Brazil’s Most Important News Outlet Plays Kingmaker
Globo TV withdraws support from President Michel Temer by leaking incriminating recording and issues retraction that implicated former president Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff: report from Mike Fox in Brazil
Sharmini Peries: It’s the Real News network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. On to talk about what happened this week in Brazil. I’m being joined by Michael Fox. Mike is an independent journalist based in Brazil. Mike, thanks so much for joining us today.
Michael Fox: Thanks for having me, Sharmini.
Sharmini Peries: So Mike last week when we spoke we were talking about the news that had just broke while we were speaking about corruption allegations, but set the record straight for us what happened last week. And I understand Global the news outlet had actually issued a correction in relation to that story we talked about. Give us a sense of what is going on.
Michael Fox: So the original story this is based around, if you haven’t watched the episode last week, just last Thursday audio was leaked tagging President Temer in the middle of Brazil’s ongoing massive corruption scandal. Basically, in the audio he’s heard saying that hush money had to continue to be paid to the head of the lower house Eduardo Cunha, former head of the lower house Eduardo Cunha who led the impeachment trial against Dilma Rousseff, former President. So this audio broke. It was massive and what was reported just a day after was that in the middle of all this was also money that had been paid to Lula and Dilma.
This came through a plea bargain from Joesley Batista. Joesley Batista is the head of JBS, Brazil’s largest meat exporter, and he was the one who leaked the audio. So that’s how Lula and Dilma kind of got caught up in of kind of the news that people talked about for the while. So what’s just happened is Global has issued a correction. This is just days ago saying that actually Lula and Dilma aren’t necessarily involved in this plea bargain. What they had reported was the Joesley had transferred money into their offshore accounts, transferred these bribes into Lula’s and Dilma’s offshore accounts. The reality, and this is what Global corrected, was that the money is in Joesley’s account and he was going to transfer into Lula and Dilma’s accounts. Two very different things. Actually, money in someone’s account and money in your own account that you planned on transferring out to somebody.
So I think that is a really key thing and it’s indicative of a larger shift that we’ve seen just over the last week in terms of Global’s politics and policies with respect to the Temer government. And this has been extremely interesting. So Global here like you said is massive. It’s big. It kind of chooses who’s the President and who’s not. It creates public opinion and that’s what it’s done for decades. It was involved and played an important role in support of the Brazilian coup back in 1964 and then the dictatorship and it’s always played roles in kind of the lead up to elections to try and sway people in one direction or another. And you can this from its coverage. It’s completely one-sided depending on what the line is.
In this case, the line for Global is shifting away from Michel Temer. Over the last year he’s kind of been this golden boy for a lot of the mainstream media and Global in particular, who have been really in support of his government despite the corruption charges, despite the fact that six or seven members of the cabinet have [inaudible 00:03:22] they’ve still kind of stuck by him through thick and thin. But what we’re seeing over the last week is them really turning their backs on Michel Temer.
Now the question is, why. He’s got a 4% approval rating. He’s now finally embroiled in the middle of his corruption scandal with proof that he’s been involved in this thing. And so I think a lot of people are saying, “Well, Global might just be wanting to wash their hands of him.” And not just Global, but other members of kind of the right, the political class, the financial capital. When understanding that Temer is not going to be able to push through, continue to push through the agenda, the reforms, the austerity reform, the privatizations that he’s been able to do up until now because there’s such a backlash against himself and his government. So by them turning their backs on Temer, looking to try and create a façade with which they can ease Temer out of power and then move somebody else in. The realities of that question of what it looks like in the next couple of weeks, that is kind of the 100 million dollar question.
There’s also a couple of people that have said that, or there’s been rumors online that it’s very possible that Global receives funding from JBS, which again is the largest meatpacking exporter in Brazil and thereby receiving money from that, they will want to stand in support with Joesley Batista and their funder and not Temer. It’s a possibility. I think the most likely one is just the simple fact that at this point Temer’s government is not sustainable.
Sharmini Peries: Now, Mike, I guess the question in everybody’s mind is, is Dilma Rousseff and da Silva affiliated, associated with this guy of the meat plant and is this, any of this true?
Michael Fox: Well, no. I mean this is more of the hype that we’ve seen over the last two or three years that you try and connect Lula and Dilma to the corruption scandal, to this massive corruption scandal. You’ve had mainstream media, whether it’s Global or Veja from the Abril Group, which is one of the largest right wing magazines, they’ve been talking about how Lula’s been at the heart of the corruption scandal since the very beginning. You had … Lula was brought in to [inaudible 00:05:35] just two weeks ago where he testified before Sergio Moro who is the Judge who’s leading the investigations into the Lava Jato scandal and they said that they definitely had proof that he was there, he testified and there was nothing.
