A fascist president, brought to power through a spurious anti-corruption campaign faces his most serious corruption scandal yet, with the revelation of what could be the world’s biggest bribery scheme – a play to keep the crumbling Bolsonaro-Guedes regime in power.
An explosive report in newspaper Estado de S.Paulo has revealed that Brazil’s far right president Jair Bolsonaro created a secret R$3 billion budget of money earmarked to buy off Congress.
With Bolsonaro already facing over 100 impeachment requests, he and his family have already faced multiple corruption allegations since taking office, but the scale of the latest report dwarfs anything that has gone before, in what could be the biggest bribery case in the world.
The secret scheme of illegal pork payments, or emendas, exemplifies the systemic corruption which US-backed operation Lava Jato, which brought him to power, was supposed to eradicate.As news broke on Sunday, social media users quickly named the scandal Bolsolão, after the so called Mensalão and Petrolão corruption scandals of previous decades. Both of those schemes were used to attack the Workers Party specifically, despite pre-dating PT governments and involving almost the entire political spectrum. It was the selective prosecution of those scandals which were used to build the narrative for both the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the jailing of Lula da Silva, the two illegitimate acts which opened the door for the military-dominated Bolsonaro-Guedes regime to take power.
Though Bolsonaro’s popularity is already at a record low, and he is facing extremely serious allegations over his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, the latest revelations will erode further what remains of the legitimacy, given the discredited means by which he came to power.
Questions are being asked about what budgetary cuts were made to pay for the secret R$3 billion budget, particularly in regard to the procurement and development of Covid-19 vaccines.
The new revelations also expose the real risk that any attempted impeachment of the far right president could be defeated in Congress through such a bribery scheme.
Bolsonaro created the parallel budget at the end of 2020, in order to secure support from the so called “centrão” conservative bloc in Congress. Estado de S.Paulo reveals that the budget included, for example, the purchase of tractors and agricultural equipment at up to 259% above market price. The data was found in over one hundred letters sent by deputies and senators to the Ministry of Regional Development. The letters, obtained by the newspaper over the past three months, show that this scheme breaks budgetary laws, since it is ministers and not parliamentarians who should define where resources will be spent.
The agreements and the allocation of the money were not public, and the distribution was not equal among the congressmen, revealing the electoral interests of the government. Senator for Amapá Davi Alcolumbre, of Democratas, ordered the investment of R$277 million in public funds from the Ministry of Regional Development alone. Under budgetary rules this would be the responsibility of Minister Rogério Marinho. If Alcombre, a former Senate President, was to request this investment through conventional means it would take 34 years, since each parliamentarian has a limit of only R$8 million per year. Alcolumbre also sent R$81 million to the Development Company of the São Francisco and Parnaíba Valleys (Codevasf), a state-owned company under his control. The documents also show that the senator allocated R$10 million for works and purchases outside his own state of Amapá. This money was destined for construction projects in the state of Paraná.
Those named in the report include former deputy Flávia Arruda from Partido Liberal. Arruda is a member of the Bolsonaro cabinet, serving as chief minister of the Government Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, and is directly responsible for articulating with Congress.
Further developments on this story are expected over the coming days.