Tag Archive | Brazil

Corruption Investigation in Brazil Recovers $270 Million*

Corruption Investigation in Brazil Recovers $270 Million*

Large protests to demand investigations into corruption took over the streets of Brazil last March. | Photo: Reuters

 

Plea deals under the country’s largest corruption investigation have allowed the Brazilian government to recover millions that were lost.

Agreements with those under investigation for corruption in Brazil led to the recovery of US$275.6 million in the last two weeks, according to the Attorney General’s office.

Plea deals in Operation Car Wash, an ongoing investigation into the largest bribery scheme in the country’s history, helped the government retrieve the large sum of money. The government is expected to retrieve more funds in coming days.

The announcement comes after the Federal Police decided to eliminate a special team dedicated to investigating the cases, which uncovered possible wrongdoings by hundreds of politicians, including President Michel Temer.

“The expressive and unprecedented amount recovered in 10 days reveals that this technique allows in record time the advance of compensation for damages caused to the public coffers,” said the Prosecutor’s office in the state of Parana, where corruption investigations are being held.

The fines have been paid by companies connected to the corruption ring, such as Odebrecht, Brazil’s largest construction company, Braskem, Odebrecht’s petrochemical subsidiary and Andrade Gutierrez, the country’s second-largest construction company.

The largest fine collected belongs to Braskem, which on Wednesday deposited about US$224.5 million. The company will need to pay approximately US$954 million throughout the next six years as part of an agreement reached with prosecutors in December.

Operation Car Wash, which began in March 2014 with investigations into alleged bribes within the Petrobras oil company, later unearthed the largest corruption case in Brazilian history.

Temer, who has repeatedly denounced the investigation, faces possible suspension and impeachment if the Lower House of Congress and the Supreme Court approve a trial based on the corruption charges presented against him. Prosecutors allege Temer arranged to eventually receive a total of US$11.49 million from the largest meatpacking company in the country, JBS.

Opposition lawmakers have criticized the government and warned that Temer and his aides could find ways to block the investigation by the Federal Police.

Source*

Related Topics:

Brazil’s Social Democracy Party Abandons Temer Government*

Brazil Coup Architect Eduardo Cunha Sentenced to 15 Years for Corruption*

Washington Rape of Brazil Begins*

First Interview with Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff Since the Senate’s Impeachment Vote*

Temer Formally Accused of Corruption*

Brazil’s Temer Defies Calls to Step Down over Wiretap Scandal*

Key Temer Aid Resigns as Scandal Closes in*

Brazil’s Social Democracy Party Abandons Temer Government*

Brazil’s Social Democracy Party Abandons Temer Government*

Brazil’s President Michel Temer attends a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia. | Photo: Reuters

 

Last year, Temer’s party also left the governing alliance before the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil’s Social Democracy Party, PSDB, announced Thursday that it will no longer participate in the government of President Michel Temer.

Currently, the PSDB directs four ministries under Temer’s administration, including Foreign Affairs, Cities, Secretary of Government and Human Rights.

The announcement comes as the scandal-ridden leader faces corruption charges and a possible impeachment. 

“During these last days, the party, without any imposition of the leaders (of the House and the Senate), is naturally evolving towards the departure of the government, not to oppose the government of Temer, but to stop participating in the government,” Tasso Jereissati, interim president of the PSDB, said to Globo television.

Temer is being accused of receiving and approving bribes in the largest corruption investigation in the country’s history, known as Operation Car Wash. Federal police launched an investigation against the former vice president and alleged that they had strong evidence that he was complicit.

The appointed president was one of the main architects of impeachment manoeuvers against former President Dilma Rousseff after his right-wing Brazilian Democratic Movement Party left the governing alliance with the Workers’ Party, or PT.

Criminal charges against Temer have to be approved by about two-thirds of the lower house of Congress. A total of 341 out of the 513 lawmakers would have to vote in favor. Only then can the Supreme Court issue a conviction. If approved, Temer could be suspended for 90 days while awaiting impeachment proceedings.

The PSDB has experienced an internal split between those who believe that it is necessary to separate themselves from Temer and those who await more evidence and the outcome of his trail.

The party’s former head, Senator Aecio Neves, was removed from office in May by the Federal Supreme Court, but was later reinstated as part of the same corruption scheme investigation.

Source*

Related Topics:

Temer Formally Accused of Corruption*

Brazil’s Temer Defies Calls to Step Down over Wiretap Scandal*

Brazil’s Key Corruption Judge Who was Killed in a Plane Crash Demands Investigation and Protection from Temer*

Key Temer Aid Resigns as Scandal Closes in*

Brazil’s Coup President Michel Temer to Lift Ban on Foreign Ownership of Land*

Canadian Company to Construct Brazil’s Largest Open-Pit Gold Mine—in the Heart of the Amazon*

Brazil’s Coup Government Moves to Scrap Environmental Regulations*

Brazil Just Approved 20-Year Spending Freeze to Punish the Poor*

Temer Formally Accused of Corruption*

Temer Formally Accused of Corruption*

Brazilian Coup President Michel Temer

 

Temer could be suspended for 90 days while awaiting impeachment proceedings.

