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Brazil: Lula’s aide resigns in corruption scandal

Vincent Gelas

24th June 2005

After being implicated in a corruption scandal, Jose Dirceu resigned on June 16 from the post of principal private secretary to the President of the Republic, a post similar in Brazil to that of Prime Minister. Charged with coordinating relations between the various ministers and the president who appointed them, he had occupied this position of trust since the beginning of the Lula presidency in January 2003.

In Brazil as in many other countries, corruption scandals are daily news, implicating elected officials, ministers, senior officials, bosses and big business – because without the corrupters, there would be no corruption. In September 1992, a scandal had even caused the fall of the then president, Fernando Collor.

Lula’s party, the Workers Party (PT), had been relatively clean of corruption. On the other hand, since it has constituted the core of the government, linked to politicians of the traditional parties, the charges have multiplied against it.

The main player in the current scandal is one of these allies of the PT: Roberto Jefferson, leader of the Brazilian Labour Party (PTB), a small right-wing party, who used his influence with the government to place his friends and cronies in lucrative positions, at the Post Office in particular, or to obtain advantageous contracts for them.

Nothing very newsworthy in that, except that the PT and PTB disagreed over certain positions, and the ensuing little game of the leaks to the press and denunciations led to a parliamentary inquiry being demanded into Jefferson’s dealings with the Post Office.

Then the government and its supporters, including the trade unions, tried to sabotage this request for an inquiry. The PT demanded the appointment of similar inquiries when it was in the opposition. Party president Genoino was still claiming at the beginning of June that Lula had caused an "ethical shock” in the country on corruption: this government does not steal and does not tolerate stealing. Lula himself had opened the 4th World Forum on Fighting Corruption on 7th June in Brasilia. Except that there was no question for him of dropping one of his allies: "an ally stands by his ally", he declared. In vain, because the inquiry was appointed by Congress thanks to the support of fourteen PT deputies.

Not wanting to be implicated on his own, Jefferson went onto the attack... against the PT. Admitting his own embezzlement, he revealed in great detail how the treasurer of the PT, Delubio Soares, with the complicity of the secretary-general, of the president of the party and Dirceu, channelled a monthly payment of almost 10,000 euros to a certain number of deputies of belonging to right-wing parties allied to the government, to secure their votes. The money came from public and private companies.

These were not the first charges against Delubio Soares. As for Dirceu, he had previously been touched by scandal when his aide Waldomiro Diniz had been caught red-handed in March 2004 soliciting contributions from a gambling kingpin. And many other allies of the PT were touched by scandal, including Meirelles, president of the Central Bank, and Juca, Minister for Social Security.

The charges that Jefferson made before the ethics commission of the Chamber of Deputies were convincing enough to force Dirceu to resign. Having reclaimed his seat in Congress, he is now trying to justify himself according to a familiar schema: these charges are being radio-controlled by the PSDB, the right-wing party of former president Cardoso, in order to win back the presidency in the 2006 elections. And it is true that the PSDB is stirring the pot. But one wet dog doesn’t dry another, and the sins of the last government do not excuse those of the PT and its allies.

If successive Brazilian governments have been complicit – and sometimes rivals – in corruption, it is because many elected officials, ministers and senior officials find it quite normal to profit, for themselves, their friends or their party, by plundering society at large.

Moreover, the measures which Lula has been introducing in droves, attacking pensions, wages, social security, school fees, trade-union rights, applauded by the bourgeoisie, are unpopular with the voters. And it is necessary to reward generously the deputies who vote for them, knowing that they could be endangering their re-election. You cannot require proof of exemplary virtue when you need people to do your dirty work.

This article first appeared in the French weekly newspaper Lutte Ouvrière (



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