Guilty

    5

    Traveling to Venezuela from Chile means that, sometimes, I had to fly via Sao Paulo. Of all the possible routes, this was one that I have never particularly enjoyed.

    It wasn’t the legendary chaos of Guarulhos Airport. Nor did it have anything to do with TAM, a fine airline. The reason for my dislike was that, until recently, the Sao Paulo-Caracas flight was always full of icky characters: chavista middlemen decked in their red shirts, accompanied by Brazilian con artists looking to make a buck.

    The flight reeked with the stench of kickbacks.

    And that is at the heart of the impeachment proceedings threatening to bring down the Workers’ Party. The whole system of patronage and intense corruption that built their electoral victories has damaged the entire continent. Finally, it seems, there will be some accountability.

    Much in the international press like to point out that Dilma Rousseff has not personally benefitted from the graft. That might be true. It also misses the point entirely.

    The unfolding scheme that involved Petrobras, Odebrecht, the Workers’ Party, and the PMDB was one where the awarding of government contracts was the excuse to illegally fund the ruling clique. It was a scheme that was exported, and happily replicated in countries such as ours.

    Now, I understand that some of our readers have their hearts left of center. I understand that somebody like Lula arouses sympathies in all of us: the poor, uneducated kid who pulled himself up from the bootstraps, became a union leader, was elected President, won the World Cup, won the Olympics, and changed his nation.

    But there is this other Lula, the one that meddled in other countries’ affairs. The one that said that Hugo Chávez was the best President Venezuela had in the last hundred years. The one that pushed for his beloved Odebrecht to win billions of dollars in untendered contracts. The one who imposed Brazilian strategists to get chavistas elected time and again. The one … who left us with this little video.

    Petrobras was the piggy bank through which this pyramid got built, and during all that time, Rousseff was the chairwoman of the company. How could she not know that her company was funding the PT? How could she look away while billions of dollars in kickbacks were circulating all over the continent?

    She didn’t. She had to have known all along, and if she did not, she was criminally negligent. While this may not be a legal reality, it is  a political one, and that is why she must be impeached.

    So whenever you find yourself doubting about the fairness of  Rousseff’s impeachment, think of the Metro lines in Caracas that have not been built. Think of the millions upon millions of dollars in Brazil-related money lining the pockets of chavista bureaucrats.

    Me? I think of the laughing executives flying first class in those TAM flights from Sao Paulo to Caracas. Rousseff and Lula imposed those guys on us, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. Good riddance.

    5 COMMENTS

    1. Juan,

      Chavez became president in 1999. Lula didn’t become president until 2003. Who corrupted whom? Of course, the entire corruption scheme became a positive feedback loop that spiraled out of anyone’s control.

      If you are looking for ultimate causation, I think you have to look towards Cuba, which continued to export their ideology even after they stopped overtly sending trained guerillas to organize and promote insurrections against countries that they considered ripe for a leftist revolution.

      • True, but Brazil’s considerable diplomatic heft provided Venezuela with the ability to cover-up the scheme that both countries were profiting from.

    2. “Much in the international press like to point out that Dilma Rousseff has not personally benefitted from the graft.”

      The PSFs are already abandoning that argument and clinging to “this is being instigated by the people that would replace her, and they are *also* corrupt!” which is a weird variant of the “ladrón que roba a ladrón…” dictum.

    3. Juan,
      You should always mention Lula just benefited from good governance by previous governments…and the commodity boom.

      I agree with Roy…and I just can’t believe Roussef will get thrown out. It is just too good to be true!

    4. “Much in the international press like to point out that Dilma Rousseff has not personally benefitted from the graft. That might be true. It also misses the point entirely.

      The unfolding scheme that involved Petrobras, Odebrecht, the Workers’ Party, and the PMDB was one where the awarding of government contracts was the excuse to illegally fund the ruling clique. It was a scheme that was exported, and happily replicated in countries such as ours.”

      How could that be missing the point? Where’s the trial on those responsible for that scheme? The impeachment is about something entirely different. These congressmen are simply riding the wave of Rousseff’s unpopularity – to their own private advantage – and giving public opinion the flesh it’s craving for, the substance of Brazil’s crisis lying somewhere else: in the PT’s broken proposition of poverty alleviation, in wealth redistribution policies grounded in the sand. No one is holding the “left” accountable for that.

      I’d be the first satisfied with having Lula sit on that bench and answer for all those graft and influence peddling accusations. The “left” (as everyone else) has to be held responsible for all its indefensible mess. Stripping Rousseff of her mandate for these charges is what misses the point. When will we ever see in Latin America such a high profile case brought forward for the right reasons?

      There are far too many corrupt members of Congress (across the right-left divide) and yet Brazil is now submerged – and split – in a discussion that has hardly anything to do with fighting corruption.

      Let’s try not to see this crisis through the usual lenses of contempt, for a change.

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