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Brazilian Feds Not Feeling the Love

livro_operação_satiagraha-capa

“How The Serpent’s Egg Was Hatched Inside the Federal Police.”

By Luis Nassif

Free translation: C. Brayton

A veteran investigative reporter who was in Curitiba last week was reciting to me excerpts of his conversations with federal police agents — the delegados.

I heard that one of these, a long-time source of my interlocutor, had commented on the amount of effort being expended to find elements in Operation Car Chase that would enable the president to be accused of official improprieties.

They went so far as to dig through Lula’s trips to Africa, after the end of his second term, which were bankrolled by public works contractors. Nothing wrong in that picture. After all, as everyone knows, these are public events designed to stimulate Brazilian investments in Africa.

Another anecdote, however, reflects how far the politicized police are willing to go.

In a traditional bakery in Higienópolis, one of the regulars is a federal police agent who, although he is not at the center of the affair, enjoys telling stories about how hard his colleagues are working to find evidence of improprieties.

But this is neither here nor there, because, as Minister of Justice José Eduardo Cardozo says, the federal police is a “republican” institution.

What has led to this stand-off? The absolute neglect of the federal police by the president-reelect, represented by Cardozo.

My cop friend from Curitiba speaks in nostalgic terms of the times of Márcio Thomas Bastos, the merit-based hiring and promotion system, the pride in comparing its technical capabilities with the benchmark FBI and its international and domestic confrontation with organized crime.

When the PF bogged down in a delicate case, they could run to Bastos, who would provide the necessary political support.

My source says that the beginning of bad blood within the institution coincided with the installation of Luiz Fernando Correa as Delegado-Geral –- nominated during the Lula government, and whose primary accomplishment was to stifle the Operation Satiagraha case. The low point was reached during the administration of José Eduardo Cardozo at the Ministry of Justice, my source says.

Although I have tried to keep track of this saga of Operation Satiagraha, it remains totally opaque: a man who offered a million-real bribe to a wired federal agent to lose evidence in the pending corruption case against him — the cases revolved around the privatization of the telecom sector in the 1990s — not only walked free, but was able to claim the head of the chief investigator in the case against him. His superior, Paulo Lacerda, was then nominated, and then summarily rejected, to head ABIN –the Brazilian CIA, sort of.

The media crusade was fascinating to watch, as the PF and ABIN went from being lionized in the glossy weeklies to being portrayed as Big Brother — a phony bugging scam in the Supreme Court was a memorable moment.

At any rate, that police agent went on to a congressional seat (Communist) and wrote a book on the subject (see cover above) which I have been meaning to read.

In recent times, international cooperation has ceased, the drive for excellence has flagged, and the organization is corroded by internal disputes. And all of this frustration was channeled into Operation Car Wash.

To put it another way, the struggle for democracy under the rule of law will require redoubled efforts by the legalists of the PF, because they are lame in two legs: the Dilma administration and the PT.