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Brazil's ex-president is the last high profile politician to fall because of the so-called 'car-wash operation'
Last Thursday, corruption investigations in Brazil reached a new climax when former president Michel Temer was arrested in Sao Paulo. Temer acquired the presidency in 2016 to relieve Dilma Rousseff, who was removed from office under corruption charges, and left office earlier this year, succeeded by Jair Bolsonaro.
Leer en español: El arresto de Michel Temer: un golpe más a la antigua política
For many, Temer's arrest was only a matter of time. Since he was president, he was already involved in various criminal schemes, but when he lost the legal protection granted to him for his position, he would be at the mercy of the authorities.
Temer is under 10 investigations for criminal charges, of which perhaps the most important is the Electronuclear case. The prosecution accuses Temer of leading a 'criminal organization' from the presidency, in which he created a bribing network, money laundering and corruption, including the receipt of a bribe of 1 million reais in exchange for a tender for three companies for the construction of a nuclear plant. His energy minister, Moreira Franco, is also under arrest.
Temer's arrest is the last episode of a saga known as 'car-wash operation' or 'lava jato' in Portuguese. This began as a money laundering investigation in a small exchange house attached to a car wash, which escalated to be considered by the Department of Justice of the United States as the 'biggest bribery scandal in history'.
Some of the other nine charges
In addition to his involvement in the Electronuclear case, Temer is accused of other criminal acts.
First, he was accused of passive corruption when he received, through one of his advisors, a payment of about 500,000 reais from the food company JBS, which was recorded on video. The complaint, which was filed in June 2017, would become the first of many accusations against former president Temer.
Second, in September of the same year, he was accused of obstruction of justice and illicit association with the prosecution when they initiated investigations against him and several members of his party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB).
Third, he was implicated in the Odebrecht case, in which the MDB campaigns received commissions paid through the Civil Aviation Secretariat in exchange for 'political favors'.
Finally, he was accused of giving preferential treatment to certain companies in the port sector by changing Brazil's port law in exchange for bribes paid to the MDB.
Favorable pressure for Bolsonaro
The current president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, came to the presidency with the clear intention of differentiating himself from the leaders of the Workers' Party (PT, the party of Dilma Rousseff) and the MDB. His position as an 'outsider' in Brazilian politics facilitated the winning of votes, as the lava jato made sure to increase the unpopularity of the politicians who had been in power since 2007. At its lowest point, Temer's approval among the Brazilian population fell to only 3%.
With Temer's arrest and his ongoing prosecution, Bolsonaro has an opportunity to distance himself and generate positive impressions, as long as his government officials are not implicated in corruption investigations. A hard line with the corrupt will surely end up cementing the popularity of Bolsonaro, but everything can collapse if he were to be accused of the same charges.
LatinAmerican Post | Pedro Bernal
Transalated from "El arresto de Michel Temer: un golpe más a la antigua política"