Brazilian capital Brasília’s legislature will get back to work on Monday, January 11, after a controversial recess, approved on the spur of the moment back in December so members of the Federal District’s legislative branch (called the Câmara Legislativa) could avoid dealing with a scandal involving the governor, most of his cabinet and many members of the legislature itself.
On Monday the first task will be to tackle… the scandal. On top of their agenda is a pile of formal requests for the impeachment of the governor, José Roberto Arruda, who is accused of running a complex corruption scheme.
The ruse consisted in paying bribes to politicians with money from a slush fund that contractors and lobbyists paid into with money they got from rigged bids, kickbacks and cost overruns on work they did for the local government – government of the Federal District (GDF).
The PT, the main opposition party in the assembly, says it plans a series of public demonstrations beginning next week with the objective of heading off attempts by Arruda supporters in the legislature to halt impeachment proceedings.
The idea is to get the masses out on the streets calling for Arruda’s head because in the legislative assembly things are not going to be easy for the opposition.
The Brasília legislature has 24 deputies, 19 of them support Arruda and at least 12 of those Arruda supporters have been implicated in the corruption scheme (filmed tentatively handling large stacks of bills and then stuffing them in pockets, bags, socks and even underwear).
“We believe the only way to move this case forward is by getting people demonstrating on the streets. We need the clamor of popular pressure. Otherwise, this whole thing might just fade away and be forgotten,” declared Chico Vigilante, the regional PT president. “After all, many of the people who are going to decide this in the legislature are cited in the criminal accusations.”
According to the Federal Police, an investigation called “Pandora’s Box” discovered that Arruda (who is not a member of any political party as he resigned from the DEM party in December so as to avoid being expelled), his vice governor, Paulo Octávio (DEM), and all the other politicians implicated, collected some 600,000 reais (US$ 347,000) from businessmen with GDF contracts. Arruda denies any wrongdoing and says the whole thing is an attack on him by his political enemies.