Have American oil refineries sponsored the coup in Brazil?

(Luis Roberto Barroso, judge at Brazilian Supreme Court, speaking at the Wilson Center, on Sep 8th, 2017)

By Miguel do Rosario, Brazilian blogger (editor of Cafezinho)

“Atrás de um homem triste há sempre uma mulher feliz”, said an old song by Chico Buarque, one of the most popular Brazilian musicians in the last 30 years.

Behind a sad man there is always a happy woman.

Latest events in Latin America politics tells us we could change Buarque’s words to: behind a sad country there is always a happy oil refinery.

I spent the last few days researching the US and Brazilian governments’ official trading databases and I found something that can help answer the following question: who benefits from the never-ending Brazilian political crisis?

Whose’s financial interests are behind Operation Car Wash, that magnificent, illustrious and unrivaled battle against corruption?

In recent months, the Wilson Center, a respectable US public-private think-tank, brought several high ranking members of the Brazilian judiciary, such as supreme court judges, the former general prosecutor and the minister of justice to talk about topics related to Brazilian politics. In all these events, their American hosts, such as the Ambassador, Anthony Harrington and judge Peter Messitte, welcomed them by showering the Car Wash Operation with enthusiastic compliments, as did their Brazilian guests.

Luis Roberto Barroso, a supreme court judge, one of the panelists on September 8th this year, said that corruption is everywhere in Brazil.

“These people [I suppose Barroso meant corrupt people] have allies everywhere, in key positions, in the press, in government and in places we would least expect”.

Barroso also praised Sergio Moro, the local 1st instance judge responsible for the Operation Car Wash.

The Wilson Center is part of the Smithsonian Institution, whose board of private and government trustees is appointed by the president of the United States.

ExxonMobil Corporation, Shell, Marathon Oil Corporation and Black Rock are amongst its benefactors*.

According to Wikipedia,

The Center is a public-private partnership. Approximately one-third of the Center’s operating funds come annually from an appropriation from the U.S. government, and the Center itself is housed in a wing of the Ronald Reagan Building, a federal office building where the Center enjoys a 30-year rent-free lease. The remainder of the Center’s funding comes from foundations, grants and contracts, corporations, individuals, endowment income, and subscriptions.

What judge Barroso didn’t say

The Operation Car Wash has been accused by many Brazilian political analysts, law specialists and even other judges of violating the Constitution, human rights charters and even common sense, arresting politicians and high executives without proofs, based only on “conviction”. These persons stood for long periods in prison without being tried and could only dream of liberty after signing a plea bargain with prosecutors.

After three years of Operation, almost all the main Brazilian engineering companies, some with operations in dozens of countries, were heavily affected.

Millions of jobs were destroyed.

Operation Car Wash is also accused of deliberately acting to promote the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, or the coup, as many prefer to call it.

For example, judge Sergio Moro directly released secret audios to the corporate media in order to create a public commotion, as he did when Dilma Rousseff wanted to appoint Lula as her minister. On that occasion, Moro provided Globo, Brazil’s largest media company (and main supporter of Operation Car Wash) with illegal recordings of conversations between President Rousseff and former President Lula.

This was absolutely illegal, given that a local judged could never have issued orders against a sitting President, whose actions can only be examined by the supreme court.

Judge Moro, aware that he had committed a crime, apologized to the supreme court.

And apologies accepted, there were no further sanctions.

Moro appears in almost all events he is invited to. He gives frequent interviews and releases sensitive information about the people and companies accused by the prosecutors, always to the same media groups, using it as a weapon to destroy any chances defendants may have of being acquitted.

As he has explained in an article, his method consists in using the media and public opinion to strengthen the operation.

At the Wilson Center, Barroso, the Brazilian supreme court judge, claimed that “Corruption Will Not Prevail”.

Well, after three years of Operation Car Wash, I think Barroso’s prediction seems to be just an empty phrase.

Operation Car Wash can be held responsible for putting Michel Temer and his criminal gang in power. In fact we could even say that corruption did prevail.

Even abroad, eminent legal academics have their doubts over Operation Car Wash. The Italian professor Luigi Ferrajoli, accused Lava Jato of copying methods used during the Inquisition, while Eugenio Raul Zaffaroni, an Argentinian legal expert who was also a former judge of Argentina’s Supreme Court and a celebrated legal author accused Operation Car Wash of being part of a continental ploy to destroy progressive political parties, using new methods to reach the same goals of Operation Condor, a sinister conspiracy led by Latin American military governments to kill left-wing and liberal leaders.

