Le Monde says what we already knew: Lava Jato acted as a US agency in Brazil

Since its inception in 2014, Brasil Wire has published 230 critical articles on Operation Lava Jato, and specifically its relationship with the United States government. Evidence we and Brazilian independent media platforms published in this period was routinely ignored and dismissed by both national and international journalists and outlets.

Thus the principal conceit, the narrative of Lava Jato as a historic effort to clean up corruption, was preserved until it was too late, until Lava Jato brought a neofascist, Jair Bolsonaro, to the presidency.

We have covered these subjects extensively over the years, and have been out on a limb in the English speaking world for most of that time, publishing the first admissions of illegal US involvement in Lava Jato and Lula’s case, which as a result was used as grounds for Lula’s acquittal, as well as detailed analyses of a US “war on corruption” in Brazil and Latin America. For whatever reasons, platforms with far greater resources and reach decided to ignore evidence of US involvement in Lava Jato for years.

During the coup against Dilma Rousseff, many mainstream commentators and journalists insisted that a 2009 State Department cable that had recently come to light, which clearly detailed what would become Operation Lava Jato, had nothing to do with the anti-corruption operation. All such evidence of United States involvement was dismissed as if conspiracy theory. Lava Jato, its narrative, and its careful control of media, central to the operation, were protected.

It was not until after Bolsonaro was elected, and made justice minister the man who enabled that by jailing his electoral opponent Lula da Silva, that Sérgio Moro and Lava Jato began to face serious media scrutiny. But it was too late.

Now with the publication of an article in France’s Le Monde newspaper which for the most part assembles evidence published years earlier by Brazilian independent media, finally the story of Projeto Pontes (Project Bridges), an apparent effort to cultivate judiciary and police by the United States government for geopolitical ends, has entered mainstream discussion.

It is a sad reflection of the deference Brazil’s media classes give to foreign coverage of it that it took a French newspaper report to make the most complacent of them recognise what had been done to the country. 

While we welcome this information finally entering the mainstream, and it is telling that a french, not anglophone newspaper would run this story first, Le Monde itself is not without blame. Its coverage of the 2016 coup was as bad as anyone’s, denying that a coup was taking place and risibly claiming that US interference in Latin America ended with the cold war.

Brazil’s independent media deserves all credit for being years ahead on this story. It did not wait until after Bolsonaro’s election before calling foul. If mainstream journalists had listened, perhaps Bolsonaro would not have been elected at all. – Editors.

All our articles on US involvement in Operation Lava Jato and its consequences.

Le Monde says what we already knew: Lava Jato acted as a US agency in Brazil

by Larissa Ramina. Originally published at GGN.

“A magistrate considered “biased”, sometimes illegal and in the shadow of the United States: the biggest anti-corruption operation in the history of Brazil has become its biggest legal scandal”. Thus begins the Le Monde article entitled “In Brazil, the sinking of the anti-corruption operation “Lava Jato””, (in English “Lava Jato: The Brazilian trap”) published on April 9, 2021 by Gaspard Estrada and Nicolas Bourcier.

The report provides details of how the Brazilian justice system was manipulated and instrumentalized to achieve American geopolitical interests, with the criminal and vassal collaboration of Brazilian public agents, under the command of Sérgio Moro and the servile Dallagnol’s in the team.

The US objectives for Latin America and the Caribbean, in general terms, have not changed between the second half of the twentieth century and the time in which we live. It is about maintaining control of the region, considered as the American backyard. What has changed are the strategies implemented to achieve these goals.

If, in the last century, tanks and armaments were used to support the establishment of bloody pro-American dictatorships, in that century these strategies proved to be inadequate. To refresh the memory, it is worth remembering that “Operation Condor was part of the complex inter-American counterinsurgency system promoted by American foreign policy. Through its transnational activation, Condor complemented the repressive policies that the Armed Forces of the Southern Cone exercised over their national territories”, as the former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón defines in the book “Operation Condor 40 years later”. Some analysts have already commented that we could currently be witnessing the emergence of a kind of Plano Condor II, with new strategies to submit the region. These strategies would be replacing traditional interventions and support for military coups with new types of interference, which are being called by strategists as indirect, irregular, asymmetric wars or, still, hybrid wars or “proxy wars”, to use the suggested terminology by American analyst Andrew Korybko.

Hybrid wars would be new war strategies that contemplate two phases, the phase of the colour revolution and the phase of unconventional war. In Brazil, the first phase took place under the nickname “journeys of June 2013”, today known to be a movement that had nothing spontaneous, very similar to the colour revolutions of the Arab Spring, designed outside the country, in order to produce gradual consensus in the population, so that they could participate in the street protests without realizing that they were being manipulated, that is, thinking that they came, on their own, to the ideas that were actually induced by external agents. This explains why the protests against the increase in bus fares quickly turned into protests against the PT government.

The second phase of the hybrid war, the phase of unconventional war, started almost simultaneously, when Dilma Rousseff gave in to strong pressure and sanctioned two laws strongly inspired by the US criminal prosecution system, attributing greater empowerment to the prosecutors, who in practice they operate under instructions from the Department of Justice (DOJ) of that country. The first was Law 12.846/13, the Anticorruption Law, which regulated the civil and administrative liability of legal entities that practice acts against public administration in Brazil and abroad, especially covering acts of corruption. This Act resulted from strong pressure from the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions, strongly influenced by the USA, because Brazil had ratified the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. Brazilian law included most of the mechanisms provided for in the famous US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the FCPA, considered the greatest instrument of US economic imperialism, as it is capable of imposing astronomical fines on foreign companies to the point of destroying them. And it was the Brazilian Anti-Corruption Law of 2013 that allowed the DOJ to sanction Brazilian companies, including Petrobras and Odebrecht, under the same terms as the FCPA Law.

