It is terribly embarrassing to visit the page of the journalists’ union of Santa Catarina only to find not a single line about Operation Zealots, which is investigating the manipulation of tax debt and a bribery scheme of homeric proportions involving the leading media group in the state: RBS, an affiliate of Globo.
Suspicions are that the company, owned by the Sirotskys, paid nearly R$ 15 million to avoid paying a tax liability worth up tasks will be answering why she wants to be president as well as to assure voters that she is ho to R$ 150 million. That’s a lot of money. Who will explain it? Shouldn’t the journalists’ union, the SJSC, weigh in?
I remember how under the leadership of Rubens Lunge an important article appeared denouncing the RBS oligopoly in Santa Catarina. It was a difficult story to cover, in that it faced a systematic boycott.
In those days, a prosecutor of the Ministério Público Federal — federal prosecutor — filed a request to investigate the formation of an oligopoly (involving the acquisition of several newspapers in the state).
In the end, he was reassigned and the trail grew cold. Even so, the SJSC, headed by Rubens Lunge at the time, held various street demonstrations and joined other unions in collecting signatures for a petition.
Little came of it, however. When Lunge ended his mandate, the new leadership did not follow through. The result was that Judge Diógenes Marcelino Teixeira of Florianópolis found the charges baseless. Justice bowed down to the oligopoly.
Now, as the news circulates statewide and even nationwide of the possible involvement of RBS in corruption — all the while dressed as a vestal virgin of morality judging the corruption of others — what is our union doing? The same union that observes on a daily basis the heavy exploitation of staff and firings without just cause by this same corporation? Not a word! Not even a news brief laying out the bare facts. It represents the death of unionism and the union’s own stated policies on this front. Does the leadership of the SJSC not grasp the dimensions of the time bomb in this case? Because the damage that this bomb will do will be felt most by the weakest link in the structures, by the workers. There are sure to be cuts, firings, increasing exploitation. This is a topic that deserves to be part of the order of the day. It’s lamentable.
And while the SJSC fails to do its work, we help it along. Operation Zelotes has a character that escapes the attention of the usual newsroom “moralists.” It does not involve politicians — perceived as easy targets. It involves the sacrosanct business sector: the handsome, coat-and-tie-wearing executives of companies who are stiffing the Brazilian state by avoiding taxes.
RBS is not the only business group affected. Also under investigation are Ford, Mitsubishi, BR Foods, Camargo Corrêa, Light, Petrobras and — surprise, surprise — the banks as well. The list includes Bradesco, Santander, Safra, BankBoston and Pactual. According to initial reports, these companies withheld the bagatelle of R$ 5.7 billion from the public coffers. Yes, billions.
This is a scandal investigated by the federal police, the federal prosecutor, the tax authority and the internal regulator of the Treasury. It will certainly emerge that tax authority employees were involved, because the scheme for erasing debts operated inside CARF, a body responsible for the appeals of fines and penalties. Recall, however, that there is no corruption without a corruptor. There are reports of lobbyists specializing in these tax appeals being used to make debts disappear from the system.
According to investigations underway since 2013, of 70 CARF cases investigated, the total amount of tax debt processed was R$ 19 billion, of which R$ 5.7 billion was illegally “disappeared.” In some cases the seizure of assets, such as imported luxury cars, is already underway. All the companies involved will answer to an internal enquiry installed by Treasury. The Zelotes network involved an enormous number of people. And what is most incredible is that these are people who until now were to be found marching against corruption.
These are the people we say are driven by an “underwear morality.” They attack their adversaries and pay no mind to the beam in their own eye. In fact, these are people who swim confidently in the waters of the financial world, certain of their impunity.
Now, however, together with Operation Car Wash, which is investigating Petrobras and involves both PT and PSDB, the “respectable” companies and private banks will have to explain their misdeeds.
In Santa Catarina, RBS has a history of rapid growth. Not long after installing itself in the state, it had acquired practically the entire regional press. It bought the Santa daily of Blumenau, the Notícia of Joinville, both of them circulating statewide, and transformed them into local tabloids with no opportunity to represent a dissident voice in the state.
RBS became the only voice to circulate statewide, based on the Diário Catarinense. And if that were not enough, it extended its tentacles into the television market and now blankets the state with broadcasters in key cities.
It is an oligopoly and its product is a one-dimensional mentality, anchored in the interests of the dominant class and consistently painting members of unions, social movements and popular causes as street brawlers, anarchists and criminals.
In Santa Catarina, the media industry is under the majority control of a company that, along with not paying its taxes properly, … profits from a work force that is super-exploited. Multifunction job descriptions are a common complaint, as workers are made to work exhausting hours, fulfilling the duties of four or five workers. …
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