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  February 2, 2017

Brazilian Judge Presiding Over Car Wash Investigations Dies in Plane Crash

Plane crash occurred just as the judge was about to accept the testimonies of Odebrecht employees, says Joao Feres Jr.
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Joao Feres Jr. is a political science professor at Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Polticos (IESP), of the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ). Since 2005, Feres Jr. has been the coordinator of Grupo de Estudos Multidisciplinares da Acao Afirmativa (GEMAA), a research group that focuses on the study of affirmative action policies in higher education in Brazil and elsewhere, from a variety of disciplinary viewpoints. He also heads Laboratorio de Estudos da Midia e Esfera Publica (LEMEP), a research group dedicated to the analysis of the news media coverage in the fields of culture and politics. He has published extensively on affirmative action and race relations in Brazil and in the US, media and politics, and is now conducting a comprehensive study about the impact of affirmative action policies in Brazil's higher education public system on social inequalities.


SHARMINI PERIES: It's The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

Two weeks ago in Brazil, one of the main judges presiding over the corruption investigation, his name was Teori Zavascki, died in a plane crash shortly before he was going to evaluate the testimony of the former Odebrecht employees.

Now, Odebrecht employees gave testimony against their senior officials, and some 100, maybe 200, politicians are implicated in the testimony provided by the company. Odebrecht is one of the largest construction companies the world over, but particularly in Brazil. And they are tied up in the scandal called the Car Wash scandal.

Now, the case has moved forward on the authorization of Brazil's chief justice, and it is estimated that many more politicians could face indictment, including politicians who are close to President Michel Temer.

Now joining us, from Rio de Janeiro, to take a closer look at what happened in Brazil, is João Feres Júnior. João is a political science professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, where he also heads the Laboratory for Media and Public Sphere Studies. Thanks again for joining us, João.

JOAO FERES JUNIOR: Oh, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here, as a matter of fact.

SHARMINI PERIES: João, now, first of all, tell us what you know about what happened, in terms of the plane crash and the death of the judge.

JOAO FERES JUNIOR: Yeah, I know, it's very hard to establish what happened. I just saw this post on Facebook the other day, saying that, you know, what's the odds of a plane with a supreme court justice fall, right? And then, what's the odds of a plane that has a justice that is actually, you know, presiding over the Lava Jato case, fall -- you know what I'm saying?

So, it's gotta be... it's very, you know, dim. I mean, the probability of having a plane with this justice falling, and particularly in the time in which he was about to accept in, in the lawsuit, the depositions, the testimonies of Odebrecht, and of its employees. Because it is known already, because there was a leak of these testimonies that was not produced by Sérgio Moro, the judiciary, or by the federal prosecutors, but came from elsewhere, and nobody knows exactly where they came from, where it had originated.

And this leak pointed to many politicians in the current government, PMDB politicians, and also major figures of the PSV part of the PSDB, which is the main opposition party.

So, you know, as a matter of fact, you know, the testimonies of Odebrecht, they probably will involve in the investigations, mostly politicians from the, you know, current government. And that's going to be a turn of events, if that ever happens. Right? Because, you know, now, and then he's dead, the president of the Supreme Court, Carmen Lucia, will redistribute the lawsuit and will fall... they have a lottery over there, which, supposedly a lottery, and there will be another justice appointed to that particular lawsuit.

SHARMINI PERIES: Now, João, who is carrying out the investigation of the plane crash, and how reliable will those findings, be?

JOAO FERES JUNIOR: I think the federal police is also investigating. There was, you know, some news right after the accident, that a website with the model of that particular airplane, that was a very small, but fancy airplane, this businessman who's friends with Teori had. And the website that contained the specs for the airplane and stuff like that, was accessed by 1,000, 1,200 times in one day. It was, like, two weeks before the accident. And that was a spike in the accesses of that particular site. But, you know, that's just... conspiracy theories.

SHARMINI PERIES: Now, the latest testimony regarding the Car Wash scandal, reaches the president, and people around him are implicated in this case, more so than before, because we actually have the testimonies of these employees from Odebrecht.

So, give us a sense of how real that is. And in the earlier interview we did, you implied that the judiciary is also being politically motivated by what they're pursuing. That no one is pure here, in the sense that the media is playing its role, and is in favor of the current government that's in place, the coup government of Michel Temer.

