The Mensalão scandal (Portuguese: Escândalo do Mensalão, IPA: [is'kd?lu du m?s?'lw?]) was a vote-buying scandal that threatened to bring down the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2005.Mensalão is a neologism, a variant of the word for "big monthly payment" (salário mensal or mensalidade).
The scandal broke on June 6, 2005 when Brazilian deputy Roberto Jefferson told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper that the ruling Workers' Party (PT) had paid a number of deputies 30,000 reais (around US$12,000 at the time) a month to vote for legislation favored by the ruling party. The funds allegedly came from state-owned companies' advertising budgets, funneled through an advertising agency owned by Marcos Valério.
The investigation then implicated members of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, DEM, Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and seven other political parties also involved. Many key advisers to Lula resigned, and several deputies were faced with the choice of resignation or expulsion from congress. The president himself went on to be re-elected in 2006, and in 2010 Brazil elected his chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, as president. Much of PT's leadership was affected in some way, with many resigning or failing to win re-election. Brazil's economy was widely perceived as not having been substantially impacted by the scandal.
Roberto Jefferson, who initially sparked the scandal, was expelled from the Chamber of Deputies on September 14, 2005 for ethical violations determined by the Congressional Council of Ethics. Despite continued additional resignations, in October the scandal died down somewhat as Brazil held a contentious referendum on a banning gun sales, an initiative soundly rejected by voters.
When Lula was elected in 2003, his party held less than 20% of the seats in the Assembly. He put together a coalition of twelve parties, but since his appointees were primarily from his own party, the payments were intended to assure the continued support of other members of the coalition government.
On September 18, 2004 Brazilian weekly magazine Veja printed a cover story entitled "Scandal: PT's buyout of PTB". The article described an alliance between the Workers Party (PT) and the Brazilian Labour Party (PTB). According to Veja, PT promised to pay R$150,000 to each PTB deputy if they would support the executive branch[when?]. Allegedly because these promises were not kept, a storm of corruption allegations against PT began in May 2005.
On September 24, 2004, the Rio de Janeiro newspaper Jornal do Brasil published an article citing Veja which also said that former Minister of Communications Miro Teixeira had revealed the monthly payments to the Ministry of Public Prosecution.
Jornal do Brasil then published another story saying that the president of the Chamber of Deputies João Paulo Cunha (PT) promised to fully investigate the claims and quoted president of the Popular Socialist Party (Brazil) Roberto Freire saying: "This subject has been circulating for months in Congress but nobody has the courage to approach it."
On May 14, 2005, Veja published a new story describing an apparent corruption scheme in the Brazilian Postal Service, describing a 110-minute video recording, made with a hidden camera, that showed former Post Office Chief Maurício Marinho apparently receiving a bribe from a businessman. The full bribery scheme involving government contracts was allegedly administered by Post Office administrative director Antônio Osório Batista and by Jefferson, a Post Office manager as well as a federal deputy. On the tape, aired by the major Brazilian television stations, Marinho receives, then pockets, R$3,000 (about $1,259 US) in cash.
Agents from the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) investigated. As the scandal developed, it was argued[who?] that this was linked to an attempt to destroy PT's former allies without the scandal exploding upon the government. However, a major political battle began when the government tried to systematically obstruct the creation of a Parliamentary Commission of Investigation (CPI) to investigate the growing corruption scandal.
On June 3, 2005 the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo published a story saying that the government was tying funds for various projects to support for the creation of the CPI. Because of these allegations, part of the government's base joined the opposition to support the creation of a Parliamentary Commission of Investigation. Abandoned by his allies, Jefferson began to counterattack. On June 6, Folha de S.Paulo published an interview with Jefferson claiming that Delúbio Soares, treasurer of the Workers' Party, made monthly payments of R$30,000 to certain Congressional deputies, to influence them to vote with the government. Jefferson said that those who received the monthly payment called it mensalão, derived from the Portuguese word for a monthly payment. "Mensalão" quickly became the adopted popular label for the scandal, now identified as the "escândalo do mensalão."
According to Jefferson, businessman Marcos Valério, owner of the advertising agencies SMPB and DNA, which had large government contracts, operated the scheme. After the investigative commission was set up, the government allegedly tried to control it by installing government allies Senator Delcídio do Amaral (PT) as president of the commission and Deputy Osmar Serraglio (PMDB) as the key rapporteur, responsible for writing the final report.