The second was Law 12,850/13 (Plea Bargaining), which defined organized crime and introduced the negotiation of penalties in criminal proceedings related to criminal organizations, as well as procedures for intercepting communications. These laws started to be applied as of March 17, 2014, the date of the creation of Operation Lava Jato by the then PGR Rodrigo Janot, who appointed attorney Pedro Soares to be his leader. Shortly thereafter, due to differences with Sérgio Moro, he will be replaced by Deltan Dallagnol, “who will not only be in favor of Moro in the case, but will also become the main support of the magistrate”, as Le Monde attests. In September of the same year, the White House published the “global anti-corruption agenda”,which expressly states that “the fight against corruption abroad (through the FCPA) can be used for foreign policy purposes, in order to defend national security interests”, as Le Monde also points out.

In a very short time, Lava Jato raised the anti-corruption discourse to the most urgent agenda in the country, and with the unconditional support of the corporate media, consolidated the narrative that all evil was concentrated in the Workers’ Party,  principally in then President Dilma Rousseff and former President Lula. Thus, the perfect climate was created for the 2016 coup d’état and for the beginning of the legal war in Brazil, as part of the second phase of the hybrid war in action.

It is good to remember that in 2013 Edward Snowden revealed the espionage practices of the National Security Agency – NSA in Brazil, which reached federal government officials, including the President herself, and whose main target was Petrobras. At the same time, a  low level federal judge, based on a single source, namely a foreign exchange operator on the black market, had access to a large volume of documents about Petrobras. At the time, it was not clear how that information got to him. However, it was noticed that the modus operandi of the legal war was already being put into practice. In this strategy, the training of Latin American military personnel at the former School of the Americas has been replaced by the training of legal operators in legal training programs, with clear objectives of overthrowing governments that resist US neoliberal offensives, in an apparently democratic way, using perversely of the legitimacy of the law, of  jurisdictional bodies, and of operators. Sérgio Moro, according to his own lattes curriculum, attended the Program of Instruction for Lawyers at Harvard Law School in July 1998 and participated in the International Visitors Program organised in 2007 by the US Department of State, including visits to agencies and institutions in charge of preventing and combating money laundering, such as the FBI, CIA, DOJ and the State Department. Wikileaks revealed e a public report sent to the US State Department about the 2009 seminar “Projeto Pontes”, which aimed to train Latin American judiciary, prosecutors and federal police members to apply “American working methods (anti-corruption working groups), its legal doctrine (plea bargaining, in particular), as well as its willingness to share information in an “informal” way, that is, outside the bilateral judicial cooperation treaties”. Sérgio Moro actively participated in this event, serving as a docile spokesman for foreign agents and their interests contrary to Brazilian interests. Since then, the ex-judge’s and his minions’ intimate and promiscuous relations with US agencies have only narrowed.

According to Le Monde, “the Brazilian political project for the economic integration of South America raises serious concerns in the State Department”. However, “there is the FCPA and the networks of prosecutors and magistrates trained in investigative techniques implemented in recent years. To achieve its objectives, the DOJ uses bait: the sharing of fines that will be imposed by the American authorities on Brazilian companies under the FCPA”. From a secret visit by “seventeen members of the DoJ, FBI and the Ministry of Homeland Security” to the MPF in Curitiba, in 2015, those agents have access to lawyers of businessmen called to “collaborate” with US justice, without informing the Brazilian executive branch. But it comes at a price: each of the fines imposed on Brazilian companies by the FCPA will have to include a portion destined for Brasilia, but also for the “Lava Jato” operation. The Americans accept. With the deal closed, Brazilian promoters will fish for companies that may be under the control of the DoJ”. An FBI official reportedly said, however, that “officers must be aware of all the potential political ramifications of these cases, as cases of international corruption can have important effects that influence elections and economies.” But it is clear that this alert did not pose any problem to Brazilian agents, after all, what is the problem with violently striking Brazil’s sovereignty in favour of US interests?

The unsuccessful attempt to create the so-called “Lava Jato Foundation” – of private law, as it became known, testifies to the veracity of this. Its directors would be the Lava Jato prosecutors themselves and several NGO leaders, including that of Transparency International.

We are already familiar with Operation Lava Jato. As Le Monde says, “after more than seven years of proceedings, the very core of Brazilian justice has just withdrawn both in substance and in form, opening up an abyss of questions about its methods, its means and its choices”. The results obtained by the infamous task force were impressive: the instrumentalisation of the justice system, the condemnation and imprisonment of individuals without evidence, including a former President, the election of a far-right president by manipulating the elections and from the use of fake news and scandalous media support, the destruction of the main Brazilian companies and the dismantling of the giant Petrobras, in addition to the criminal wave of privatisation, environmental destruction, the setback of rights, the impoverishment of the population, the genocidal management of the health crisis, and the entire tragedy that plagues the country.

The background of Lava Jato had been known by many Brazilian and foreign jurists and researchers for a long time. The pieces of the puzzle gradually came together. The finding of Lula’s technical defence of abuses in conducting the Operation, the inauguration of Sérgio Moro as Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice, the publications of Vaza Jato and Spoofing, the hidden leniency agreements – there were many of such evidence.

Anyway, Le Monde said what was already known, but, after all, it was Le Monde who said it.

Larissa Ramina is a Professor of International Law at UFPR, and member of the Brazilian Association of Jurists for Democracy – ABJD.