How the US led operation Lava Jato, and why: Congressman Paulo Pimenta

Paulo Pimenta is a Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores/PT) Congressman from the Rio Grande de Sul city of Santa Maria who began his political careers as a student union leader in the 1980s. Since then, he has served as a student union leader, city councilor, state congressman, federal congressman and PT leader in Congress from 2018-2019. It was while serving in this role that he traveled to Brussels and presented a dossier to European Union Parliament, accusing the United States, not just of participating in, but of coordinating the Lava Jato anti-corruption investigation which destroyed key sectors of Brazilian industry causing over 1 million layoffs, and removed the leading candidate from the 2018 presidential elections facilitating the election of Jair Bolsonaro.

In August, 2020, I interviewed Congressman Pimenta for the Redfish Documentary, Dismantling Brazil: Bolsonaro’s Neoliberal Agenda. The following is a full transcript.

Can you tell me about your trip to EU Parliament in 2019? What did you do there?

When I went to EU Parliament in Brussels I brought a complete dossier about the United States’ participation in the coup, with information on names of US prosecutors and concrete proof of the participation of the Americans. I asked the parliamentarians to help us denounce, to the world, this illegal, criminal interference of the United States in Brazil.

The truth is that during this entire period [from the coup forward] we have been accumulating more and more information, we’ve looked for more documents, and this work is being constantly updated. The report which we have today is much more complete than the report which we delivered to the EU. We’ve found more facts, more videos and more documents and we continue to update this report. It’s the same documentation which we sent to the United States – we have also sent it to members of US Congress.

Can you explain more about what is in the dossier?

We prepared this dossier in English and Spanish, and these archives reveal speeches, documents, concrete information including names of US prosecutors, public statements that were made, proof of parallel meetings and events that were held, official agendas, informal collaborations which took place in defiance of Brazilian law, the presence of US agents in Brazil acting without the knowledge of government authorities – all of these things were documented and they make up part of this series of archives that I presented to the European Parliament and which I also sent to Members of US Congress.

There are documents that show Judge Sérgio Moro and the prosecutors in permanent and regular contact with the United States. Lava Jato operated as a kind of laboratory so that they could put into practice the learning and guidance that they were receiving from the United States. I am certain of this direct participation of the United States because I also had the opportunity to speak with parliamentarians from Argentina, where a similar process was taking place, with parliamentarians from Bolivia, Ecuador, leaders from Venezuela, and in all of this, in Bolivia, in Paraguay, there is proof of very similar procedures, even with the same characters. I have no doubt that, in reality, it was the Americans who were giving out the instructions here in Brazil. I also had access to the agreement between Petrobras shareholders with the US government. This deal was struck in the United States, and in this document there are a series of acknowledgments to the Lava Jato task-force for acting as a kind of prosecuting attorney against Petrobras and, due to this, they were compensated by the US with R$2.5 billion which was payment for services rendered for what, in reality, benefited the US from an economic perspective. So Lava Jato operated against the interests of Brazil and was financially compensated for this by the Americans.

Why would the US be interested in dismantling Brazilian companies?

Petrobras was one of the most important petroleum companies in the world, with exclusive technology for deep water drilling which enabled the discovery of the pre-salt reserves, which was the largest petroleum discovery of the 21st Century. Petrobras, associated with Odebrecht, owned Brazil’s 4 largest petrochemical centers in Brazil, and Braskem, which was a petrochemical subsidiary of Odebrecht, was making large investments in petrochemical production on the Gulf of Mexico, competing in the American market inside of the United States. A good part of the primary materials that were planned to be used in this were to come from the pre-salt reserves. At that moment, JBS was the largest animal protein company in the World. Today, JBS is a shadow of what it once was. Odebrecht had 200,000 workers on 5 continents and it engaged in a good part of the heavy engineering industry in Brazil too. Today, this has all been absorbed by multinationals. Embraer competed in the executive jet market with a Canadian company, and today Embraer practically lost all of its market. The technology that was developed by Brazil for the development of its nuclear program was an exclusive technology that was totally destroyed through actions by Lava Jato. All of the principal bases of the Brazilian macro-economy were hit hard and this market was totally absorbed by the multinationals, especially by American companies. This represents hundreds of thousands of jobs that were lost and a political climate that enabled us to now have, in Brazil, a President of the Republic who is a spokesman for American interests in South America.

Lula was convicted with no material evidence, in a state where he never lived, where no crime detailed in the trial was ever committed. How is his case proceeding?

The Supreme Court just released a set of information that cannot be ignored. If we make even a minimally decent reading of the Federal Constitution there is no legal argument that justifies denying a request from President Lula’s defense team for the suspension of jurisdiction of the prosecutors. We are proposing and demanding a retrial. A fair trial, which is the right of any Brazilian citizen, according to the Constitution. So we believe that the federal supreme court will acknowledge that Lula was denied the right to a fair trial and that there was interference not just by interests inside of Brazil so that the Constitution was ignored but there were also external interests. None of this can be ignored by the Supreme Court and I believe that they will declare a mistrial.

Do you think there is any chance that the DOJ will ever be punished for illegal collaboration in Lava Jato?

Regarding the Americans, I don’t believe that any justice will be served. During all the moments in which I had contact with leaders and members of congress in the United States I observed that although they believe what happened was very wrong, there is a greater economic interest behind all of this. The first deals for changing the legislation on the pre-salt reserves were made when the Democrats were running the United States Government and this relationship continued during the Republican government. Since what is at stake is control over South America, subordinating it to US interests, I don’t see any difference in attitude between the Republicans and the Democrats. They all acted against the interests of Brazil. And I have seen no sign that there will ever be a change in posture on this.

Nevertheless, there is comprehensive documentation on this with elements that could enable an investigation in the United States. It would be very important to us to see an investigation made in US Congress that could furnish us with documents and names that we have not been able to access, about the way that Lava Jato worked in the United States against Brazilian national interests. We are not going to give up working to raise consciousness of American members of Congress so they can conduct an investigation on this, that can effectively elucidate the participation of the United States in the coup.


By Brian Mier

Writer, geographer and former development professional who has lived in Brazil for 26 years. Former directorate member of the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana (National Urban Reform Forum). Has lived in São Luis, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Author of “Os Megaeventos Esportivos na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Direito á Cidade” (CEPR: Porto Alegre. 2016). Editor of "Voices of the Brazilian Left" (Sumare: São Paulo. 2018). Editor of "Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil" ((Sumare: São Paulo. 2019) Irregular correspondent for the Chicago radio show This is Hell.