Brazil’s Attorney General Rodrigo Janot formally accused President Michel Temer and his aide Rodrigo Rocha Loures of corruption Monday, charging them with receiving bribes from meatpacking giant JBS, according to O Globo.

Janot sent the request for charges, with additional documents to follow on Tuesday, to the country’s Supreme Court, which will then send them to the lower chamber of Congress.

By law, criminal charges against a sitting president have to be approved by two-thirds of the lower house and only then can the Supreme Court issue a conviction. If approved by the lower house, Temer could be suspended for 90 days while awaiting impeachment proceedings.

In that possible scenario, current House Speaker Rodrigo Maia would assume the presidency.

According to a poll by Estadao, Temer might not have the support of lawmakers to block the process.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s federal police recommended charging Temer with obstruction of justice Monday, according to an official report.

Temer faces several accusations of corruption and spying, and according to Reuters, Janot will consider treating each investigation separately instead of presenting them all together, a move that could weaken his defense strategy.

The embattled politician, who was one of the main architects of a similar procedure against former President Dilma Rousseff, has been marred by endless political scandals revolving around the Operation Car Wash, or Lava Jato, investigations. In May, a wiretapped conversation with businessman Josley Batista, chairman of JBS, the largest meatpacking company in the country was released which appeared to reveal Temer endorsing a bribe to potential witnesses in the investigation.

In the recording, Temer was heard saying after being informed that hush money was being paid to the former head of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, “Look, you’ve got to keep that up.”

Last week, Brazilian federal police handed over their investigation to the court alleging that Temer accepted bribes in exchange for political favors from JBS. Police have also confirmed the authenticity of the recordings, which Temer insists have been tampered with.

Temer also denied other allegations, a report in a national magazine claiming that the country’s secret security service, known as Abin, spied on the judge in charge of the same corruption probe.

Temer’s numerous complications have led to a plummeting of support.

The survey by the Datafolha polling institute shows just 7 percent of those questioned approved of his administration, down from 9 percent in April.

Source*

Related Topics:

Brazil Court Continues to Delay Case That Could Unseat Temer*

Brazil’s Temer Defies Calls to Step Down over Wiretap Scandal*

Brazil’s Key Corruption Judge Who was Killed in a Plane Crash Demands Investigation and Protection from Temer*

Key Temer Aid Resigns as Scandal Closes in*

‘Out Temer!’ Brazil Social Movements Protest Undemocratic Govt*

Court Rules in Favour of Brazilians Protest Against Temer inside Olympic Venues*

Brazil’s Coup President Michel Temer to Lift Ban on Foreign Ownership of Land*

Brazil Revolts as Michel Temer Forces Austerity, U.S. Dirty Tricks Exposed*

Brazilian Police Fire Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets at Anti-Temer Protesters*

Brazil Explodes in Fight against Temer Coup Government*

Brazil Court Continues to Delay Case That Could Unseat Temer*

Brazil Court Continues to Delay Case That Could Unseat Temer*

Michel Temer’s grip on power after being installed last year, through an impeachment process widely condemned as a group, is increasingly slipping. | Photo: Reuters

Temer is increasingly under pressure to resign, while court processes threaten to further jeopardize his executive power.

As multiple corruption scandals continue to swirl around Brazilian President Michel Temer and his government, the country’s top electoral court has re-launched a case that could remove the president from office over alleged illegal financing in his 2014 campaign as running mate to former President Dilma Rousseff.

The court entered its third day of sessions Thursday after deciding Wednesday to delay the final decision of whether or not to accept allegations that could lead to Temer’s removal from office.

The delays are in line with analysts’ predictions that the process could take weeks or even months as several judges have requested more time to study the case to continue the hearings. The final ruling, which does not have a deadline, could leave Brazil without a president for the second time in just over a year after the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff, a process widely condemned as a parliamentary coup.

Meanwhile, the government has said it is certain that Temer will be cleared of all charges by the court. The Senate-imposed president, whose approval rating has fallen to 8%, has said he will not step down despite widespread calls for his resignation as corruption allegations continue to come to light.

Just hours ahead of the scheduled start of the hearing Tuesday, Brazil’s federal police sent Temer Monday an interrogation document with a list of 82 questions as part of a separate investigation probing the president over accusations of corruption, organized crime and obstruction of justice.

Initially, Temer had 24 hours to respond to the questions, a deadline that ended Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. local time.

But his lawyers requested an extension as they argued it was “absolutely impossible to demand a manifestation of the President of the Republic in the short term of 24 hours.” The new deadline is set for Friday afternoon 5:00 p.m. local time.