In early August, Sergio Moro convicted former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva to 9 years in prison on corruption charges. Some days later, over a hundred Brazilian legal experts wrote articles accusing Moro of convicting Lula without proofs. They were published in a book released on August 11th at the National Law College, in Rio de Janeiro, with the presence of hundreds of jurists, lawyers, prosecutors, law students and law academics. All the legal experts present argued that Moro’s decision was blatantly illegal.

The Lava Jato Operation resorts to methods that are very similar to torture. Defendants are held behind bars with no prospects of coming out or hope of a fair trial, unless they agree to plea bargains and to tell a story that matches the prosecutors’ narrative. Defendants who tell a different story will not be allowed to leave prison.

But if Operation Car Wash is a conspiracy, who is pulling the strings and who is profiting?

Well, watch this graph. It shows that after the coup, the new regime that took over in April 2016, determined that Brazilian refineries hit the brakes.

Some would say this is normal, considering that the Brazilian economy sunk to very low levels in the last two years.

Not exactly.

Since 2016, Brazilian imports of distilled fuel oil, which is the main fuel used for transporting cargo, were rapidly increasing. In the last 12 months, it hit historical records, at almost 9.5 million tons.

But there is something else that’s strange. Guess which corporations are increasing market share in Brazil?

Yes, the very same patrons of the Wilson Center that Brazilian judges so proudly like to attend: American oil corps.

US market share of Brazilian distilled fuel oil reached 84% in the last 12 months.

Consider this: historically, distilled fuel oil is the n. 1 product imported by Brazil. In the last 12 months, Brazil spent US$ 4.5 billion on it, 75% above the amount spent in the previous period.

Note that, in dollars, Brazil spent higher amounts in the past. In 2014, for instance, Brazilian imports of distilled fuel oil totalled almost US$ 8 billion. Nevertheless, as American exporters grabbed a bigger share of Brazilian purchases, their earnings hit a record levels in 2017: US$ 3.7 billion.

It’s worth a coup, isn’t it?

Let’s look at the big picture.

The American oil industry underwent a silent revolution in recent years. The United States became one of the main global oil exporters in the world. US oil trade deficit dropped sharply from almost $ 400 billion in 2008 to $ 70 billion in 2016.

Lower prices, higher domestic production, decreasing consumption and dramatic export growth resulted in the lowest oil trade deficit in decades.

2008 subprime’s crisis forced the US oil industry to alter their strategy. American oil consumption violently declined by more than 5% in 2008 and remaining weak for the following years.

Suddenly, US oil refineries had a rising volume of refined oil in their hands, which they could sell abroad.

Meanwhile, as we’ve seen above, Brazil, historically one of the most important refined oil markets for the US, also started to heavily invest in its own refineries. After discovering new oil reserves, Lula’s government decided that Brazil could increase its refining capacity.  Petrobras made huge investments: in the states of Maranhão, Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro, the state-owned oil company began to build brand new refineries.

Oops, that posed a real problem!

If Brazil has its own refineries, why would it continue to import distilled fuel oil from America?

 

So now you can understand why American refineries and their sponsored think-tanks such as the Wilson Center, place so much hope on Operation Car Wash.

The traditional American weekly Time magazine listed Sergio Moro as one of the most powerful men in the world.

Bryan Walsh, Time’s international editor, wrote a short piece presenting Moro. Walsh seemed to be well aware of what was taking place in Brazil when he said that

Although she hasn’t been directly linked to any bribery, President Dilma Rousseff now faces impeachment in part because of Moro’s work.

Moro has been accused of ignoring due process, and he seems more than willing to try his cases in the court of public opinion. But most Brazilians feel that his sharp-elbowed tactics are worth the trade-off for a cleaner country.

In August 2015, judge Sergio Moro was one of the speakers in a seminar organized by Veja, an extreme-right weekly magazine, entirely dedicated to the cause of the impeachment.

In his speech, Moro argued that “Abreu e Lima”, a huge refinery built in the state of Pernambuco at the beginning of Lula’s first term, was an unnecessary investment and would never cover its costs.

What were his sources? Some of the defendants hoping to get plea bargains from him.

The impeachment, which if Walsh is to be believed, was “Sergio Moro’s work” brought a happy end to… the ever so clean and uncorrupt… American refineries.

