By 59 votes to 21, Brazil’s Senate early on Wednesday (August 10) approved Senator Antonio Anastasia’s report recommending the indictment of Brazil’s suspended President Dilma Rousseff on impeachable offenses. She will face a final trial at the Senate floor.
The report sustained part of the charges in the impeachment petition drafted by lawyers Miguel Reale Junior, Janaína Paschoal, and Hélio Bicudo, making Rousseff officially a defendant in the case.
The centerpiece of the charges was that she broke budget laws through accounting maneuvers that became known as “fiscal backpedaling” — delaying government payments to public banks that would go into funding government programs.
For Anastasia, the maneuvers can be construed to constitute credit operations between the federal government and state-controlled banks, which is against Brazil’s Fiscal Accountability Act.
The outcome of the senators’ vote was virtually as expected by interim President Michel Temer — he was counting on 60 pro-impeachment votes.
The prosecution now has 48 hours of the vote to present the charges and evidence against Rousseff in writing, and as of that, the defense will have another 48 hours to submit the written defense. Each side will be entitled to use up to six witnesses.
Rousseff’s counsel, former Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo, said he was going to use all six witnesses, whereas prosecution lawyer Miguel Reale Jr. said he would submit the charging instrument within 24 hours and use three witnesses. A verdict is expected later in August.
At the final stage, after the witnesses’ testimonies, senators will decide whether to convict or acquit her. The votes of two thirds (54) of the 81 senators are required to impeach Rousseff permanently. The final trial hearings can be slated as of August 25.
On opening the Senate’s session, Brazil’s Chief Supreme Court (STF) Justice Ricardo Lewandowski explained that his duty there was only to coordinate the work. Therefore, he said, he would not intervene in discussions, “nor express any opinion and value judgment on the merits.”
He noted that senators would serve the role of judges of the case, “for that reason you should vote with courage and independence, solely guided by your conscience and by the constitutional and legal rules that approach the matter.”
Before assigning the Senate presidency to the chief justice, Senate President Renan Calheiros pointed out the gravity of the decision to be taken by the senators, who will be judges of the acts committed by the suspended president.
“We should do it escaping our parties’ political convictions as much as possible, and we should bear the responsibility falling on this role of judges established by the Constitution,” he said.
The Brazilian Senate’s vote is another step in handing over power to Rousseff’s former vice president – current interim president – Michel Temer. The impeachment trial is expected to open around August 25 – four days after the Olympics finish – and go on for five days, ending with a vote in judgment.
The Senate debate stretched into the early hours of Wednesday morning, but the results were clear-cut, with a 59 to 21 majority voting in favor of moving forward with the impeachment proceedings. The Senate (81 members) needed just a simple majority to decide on taking Rousseff to trial, but a two-thirds majority will be needed in the final vote, which will come after the trial in late August.
Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski presided over Tuesday night’s debate for Rousseff to stand trial for spending without government approval. At the start of the debate he told senators that they were about to “exercise one of the most serious tasks under the constitution.”
Senate speaker, Renan Calheiros, mirrored his tone: “I want to emphasize the gravity of the decision that we will soon take,” he said. “I ask that we set aside as much as possible our party political convictions.”
“What we are talking about today is defending the constitution and democracy itself. Those who commit crimes must be held responsible for them,” said Senator Aécio Neves, one of Rousseff’s lead rivals. “The conditions are firmly in place for removing Dilma Rousseff.”
Member of Rousseff’s Workers Party, Senator Regina Sousa told reporters: “We know we won’t win tonight. We are focusing efforts on the final judgment by trying to win over undecided senators.”
The Senate suspended Rousseff in May after allegations emerged that she illegally manipulated the numbers on the country’s budget to make it seem like a slump in the economy wasn’t as bad as it actually was during her 2014 re-election campaign. Throughout the impeachment process, Rousseff has maintained that she did nothing wrong and called it a coup.
Rousseff has denied she broke budget laws and maintains she is the victim of a right-wing conspiracy to overthrow her government that advanced the interests of Brazil’s poor.
In her written defense last month Rousseff said Brazilians knew an honest woman was being put on trial and she called the impeachment proceedings a “farce” and her alleged crimes no more than “routine acts of budgetary management.”
Her conviction would end the 13-year reign of the populist Workers Party over Brazil, and leave the largest economy in Latin America in the hands of her conservative former vice president.