As the election financing case moves forward and other corruption allegations continue to crash down around the president, protesters gathered outside the federal court in Brasilia to demand Temer’s resignation and call for direct elections to choose the next president of Brazil.

The accusations stem from an explosive wiretap, reported May 17, in which Temer was heard appearing to give his approval to bribes to buy the silence of the jailed former president of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, the chief mastermind behind the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff last year and a powerful witness in government corruption cases.

The conversation was recorded by Joesley Batista, chairman of JBS, the largest meatpacking company in the world, which was also involved in a large corruption scandal for bribing Brazilian politicians, as part of a bid to win a plea bargain deal with prosecutors.

The bribes were intended to keep Cunha silent about embarrassing secrets that could jeopardize the legitimacy of Temer’s presidency. In the leaked wiretap, Temer is heard telling Batista about the payments: “Look, you’ve got to keep that up.”

Protesters with face masks of Brazil’s politicians. Photo: Reuters

 

Protest against Temer in Sao Paulo. Photo: Reuters

 

 

Police patrol in front of the federal court in Brasilia. Photo: Reuters

 

 

The president said the recording wasn’t proof of wrongdoing. He said that he didn’t report the bribery references to authorities because he did not believe them. The case was delayed as authorities investigated the source of the audio.

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has accused Temer of corruption, criminal organization and obstruction of justice as a result of the wiretap. Temer separately faces accusations of irregular campaign financing and has also been named in the central corruption investigations, known as Operation Car Wash, probing a bribery scheme in the state-run oil campany, Petrobras.

According to the Brazilian Constitution, if Temer resigns or is dismissed, Congress must approve an indirect election in 30 days to choose the person who will continue the electoral period that Rousseff began in 2015 and that ends on Jan. 1, 2019. Tuesday’s electoral financing trial could unseat the president, or he could face an impeachment process over corruption accusations. Both processes would likely be lengthy.

Brazilians have taken to the streets to demand Temer’s resignation and for immediate direct elections to be held to allow Brazilian voters to elect the next president. Temer has reiterated that he will not be resigning.

According to a new poll released Monday by the country’s largest labor union, known as the CUT, nine out of 10 Brazilians prefer direct general elections and 75 percent reject Temer’s administration.

Source*

Related Topics:

Brazil’s Temer Defies Calls to Step Down over Wiretap Scandal*

Brazil’s Key Corruption Judge Who was Killed in a Plane Crash Demands Investigation and Protection from Temer*

Key Temer Aid Resigns as Scandal Closes in*

Canadian Company to Construct Brazil’s Largest Open-Pit Gold Mine—in the Heart of the Amazon*

Brazil Coup Architect Eduardo Cunha Sentenced to 15 Years for Corruption*

Brazil’s Coup Government Moves to Scrap Environmental Regulations*

Brazil Just Approved 20-Year Spending Freeze to Punish the Poor*

Washington Rape of Brazil Begins*

We Don’t Believe in Words Anymore*

We Don’t Believe in Words Anymore*

Indigenous Peoples stand against Brazil’s Temer government

By Sue Branford, Maurício Torres

A Munduruku woman at the Transamazonian highway blockade talks with truck drivers. Despite the inconvenience of the roadblock, many truckers are expressing sympathy for the indigenous protest, citing their own disgruntlement with the policies of the Temer government. Photo by Mauricio Torres

 

Indigenous groups are making a defiant stand against the current wave of fiercely anti-Indian policies being rapidly implemented by Brazil’s Temer administration and Congress.

Protests blossomed last week in Brasilia where a four-day demonstration — the largest in the nation’s history — brought together over 4,000 indigenous leaders from more than 200 tribes seeking government redress of grievances. The protesters were met with teargas.

Likewise, a peaceful land occupation by members of the Gamela tribe in Maranhão state ended in violence when their camp was raided by ranchers and hired gunmen who beat the Indians brutally, even hacking off hands with machetes.

In the Amazon, members of the Munduruku tribe, armed with bows and arrows, set up a roadblock on the Transamazonian highway, creating a 40 kilometre (25 mile) backup of trucks loaded with this year’s soy harvest.

The blockade came in protest of the government’s refusal to demarcate the Indians’ lands as assured under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. The commodities roadblock also sent a clear signal to the bancada ruralista, Brazil’s agribusiness lobby, which dominates Congress and the administration, and which pushed for the dramatic upsurge in federal initiatives rolling back indigenous land rights and protections.

A glimpse of the traffic backup at the Munduruku blockade. Video by Mauricio Torres

Violence in Maranhão

On 30 April gunmen and ranchers attacked an indigenous camp in Maranhão, an impoverished state in northeast Brazil, long dominated by powerful landowners led by the Sarney family (one of whom is Pres. Temer’s environment minister, José Sarney Filho).

The violence was triggered by events two days earlier, when several dozen Gamela Indians occupied disputed land near the town of Viana, 214 kilometers (133 miles) from the state capital of São Luis.

