The two most recent ex-presidents of Brazil, Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, have both been charged with corruption within the ongoing corruption probe known as Operation Carwash.
Brazil’s attorney general charged Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff as well as six other members of the Workers’ Party. All those charged are alleged to have committed a series of crimes during the time that the Workers’ Party was in government, from 2002 to 2016.
Ms Rousseff was impeached last year for violating budgetary laws, but it is the first time she has been prosecuted for corruption. It also deals a hard blow as she has been saying that she was honest and lynched by a corrupt Congress, including the President who took over.
As for Mr da Silva, these prosecutorial pursuits of him follow hard on the heels of another and it’s hard to see how Lula can continue his campaign for the 2018 presidential elections for much longer. So far, he has been playing down the corruption conviction that could bar him from running in the elections if he loses his appeal.
Now, he is accused of being at the head of a criminal organisation that his party was running from 2002 to 2016 that managed to rake in $450 million from entities such as Petrobras, the country’s state oil company, and the Brazilian National Development Bank. Lula, who was the first left-wing president since the days of Brazil’s military dictatorship and was lauded as the hero of the poor in Brazil, is currently campaigning for the next presidential elections. He is also appealing against the corruption conviction that would stop him from running for president.
The Workers’ Party, Ms Rousseff and Lula all say that the accusations are baseless, lack evidence and are part of a continuing vendetta to weaken them.
The verdict emerges as President Michel Temer, who played a direct role in Ms Rousseff’s impeachment and became President when she was impeached, faces a second corruption charge. He managed to hold onto his crumbling coalition and secured a majority in Congress to prevent him from having to face the first charges in the High Court. This is the only court where senior elected Brazilian officials can be tried, which is extremely convenient in a country where more and more of the senior elected officials are being accused of corruption.
Mr Temer’s government has extremely low levels of approval, because of his harsh cuts and privatisations. Nevertheless, the economy is now improving, stocks closed at an all-time high on Monday 11th September because of the Congress approving the loosening of work rules, while Mr Temer looks more stable after surviving his first corruption accusation and Lula da Silva being charged with corruption.
Even so, analysts are cautious about declaring Brazil free of its economic crisis quite yet. This upturning of the economy has not trickled down to its citizens, who are tired of corruption and of having their health, education, and pensions being slashed or frozen.
Brazil’s corruption problem runs deep, but Mr Temer has already cut the investigation’s funds, perhaps in the hope that the public can forget that their politicians are swindling public funds and possibly even in order to prevent himself, and many others, going to jail.