mercoledì 23 febbraio 2011
Wikileaks : Viewing cable 05BRASILIA2025, BRAZIL: CORRUPTION SCANDAL UPDATE, WEEK OF 25-29
23 Febbraio 2011
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 002025
TREASURY FOR PARODI
STATE PASS TO USTR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/28/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON BR
SUBJECT: BRAZIL: CORRUPTION SCANDAL UPDATE, WEEK OF 25-29
REF: A. BRASILIA 1979
¶B. BRASILIA 1874
¶C. BRASILIA 1973
¶D. BRASILIA 1631
Classified By: Political Counselor Dennis Hearne. Reasons: 1.4(b)(d).
¶1. (C) SUMMARY. This week saw further developments in the corruption scandals (reftels) that are roiling Brazilian domestic politics: the wife of Marcio Valerio-- the PT's money man in illicit financial schemes at the center of the crisis --testified before the Postal Service Congressional Inquiry Committee (CPI) (reftel A), supporting her husband's allegation that former Presidential Chief of Staff Dirceu was involved. The CPI requested a preventive detention of Valerio, and a list of 46 names of persons who apparently had withdrawn money from Valerio's accounts was released, with an even longer list scheduled for delivery to judicial authorities in Brasilia by the weekend. President Lula da Silva's controversial public reactions to the continuing crisis -- including his accusations that he is a victim of persecution by "elites" -- have caused concern among not only opposition politicians but sympathetic institutional figures, such as Senator Jose Sarney, a former president and Lula's most influential legislative ally. By week's end, however, fears of the scandals' potential effects on Brazil's economic stability seem to have focused minds, apparently leading Lula to tone down his rhetoric amid reports and rumors of possible efforts by administration, congressional and opposition elements to work together to lower tensions and continue with important government business. It is not clear, though, whether the inexorable flow of stunning revelations of impropriety and a significant desire among many here to get at the full truth, whatever the stakes, will allow for such deal-making. END SUMMARY.
VALERIO'S WIFE TESTIFIES BEFORE CPI -----------------------------------
¶2. (U) On 26 July, Renilda Santiago, wife of advertising executive and PT money man Marcos Valerio, testified before the Postal Service CPI that her husband had told her that former Presidential Chief of Staff Jose Dirceu knew about off-the-books loans made to the Workers' Party (PT) by Valerio, and also had meetings with bank managers about the loans. In her tearful testimony, Santiago alleged that her husband had not revealed everything when he testified before the CPI earlier in the hope that "others would confess to their actions." Dirceu, who resigned his cabinet post in June, admitted this week to the meetings but denied that the suspect financial transactions were discussed. Dirceu has returned to occupy his seat in the Chamber of Deputies and is scheduled to appear on 2 August before an congressional ethics committee, and likely will be called before the CPI soon. Dirceu was Lula's closest advisor, and the allegations of Dirceu's direct involvement appear to many to weaken Lula's claim that he was unaware of the schemes.
CPI REQUESTS VALERIO'S PREVENTIVE DETENTION -------------------------------------------
¶3. (U) On 27 July, the Postal Service CPI requested judicial orders for Valerio's preventive detention. The preventive detention is intended to thwart the manipulation of witnesses and the destruction of key documents (in recent days police and prosecutors have discovered boxes of burned documents from one of Valerio's companies).
THE LISTS KEEP COMING... ------------------------
¶4. (U) On 28 July, the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) released to the Postal Service CPI a list of 46 persons who had withdrawn money from Valerio's accounts, highlighting their possible involvement in a vote-buying scheme or other suspect transactions. The list contained the names found in documents the Federal Police had obtained from private and federal banks, including congressmen from various parties and others connected to them. No revelations were made, as the list confirmed information leaked earlier to the media (refs) and already in the CPI's possession. However, at week's end a second set of documents was expected at the STF, reportedly listing 120 persons who had made withdrawals from Valerio's accounts. The breadth of such a list suggests it could be a bombshell, and perhaps definitive evidence of a wide-spread political bribery and illegal funding network established by Valerio in complicity with senior PT officials. As of Friday, 29 July, the second, long list had not been released publicly or leaked to the media.