This land was traditionally occupied by the Gamela, but the military dictatorship (1964-1985) illegally ejected them from it. Ranchers then occupied the area, clearing the forest, planting pasture and raising cattle. As years passed, the ranchers began to see themselves as the legitimate owners.

About 300 Gamela families remained in the region, however, determined to regain their land despite the slight odds of doing so. Regardless of the legitimacy of their claim, the Indians received little help from authorities, with the federal Indian agency FUNAI, under pressure from the ranchers, refusing to begin the process of marking out the boundaries of the Gamela territory.

Three years ago the Indians went to court to force the ranchers to relinquish the land, but the case was stalled by bureaucratic delays. With their living conditions worsening year-by-year, the Gamela became convinced that they would only survive as a people if they took action. So they began a series of retomadas or re-occupations of their traditional land.

They timed the latest reoccupation to coincide with both the indigenous protest in Brasilia and a national one-day general strike, the first in 21 years, organized by Brazil’s trade unions in protest over the Temer government’s severe austerity measures.

It was a risky strategy, particularly in view of the strong anti-indigenous sentiment in Brasilia, and the local ranchers responded rapidly. According to one report, they sent out a WhatsApp message, calling on ranchers and their gunmen to gather near the indigenous camp.

Messages supporting the ranchers flooded the media. Federal deputy, Aluisio Guimarães Mendes Filho, (the state’s Public Security Secretary during the government of Roseana Sarney, another member of the Sarney clan), spoke out in a local radio interview, accusing the Gamela of being “troublemakers” and encouraging violence against them.

“He fanned the flames,” said one Indian later.

The ranchers had a barbecue, drank a lot of alcohol, and became increasingly abusive in their talk about the Indians. It was clear that an attack was being planned, but when it happened, the military police (who had arrived on site earlier) didn’t intervene.

The Indians were vastly out-numbered and could do little but flee into the forest when attacked by men wielding rifles and machetes.

According to Cimi (the Catholic Missionary Council), 13 Indians were injured. Two had both hands lopped off. Others were severely beaten; one had a fractured skull. One of the injured is Kum ‘Tum Gamela, a former priest, who has received numerous death threats in the past.

The Ministry of Justice issued a press statement in which it promised to investigate “the incident that involved small farmers and supposed Indians in the hamlet of Bahias.” The term “supposed” generated a wave of indigenous anger and was quickly deleted from the statement. Later the term “small farmers” was also removed, as it was widely criticized as being a euphemism for the gunmen employed by the ranchers. In the end, the statement merely said that that the ministry would investigate a “rural conflict.”

The Human Rights Commission of the prestigious Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) is to request help from the human rights body, Amnesty International, to resolve the dispute.

Munduruku roadblock

Another serious conflict is still underway, though it has not, as yet, resulted in violence. On 28 April, 130 Munduruku Indians and members of the Tapajós riverside communities of Montanha and Mongabal blockaded the Transamazonian highway, occupying a bridge about 25 kilometres (15 miles) east of the new port of Miritituba, a key transhipment point for the soy industry, where international trading giants, such as Bunge and ADM, have large terminals.

With the soy harvest in full swing, the road soon became highly congested, with at least a 40 kilometer (25 mile) backup of large trucks, carrying soybeans to Miritituba. The blockade was lifted during the night from 28 April forward, but was then re-imposed as a 24-hour blockade on the morning of 3 May.

A Mongabay contributor was accidentally caught up in the traffic, and on arriving at the road block he stayed to cover the showdown.

The Munduruku blocked the Transamazonian highway this week in protest of the failure of the Brazilian government to demarcate their traditional lands. The blockade is ongoing. Photo by Mauricio Torres.

 

Antonio Munduruku, a young Indian, offered two reasons why the blockade was imposed:

“We want the FUNAI employees who were working with us to be reinstated. We need them. They are our greatest tool in getting our lands marked out. And we won’t leave with empty hands. The FUNAI president told us on Friday that he’d sorted it out. But we don’t believe in words any more. We want their reinstatement published in the official gazette.”

He went on: “The second reason is to get the Sawré Muybu indigenous territory properly marked out. It’s our land but nothing is happening. Loggers are carrying on extracting timber.”

Vicente Saw, an old cacique, leader, said that stopping traffic on highways was effective: “The heart of the government is here on the road,” he said.

The will to resist

The Munduruku were shocked but not surprised by what happened to the Gamela:

“They’re a different ethnic group but they are our brothers, with the same blood,” said Jairo Saw Munduruku.

“We mustn’t let what’s happened to them happen to us. The government must mark out our land. If not, big loggers, big mining companies, will come in. And they will start conflicts, attacking us, assassinating leaders. That’s what the government wants but we must stop it happening. We don’t have anyone speaking for us in Congress. We have to defend ourselves.”

Attempts to reach the Brazilian government for comment in recent weeks have been met with no response.

