Thursday, July 05, 2007

Shame on us

Just read these at the FT. Seriously, you guys at the Congress, it's getting ridiculous.

I highlighted the most outrageous bits.

Calheiros affair a scandal too far
By Jonathan Wheatley in São Paulo
Published: July 5 2007 00:37 | Last updated: July 5 2007 00:37

The saga of Renan Calheiros, the president of Brazil’s Senate, has stretched the credulity of ordinary Brazilians already inured to scandal in politics.

By the senator’s own admission, an employee of a construction company carrying out large public works dependent on budget amendments under Mr Calheiros’s control, every month for two years delivered cash payments of about R$12,000 ($6,284, €4,616, £3,116) to a former journalist with whom the long-married senator was having an affair and by whom he has a three-year-old daughter.

Mr Calheiros says that makes him guilty of nothing. To prove his innocence he says the money was his. The paperwork he produced to substantiate this claim was shown to be false by high-profile television reports: people to whom he claimed to have sold high-priced cattle, for example, denied ever dealing with him.

Yet Mr Calheiros continues to defend himself, describing press reports as attacks on the Senate.

Brazilian Senate president under pressure to quit
By Jonathan Wheatley in São Paulo
Published: July 4 2007 19:33 | Last updated: July 4 2007 19:33


[The case] marks the continuation of an almost unbroken string of corruption allegations that have dogged Mr Lula da Silva’s administration since May 2005. When the scandals first erupted, they caused serious damage to Mr Lula da Silva’s popularity ratings. But recent polls suggest voters no longer associate the president with corruption, or expect nothing better of their politicians.

Mr [Fernando] Gabeira said the result was a culture of lawlessness. “People don’t believe in citizenship, in the collective life. They just seek individual advantage. Corruption undermines capitalism because it destroys trust.”

“For those with access to good lawyers, impunity is almost guaranteed,” said Walter Fanganiello Maierovitch, a former senior security official. “But in poor areas, the police arrive with guns blazing and the population is caught in the crossfire.”

Politicians are especially privileged. Once elected, deputies and senators may only be tried by the Supreme Court, which has never convicted a single one. An estimated 30 per cent of those in Congress have criminal proceedings open against them; many seek office to avoid prosecution.


Leading politicians have appeared content to see the likes of Mr Calheiros enjoy their impunity. Mr Lula da Silva was recently seen slapping him on the back.

More extraordinary was a declaration of support from Tarso Genro, a close presidential aide and former champion of probity. “For the good of the country and of our institutions I want Renan to be innocent,” he said. “This is what all of us and all the Brazilian people want.”


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