Sunday’s episode of the American news broadcast “60 Minutes” featured a Brazilian story we know too well here at plus55. CBS correspondent Anderson Cooper traveled to Curitiba to speak with Operation Car Wash’s most prominent actors. In addition to public prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, Cooper spoke with federal judge Sérgio Moro. The headlining news segment broke down Brazil’s largest corruption probe in basic terms for an American audience.
To give viewers some scope, Cooper compared Operation Car Wash to the infamous U.S. corruption probe of the 1970s, Watergate. In his opening lines, the famous TV journalist said, “Imagine if the Watergate investigation had led not only to the downfall of President Nixon, but also to allegations against his successor, plus the Speaker of the House, the leader of the Senate, a third of the cabinet, and more than 90 members of Congress. That gives you some idea of what’s happening in Brazil right now.”
Basically, Cooper described the operation as “one of the largest bribery cases ever investigated”. He also called the operation’s team “a small group of idealistic young Brazilian prosecutors and a crusading judge”. The latter, of course, being Sérgio Moro. Judge Moro jokes with his interviewer, comparing the court testimony of Petrobras executive Paulo Roberto Costa to the turning point in the 1987 political drama, “The Untouchables”.
To explain the over $200 billion in corruption money, the segment dives into massive unfinished oil refineries that left Brazilians out of work. Cooper describes the over-budgeted construction projects as “systematic”, to which prosecutor Dallagnol responds: “It was the rule of the game”. Moreover, the segment quotes their own U.S. Department of Justice document, which describes Brazil’s kickback scheme as “the largest foreign bribery case in history”.
No longer untouchable
Finally, Cooper makes note of some politicians’ argument that the corruption probe violates defendants’ civil rights. While the operation has placed ex-president Lula at the head of the corruption operation, the Workers’ Party symbol has accused the prosecution of political motivations. In response, Judge Moro stated: “Nobody will be tried in court because of his political opinion. Former President Lula will have all the opportunities that our law gives to him to present his defense.”
If Americans weren’t paying attention to Brazil’s bribery scheme before, they sure are now. As the U.S. contemplates allegations against their own president Donald Trump, news of Brazil’s corruption probe may provide a source of inspiration.
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