So, where does this all land, in terms of how reliable are the courts? Will they pursue this case? And how close does it come to removing, perhaps, Temer from office?

JOAO FERES JUNIOR: Yeah. I think... I don't believe they're reliable at all, either media, nor the courts. Just let me give you two examples. The so-called Mensalao case, which was an anti-corruption scandal, supposed scandal, that was ruled by the Supreme Court in 2006, I guess, '10. Started in '06 and ended in '10 –- actually sent a fair amount of PT leaders to jail, and based on very dim evidence, very dim evidence.

And there was a case that was entirely similar to that one, that involved only PSDB politicians. There was prior to that case -- it happened in time before that -- that was already in the Supreme Court to be ruled. And they never took that. Until now it hasn't been ruled over. So, the Supreme Court was not interested in examining that particular case that involved PSDB, but was very willing to even subvert the idea that someone is innocent until you prove them, him or her, guilty. That was done in the case of Mensalao, to put PT politicians in jail.

And the other example, which is I think, even more telling, is of Aécio Naves was the president of PSDB, ex-governor of the State of Minas Gerais, and was the contender of Dilma Rousseff in the last presidential elections. This guy has been accused of corruption, only in 2016, eight times. None of that has been, so far, used to start an actual investigation against him, or he hasn’t ever been arrested because of that. And the media doesn't talk about it. They do when some, for example, in the testimony someone cites him, so they'd say, "Oh, Aécio was also cited." But then, that does not develop into further investigative pieces in which reporters go after evidence and continue to exploit these cases. So, they instantly forget all the stuff Aécio was accused of, although he has been accused of everything. If you go to YouTube and check out –- I mean, there is even a video of a guy accusing him of snorting coke during the time he was Governor of Minas Gerais, and even having to go to the hospital because of overdose -- three times. So, it's really appalling. And this guy's never investigated.

There is another case that a close friend of his was caught... an employee of the close friend of his was caught, with a helicopter full of cocaine –- 400 kilos of cocaine –- and apparently there is evidence that he might be involved. Also, the media didn't want to put that out. It was a very dim note in the pages.

Whereas, PD does, or that, everything that PD politicians do, that might look a little bit bad, it's always on the cover of newspapers.

SHARMINI PERIES: In a very separate thing, which is, Odebrecht, the company, I hear in the United States was penalized, or had penalties slapped on them for $3.5 billion -– this is the largest corruption penalty ever in the history of the United States. What does this tell you about what's happening in Brazil?

JOAO FERES JUNIOR: Oh, I think it tells a lot about the United States. Any time we have an American company that was penalized for something similar to that, and I think American companies have been bribing people all over the world, right? I mean, in Brazil they cooperated with the military dictatorship. They even were involved in torture –- companies were involved in financing torture over here.

So, I mean, they haven't been penalized for that. I think that, you know, there is one of the things that Moro and these guys do, they are kind of destroying this Brazilian capitalism. Using the corruption case to actually dismantle these companies, and these companies were major -- not Aécio Batista, because Aécia Batista was really -- he was a speculator -- more, much more than a business, a captain of industry, a guy who was, like, a really... an industrialist.

But Odebrecht is a major industrial company. I mean, these guys have a lot of different sectors in which they operate. And I think that Moro and these guys are contributing to dismantling this company.

SHARMINI PERIES: How involved with Odebrecht, in terms of the Olympic construction, in Brazil?

JOAO FERES JUNIOR: You know what Moro does? Moro, for example, allows people who have their passports arrested by him, who are actually having... under house arrest in Brazil. They allow them to leave the country illegally, to go to the U.S., to pose against Odebrecht and Petrobras in lawsuits in the U.S., and come back again.

One of Lula's lawyers found out about that. There was a piece on the news, but it was also one day and nobody explored that. But that's really scandalous. I mean, how can he do that? It is illegal. If someone has the passport, arrested by judiciary or federal police, you cannot go abroad.


JOAO FERES JUNIOR: But Moro himself, without asking for permission to the superior instances, like the Supreme Court, he does that -– he did that, as a matter of fact.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, João, I thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it.


SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.




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