. And so it happened, to the dismay of the three dissenting judges and 99 percent of Brazil’s population.
Shameful? Suspicious? Scandalous? Of course, and there is now a movement to impeach Gilmar Mendes, who has clearly indicated his opposition to Lava Jato or anything else that would remove President Temer, because he (Gilmar Mendes) believes no one else should be President.
In the meantime, Chief Federal Prosecutor Janot will submit a petition to impeach President Temer, based on the evidence the TSE refused to consider, and more. However, impeachment proceedings require a 2/3 majority vote in the Chamber of Deputies — so 171 federal deputies can prevent Temer’s impeachment.
The three hundred scoundrels in Congress, most of whom are part and parcel of the corruption scheme, will be more than sufficient to maintain Temer in office until the 2018 elections.
Temer knows this, and last week, immediately after the TSE decision, he thumbed his nose at the STF and refused to answer the questions sent to him by Justice Fachin as part of the Lava Jato investigation.
That is beyond shameful. Brazil does not deserve lying scoundrels like Temer and Mendes in power for another day, let alone another eighteen months.