Latest Brazil resignation proves questions of ethics still unsolved

Analysis: President seems to think it normal for minister to lobby another on personal interests

Though no more was needed, Friday's resignation of another minister in Brazil over graft allegations is proof that the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in August has resolved none of the ethical challenges the country faces from its political class.

She was forced out after the discovery of a massive corruption scheme inside state oil giant Petrobras that prosecutors say was orchestrated by her Workers Party.

But the administration of the man who replaced her, Michel Temer, is as compromised by the Petrobras affair as Rousseff's was and its leading lights seem as uninterested in virtuous public service as turkeys are in Christmas.

Bizarrely, considering heightened public anger at corruption, Temer said this week’s scandal in which one of his most powerful ministers tried to bully a junior colleague for personal gain amounted to nothing more than a routine dispute between ministers.


Forceful lobbying

After so long in Brasília he seems to think it normal that one minister would forcefully lobby another in favour of his own personal interests.

Geddel Vieira Lima has fallen anyway despite Temer's best efforts to keep him on board, but the president was not the only person in Brasília this week displaying just how out of touch Brazil's political class has become.

The city is in a panic about the impending plea-bargain testimony by Brazil's biggest construction conglomerate Odebrecht with federal prosecutors in the Petrobras case.

Politicians of all stripes are terrified about what Marcelo Odebrecht and almost 80 of his executives might reveal.

So scared are they that congress once again ignored the bleeding economy and instead insisted on trying to force through measures that would amount to an amnesty of corruption, money laundering and embezzlement.

Meanwhile, the government leader in the senate, Romero Jucá, himself forced out of Temer’s cabinet after being caught on tape conspiring against the Petrobras investigation, managed to sneak through a measure that would allow the relatives of politicians to benefit from an amnesty for repatriating undeclared assets abroad.

Rearranging deckchairs

But many analysts say such manoeuvres could amount to little more than rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

"The Odebrecht plea-bargain agreement has the potential to tip the entire political class into a black hole," says André Pereira César of CAC, a political consultancy in Brasília.

“It will likely involve the whole system and reveal just how rotten it is. But the question is, what comes then?”