The Munduruku feel no hostility toward the truck drivers. An old indigenous leader, Tomas Munduruku, said:

“We’re in favour of the truck drivers. They need our support too. It’s not right that the government is cutting their pensions.”

More surprisingly perhaps, many of the truck drivers are supportive of the Indians too. Trucker Mario de Nascimento said:

“This road is essential for Brazil and the protest must stop. But the Indians’ rights aren’t being respected, just like ours aren’t being respected. But we are carrying Brazil on our backs. We can’t stop. We need the government to sort it out. None of us deserves the way we’re being treated.”

Another trucker, who didn’t want to give his name, said:

“They [the Indians] are right. You can’t deny that. And if some of the people here want to lynch me for saying that, then let them lynch me.”

David and Goliath: One truck driver threatened to drive over the Indians, but other truckers found common ground with the Munduruku in their grievances against the repression and austerity measures of the current government. Photo by Mauricio Torres.

 

Time and again, the truckers, like the Indians, blamed the government for failing to listen, declaring flatly: “The biggest problem is the government.”

The concern is that the Amazonian heat, hunger and thirst will affect both Indians and truck drivers, and that tempers may begin to fray. One truck driver, who also didn’t give his name, threatened:

 “We’re going to drive our trucks over the Indians, pushing them all over, Indian after Indian. If our dreadful federal government doesn’t manage to get the blockade lifted soon, that’s what we’ll do.”

Another trucker said, in exasperated jest:

“It’s getting terrible for all of us. I haven’t had a shower for more than 24 hours, in this heat. I feel like throwing my underpants into the river. They’d kill the fish. So the Indians wouldn’t have fish to eat, nor any of us have fish either.”

With the drivers stretched over many miles, it’s difficult to assess the truckers’ overall mood, but there was a surprising development Wednesday afternoon. A substantial group of truckers and Indians held a meeting beside the highway, during which both sides expressed support for the other’s struggle, saying that their chief complaint is against the current government.

Although not all truckers share this opinion, a significant number do. That is an extraordinary new development because, in the past, Indian actions of this type caused huge resentment among affected parties, particularly truck drivers. It is indicative of the very high level of rejection in Brazil of the ruling government by voters of all kinds, with Pres. Temer’s support now standing at an unprecedented low of 9%.

The Munduruku possess a fierce warrior heritage and are standing up against the anti-indigenous policies of the administration and Congress. Photo by Mauricio Torres.

 

Growing dissent

Protests in Maranhão and Pará are not isolated cases. All over Brazil Indians are expressing grave fears about the future. Paulo Marubo, an Indian from the Javari Valley in the state of Amazonas, not far from the border with Peru, says that FUNAI, decimated by budget cuts, will have to close many of its offices for ethno-environmental protection (Bapes), which play a key role in monitoring the territory occupied by uncontacted tribes.

Marubo told Survival International: “If the protection teams are withdrawn, it will be like before, when many Indians were massacred and died as a result of disease… If the loggers come here, they will want to contact the uncontacted, they will spread diseases and even kill them.”

Instead, the federal government seems to be turning its back on indigenous demands. During his first 55 days in office, justice minister Osmar Serraglio didn’t have a single meeting with an Indian but found time to sit down behind closed doors with a 100 landowners plus businessmen accused of corruption in the Car-Wash scandal.

During the large protest in Brasilia, Serraglio and Eliseu Padilha, Temer’s chief-of-staff, belatedly offered to meet the Indians, but that offer was turned down. The two officials are known to have drawn up the government’s anti-indigenous strategy and, with no offer of compromise on the table, the indigenous leaders saw little point in meeting with them.

The current assault on indigenous rights is the most severe since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. The NGO ISA (Socioenvironmental Institute) says there has been an “exponential increase in rural violence” since Temer took over. It comments:

“The fact that the ministry of justice is occupied by [Osmar Serraglio], an advocate of injustice reinforces the sinister omens of what lies ahead.”

Source*

Related Topics:

Brazil’s Temer Defies Calls to Step Down over Wiretap Scandal*

Brazil: Corporations Continue to Seize Indigenous Lands and Hire Hit Men to Murder Residents

Occupy World: Brazil’s Indigenous Occupy Congress*

Canadian Company to Construct Brazil’s Largest Open-Pit Gold Mine—in the Heart of the Amazon*

Brazil vs. the Indigenous Fight against the Belo Monte Dam*

Brazil’s Temer Defies Calls to Step Down over Wiretap Scandal*

Brazil’s Temer Defies Calls to Step Down over Wiretap Scandal*

The unelected president announced he will not resign in the face of the biggest scandal to hit his crisis-ridden government yet.

Brazilian President Michel Temer said Thursday he will not resign after an explosive wiretap revealed that he had endorsed bribes to a powerful witness in order to keep him from speaking out on government corruption.

In his brief address, Temer called for a thorough investigation into the case.

“I repeat: I will not resign,” he said, speaking in Brasilia.

“I know what I did and I know I was right. I demand an immediate investigation.”