So this is the whole thing. They don’t have anything on him. They don’t have anything on Dilma. If they actually did, then it would’ve been the very first thing that would’ve come out because that’s what this is. It’s creating the image that these guys are at the heart of this corruption scandal, when the reality is exactly the opposite. I think it’s important to remember just how it was that Dilma Rousseff was taken out of office. She was impeached last year because of budgetary maneuvers and then she was…
Sharmini Peries: Not because she was associated with this corruption scandal of anything serious.
Michael Fox: Exactly. That…
Sharmini Peries: Of this magnitude of millions of dollars.
Michael Fox: Exactly. And to take it to a level even further. Two-thirds of the people that voted for her impeachment in the Congress and the Senate, they themselves are under investigation for crimes including even murder. But in most cases, corruption and bribery. And exactly what happened is two days after she was impeached, officially impeached last December, the Congress actually voted to change the rules to make it legal for the same budgetary maneuvers that she did in order to balance the budget, to make those same maneuvers legal. In other words, to make sure that the same excuse couldn’t be used against somebody [inaudible 00:06:58] out of power.
So it’s very clear. It’s been openly clear that this was kind of used as this tool in order to get Dilma out of office. And not just that, and this is even more important. Dilma has come out, and many other people have come out to say that the reason why she was taken out of office was because she was not going to stop the justice and try and stop the Lava Jato scandal. That’s the whole reason why. There was audio that was leaked earlier this year in which it actually came out saying, “We have to stop the bleeding. We have to stop this from happening. We have to stop people from getting taken down.”
So this whole thing, although they made it seem as though she … and continue to make it seem as though she and Lula are involved in some sort of a corruption or the corruption scandal, it was actually done in order to get them out because they’re the very people that would be fighting in order to make sure that this thing … in order to make sure the investigations continue, in order to make sure that people are actually brought to justice.
Sharmini Peries: All right. And a couple of weeks ago, Michael, you reported from the court case that was going on against President da Silva, it had just started and what are the outcomes and is there any more developments to that case?
Michael Fox: Well, the court case, the Lava Jato investigations have been ongoing for more than three years. They’re continuing ongoing. They have just started a 41st investigation. Just to show you the depth of the amount of investigations within the larger investigation. We haven’t seen anything specific to come out just in the last couple days. There’s been other … the big news has really been Temer’s involvement in this latest scandal and the role that he’s kind of been playing and what happens if he is somehow taken out of power in the coming days and weeks.
Sharmini Peries: All right, Mike. So this raises the issue of what’s going to happen to Temer.
Michael Fox: Well, that’s the big question over the next couple weeks and couple months. There’s a large movement trying to push to have him step down. You can already tell that the political axis kind of turning their backs on him. Not just global but in other areas. Is he going to resign? He’s already said that he won’t. But with the popular movement, folks out in the streets calling for him to step down, calling for diretas ja, which is the direct elections, and calling for him to leave office, there’s a big question on people’s minds. Is he going to be able to continue to push through those reforms that he’s been enacting, the austerity reforms?
So you’ve got the labor law, which is going to come up to vote in another two weeks. You have the pension reform, which is going to come up to a head just within a couple months. Will the government be able to do those with him in power? And if it looks like it’s not going to be able to and there’s going to be too much of an uproar, I think we’re going to see this shift and this push of trying to, within the political classes really trying to force him out in some way or another. Would that be a change to the government? No.
What you could likely see is somebody like Rodrigo Maia who is the head of the lower house, he’s the next in line. What we could possibly have are these indirect elections by Congress and Senate where they could vote for who they want to come to power. They would probably be most likely within the same kind of realm of the politics as Temer himself. So we wouldn’t see a big change, but obviously the social movements are really pushing for this hard. Because at least taking him out of office shows what can be done in the grass roots and meanwhile everyone’s looking towards 2018, the end of next year. That’s the elections. Lula’s the front-runner and that’s really where kind of the left, the union social movements are hoping that they can kind of continue to push and help bring Lula back into power.
Sharmini Peries: All right, Mike. I look forward to your next report. Thank you so much for joining us.
Michael Fox: Thank you, Sharmini.
Sharmini Peries: And thank you for joining us here on the Real News Network.