In fact, even before the impeachment, Operation Car Wash had already frozen all construction and investments in the Brazilian oil sector. After the removal of Dilma Rousseff, the very first decision of the newly appointed Petrobras president was to put an end to the Brazilian dream of refining their own oil. New refinery projects were cancelled and domestic refining was abruptly reduced.

The decision meant a massive job destruction, as these construction building projects had been employing thousands of workers.

In May 2017, one year after the coup, the state of Rio de Janeiro saw its unemployment rate rise by 50%, to 1.2 million. In a year, an extra 401,000 people are without a job.

Meanwhile, thanks to Brazil, US oil corporations are experiencing some of their best moments.

Below is a list of the main US (or US based) oil corporations in refining sector, by capacity.

Sources:
Energy Information Agency  – EIA (US)
Alice System – Ministry of Industry (BR)

 

* some links to check this information: Link 1 (donors at 2015); Link 2 (benefactors).

 

British MPs, Union leaders, intellectuals and artists ask for direct elections in Brazil

A group of British MP, Union leaders, intellectuals and artists wrote to the Guardian newspaper asking for direct elections in Brazil.

A year from the Coup an increasing number of people are concerned with what has been happening in Brazil.

The ousting of President Dilma Rousseff has taken Brazil into deeper recession and greater unemployment.

The achievements of the non-elected president Temer seems to have been the curtailment of workers’ rights, a destruction of the hard fought for social welfare and security system and the escalation of violence.

He has disregarded the rights of minority groups such as indigenous populations and Afro-decendent “quilombola” communities and is threatening the environment by opening the Amazon to Mining and Exploration.

See the letter prominent British personalities wrote to the Guardian

Controversies: Lula, the Car Wash Operation and the Media

Lula, during his “caravana” in northeastern Brazil, last week. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert.

Many in the legal profession in Brazil argue that Judge Moro’s Condemnation of Lula is controversial. So why is this not being taken seriously by the media?

by Marianna T. Noviello

On 12th July, former President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva was condemned to prison for 9 years 6 months.

The former union leader who enchanted the world, the president who managed to bring millions of people out of poverty and into the middle classes was condemned for passive corruption.

Lula was the president who went around the world talking about the importance of ending poverty and hunger, but according to a Brazilian judge, he was also the ringleader of a criminal gang that cost Brazil billions of dollars.

Brazil was booming when President Lula was in power. It discovered oil in the pre-salt layers under the Brazilian seas and Lula determined that taxation from its exploration should go to education and health.

The country consolidated trade with many countries around the world, promoted South-South relations, developed a privileged relationship with Africa and strengthened its ties with Latin America.

Brazil was one of the leading members of the G20, highlighting the importance of the developing countries and, with Russia, China, India and South Africa, created the Brics.

It was also during Lula’s presidency that Brazil won the right to host both the World Cup and the Olympics.

But President Lula is corrupt, he must be, Sérgio Moro, the celebrated first instance judge said so.

In fact, all of Lula’s party, the Workers’ Party, seems a little dodgy, right? There was that female President, the one that came after Lula, Dilma Rousseff. Was she not ousted during the corruption scandals that affected the Brazilian state oil company, Petrobrás?

With a few exceptions, what we see in the foreign press is that Brazil is in trouble. Despite their fleeting success, the Workers’ Party and former President Lula had a dark secret: corruption.

Same old, same old. What do we expect from Latin America anyway other than dodgy left or right-wing dictators, corrupt politicians and Banana Republics?

Except that the story is a little more complex.

This month Brazil saw two significant legal events take place, both on the same day, Friday 11th August.

The first was the launch of a book entitled “Comentários a uma Sentença Anunciada: o processo Lula” [Commentaries on a Pre-announced Condemnation: the Lula Case].

It is edited by four specialists in international law and human rights: Carol Proner, Giselle Cittadino, Gisele Ricobom and João Ricardo Dornelles and gathers together 100 articles by 122 academics, many of whom are experts on criminal law.

In the book, they comment on Lula’s sentence delivered by First Instance Judge, Sérgio Moro, which they argue suffers from serious flaws.

The most important amongst these flaws is a lack of evidence. The authors claim that the public prosecutors did not manage to prove that Lula was involved in corruption and yet Judge Moro still condemned Lula.

Indeed, the case was mainly based on the ownership of a triplex apartment which was never Lula’s and was given as collateral for a loan by the civil construction company OAS.

In other words, how can OAS give as guarantee for a loan someone else’s property?

Even though, Brazilian law allows judges to be both investigating and trial judges, the authors argue that Sergío Moro over-stepped his remit, acting as prosecutor.

