By Pepe Escobar and cross-posted from Counterpunch
Imagine one of the most admired global political leaders in modern history taken from his apartment at 6 am by armed Brazilian Federal Police agents and forced into an unmarked car to the Sao Paulo airport to be interrogated for almost four hours in connection with a billion dollar corruption scandal involving the giant state oil company Petrobras.
This is the stuff Hollywood is made of. And that was exactly the logic behind the elaborate production.
The public prosecutors of the two-year-old Car Wash investigation maintain there are “elements of proof” implicating Lula in receiving funds — at least 1.1 million euros — from the dodgy kickback scheme involving major Brazilian construction companies connected to Petrobras. Lula might — and the operative word is “might” — have personally profited from it mostly in the form of a ranch (which he does not own), a relatively modest seaside apartment, speaking fees in the global lecture circuit, and donations to his charity.
Lula is the ultimate political animal — on a Bill Clinton level. He had already telegraphed he was waiting for such a gambit, as the Car Wash machine had already arrested dozens of people suspected of embezzling contracts between their companies and Petrobras — to the tune of over $2 billion — to pay for politicians of the Workers’ Party (PT), of which Lula was leader.
Lula’s name surfaced via the proverbial rascal turned informer, eager to strike a plea bargain. The working hypothesis — there is no smoking gun — is that Lula, when he led Brazil between 2003 and 2010, personally benefited from the corruption scheme with Petrobras at the center, obtaining favors for himself, the PT and the government. Meanwhile, inefficient President Dilma Rousseff is herself under attack engineered via a plea bargain by the former government leader in the Senate.
Lula was questioned in connection to money laundering, corruption and suspected dissimulation of assets. The Hollywood blitz was cleared by federal judge Sergio Moro — who always insists he’s been inspired by the Italian judge Antonio di Pietro and the notorious 1990sMani Pulite (“Clean Hands”) investigation.
And here, inevitably, the plot thickens.
Round up the usual media suspects
Moro and the Car Wash prosecutors justified the Hollywood blitz insisting Lula refused to be interrogated. Lula and the PT vehemently insist otherwise.
And yet Car Wash investigators had consistently leaked to mainstream media words to the effect, “We can’t just bite Lula. When we get to him, we will swallow him.” This would imply, at a minimum, a politicization of justice, the Federal Police and the Public Ministry. And would also imply that the Hollywood blitz may have been supported by a smoking gun. As perception is reality in the frenetic non-stop news cycle, the “news” — instantly global — was that Lula was arrested because he’s corrupt.
Yet it gets curioser and curioser when we learn that judge Moro wrote an article in an obscure magazine way back in 2004 (in Portuguese only, titled Considerations about Mani Pulite, CEJ magazine, issue number 26, July/September 2004), where he clearly extols “authoritarian subversion of juridical order to reach specific targets ” and using the media to intoxicate the political atmosphere.
All of this serving a very specific agenda, of course. In Italy, right-wingers saw the whole Mani Pulite saga as a nasty judicial over-reach; the left, on the other hand, was ecstatic. The Italian Communist Party (PCI) emerged with clean hands. In Brazil, the target is the left — while the right, at least for the moment, seems to be composed of hymn-singing angels.
The pampered, cocaine-snorting loser candidate of the 2014 Brazilian presidential election, Aecio Neves, for instance, was singled out for corruption by three different accusers — and it all went nowhere, without further investigation. Same with another dodgy scheme involving former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso — the notoriously vainglorious former developmentalist turned neoliberal enforcer.
What Car Wash has already forcefully imprinted across Brazil is the perception that corruption only pays when the accused is a progressive nationalist. As for Washington consensus vassals, they are always angels — mercifully immune from prosecution…