Supporters of Brazil’s left-wing Workers’ Party leaders responded to anti-government protests by organizing cultural activities.
Supporters of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro Sunday to protest earlier demonstrations against the two politicians.
Sunday morning, Brazil’s opposition and right-wing protesters marched in the streets to demonstrate against the two leaders from the left-wing Workers Party, or PT.
Lula and President Rousseff have both been entangled in a corruption scandal involving the state owned oil company Petrobras, what critics say is a part of a smear campaign aimed to discredit the leftist leaders.
Protesters are demanding Rousseff’s resignation while opposition members have been threatening her with impeachment. However, the president is not being investigated in the corruption scandal.
Following Sunday morning’s anti-government protest, supporters responded by organizing major demonstrations in the form of cultural activities.
Event organizers say they are defending democracy in Brazil, and have denounced the anti-government campaign the government being orchestrated by the media, corporations and right-wing sectors.
In regards to the protests Sunday morning, President Rousseff responded by welcoming the fact that Brazilians are free to demonstrate peacefully and express what they think.
“We believe that all people have the right to go outside, but now no one has the right to create violence. I lived in a time when if you protested you went prisoner, if you disagreed you were in jail. Not now. We live in a time when people can protest and express what they think, and that’s something we have to preserve,” she said.
Supporters say that as long as the threats against Rousseff and Lula persist, they will continue their movement of support, including a mass demonstration called for March 18, organized by the national labor union.
What You Need to Know About Brazil’s Petrobras Scandal
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was taken in for questioning last week for his alleged connection to the Lava Jato scandal involving the country’s state oil company, Petrobras.
The Petrobras scandal has long been a thorn in Brazil’s side. Over the past two years, over 100 people have been arrested for their alleged involvement, including senators and top executives at Petrobras. President Dilma Rousseff has also been implicated in the scandal by mainstream media and is facing threats of impeachment, even though she is not formally being investigated.
But what is this scandal plaguing so many of Brazil’s top politicians? What is Lava Jato?
It is an investigation that uncovered a web of corruption in Brazil’s Petrobras, as well as a host of financial and political problems. It was discovered in 2014, but experts estimate that criminal activities were being developed for ten years. Lava Jato, Portugese for car wash, is one of Brazil’s largest corruption investigations.
The scheme consisted of companies bribing senior Petrobras officials and other public offices to get “overbilled” contracts with the state oil company. Dozens of senior executives of construction companies have already been detained for their alleged involvement in the scandal between 2004 and 2012. The diverted money amounts to some US$8 billion.
When Did The Case Become Public?
The case became public when investigators started to question the movement of billions of Brazilian reais abroad, and throughout the country, through seemingly legitimate businesses. One of these early schemes used car wash establishments for the money laundering operations. This is where the name Lava Jato was born.
Experts handling the case also found the connections of these money laundering schemes with the state owned oil company Petrobras. What is Rousseff’s Connection to the Scandal? Rousseff is not under investigating for any involvement in the scandal, but she was the chairwoman of Petrobras when many of the alleged kickback schemes were hatched.
Due to this connection, many have tried to link her to the corruption scheme, including Brazil’s media giant Grupo Globo which is using the allegations to openly call for Dilma’s impeachment – a call backed by prominent opposition lawmakers.
Critics say the allegations are nothing more than an attempt to discredit Rousseff’s administration, adding that the media has long played a role in trying to portray the ruling PT party as bureaucratic and corrupt, and that it has inefficiently managed the state resources.
What is Lula’s Connection to the Scandal?
Former president Lula da Silva was arrested on Friday and taken in for questioning over the Petrobras scandal. However, Lula claims the arrest was arbitrary and illegal because he had never refused to testify and has already been absolved by the Brazilian courts of all corruption allegations. Lula’s arrest happened just after he announced that he would consider running for president in the next elections.
Lula’s return to the presidency is seen as one of the only ways the left-wing Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) could stay in power since current President Dilma Rousseff has seen public support plummet – mainly for her alleged connection to the Petrobras scandal and Brazil’s weakening economy.
But critics say both Rousseff and Lula are facing a smear campaign by opposition parties, seeking to make it look as though the ruling PT party has lost control.
Following the announcement that he could potentially run again for president – what would be a major blow to the country’s right-wing opposition given his popularity – he was arrested for allegedly orchestrating a plot to buy off a witness in the Petrobras scandal and was later detained on suspicion that he had directly benefited from the scandal. In a separate case, Sao Paulo prosecutors are seeking Lula’s arrest for other money laundering charges and making false declarations.
If a judge decides to send him to trial, Lula could face up to 13 years in prison, essentially barring him from the next presidential election. Brazilian Minister of Labor and Social Health Miguel Rossetto said Lula’s arrest is “a clear attack on what Lula represents as a politician and social leader,” adding that he has always been open and willing to cooperate with authorities.