Since the Senate suspended Rousseff on May 12, Brazil’s stock market and currency have strengthened based on investor speculation that Temer, who has laid out policy proposals that favor private business, will be better for the economy.
Temer has implored the Senate to move quickly, saying that the “people need to know who the president is.” If Rousseff is found guilty, Temer will become the president until the next election is held in 2018.
In the US, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Rousseff was facing a political trial, not a legal one: “To many Brazilians and observers the controversial impeachment process more closely resembles a coup d’état,” Sanders said in a statement issued on Monday.
Nuclear Chief in Jail for Corruption
The CEO of Brazil’s nuclear power company Eletronuclear, was sentenced to serve 43 years in prison by a Rio de Janeiro judge, Valor Econômico newspaper reported.
Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva considered the father of Brazil’s nuclear program and a pillar of the military-industrial establishment was convicted of corruption, money-laundering, organized crime and obstruction of justice, in the latest chapter of the country’s historic “Operation Carwash” investigation.
The 43-year sentence is considered relatively harsh, although Silva, like most white-collar criminals in Brazil, is only likely to spend as little as a sixth of his sentence behind bars before being released.
José Dirceu, the former chief-of-staff to ex-president Lula da Silva, received 23 years when he was sentenced again in May for helping orchestrate the criminal organization in suspended President Dilma Rousseff’s administration under investigation in Operation Carwash.
Dirceu was a repeat offender, having been convicted and jailed for leading a corruption ring in the government during Lula’s second term under the Mensalão, or big monthly graft, scandal.
Eletronuclear’s Silva colluded with executives at large Brazilian engineering firms Andrade Gutiérrez and Engevix to set up an over-billing and kickback operation with the construction of Brazil’s third nuclear power reactor, Angra 3.
“The elements of the court findings permit the conclusion that the corruption scheme was structured before, during and after the tenders for Eletronuclear’s construction of Angra 3 and consisted in the payment of bribes to public servants and agents” by the engineering firms, the judge said in his ruling, according to Valor Econômico.
In additional to heading Eletronuclear, a subsidiary of Brazil’s electric power holding company Eletrobras, Silva was a vice-admiral in the Brazilian Navy.
The sentence from Rio de Janeiro-based Federal Judge Marcelo da Costa Bretas marks one of the first high-profile rulings in Brazil’s anti-corruption push to be handed down outside of Curitiba in Paraná state, which has spearheaded the Carwash investigation.
Eleven Charged with Embezzlement
Brazil’s Federal Prosecution Service (MPF) filed charges against 11 people on Wednesday (August 10) for money laundering and forgery. The suspects are alleged to have used shell companies to issue false invoices for large construction companies, including Andrade Gutierrez, during construction projects for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Norte-Sul railway, and the Rio de Janeiro Petrochemical Complex (COMPERJ).
One of the suspects, Samir Assad, was arrested by Federal Police officers on Wednesday morning as part of Operation “Brotherhood”, led by Operation Car Wash prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro. He is charged with 223 counts of money laundering, forgery, and criminal conspiracy.
Police are also carrying out search and seizure raids in São Paulo. Operation Brotherhood is a spin-off from Operation Pripyat, an investigation into a millionaire embezzlement scheme in connection with the Angra 3 nuclear plant project run by state-owned energy corporation Eletronuclear.
Samir is the brother of Adir Assad, who was already jailed and has been charged too. The two are the alleged heads of the financial operations group in charge of the shell companies responsible for channeling embezzled funds to Andrade Gutierrez.
Other indicted suspects include Marcelo Abbud, who was jailed with Adir Assad, and Mauro Abbud. Prosecutors say the companies Legend Engenheiros Associados, SP Terraplenagem, JSM Engenharia e Terraplenagem, and Alpha Taxi Aéreo Ltda. have used false invoices to funnel over $55.8 million worth of slush funds to Andrade Gutierrez.
Four former Andrade Gutierrez executives — Rogério Nora de Sá, Clóvis Renato Numa Peixoto Primo, Flávio David Barra, and Gustavo Ribeiro de Andrade Botelho — have also been charged.
Prosecutors say in the charging instrument that Andrade Gutierrez is cooperating with the investigations and has even provided material evidence of the wrongdoing.