Brazil coup a plot to cover up corruption among the plotters?

A new scandal has erupted strongly suggesting that the impeachment and temporary removal from office of President Dilma Rousseff on May 12 was part of a conspiracy to cover up corruption among the very people who engineered her ouster.

The mass circulation daily newspaper Folha de São Paulo revealed on Monday that the person that acting president Michel Temer had named as Planning Minister, Romero Jucá, was recorded speaking with a businessman about the need to remove Rousseff from power so as to protect themselves and others from investigations in the “Lava Jato” matter, a kickback scheme whereby construction companies arranged corrupt deals to get contracts with the huge national petroleum company, Petrobras. The businessman, former oil executive Sergio Machado, may have made the recording in order to help him get a plea bargain in the Petrobras case. An English language summary of the new development was published online on “The Intercept”.

Jucá, who is from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) to which Temer also belongs, had been named to the planning post with the assignment of imposing neo-liberal economic policies that would very likely arouse the enmity of the large sectors of the Brazilian population who have seen their living conditions improve dramatically under the two presidents from the Workers’ Party (PT), Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, before the recent sharp economic downturn. Jucá is also considered to be particularly close to Temer, an important advisor.

In the telephone conversation, Machado is heard warning Jucá that prosecutors investigating the Lava Jato matter are hot on the scent and that not only Jucá but a large number of other political figures are in imminent danger of investigation and indictment. Both agree that this is an “emergency” situation which requires drastic and immediate action to “stop the bleeding.”

They see Dilma Rousseff, the president, as an obstacle to the action that they want to take to put a stop to the corruption investigations, so she has to be replaced by a “national pact” government that would get everybody off the hook. Temer would naturally head that government, as he was the vice president of Brazil, but of course his relationship with Jucá would make it easier for the corruption charges to be quashed.

At the time of this conversation, Rousseff was trying to appoint ex-President Lula da Silva as a government advisor with ministerial rank. The right at the time claimed that Rousseff was doing to protect him from his own corruption investigation, but the conversation between Jucá and Machado suggests another reason: If Lula, as da Silva is called, got into the cabinet he would voice the views of the labor unions and the Landless People’s Movement (MST) which are both seen as obstacles to the economic policies of the right.

Machado reveals in the tape that he has been talking to Supreme Tribunal (Supreme Court) judges to get them to support the idea of removing Rousseff and creating a national unity government that would quash the Lava Jato investigations. However, he suggests, he has not been able to get through to the main judge supervising the investigations, Teori Zavascki.

One of the most shocking things in the recording is that Machado says he has been talking to the military-to the generals-and they are “Ok” with the plan and will guarantee it This will surely raise memories of the military dictatorship which started with a coup against left wing President Jão Goulart in 1965.

That military coup, which received clandestine U.S. support, installed a military government that was repressive, reactionary and incompetent, and was finally replaced by a restored civil government in 1985. When young, Dilma Rousseff was involved in guerilla warfare against the military government and was captured and tortured by them.

In the recent demonstrations demanding her removal as president, signs have appeared calling for a new military coup, so this is not a matter of ancient history. When the Chamber of Deputies voted to approve Rousseff’s impeachment, one of the right wing members, Jair Bolsonaro, dedicated his “yes” vote to the memory of Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, the military officer who had supervised the torture of Rousseff.

By Tuesday, Jucá was talking about going on leave because of the scandal. Temer did not immediately commit to firing him, however. In a meeting in neighboring Argentina, Temer’s foreign minister, José Serra, defended Jucá and expressed hope that the would remain in the cabinet.

The reason given for impeaching Rousseff was that she had manipulated budgetary reports in 2014 and 2015 so as to conceal the scale of a deficit. Rousseff denies this and says that the accounting measures in dispute were legitimate.

It now is evident that the reason Rousseff is being impeached is so that corrupt politicians and their cronies can suppress prosecutors’ investigations of their corruption. Another reason is so the ruling class, the right wing and their friends in transnational monopoly capital can impose a neo liberal program that will erase the progress that Brazilian workers and poor people have made under the presidencies of Lula and Dilma.

That is, in fact, a coup.

Photo: A demonstrator holds a sign that reads “Coup” during a protest against the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 10. Rousseff supporters held  rallies in cities in more than a dozen states. Silvia Izquierdo | AP

UPDATE: Shortly after this story was filed, it was announced that Romero Jucá, the minister implicated in the leaked tapes, is stepping down from his post. Check back with People’s World for continuing coverage of the coup situation in Brazil.



Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.