Three years ago, Brazil watched the launch of Operation Car Wash. Little did we know back then that the investigation would implicate most of the country’s political establishment. Former presidents, members of Congress, billionaires. At one point, it appeared as though no one would be spared.
Many believed that the operation marked a new era in Brazil. For once, Brazilians witnessed crooked politicians in handcuffs and rich businessmen behind bars. And it seemed like the country was taking a step towards having a functional democracy.
But that was a mere illusion. This recent political scandal involving President Michel Temer is just another example of how the political establishment hasn’t been able to change its stripes. Temer appears on an audio recording (listen here) talking to a businessman about tampering with investigations and bribing a former House Speaker. However, due to the poor quality of the audio, some of the accusations weighing against Temer are not as strong as we’d thought.
Still, by no means can one say that the conversation is normal.
At one point, businessman Joesley Batista gloats about having a mole within Operation Car Wash. “I’ve managed to get to a prosecutor in the task force who’s feeding me information. I’m almost getting rid of the guy who’s after me.” In the span of just a few minutes, Temer listened to a list of multiple crimes.
The conversation took place on March 7. Temer had already taken over as president full-time. By then, the investigations had cornered most of his allies. And yet, he didn’t shy away from talk of committing crimes.
Not just Temer
But Temer was not the only one. Another recording shows Senator Aécio Neves asking for 2 million BRL in dirty money. Three years ago, the same Neves was running for president based on a platform of managerial efficiency and personal integrity. The hypocrisy is so blatant that it would seem like a bad joke.
Last month, we learned that Odebrecht, a construction company, didn’t stop paying bribes immediately after Operation Car Wash began. The bribery tunnel was only shut down after the company’s former CEO, Marcelo Odebrecht, went to jail.
If our politicians and businessmen haven’t learned yet, they never will. It’s up to Brazilian citizens to learn how to protest, to demand better services, and to vote smarter.