Brazilian President Rousseff ousts another cabinet minister
Rousseff's purge of old-guard ministers – the latest, Nelson Jobim, resigned Thursday – shows a low tolerance for corruption, but she has not brought legal sanctions against the ousted.
Over the past three months, corruption scandals and ministerial resignations have been changing the face of Brasilia. Yesterday, Defense Minister Nelson Jobim resigned after expressing dissatisfaction with President Dilma Rousseff’s handling of the military. Mr. Jobim’s departure marks the third minister to resign in the first seven months of the Rousseff administration. At the pace of nearly one minister per two-month period, Ms. Rousseff indeed appears to be cleaning house. All of these early exits have been ‘Lulistas’ - ministers who played prominent roles in the administration of President Rousseff’s benefactor, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.Skip to next paragraph
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While it is positive to see that Rousseff is fashioning the government in her own design and forcing the exit of ministers implicated in allegations of grand corruption, the government’s unwillingness to apply real sanctions to malfeasance continues to draw attention to Brazil’s defiance of its own laws and its long legacy of impunity.
The corruption scandals of 2011 illustrate that the abuse of the public’s trust continues to be an important problem in Brazilian politics.
First it was the president’s number two, Antonio Palocci, forced to resign after he could not explain why his net worth quadrupled in four years based solely on ‘consulting contracts’ to party and government hacks.
Then it was the PR’s Alfredo Nascimento, the Minister of Transportation, who resigned after revelations that his son had received contracts worth more than $20 million dollars. Mr. Nascimento’s resignation accompanied the dismissal of 27 other officials from the same ministry.
Most recently, the Minister of Agriculture, Romero Jucá (PMDB), was summoned to answer questions in Congress after his brother revealed deposits of more than 8 million reais to ghost accounts.
The heroes emerging from these three scandals are Veja Magazine, which broke the Transportation and Agricultural scandals, and the Folha de São Paulo for being the first on top of Mr. Palocci’s irregular enrichment.
Veja’s reporting on corruption has stood out as particularly valiant. It was this magazine that broke allegations of corruption during the administration of President Fernando Collor, ultimately leading to Mr. Collor’s resignation. The article that led to these fateful events was based on an interview with the President’s brother, Pedro, in 1992. The parallel between the Collor scandal and the latest allegations surrounding the minister of agriculture is striking – both accusations of corruption originated from brothers. Veja’s talent for pitting members of Brazil’s nepotistic political families against one another should give us pause.
Veja has also provided a public service in its coverage of ministerial expense accounts. Using the government’s Transparency Portal and inside sources in various ministries, Veja has exposed just how lavishly top officials spend the public’s money. Of all the ministries, it was the minister of culture, Ana de Hollanda, who used public finances most licentiously – jetting around the country on weekends at the public’s expense.
Veja’s reporting led to an investigation by the Comptroller General and now Ms. Hollanda must repay some 45,000 reais ($30,000) of public money spent illicitly during the first semester of 2011. Brazil’s representative to the Open Government Partnership, Foreign Relations Minister Antonio Patriota, has also incurred astronomical travel expenses – 30,649 reais per day (about $20,000), according to the same article in Veja.