One of the editors of the book, Carol Proner , stated that, as well as having the judge acting as an accuser, the sentence did not follow due legal process.

Many of the book’s writers are members a group entitled “Brazilian Front of Legal Experts for Democracy”, formed by legal academics, judges, public prosecutors and lawyers who were unhappy about the then imminent ‘impeachment’ of President Dilma Rousseff.

The group remains active after impeachment, fighting for the re-establishment of democracy in Brazil and speaking out against the illegalities that have been occurring since then.

Indeed, some of Brazil’s most eminent legal experts are severe critics of both Rousseff’s impeachment and the Lava Jato (Car Wash) Operation.

They include renowned names in Brazilian law such as Fábio Konder Comparato and Dalmo Dallari, both emeritus professors at the prestigious São Paulo University, USP, and Marcelo Lavenère, former head of Brazil’s Bar Association who was also one of the authors of the 1992 impeachment of former President Fernando Collor.

The second significant event took place at the Federal University of Paraná, in Curitiba, the same city where the Car Wash trials are taking place.

This event also promoted by members of the legal profession, the “Popular Tribunal: the Car Wash Operation on trial”.

The idea was to put the controversial Operation in the dock.

Tânia Mandarino , one of the coordinators of the event and member of another group of legal professionals formed to fight for Brazilian democracy, “Lawyers for Democracy”, said that the aim of the Tribunal was to debate the Car Wash Operation. More specifically, to discuss whether its excesses are justified.

Dilma Rousseff’s former Minister of Justice and Public Prosecutor, Eugênio Aragão acted as the prosecutor of the Operation and renowned Brazilian criminal lawyer Antonio Carlos de Almeida Castro as the defence.

The simulated trial has a symbolic significance in bringing to light controversial points in the Operation.

The legal experts who participated in the simulated trial highlight some of the elements they believe to be excessive: the overuse of preventive imprisonment, the criminalisation of politics and of defence lawyers, and turning criminal law into a spectacle.

Indeed, many legal experts think that in these prominent cases, Brazilian justice is not just unduly influenced by the media, but sometimes works hand-in-hand with it.

One of the characteristics of the Car Wash Operation has been frequent leaks to the media, sometimes even before the parties involved are contacted.

This has been a common complaint made by Lula’s defence.

Carol Proner claims that a state of exception has been established in Brazil and that individual rights are being undermined, “the struggle against corruption does not justify a disregard for human rights”, she said in a recent interview about the book launch.

And it is not only Brazilian legal experts who feel uncomfortable with the goings on in Brazil.

In an interview to Deutsche Welle Brasil, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, former German Minister of Justice and professor at the Free University of Berlin, said that the current trend of Brazilian judges interfering in politics would be a total “no-no” in Germany.

The renowned Italian legal academic Luigi Ferrajoli also condemned the methods used by the Car Wash Operation.

Ferrajoli calls the Operation a spectacular mediatic persecution. He also claims that the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff contained obvious legal weaknesses.

Journalists and their media bosses have the right to argue that the legal processes taking place in Brazil are uncovering political wrongdoings and that, eventually, this will bring benefits to the Brazilian political system and democracy.

However, any serious media organisation has the duty to report on the controversies that do exist. The Car Wash Operation has always been seen as polemical, no less so by the legal profession.

It is not just a handful of experts that believe that all is not right with the Brazilian judiciary at present. Many prominent and respected academics are dissatisfied with its developments.

Indeed, critics point to problems affecting all levels of the system, from the high percentage of prisoners still awaiting trial, to the (un)professional conduct of first instance judges, public prosecutors and even members of the Supreme Court.

The Brazilian media is notoriously partial. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that the foreign media do not merely rely on their Brazilian colleagues or just follow the Brazilian media agenda.

It is about time Brazil received the respect of the international media it deserves, instead of being treated as an inconsequential Banana Republic.

Dilma on Venezuela: the coup happens in Brazil, not there!

Dilma’s interview for BBC helps to explain the coup in Brazil. The former Brazilian president has a vision totally different from Michel Temer’s on Venezuela crisis.

Dilma also talks about Brazilian current political situation, arguing that the coup is a “process” which is going on yet.

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On BBC (on the original link there are 2 videos which we couldn’t embeb here. So watch them there)

Dilma Rousseff: Brazil ‘coup’ not over Continue reading Dilma on Venezuela: the coup happens in Brazil, not there!