Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Just when you thought things in Brazil couldn’t get worse, they do. Yesterday’s startling events may herald even more startling events soon, now that Lula has been sworn in as Dilma’s Chief of Staff, and Congress has begun impeachment proceedings.
Early in the morning, Lula agreed to become Chief of Staff. Shortly thereafter, PT and the Administration publicly announced that he would be sworn in next Tuesday, March 22nd, along with two other newly appointed ministers.
At 11:32 AM Judge Moro issued an order to the Federal Police (PF) to stop monitoring calls to Lula’s cell phone. Two hours later, the PF taped a conversation where Dilma told Lula she was sending him a form he needed to sign in order to become a Minister — to be used “in case of necessity”.
Later on, Judge Moro ordered the taped call to be released, Dilma ordered a special edition of the Diário Oficial da União to be printed confirming Lula’s appointment, and announced that the swearing-in ceremony would be held today, March 17, at 10AM.
Why was Dilma in such a hurry? And what was the “necessity” she foresaw?
The obvious answer is that she had been advised (by whom?) that Judge Moro was about to indict Lula and call for his imprisonment. To nullify Judge Moro’s investigation, Lula had to be appointed Minister, so as to be investigated only by the STF.
Moreover, if Lula was indicted for corruption and arrested, Dilma could not possibly nominate him as her Chief of Staff and de facto Prime Minister.
Faced with these prospects, Dilma didn’t dither. She warned Lula by phone, and sent him a “safe conduct” letter in case he was arrested. She advanced the date of the induction ceremony five days and, to compound the felony, printed up a special, single-purpose edition of the DOU, without which there could be no official induction.
Taken together, Dilma’s hasty actions amount to obstruction of justice, one of the statutory grounds for impeachment of an elected official. The call, the letter, the advanced induction date and the special edition are four bullets from a smoking gun.
The Curmudgeon will emit more dismal Smidgens opportunely—stay tuned.