Earlier on Thursday, the Federal Supreme Court approved an investigaiton into the president over the wiretap evidence, Brazil’s O Globo reported.

Temer’s comments came in response to a damning recording implicating him and other politicians in a corruption scheme that has served the heaviest blow to the scandal-plagued administration yet.

The tape, reported by O Globo Wednesday evening, revealed that Temer had given his blessing to hefty bribes in the name of keeping a key witness, Eduardo Cunha, quiet in the country’s largest-ever corruption investigations, known as Operation Car Wash. Cunha, the former speaker of the lower house, the chief mastermind behind the parliamentary coup against former President Dilma Rousseff and an ally of the unelected president, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in March for corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.

The president denied accusations that her authorized dirty money payments to Cunha.

Owners of the world’s largest meat processing company, JBS, recorded the tape at a March 7 meeting with Temer and other politicians as part of an attempt to secure a plea bargain deal with prosecutors. The Supreme Court approved the plea bargain for Joesley and his brother Wesley Batista on Thursday after the release of the content of the tape.

Ahead of Temer’s address just after 4:00 p.m. local time, four members of his cabinet — Minister of Defense Raul Jungmann, Minister of Culture Roberto Freire, Minister of Cities Bruno Araujo and Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes — said they planned to step down if Temer did not resign, Brazil’s Estadao reported.

Temer’s administration has been embroiled in corruption scandals since being installed in power last year, but the Batista tape is perhaps the strongest blow to the stability of the unelected government yet, plunging the already highly unpopular executive deeper into crisis.

The news sparked calls for Temer’s impeachment, halted debate on controversial neoliberal reforms and raised serious questions about the ability of the government to survive until the 2018 presidential election.

Source*

Brazil’s Top Court Approves Investigation into President Temer After Damning Wiretap*

Brazil’s Temer talks with Senator Neves during a ceremony where he made his first public remarks after the vote to impeach President Rousseff. | Photo: Reuters

Conservative senator and ally of President Michel Temer, Aecio Neves, was caught on tape asking for hefty bribes.

Brazil’s top court approved Thursday an investigation into unelected President Michel Temer over a new explosive wiretap recording that revealed the president had signed off on sizeable bribes to manage the fallout of corruption scandals swirling around his administration and keep a powerful witness from speaking out on government corruption, Brazil’s Globo TV reported.

The decision came hours after the Federal Supreme Court suspended Senator Aecio Neves Thursday morning, a Temer ally who was also embroiled in the wiretap scandal for soliciting hefty bribes. Police carried out search warrants in apartments owned by Neves in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, as well as his and other lawmakers’ congressional offices as part of the country’s largest-ever corruption probe, known as Operation Car Wash, investigating dozens of politicians and business elites involved in fraud schemes linked to the state-run oil company, Petrobras.

The court’s decisions came a day after one of Brazil’s largest newspapers, O Globo, released damning wiretap evidence that the senator had requested bribes to the tune of 2 million Brazilian reais, or about US$638,000 from Joesley Batista, an owner of the world’s largest meat processing company, JBS. Authorities arrested Thursday the senator’s sister Andrea Neves and cousin Frederico Pacheco de Madeiros, who reportedly received suitcases of dirty money from Batista on Neves’ behalf.

Neves had previously been named in the high-profile Operation Car Wash investigations together with Temer and a number of his top allies. In 2014, the senator lost the presidential runoff election to Rousseff and was a leading advocate of the ill-footed impeachment campaign against her, widely condemned as a coup.

The court also ordered the suspension of lower house lawmaker Rodrigo Rocha Loures, a member of Temer’s conservative PMDB party and former top aide to the president. The Batista wiretap also implicated Rocha for receiving bribes to sort out issues with a JBS holding, J&F.

The same tape revealed that Temer had also given his blessing to hefty bribes in the name of keeping a key witness, Eduardo Cunha, quiet in the corruption investigations. Cunha, the former speaker of the lower house, the chief mastermind behind the parliamentary coup dressed as an impeachment process against former President Dilma Rousseff and an ally of the unelected president, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in March for corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.

Many analysts expected Cunha — who despite wielding significant political power has been seen as one of the most unpopular politicians in the country — to bring down other corrupt politicians with him by negotiating a plea bargain to reduce his sentence in exchange for evidence to advance the Car Wash investigations. Following Cunha’s suspension as speaker of the lower house last year, Brasil de Fato columnist Tico Santa Cruz called the politician a potential “suicide bomber” who could make “heads roll” and the government “implode” if he testified in corruption cases.

Batista recorded the March 7 meeting with Temer and other politicians as part of an attempt to secure a plea bargain deal with prosecutors. O Globo reported the contents of the wiretap Wednesday night, without disclosing how the newspaper gained access to the recording. The Supreme Court approved the plea bargain for Joesley and his brother Wesley Batista on Thursday after the release of the content of the tape.

