Lula's future in the hands of Brazilian Parliament

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

The government of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is in a severe political crisis. The crisis began after the exposure of a series of scandals which involve the Workers' Party, the Brazilian ruling party.

In 2002, Celso Daniel, the mayor of Santo André, 10 km (6 miles) away from the São Paulo city, was murdered. Daniel was a member of the ruling Workers' Party. The mayor's brother says that Daniel died because he was in disagreement to a supposed bribe conspiracy organized by some Workers' Party members. The case remains under investigation by police.

In 2004, the former adviser to the government of President Lula, Waldomiro Diniz, was accused of negotiating with "bicheiros" (men who deal with: "Jogo do Bicho", or illegal gambling) and extorting money for Workers' Party (PT) electoral campaigns. A supposed victim of extortion released a tape exposing Diniz. The tape's authenticity has been verified by experts and it was aired by the major Brazilian television stations. A Congressional special commission was proposed by non-government parties so the denunciation could be investigated. The government succeeded in stopping the creation of the commission.

On March 16, the leading Brazilian magazine Veja published a story saying that according to documents of the Brazilian Agency of intelligence (Abin) the Workers' Party received 5 million dollars to be used by political campaigns of their candidates in 2002 from the Colombian communist armed group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). Abin said that the documents were not authentic.

Last month, some men, supposedly involved in illicit negotiations with the Brazilian Post Service recorded a video which shows former Post Office Chief, Maurício Marinho, during a supposed bribe negotiation. In the tape, Marinho receives and puts in his pocket R$3,000 (about 1,259 USD) in cash. He insinuates that the scheme is commanded by deputy Roberto Jefferson. The recording was aired by the major Brazilian television stations.

Roberto Jefferson is the president of the government-allied Brazilian Labor Party (PTB). Lula da Silva said in a earlier occasion that he "would give to Jefferson a bank check in blank", what means that he had high confidence on Jefferson.

Still related to the Post Office case, on June 2, Lídio Duarte, the former president of IRB, a government enterprise, denied allegations that money from some Brazilian government enterprises was going to PTB, Jefferson's party. An earlier story published by magazine Veja, said that Duarte was a victim of extortion by a representative of PTB. According to Veja, Duarte resigned from the Presidency of IRB, because he had difficulties in continuing to give more money to PTB. Lídio denied this story to the police, and furthermore he said that he never have had an interview with Veja's journalists.

On June 8, the magazine Veja released for download in its webpage, an audio tape where it can be heard the voice of Lidio Duarte during an alleged interview to Veja. In the tape, Lidio Duarte talks about being under pressure because someone was asking him more contribution in money for PTB. The tape contradicts the Duarte's testimony to the police and because of that, he became subject of investigation by the authorities. The name of the deputy Roberto Jefferson is cited by Duarte in the alleged recorded interview to Veja.

After the Post Office scandal been exposed, the Brazilian Congress proposed the creation of a Congress' special commission, so it could be investigated by the Parliament. The government, however, protested against it, arguing that political adversaries were anticipating the dispute to the next election for Brazil's Presidency. Workers' Party senator Eduardo Suplicy protested in Senate against his party decision. Because that he was very criticized and he got subject to punishment by the Workers' Party.

On June 6, Roberto Jefferson told the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo that the ruling Workers' Party (PT) has payed Brazilian deputies 30 thousand Brazilian Reals (US 12 thousand) each, every month. The stock markets went down and the U.S. Dollar increased its value in relation to the Brazilian Real. A new Congress' special commission was proposed by some Brazilian senators, so Jefferson's allegations could be investigated. The Workers' Party says that Jefferson's allegations were untrue and that he had no proofs.

After Jefferson's denunciation the focus of the scandal moved to the government and the ruling Workers' Party. Because the government were under pressure, the Workers' Party changed his earlier decision of stopping the creation of a Congress' special commission for the Post Office scandal. The proposal for the creation of a Congress' special commission for the Post Office scandal was approved.

