Brazil’s Lula Backs Up His Finance Minister After Bribery Charges

The Finance Minister of Brazil, Antonio Palocci, denied yesterday in a nationally televised news conference charges made Friday by his former adviser Rogério Buratti that he received 50,000 reais (US$ 21,000) a month from the firm Leão&Leão, garbage collection contractors of the town of Ribeirão Preto when he was the city’s mayor.

“First, I want to deny categorically and with vehemence these charges. I did not receive and did not authorize anyone to receive resources for the National Directorate of the PT or for other PT department during that period or any other period,” he said.


Friday, in an official note, Minister Antônio Palocci had already denied “with vehemence the veracity of the information” that he had received money from the company Leão&Leão, when he was the mayor of Ribeirão Preto.


The company contributed for Palocci’s electoral campaign to the Ribeirão Preto’s City Hall, something that according to the note, “is properly registered and accounted for in the document presented to the Regional Electoral Court”.


At the beginning of the press conference, yesterday, Palocci said that he had called President Lula to tell him about the explanations that he would give about the subject.


According to the Minister, Lula said that the charges of Rogério Buratti are not going to cause his dismissal from his ministerial post.


“President Lula asked me that I conveyed to you his decision. He doesn’t wish me to leave the Finance Ministry. He said that it will not authorize that I leave my post, even temporarily.”


Professional Relationship


Palocci, denied that he has any professional relationship with Buratti. According to Palocci, after Rogério Buratti left his post in the government, he did not have any professional contact with his former-secretary.


“Rogério Buratti did not become from there onwards an enemy of mine or a friend. He was a friend, but after he left the government, he distanced himself from me and from my family. Our families know each other, but they also distanced themselves,” he said.


The Finance Minister recognized that he met with Buratti sometimes in social occasions, but it was, according to him, a personal and not professional relationship.


A cover story in Veja magazine this weekend states that the former adviser intermediated meetings between Palocci and business men. The article does not maintain that the encounters really took place, however. In his interview Palocci said that none of the audiences cited by the audiotape transcripts took place.


Political Crisis


Asked by reporters if the charges made by Buratti could represent a great impact on the Brazilian economy, Palocci said that the economic agents know today how to differentiate political processes from the economy.


“Today, the economic agents know how to differentiate the political processes and the economic processes. In the past it wasn’t like that. In the past, a political crisis would quickly bring more questionable, more unbalanced results to the economy. Not today. There are two reason for this to happen. Our foundation is much more solid. The Brazilian foreign accounts are very solid. And second, the Brazilian democracy advanced,” said the Minister.


Palocci also stressed that the reactions of the financial market concerning the dollar exchange and in the São Paulo Stock Exchange on Friday happened due to “the way the information was given”. After talking about reactions in the economy, the Minister once again emphasized the “need for extreme responsibility from public agents when dealing with news of this nature.”


Congress Agenda


Palocci added that the Brazilian deputies and senators have conscience and responsibility when thet in the National Congress. Because of this, Palocci said he does not believe that there will be changes in the voting agenda due to the political crisis. “I do not believe that the Congress will change its course”.


For the Minister, many of Brazil’s achievements in the last three years are not exclusive of the government, but they are achievements brought about by Congress. The Minister cited as examples the Judiciary Reform, the Law of Civil Construction and the Bankruptcy Law, which were voted this year after a decade in the Congress.


Palocci stressed that, when there is conflict in voting, congressmen themselves take care of solving it. And he mentioned the voting for the minimum wage increase last week, when there were differences among the legislators on how much the new value should be.


“Congress itself, without any need for President Lula to take a stand, corrected that change that had been the fruit of a political conflict,” he stated.


The Minister also mentioned the reform of the Brazilian System for the Defense of Competition. For him the proposal is an extraordinary progress that is going to work “like the world’s best economies work.”


Palocci added that the reinsurance system in Brazil should be changed. “Only Brazil, Cuba and Costa Rica maintains reinsurance as an exclusive activity of the state. Insurance is a risk activity. The correct is that it is international, not national, or assured by a state company”.


These measures, according to the Minister, will contribute in a way that the potential production of riches (Gross Domestic Product) of Brazil will be increased.


“If the votes are there, our potential GDP will grow. If the votes are not there, we are not going to be facing a crisis, we will just lose opportunities,” said the Minister.


Agência Brasil

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