Temer denied Thursday the accusations that he endorsed paying off Cunha to keep him quiet in prison and dismissed calls for him to step down over the latest scandal rocking his government. The president also cleared his schedule for the rest of the day to manage the fallout from the wiretap release and was expected to make a public address on national TV within hours, according to his aides.

Temer’s administration has been embroiled in corruption scandals since being installed in power last year, but the Batista tape is perhaps the strongest blow to the stability of the unelected government yet, plunging the already highly unpopular executive deeper into crisis. The news sparked calls for Temer’s impeachment, halted debate on controversial neoliberal reforms and raised serious questions about the ability of the government to survive until the 2018 presidential election.

The president already faces the possibility of being unseated through a trial set to restart next month in the country’s top electoral court. The case probes alleged illegal campaign funding in Rousseff’s successful bid for re-election in 2014 with Temer as her running mate and could ultimately annul the election results, booting Temer from office early.

The case could take as long as one year, and Temer’s defense is expected to employ stall tactics to avoid the court reaching a decision before his term ends in 2018.

Source*

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New Calls for Resistance across the Amazon*

New Calls for Resistance across the Amazon*

By Manuela Picq

Indigenous women carry the banner of the VIII Pan Amazonian Social Forum (FOSPA) during the opening march from downtown Tarapoto to Universidad San Martin on April 28. Photo: Manuela Picq

 

Ever since European colonial powers started disputing borders on its rivers in the seventeenth century, the vast Amazon rainforest—known simply as Amazonia—has been under siege.

Amazon Peoples always resisted the colonial invasion, even after the borders were ultimately settled with the Amazon rainforest getting divided into the territories of nine states. They’ve had no choice. After all, the insatiable lust for ‘wealth at any cost’ did not lessen with time; the siege continued through the nineteenth century, in part with the rubber boom that gave way to the automobile boom.

The attack rages on even now, with the intensive push to extract everything the Amazon holds including oil, minerals, water, and land for agriculture and soy production.

Nations states are leading the land-grab, fostering environmental conflicts that kill nature defenders (most of them indigenous), displace communities, and destroy rivers for megaprojects. The organization Pastoral da Terra estimates that half a million people are directly affected by territorial conflicts in the Brazilian Amazon. About 90% of Brazilian land conflicts happen in Amazonia; 70% of murders in land conflicts take Amazon lives.

That is why people responded to “the call from the forest,” or “el llamado del bosque” in Spanish. This was the motto of the VIII Pan-Amazonian Social Forum, or Foro Social Pan Amazónico (FOSPA), that just gathered 1500 people in the town of Tarapoto, Peru.

The VIII Pan Amazonian Social Forum in Tarapoto, Peru

Photo: Manuela Picq

 

FOSPA is a regional chapter of the well-established World Social Forum. It is based on the same model that brings together social movements, associations and individuals to find alternatives to global capitalism. From April 28 to May 1, indigenous peoples, activists, and scholars from various parts of Amazonia got together in the campus of Universidad Nacional San Martin.

FOSPA is an important space, not only because the region is at the forefront of the climate crisis but also because it represents 40% of South America and spreads across nine countries—Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guyana. The 370 indigenous nations in the region are an increasingly smaller part of a booming Amazon population that surpasses 33 million.

This VIII forum was well organized in an Amazon campus with comfortable work space and the shade of mango trees. In the absence of Wi-Fi, participants gathered around fruit juices and Amazon specialties baked in banana leaves at the food fair. The organizing committee, led by Romulo Torres, was most proud of creating the new model of pre-forum. For the first time, there were 11 pre-forums organized in 6 of the 9 Amazon countries to prepare the agendas.

The forum started with a celebratory march through Tarapoto. During three days, participants discussed the challenges of extractive development and land grab across the region. There was in total nine working groups organized around issues such as territoriality, megaprojects, climate change, food sovereignty, cities, education and communication.

During the opening march in defence of Amazonia, Elvira and Domingo, from Ecuador’s Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Amazon (Confeniae) walk along Carlos Perez Guartambel, from the Andean Network of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI) and Ecuador’s Confederation of Kichwa Peoples (Ecuarunari). Photo: Manuela Picq

Development is the problem”

Speakers strongly criticized models of development based on extractive industries. “Development is the problem, not the solution,” said Carlos Pérez Guartambel, from the Andean Network of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI) and the Confederation of Kichwa Peoples of Ecuador (ECUARUNARI).

Speakers blamed the political left for being equally invested as the right in extractive development, destroying life in the name of development. Toribia Lero Quishpe, from the CAOI and the Council of Ayllus Markas of the Quillasuyu (CONAMAQ) argued that this investment in capitalist gains corrupted the government of Evo Morales, who licensed over 500 rivers to multinational companies.

Gregorio Mirabal, from the Indigenous Network of the Amazon River Valley (COICA) and Venezuela’s Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon (ORPIA) denounced a massive land grab by the state in the Orinoco region. He said the government is licensing land to mining companies from China and Spain to promote “ecological mining.” Indigenous populations, in turn, have not had a single land title recognized in 18 years and are denied rights to prior consultation.

