By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Despite delays and appeals by convicted figures in the mensalão corruption scandal, the president of the Supremo Tribunal Federal (Supreme Court, or STF), Joaquim Barbosa is continuing the pressure to enforce actual jail time. The court determined the sentences would not be overturned, and at least eleven will be arrested – including former minister José Dirceu – to fulfill sentences.

Joaquim Barbosa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Judge and STF president Joaquim Barbosa, photo by Marcello Casal Jr/ABr.

In September, Justice Celso de Mello voted to approve the motion to reconsider the court’s decision in the corruption scandal. The Justice’s vote brought the final tally favorable to hearing the new appeals to six against five, effectively activating a new trial.

The retrial could have reversed the sentences of twelve out of the 25 high-ranking politicians condemned in the mensalão vote-buying scheme, including Dirceu, former President Lula’s chief of staff and convicted mastermind behind the corruption scandal.

In November 2012, Dirceu was sentenced to a nearly eleven-year prison sentence for corruption and forming a gang, and must also pay a fine of R$676,000 (US$330,000). The verdict was that he will serve his sentence in a closed prison, rather than in a semi-open prison or under house arrest.

The mensalão trial condemned some of the country’s leading politicians for corruption, money laundering, as well as racketeering, in connection to the payment of large monthly allowances to members of Congress in exchange of favorable votes on legislation between 2003 and 2005.

Most saw the convictions as a blow to impunity in a country notorious for corruption scandals, and the reversal in September was telling. Now the enforcement of prison sentences will certainly help public confidence in a period of civil unrest.

In 2011, Brazil’s corruption perception indicator by Transparency International places the Latin American giant at 73, third place in the South America, behind Chile and Uruguay. The number of trials against corrupt officials reaching a final verdict within a year remains extremely low, especially in cases of fraud is against the state.

Read more (in Portuguese).

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