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Siemens Case | The R$ 200,000 Man

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Source: Tribuna Hoje (August 9, 2013)

Pivotal figure in Siemens case may be able to explain vote-buying in the reelection of Cardoso

The emergence of José Luiz Portella in the Siemens case is solid evidence that corruption in the São Paulo subway and commuter rail sector was more than merely the fruit of isolated actions by corrupt civil servants.

May 16, 1997. The scandal that shook Brazil was the buying of votes in favor of an amendment allowing the president to run for reelection.

The pivotal figure in this scheme is former federal deputy Ronivon Santiago, who, in an intercepted conversation, reveals that lawmakers are receiving R$ 200,000 to vote in favor of reelection.

On that day, the Folha de S. Paulo, which had broken the story, published another, by prize-winning reporters Fernando Rodrigues, Lúcio Vaz and Lucas Figueiredo. It begins,

“Federal deputy Ronivon Santiago, later expelled from the PFL, said in intercepted conversations that his dealings with the government on the reelection amendment and other votes was based on the misappropriation of federal funds destined for investment in toll-book highway concessionaires .

According to the deputy, these allocations are possible thanks to the intervention of  Governor Orleir Cameli (Acre) and to his own close relationship with the executive-secretary of the federal transportation ministry, Luiz Portella — a close aide to president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.”

Later on in the story, the reporters look behind the scenes at the conduct of Portella …

In part of one conversation, Ronivon’s interlocutor — cited only as Mr. X — mentions that Orleir Cameli had been present at a meeting with Cardoso on January 27, the eve of the reelection vote.

Mr. X was subsequently identified:

Here is what Ronivon said: “Done. All done. I have orders to disburse the allocation starting in April.”

The money was not allocated. Mas Ronivon remained confident in the government. “I saw Portella, from Transport, he is the guy who coordinates the payouts, he told me he has the support of higher-ups, he received a phone call to start paying off in Acre,” the deputy said.

Cut now to August 8, 2013. The scandal involves bribes in the São Paulo rail transport sector. Here is how Folha journalists Flavio Ferreira, Catia Seabra andJulianna Sofia described the scene:

Former S. Paulo governor José Serra (PSDB) suggested to Siemens an accord to avoid disputes among competitors to avoid any delays in the auction involving the CPTM, according to an e-mail sent by a Siemens executive to his superiors.

The message relates a conversation with Siemens executive Nelson Branco Marchetti, who said he conversed with him and José Luiz Portella, during a congress in Amsterdam.

That is to say: 15 years after the vote-buying scandal, coordinated by José Luiz Portella, Brazil now discovers that he is also at the heart of the Siemens scandal.

He has progressed from working on Congressional budget amendments to operating a scheme for the purchase of trains and rail cars.

The existence of this relationship makes it very unlikely that corruption in the transport sector was the fruit of an isolated action by corrupt civil servants — as PSDB-aligned journalists such as Merval Pereira and Reinaldo Azevedo would have it.

On the contrary, evidence points to a scheme involving party leadership, operated by someone enjoying the strictest confidence of men like FHC and Serra.

Thus, the theory launched by Istoé magazine about the existence of a “Toucan bribery machine,” that is, a fundraising mechanism destined for the conquest and maintenance of power. This is exactly what Merval Pereira seemed to fear when he wrote in yesterday’s column:

The individual action of a dishonest politician is less harmful to democracy than than of an organized political group, which use the mechanisms of power they received from the vote to remain in power indefinitely. That was just what happened with the PT. Investigations of the Siemens case lead to the conclusion that the PSDB mounted such a political machine starting with Covas and continued under Alckmin and Serra and financed by public funds, we will find ourselves faced with a political manipulation in the same vein, through on a regional basis, whereas the PT aimed at corrupting the National Congress.

To paraphrase Mercal, the case of José Luiz Portella, “clearly bears the marks of an organized political group, used by a power elite that comes to power by the vote in order to remain in power indefinitely.