On June 9, there was the first meeting of members of the Congress' special commission for the Post Office scandal. Because of unsolved disputes between government's parliamentarians and the other parties representatives, the meeting could not continue. The government's block argued that it must choose the president and the report for the commission, since the government commission members are the majority. Other parties argue that according to Parliament tradition the government should choose one member for the presidency or report and the opposition should choose the other member. A new meeting was scheduled to the next week, on Tuesday, June 14.

Besides these scandals, the current Social Security Minister, Romero Jucá, is accused of having offered seven non-existent farms as guarantee for a financing from the Banco of Amazonia, among other denunciations of misuse of public loans. The current President of Brazilian Central Bank, Henrique Meirelles, is accused of financial fraud among other accusations. Also there is a denunciation of a irregular transference of founds of Central Bank to the construction of a new headquarter for the Workers' Party.

On June 4, during the so called Curupira operation, the Brazilian Federal Police arrested members of IBAMA, a Brazilian agency for environment. Among other accusations, they are accused of selling irregular licenses for deforestation in Amazon. At least one of the suspects, a Workers' Party affiliate, is under suspection of have used the money for the political campaign of a Worker's Party candidate in Mato Grosso.

Besides the commission to investigate the Post Office scandal, another Congress' special commissions were suggested by non-government members of Brazilian Senate: a commission to investigate the IRB scandal and another one to the investigation of Roberto Jefferson's allegations. Also, it is expected that the Brazilian Courts rule against the earlier government decision of stopping the creation of a commission for the investigation of the alleged Waldomiro Diniz scandal.

Repercussions

The scandals involving the ruling Workers' Party are receiving a good attention by the public and the media. According to the Senator Pedro Simon (center-left, PMDB), an old member of Senate, one reason is because that one of the mains Workers' Party mottos was the fight against corruption. But after Lula became President on 2003, the government and the Workers' Party has been envolved in a series of severe scandals and the government has tried to stop the investigations, which is suspicious. Besides that, all scandals originated inside the government, according to Simon. The Waldomiro and the Post Office scandals emerged after the denunciations of people supposedly under pressure and involved in these scandals.

According to members of Brazilian Court, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva may be subjected to an impeachment process, if there is some proof that he is really envolved on some of the alleged scandals, or case someone can proof that he was acting with negligence.

Part of opposition avoids talking about impeachment. According to the governor of Minas Gerais, Aécio Neves (left, PSDB), "President Lula is not President Collor". President Fernando Collor de Mello was submitted to a impeachment process in 1992 because of alleged denounciations of corruption in his government.

Cesar Maia (center-right, PFL), the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, and one of the probable adversaries of Lula in the next election for President, said that he still believes that Lula can explain all the corruption allegations against his government. But he also said that if Lula doesn't succedd explaining the scandals, he will require the President's impeachment.

Some of the harsh critics to Lula's government comes from the Senator Heloísa Helena (left, PSOL). Her party, PSOL, is a dissidence of Workers' Party and the party claims that all denountiation must be investigated, besides the alleged government efforts by the party that the government is trying to stop the investigations.

The Senator Demóstenes Torres (PFL) is another harsh critic of the alleged Lula's scandals. He cited the former deposed President Fernando Collor de Mello, during some of his discurses in Brazilian Senate.

According to the journalist Boris Casoy, from Rede Record Television channel, it can be seen written in some places in Brasilia the name of the President Lula written as "Lulla" (with double "l"). The name of the former deposed President Fernando Collor de Mello also has a double "l".

In São Paulo, the labour union "Força Sindical" is organizing protests against corruption in Brasil. The other major labour "CUT", which is linked to Workers' Party, said that don't want to take part on it.

Lula's future

Until now, politicians, even those from opposition to the government , were trying to preserve the personal image of the President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. However, as new denountiations arise and the government has not succeed in explaining, the permanence of Lula in the Presidency becomes difficult, because of popular pressure.

It is also possible that all the inquiries finish in an inconclusive form, as has already happened with some old cases investigated by Brazilian Congress.

But, even if Congress and the Senate choose not to blame Lula, his reputation certainly will still remain harmed. According to Senator Antonio Carlos Magalhães (PFL), "Lula's re-election has gone."

At present time, there is a general consensus that Lula will have to work hard if he wishes to get re-elected.


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