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Barroso on Politicized Justice


As the second phase of the mensalão case“payola of the PT,” as the consulate called it in a Wikileaked memo on the episode — begins, the Brazilian Supreme Court’s newest member, in the reading of his opinion,  swims upstream against the hysterical scandal-mongering the case has received in the press, and calls for the legislature to realize meaningful political reforms.

Source: Portal ClippingMP | Estado de S. Paulo

By: Eduardo Bresciani Felipe Recondo Mariângela Gallucci

In his first session of the “payola of the PT” case, newly seated Supreme Court minister Luís Roberto Barroso said that corruption cannot be politicized, ….

“Corruption does not exist in the PT, PSDB or PMDB. Corruption simply exists. There is no better or worse form of corruption, no “their” corruption and “ours.” There is no such thing as virtuous corruption. Corruption in itself is an evil and should not be politicized,” Barroso said in reading his opinion, which became the high note of a Supreme Court session that is hearing the appeals of the persons convicted in the case.

In laying the foundation for his opinion,  Barroso compared the “payola of the PT” — including the sums involved — to other scandals involving the misuse of public funds and said that the list of receent cases of politicians involved in corruption schemes is a consequence of the Brazilian system of electoral politics. Barroso will be assigned the role of rapporteur in the case of the so-called “payola of Minas Gerais,” which targets politicians of the PSDB.

Barroso had highlighted the rigor the court has demonstrated in the case. During his Senate confirmation hearing in late May, Barroso had stated that the “payola”  scandal was an “outlier,” a point outside the curve, given how the Supreme Court  had “hardened” its juriprudence in the case.

Yesterday, Barroso returned to the controversy: “It is at the very least questionable to call this the largest political scandal in history. Perhaps it can be said, without margin for error, that it was the most exhaustively investigated, by the federal prosecutor, the federal police and the press. In the same way, it was the corruption case that received the most aggressive response from the judiciary.

Comparisons. Barroso recalled estimates of the funds diverted that put them as high as  R$ 150 million. He commented on other cases, such as the “dwarves of the budget” scandal, in 1993, described as a “billion-dollar” embezzlement scheme based on legislative amendments … and a 1997 scheme that “cost the  public treasury billions,” … and the construction of the Regional Labor Court of São Paulo, in 1999, with losses in the hundreds of milllions … and the Banestado affair, in 2003,  with fraudulent offshore deposits totaling more than R$ 2 billion.

Political reform. In Barroso’s view, the way to avoid repeating such cases is the approval of political reform as proposed by President Rousseff after the street demonstrations in June. “The immense energy  spent on the trial of Case AP470  (the “payola” case) would have been in vain had there not been taken urgent measures to reform the political framework, including the electoral system and the system of political parties. Without political reform, everything continues as it was. The only distinction would be between those who get caught and those who don’t,” he said.

Review of sentences. Today’s plenary session of the  STF allowed minister who had voted for the innocence of defendants in the first phase of the trial to analyze, in its second phase, the appeals filed against the calculation of sentences …

Nassif Responds

mensalão cardozo-600x360

The “payola of the PT” existed: Minister misquoted. Source: Veja magazine

.Luis Nassif comments on the significance of these remarks.

How to understand the — obvious — relevance of the thesis defended by Luiz Roberto Barroso: that the practices revealed by Case AP 470 are common vices of the political class?

There are two types of corruption.

The primary type of corruption consists in the sum of illegal actions using the power of the State and political influence in order to do business, to make deals.

The second is the corruption of those who exploit scandals in search of political advantages for their own side (for themselves or for their party of choice.)  These are the exploiters of accusation, whose purpose is not to do away with the vices of our political but rather to exploit them by means of selective accusation or condemnation.

These are as much beneficiaries of political corruption as are the practicioners of the first kind.

The first phase of AP 470 in the Supreme Court engaged in  political corruption of the second kind.  Severity was expected of the highest court in the land, along with impartiality. By impartiality, I mean understanding the “payola” scandal — mensalão — as a phenomenon inherent to our political customs.

This way of viewing the case would have contributed to a renewal of political practices, incited the legislature to political reform, and inhibited ALL political parties who engage in these condemnable practices.

What we observed, however, was a subjection of Justice to partisan political interests. Interpretations were made and sentences handed down that were unprecedented for crimes of this type. Rather than serving as a benchmark for future jurisprudence, they became the so-called “point outside the curve,” applicable only to AP 470.

To justify this exception, Gilmar Mendes — the most competent and least hypocritical of the partisan ministers (for unlike Celso de Mello and Ayres Britto, he does not wear the mask of false impartiality) — supported by the federal prosecutor Roberto Gurgel and the rapporteur Joaquim Barbosa, created an unreal version of the case.

In general, political deals have implied the financing the campaigns of new allies by majority parties.  This is true for every election. They try to sell the version that the  “payola of the PT ” was used to pay a monthly stipend to federal deputies to guarantee their permanent adherence to the government’s base of support … something that might lead to a dictatorship.

But the thesis of a continuous, periodic payment was never proven. “Payola” financiers who had always contributed to any and all political parties were left out of the case. Absurd theories were created to justify this argument, such as that Visanet’s entire advertising budget was diverted to political ends.

The first contribution to the case by the newly seated minister, Luiz Roberto Barroso, takes aim at the central thesis of the first stage of the trial: There was no specific type of partisan corruption. Rather, there was a repetition of practices common toBrazilian electoral politics as a whole. This is the essential point that defines the boundaries for the entire proceeding.

In restating the facts, Barroso takes a tone that should have oriented the STF from the outset … he represents the hope of freeing the highest court in the land from the vices of political corruption  that affected it during the first stage of the trial.