May 25 2016
The latest wiretap adds to proof that suspended President Dilma Rousseff’s political rivals wanted to oust her to stop corruption investigations against them.
Protesters demonstrate in support of suspended President Dilma Rousseff and against
the interim government of Michel Temer, Sao Paulo, May 22, 2016. | Photo: Reuters
A way to halt the anti-corruption campaign
In the leaked recording reported by the Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo, Calheiros is heard telling Sergio Machado that all politicians are “afraid” of the corruption investigation known as Operation Car Wash, a series of probes revolving around fraud and bribery in the state oil company Petrobras.
Calheiros is caught on tape saying he wants to change the plea bargain rules, a cornerstone of the investigations, as a way to halt the anti-corruption campaign.
Scheming to ensure Rousseff’s ouster
The leak comes after another explosive wiretap earlier this week revealed that interim Planning Minister and then-Senator Romero Juca was scheming with members of the Supreme Court and military command to ensure Rousseff’s ouster.
In the conversation, also with Machado, Juca makes clear that the goal of removing the president from office is to put a stop to the Operation Car Wash investigations, of which he was also a target. Juca has stepped aside from his cabinet post over the leak.
The Calheiros recording also reveals that the Senate chief planned to “negotiate” with the Supreme Court over guaranteeing Rousseff’s “transition.”
The real motivations behind removing Rousseff
The leaks provide the strongest evidence to date that the real motivations behind removing Rousseff from office center around protecting the corrupt political establishment from facing investigations and prosecution—quite the opposite of how the impeachment process has been portrayed as a bid to root out government fraud. Evidence of alleged negotiations with state institutions also make the whole process appear even more like a coup.
In response to the leak, Calheiros’ spokesperson told Folha that the recording does not provide evidence that the Senate president intended to interfere with anti-corruption investigations.
And Supreme Court communications told Folha that Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, who will coordinate Rousseff’s impeachment trial process in the Senate, “never held talks about alleged ‘transition’ or ‘changes in criminal law’ with the people cited,” referring to Calheiros and Machado and their claims in the recording.
According to Folha, Machado’s whereabouts has been unknown since last week.
It also comes as a Senate committee is set to decide on Wednesday the schedule for the suspended president’s impeachment trial.
Rousseff was suspended from office for 180 days on May 12 through a Senate vote to make her stand trial over allegations of budget manipulations. Interim President Michel Temer will be installed in Brazil’s highest office until 2018 if the impeachment is ultimately approved.