The ten-month political crisis in Brazilian President Lula’s Administration has been rife with charges of corruption in State-controlled enterprises, suspicions regarding vote-buying among legislators who form the Administration’s base of support in the Congress, and evidence of unreported election campaign contributions (caixa 2 – slush fund).
It has also produced resignations and revocations of the mandates of some of those involved. Investigations were initiated in all three branches of the government – the federal Executive, the National Congress, and the Judiciary. What follows is a summary of the crisis:
On June 6, 2005, after having being accused of connections with cases of corruption centered around the Post Office, deputy Roberto Jefferson, elected from Rio de Janeiro and, at the time, president of the PTB, declared in an interview with the newspaper, "Folha de São Paulo," that a system of vote-buying existed in the Federal Chamber of Deputies, in which the Administration obtained the support of legislators in exchange for monthly payments of 30,000 reais (US$ 13,490). Jefferson is no longer a member of the Chamber, because his mandate was later revoked.
Jefferson’s accusations gave rise to the "big monthly allowance" ("mensalão") scandal, which in turn opened the way for three parliamentary investigatory commissions (CPIs) to be constituted in the National Congress: one on Vote-Purchasing, which ended without its final report being voted; one on Bingo Parlors, which is still going on; and one on the Post Office, which presented its final report Wednesday, March 29.
In September of last year, the CPIs on the Post Office and Vote-Buying had already submitted preliminary reports in which 19 legislators were accused of having made illegal bank withdrawals as part of a scheme set up by Marcos Valério de Souza, an advertising executive from the state of Minas Gerais, and Delúbio Soares, ex-treasurer of the Workers’ Party (PT). Souza and Soares were considered the ones responsible for operating the "mensalão."
Three of the 19 legislators were eventually deprived of their mandates, including former presidential Chief of Staff, José Dirceu, as well as Roberto Jefferson, the one who first denounced the scheme.
This episode also resulted in the ouster of the president of the PT, José Genoíno, and the president of the PSDB, Eduardo Azeredo, accused of putting together a similar scheme in Minas Gerais in the 1998 elections.
Azeredo, however, kept his parliamentary seat, since, in March of this year, the Congress decided to table the motion calling for his mandate to be revoked.
Three ministers were also forced to leave office. The minister of Finance, Antônio Palocci, and Chief of Staff Dirceu offered their letters of resignation.
Luis Gushiken, in charge of the presidential office of Management and Strategic Communication, lost his ministerial status but remains in the government as head of the presidential Nucleus on Strategic Matters.
Four other federal deputies resigned before the cases against them got underway, so as to be eligible to run in the next elections. One of them is Severino Cavalcanti, who gave up his office as president of the Chamber of Deputies in order to keep from losing his mandate and having his political rights suspended.
According to the final report presented by the CPI on the Post Office, this period subjected at least 67 people from various State-controlled enterprises (such as the Post Office, the Brazilian Reinsurance Institute, the Furnas Central Electric Company, and the Bank of Brazil), as well as members of the Chamber of Deputies, the federal Executive, and political parties to investigation, dismissal, and some sort of punishment.