...And the Spotlight Spreads to Opposition Figures --------------------------------------------- -----
¶5. (U) Valerio's system for borrowing money from banks using for collateral his firm's contracts with state companies apparently was modeled on earlier versions of the same scheme. According to the 26 July edition of "O Globo", in 1998 Valerio's firms used this artifice for providing off-the books financing not only to Lula's PT party but to the opposition PSDB party in Valerio's home state of Minas Gerais. The paper reported that Valerio made loans to the unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign of Eduardo Azeredo, now a federal senator and president of the national PSDB. Azeredo denies wrongdoing, insisting that he had no knowledge of the loans or Valerio, as such issues would have been handled by others in the campaign. Azeredo will testify before the CPI, but leading PSDB officials, including former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, insist that, while all facts should be clarified, the focus of current investigations should be ongoing and recent allegations, not historical ones.
LULA'S POPULARITY -----------------
¶6. (U) A poll released on July 23 showed that President Lula's popularity has fallen amid the scandal, but he remains the favorite in the 2006 election. Respondents in the poll who believe Lula is honest fell to 62 percent from 73 percent in a June survey. His government's approval rating fell to 35 percent from 36 percent, and its disapproval rating rose to 23 percent from 19 percent. But the poll also showed that Lula would defeat all challengers by wide margins if the election were held today.
NOT BOWING HIS HEAD -------------------
¶7. (SBU) In public appearances over recent days, Lula has sounded defiant, even truculent, claiming that he is a victim of a conspiracy of "elites," that "the Brazilian has yet to be born who can give me morality lessons" and that his enemies will not succeed in making him "bow his head." He has appealed to lower socio-economic classes and laborers, among whom his poll numbers remain strongest, to rally to his defense. Lula's choice in using such chest-beating rhetoric, rather than taking a calmer and more contrite tone, has led some opposition figures and editorial writers to accuse Lula of Chavez-style demagoguery and seeking to polarize the population. Even the establishment's sympathetic figures are worried. PMDB Senator and former president Jose Sarney -- arguably Lula's most powerful ally in congress -- is reported by various sources to be convinced that Lula is committing fatal errors in dealing with the crisis (both in associating himself with a collapsing cover story that denies bribery schemes and in using the class-conflict rhetoric), and may not last out his term.
¶8. (C) Notwithstanding the revelations and fiery presidential rhetoric of the first days of this week, fears that the crisis is affecting Brazil's international image and economic stability seem to be focusing minds. Lula called in his Central Bank president for urgent consultations, made evident efforts to appear attentive to his regular duties, and his words in public events on 27 and 28 July moderated noticeably, as he called for "punishment of the guilty" and voiced concern about "fragility" of the economy. Lula also dispatched his new minister for political coordination, Jaques Wagner, and Justice Minister Thomaz Bastos to consult with the president of the Chamber of Deputies, senior opposition members, and the head of the Postal Service CPI regarding the course of investigations and the need for a cross-the-aisle strategy for moving key legislation even as the CPIs continue work.
¶9. (C) Indeed, if there are any "conspiracies" afoot, they appear to be not those of "elites" out to sack Lula, but rather efforts by important political and institutional figures across the spectrum to protect him and spare Brazil the national trauma that a spiraling crisis -- and especially impeachment proceedings -- would bring. Supreme Court President Nelson Jobim is reported to have told interlocutors this week that the disillusionment that would accompany an impeachment of Lula -- a charismatic icon of Brazil's democracy and new hope for its poorest citizen -- would cause grave governance and social problems in Brazil for years to come. Former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso -- a sharp critic of his successor and an advocate of thorough investigations -- is said to be deeply worried about the impacts of the crisis on the country. Jorge Bornhausen, leader of the opposition right PFL party, is reported (though we have no way to confirm this) to have flown to Rio de Janeiro to consult with the management of the Globo media empire on the need for caution in reporting the unfolding scandals. Whether these are signs of an attempt to quietly forge a broad pact that that can successfully insulate Lula, effect a moratorium on dramatic revelations and eventually reduce the intensity of the crisis atmosphere remains to be seen.
¶10. (C) But we also perceive a powerful countervailing sentiment here to get at the full truth and deny impunity, whatever the stakes. In leading newsmagazine VEJA and in other editorial comment there is evidence of a proud expectation that Brazil's institutions are strong enough to accomplish their duty, leaving the country, in the wake of the catharsis, more mature and more democratic than ever. The rigor with which the Postal Service CPI has conducted its work to date, the flood of generally high-quality investigative reporting from Brazil's media, and the credible work thus far of Brazil's federal-level police and judicial entities in handling their roles are reinforcing this view. Developments in the immediate days ahead will likely determine the course Brazil's leaders and society will steer, and we will continue to provide reporting and analysis on a regular basis.