Ongoing French colonization in Amazonia

One of the working groups focused on the decolonization of power; French Guyana being the last standing colonial territory in South America.

Rafael Pindard headed a delegation from the Movement for Decolonization and Social Emancipation (MDES) to generate awareness about Amazon territories that remain under the colonial control of France.

Amazon forests constitute over 90% of French Guyana. Delegates described laws that forbid Indigenous Peoples to fish and hunt on their ancestral territories. They explained the mechanisms of forced assimilation—the French state refuses to recognize the existence of six Indigenous Peoples, claiming that in France there is only one people, the French.

The Women’s Tribunal

The forceful participation of women was one of the forum’s most inspiring aspects. Amazon women held a strong presence in the march, plenary sessions and held a special working group on women.

The highlight was the Tribunal for Justice in Defense of the Rights of Pan-Amazonian and Andean Women. Four judges convened at the end of each day to listen to specific cases of women defenders. They heard individual as well as collective cases. Peruvian delegates presented the case of Maxima Acuña, a water defender from the Andean highlands of Cajamarca who faces death threats. Brazilian representatives from Altamira presented the case of the Movement Xingu Vivo para Sempre, which organizes resistance against the Belo Monte Dam.

The Women’s Tribunal also heard cases from across the continent. Liliam Lopez, from the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), presented the emblematic case of Berta Cáceres, assassinated in 2016 for leading the resistance in defense of rivers. Delegates from Chile presented the case of Lorenza Cayuhan, a Mapuche political prisoner jailed in Arauca for defending territory and forced to give birth handcuffed.

Initiatives

Many working groups called for a paradigm shift to move away from economic approaches that treat nature as a resource. Participants defended indigenous notions of living well, or vivir bien in Spanish.

There were many initiatives presented throughout the gathering. The working group on food sovereignty proposed to recover native produce and exchange seeds, for instance, through seed banks.

Delegates from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE) and the organization Terra Mater presented a collaborative project to protect 60 million acres of the mighty Amazon River’s headwaters – the Napo, Pastaza, and Marañon River watersheds in Ecuador and Peru. The Sacred Headwaters project seeks to ban all forms of extractive industries in the watershed and secure legal titles to indigenous territories.

Wrays Pérez, President of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampís Nation (GTAN Wampís) explained practices of indigenous autonomy. The Wampís, who have governed their territories for seven thousand years, have successfully preserved over a million hectares of forests and rivers in Santiago and Morona, Peru. The Wampís Nation designed its own legal statute based on Peruvian and international law, including those protecting the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Amazon communication

Many venues emphasized the importance of Amazon communication. All workshops and plenary sessions were transmitted live through FOSPATV and remain available on FOSPA’s webpage.

Community radios and medias covered the forum and interviewed participants, such as Radio Marañón, Radio La Nave, and Colombia’s Radio Waira Stereo 104 (Indigenous Zonal Organization of the Putumayo OZIP).

Documentary films played in the evenings, followed by discussions. The Brazilian documentary film “Belo Monte: After the Flood” played in Spanish for the first time, followed by a debate with people affected by hydro-dams in the Brazilian and Bolivian Amazons. Other films presented include “Las Damas de Azul”, “La Lagrima de Aceite” y “Labaka.”

The Tarapoto Declaration

The forum closed with the Carta de Tarapoto, a declaration in defense of life containing 24 proposals. The declaration collected the key demands of all working groups. It demands that states respect international indigenous rights and recognize integral territories. It invites communities to fight pervasive corruption attached to megaprojects and suggests communal monitoring to stop land-grabbing.

The declaration stresses the shared concerns and alliances of Amazonian and Andean peoples, explicitly recognizing how the two regions are interrelated and interdependent. It denounces state alliances with mining, oil, and hydroprojects. It defines extractive megaprojects as global capitalism and a racist civilizing project.

It echoes FOSPA’s intergenerational dimension, celebrating elders as a source of historical knowledge to guide the preservation of Amazon lifeways. Youth groups, who had their own working group, demanded that states recognize the rights of nature.

Women concerns are the focus of four points. In addition to making the Women’s Tribunal a permanent feature of FOSPA, the declaration calls for the end of all forms of violence against women and the recognition of women’s invisible labor. It asks for governments to detach from religious norms to follow international women rights.

In closing, the declaration expresses solidarity with peoples who live in situation of conflict, whose territories are invaded, and who are criminalized for defending the rights of nature.

It is in that spirit that the organizing committee decided to hold the next FOSPA in Colombia. Defenders of life are killed weekly despite the peace process, revealing a political process tightly embedded in the licensing of territories to extractive industries like gold mining.

The Colombian Amazon is calling. May it be a powerful wakeup call across and beyond the Amazons.

Source*

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