Brazil, the biggest country in Latin America, has been rocked by political scandals. President Dilma Rouseff has stepped aside by giving her position to Vice President Michel Temer, till the investigations against her are finalized.
The stories of corruption are not strange in Brazil but the political fiasco made global headlines when former President, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva was detained for questioning. He was accused of bribery and corruption in State-Owned Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras) during his time in office (2003-2010). Da Silva was accused of money laundering and using offshore companies to buy beachfront properties in Sao Paolo as well as use Mossack Fonseca’s office in Brasilia to hide the ownership of ill gotten assets.
The political controversy did not end there. In 2011, when Dilma Rouseff was chairwoman of Petrobras, Nestor Cervero, the company’s Director of International Operations, laundered money to buy expensive properties in Rio De Janeiro. He also gave bribes to Speaker of the Congress, Eduardo Cunha who also belonged to Democratic Movement (PMDB), the opposition party. Money was also funneled in the party’s account by Lobbyist Fernando Soares. In August of 2015, both Cervero and Soares were found guilty of money laundering and are currently facing prison sentences of 12 and 16 years respectively.
Cunha, who was leading the struggle to root out corruption from the country and remove President Rouseff, was exposed in 2015 by Swiss authorities. It was reported that he and his family members had secret bank accounts that were not disclosed to Brazilian authorities. Things took a turn to worst when Panama Papers named him as a beneficiary of the bribes paid by offshore companies in British Virgin Islands. These were owned by Portugese businessman Idalecio de Castro Rodrigues de Oliveira. His company partnered with Petrobras and channeled money into Cunha’s accounts in Panama and Switzerland.
The case caused a lot of stir and was called “Operação Lava Jato”, Portugese term for “Operation Car Wash”. It resulted in arrests of high profile politicians namely Fernando Collor de Mello, (Another Former President of Brazil), Treasurer of ruling party, João Vaccari Neto and former Mines and Energy Minister, Edison Lobão. This case of high eminence was presided by Justice Sérgio Moro, who has now become a national hero.
Justice Moro tried to get Luiz da Silva arrested but failed to do so. In March, President Rouseff used the constitution to appoint her predecessor as chief of staff of Brazil, so he could claim immunity and escape the charges. But Justice Moro effectively stopped it by releasing the telephonic conversations between Rouseff, da Silva and other judges. Some criticized this move while others hailed it and celebrated around the nation.
The Parliament, which was in deep slumber finally woke up when on May 5th, Prosecutor General, Rodrigo Janot took an extraordinary step by suspending speaker Eduardo Cunha from his position as he may face charges similar to Rouseff and da Silva. He is also being investigated for abuse of power, intimidating and threatening lawmakers and obstruction of justice. He could face impeachment and even jail time, if convicted in the court of law.
The political situation in Brazil is bad to the extent that one of the founders of Workers Party, (ruling Party) 93 year old Helio Bicudo, expressed his disappointment in these words;
“The Workers Party was a party of hope, but its leaders got intoxicated by power, and now that hope has been dashed”.
Brazil has taken a risky path. With Summer Olympics around the corner, epidemic of Zika virus combined with political turmoil, things will not be easy any time soon. Bringing the corrupt to justice will be a key to attract foreign investments which are in record decline. Unless the judiciary takes extreme steps by bringing the ill gotten wealth back, Brazil’s economy will be in a constant state of slump. All three branches of the government should come up with a temporary solution till the end of Summer Olympics. Better financial system will have an effect on neighboring Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Uruguay and other countries Brazil shares its border with.
The crisis in Brazil has taught me a lesson. Two people, Rodrigo Janot and Justice Sérgio Moro, took a bold initiative by standing up to those who are hell bent in destroying the country. They want to see their country prosper and blossom on the map of the world. Through their actions, they are proving that justice is the key to progress and development. I expect the attorney general of Pakistan, Mr Ashtar Ausaf and Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali to take a firm stand against corruption and take the judiciary on board. Our esteemed judicial system takes actions on non issues. For once, I expect them to take the untouchables to task. With accountability, they can take the nation forward, else an unending cycle of favoritism towards them will maintain their villainy towards the citizens.
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