With the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff looking increasingly likely, at least Brazilians can be sure of one thing — her vice-president Michel Temer looks well-prepared to assume office. Too well-prepared, his critics argue.
Earlier this week, a leaked recording showed that Mr Temer was already practising his acceptance speech in the event of Ms Rousseff’s impeachment, even though the first vote in congress on the matter is only scheduled for Sunday. As vice-president, power will pass to Mr Temer if the president is unable to continue in office.
“The grand mission from this moment on will be the pacification of the country,” Mr Temer said in the iPhone recording, which his aides said was accidentally sent out on WhatsApp. “What is needed is a government of national unity,” he added, adopting a statesmanlike tone.
As cringeworthy as the gaffe was, Mr Temer can at least console himself that he is not the only Brazilian politician to have been recently caught out by leaks. With other embarrassing disclosures including a private conversation between Ms Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and testimonies connected to the corruption investigation into the state-owned oil company Petrobras, secrets are increasingly hard to keep among Brazil’s political elite.
There are questions as to whether the volume of the leaks — and the political motives that some believe lie behind some of them — show that Brazil’s democracy is growing more robust or that its institutions remain immature.
“Democracy is not based on boundless freedoms, but on responsibility and checks and balances,” said Carlos Alberto Furtado de Melo, a professor at Insper, a business school in São Paulo.
This year’s most spectacular political exposé came when a lower court judge last month released police recordings of a phone conversation in which Ms Rousseff appeared to give Mr Lula da Silva a job in her cabinet to help him evade investigators.
The police were at that time investigating whether Mr Lula da Silva owned allegedly illegally begotten properties as part of the Petrobras scandal, in which politicians and company executives collaborated with contractors to extract bribes. Under Brazilian law, a ministerial job would have provided Mr Lula da Silva with immunity from the lower courts.
Both the president and her predecessor deny any attempt to obstruct justice through the appointment, which was later suspended. Mr Lula da Silva also denies owning the properties.
The Dilma-Lula conversation was accompanied by numerous other police wiretaps from the former president’s phone that were released by the judge.
The details of an investigation that is still under way into a criminal matter should not be revealed?.?.?.?leaks on the eve of important occasions sometimes seem to have a certain selectivity – Flávio de Leão Barros
In one tapped phone call, Rio de Janeiro’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, teased Mr Lula da Silva about his alleged taste in second homes and said his rural getaway was in an unglamorous part of the state of São Paulo. Mr Paes joked that, if the former president had a property in the state of Rio, “it would be in Maricá, a shithole of a place!”
The mayor’s comments sparked an uproar in Maricá, one of the state’s less affluent coastal areas, forcing him to apologise the next day. The episode was particularly embarrassing for Mr Paes given his attempts to paint the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, due to take place in August, as an event that will help the poor.
While analysts said the judge’s release of the Lula wiretaps were technically legal, the extensive leaks of witness testimonies made during plea bargains in the Petrobras case has proven more controversial.
“The details of an investigation that is still under way into a criminal matter should not be revealed,” said Flávio de Leão Barros, a law professor at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo. “It appears to me that leaks on the eve of important occasions sometimes seem to have a certain selectivity.”
Professor Barros added that the barrage of leaks also pointed “to the fragility of our institutions”, because they indicated that powerful figures in the media, politics and other sectors were able to extract sensitive information from state organs such as police investigators and state prosecutors.
Ms Rousseff and her backers in the Workers’ party (PT) have criticised many of the leaks as politically motivated and as evidence that a “coup” is under way. The president faces impeachment over allegations that she manipulated Brazil’s national accounts to hide the true state of the budget deficit.
A witness testimony from Delcidio do Amaral, a PT senator, which was leaked to the media earlier this year before it received the approval of a judge, caused a particular outcry in the president’s camp. In his testimony, the senator accused Ms Rousseff of an obstruction of justice at a sensitive moment in the impeachment debate, allegations she denied.
The day after Mr Temer’s acceptance speech was leaked, Ms Rousseff warned against conspirators and traitors at a public event. “They [Mr Temer and his allies] used a farcical leak to gather support for their conspiracy,” she said, without directly naming the vice-president.
Mr Temer has denied such intentions. Meanwhile, the leak has intensified the stand-off, angering the PT further and threatening Mr Temer’s chances of governing should an impeachment come to pass.
“This is not a healthy gesture for someone who will have to pursue dialogue and national unity,” Mr Melo said of the leak.
Source: Financial Times Online – 04/15/2016