In early 2016 then Vice-President Michel Temer decided that he would discreetly lead the efforts to force then President Dilma to walk the plank in an effort to curb the investigations of the Lava Jato taskforce. Dilma was impeached by the House of Deputies on April of 2016 and then permanently removed from office in August of 2016 for “crimes of responsibility” related to the “pedaladas,” or actions taken by the Federal Treasury to delay payments to the public banks (Banco do Brasil and Caixa Econômica) in order to gain financial advantage in the short term.
Federal and state governments in Brazil had frequently carried out these budgetary maneuvers well before the practice expanded under Dilma’s administration. According to the Federal Accounting Tribunal (TCU), the pedaladas expanded to $40 billion reais between 2012 and 2014. Few legislators complained about these practices, and the Federal Treasury paid off the pedaladas in late 2015, but not before Temer and his supporters began efforts to impeach the president.
In more ways than one, Temer and his ally, Eduardo Cunha- then President of the House of Deputies, organized this mutiny to place themselves in a position to govern Brazil while also taking measures to cover up their participation in Petrobras’ pay to play kickback corruption scandal known as the Lava-Jato or Petrolão. Just like seafaring pirates, Temer and his group stood in amusement as their efforts led Dilma to walk the plank, bound by the overwhelming congressional opposition to her democratically elected mandate that they organized and deployed to disrupt democracy. In April of 2016 I wrote,
Today, the PMDB stands ready to support President Dilma’s impeachment, paving the way for Temer to be sworn in as chief executive of a polarized nation in a deep recession. It is unlikely he can lead Brazil to overcome its economic and political challenges. Rather, Temer’s succession to the presidency may compound them by widening political polarization and raising concerns about his own role in political corruption, including the Lava Jato scheme.
Fifteen months later President Temer awaits his own execution by the hands of a demoralized congress and the decision of Deputy Rodrigo Maia, President of the House of Deputies, to step away from a full defense of the president. The Guardian reports
Temer has been under investigation due to plea bargain testimony by the wealthy businessman Joesley Batista of the giant meatpacking company JBS that linked the president and an aide to bribes and the president to an alleged endorsement of hush money for jailed ex-House Speaker Eduardo Cunha.
Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has formally denounced the President for corruption at the Supreme Court and now congress must vote whether to accept the charges. The Folha de São Paulo reports that Maia has told Temer that he may survive the first vote to remove the president, but is unlikely to overcome the repeated denunciations. The clock is ticking, but few are willing to venture a guess on how this latest installment in the Lava Jato may rock Brasilia. Should Temer be removed or resign, then Rodrigo Maia would seize the reigns of the executive branch until the Brazilian Congress selected a successor to serve the remainder of the term that expires at the end of 2018.
Temer’s removal forces most Brazilians to recognize that the Lava Jato is a systemic expression of an electoral system that privileges back door dealing over transparency and compels candidates to find dark money to finance their campaigns, parties and the leaders of their parties. Those with access to money lead the parties, and too often toward policy decisions that favor donors. The website, www.Meucongressionnacional.com provides a detailed account of the elected officials, their parties, and donors associated with the Lava Jato scandal. Currently 45 congressional representatives are implicated in the scandal across 5 major parties. This list does not include former elected officials or executive branch officials, including President Temer, currently under indictment or investigation for corruption.
Temer is likely to leave office, one way or another in the coming month or so as the “Fora Temer” movement focuses on his immediate removal and increasing numbers of congressional representatives step back from public support of his presidency. Standing at center-stage of this drama are the two featured reforms stemming from the last year’s constitutional amendment that caps federal government spending, namely the social security and employment law reforms. These reforms are controversial because the losers are mostly young workers that will lose expected retirement benefits while also having fewer employment related protections. If the supporters of such reforms, including former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s PSDB, understand that Temer’s preservation is a condition for approval, then this party will likely work behind the scenes to stave off the president’s removal from office until these reforms are secured. Right now the PSDB is awaiting the vote on employment law reform before making a decision on whether to pull its support and participation from Temer’s government. Expect this measure to pass, possibly today, and then all hell breaks loose for Temer.