Although the investigation of the Post Office scandal was officially restricted in scope to irregularities in the Post Office's administration, it began to investigate the expanding monthly payment claims because of apparent connections between the cases. An additional commission was created to investigate the broader scandal on July 20. Allies of the government occupied key posts. The president of the CPI was Senator Amir Lando and the rapporteur was Deputy Ibrahim Abi-Ackel. Abi-Ackel had been minister of justice in the government of João Baptista Figueiredo, and had also been accused of involvement in the corruption scandal.
José Dirceu, once a leftist student leader who organized against the right-wing military dictatorship after it took power in a 1964 coup, was arrested in 1968, then released at the demand of the kidnappers of the US ambassador. He was exiled to Cuba. Later, he secretly returned to Brazil, under a false identity and had plastic surgery to disguise his face. He hid in Paraná and opened a shop. During this time, he became involved as a student union leader. He married but did not reveal his true identity even after he had a son with his wife. Only after 1979, when political amnesty was declared, did he openly return to political life, campaigning for democratic elections and the end of the dictatorship regime.
As a consequence of the mensalão scandal, Dirceu resigned in 2005 as chief of staff to President Lula.
In early July 2005, an advisor to a Congressional deputy and brother of Workers' Party President José Genoíno, was stopped at an airport with $100,000 in his underwear and additional funds in his luggage. The wives and secretaries of key figures testified before numerous and overlapping Congressional panels, including Valério's secretary, Fernanda Karina Somaggio, and the ex-wife of Valdemar Costa Neto, Maria Christina Mendes Caldeira, who later fled to the United States with nothing but her clothes and a support animal. She applied for asylum under a secret identity.
Congressional hearings were often marked by fiery rhetoric and emotional outbursts, including numerous incidents of crying by witnesses and Workers' Party deputies. Although still murky and unclear, reported links between the scandal, its key figures, the murder of Santo André's mayor Celso Daniel and various mafia and criminal figures only intensified its sensational tone and societal impact. One key event that broadened the scandal into a more general investigation of the Workers' Party history as whole was the testimony of Duda Mendonça, public relations specialist and campaign manager for Lula's 2002 campaign, on August 11. He said he was paid using off-shore bank accounts and possibly illegal funds connected to Valério.
The scandal, which had at that time not yet involved finance minister Antonio Palocci, said to be popular with the international finance community, threatened his standing after lawyer and former advisor Rogério Tadeu Buratti testified that Palocci was involved in corrupt activities while he was mayor of Ribeirão Preto in the mid-90's.
Lula's popularity waxed and waned, but no definite proof emerged that he orchestrated or had knowledge of the payments. Much of PT's leadership was affected in some way, with many resigning or failing to win re-election. Brazil's economy was widely perceived as not having been substantially impacted by the scandal.
Roberto Jefferson, who initially sparked the scandal, was expelled from the Chamber of Deputies on September 14, 2005 after the Congressional Council of Ethics determined that he had committed ethical violations. Despite continued resignations of those implicated, in October the scandal died down somewhat and Brazil had a referendum on gun sales that resulted in a loss for the government's position. At the end of October, Veja published a new story claiming that the Workers' Party had received illegal campaign funds from Cuba--threatening to re-intensify the scandal once again, though that was not ultimately the case.[clarification needed]
The investigations into Post Office corruption and vote-buying unanimously approved their first joint preliminary report on September 1, 2005.
The report accused 18 Brazilian deputies of involvement in the corruption scandal:
The report accused them of misdeeds ranging from illegal campaign finance activity, placing cronies in strategic positions in government-owned businesses in return for kickbacks, to taking cash payments for voting with the government in the Brazilian Congress.
The report states that as to the charges initially made by deputy Roberto Jefferson (PTB):
The report added that several documents had been identified and validated which proved that large sums of money were withdrawn from agencies of the Rural Bank in Brasilia and Belo Horizonte, as well as from the bank accounts of the enterprises SMPB and DNA. According to the documents, the beneficiaries were federal deputies who received funds in person or through relatives, advisers, or individuals chosen by Marcos Valério. Some payments were made monthly, and others either more or less frequently. The report called the defense made by some parliamentarians that the funds were used to settle debts from electoral campaigns a "lame excuse".
The following CPIs were involved in investigating issues related to the cash-for-votes scandal.
Members of the opposition also wanted a fourth CPI to investigate off-book accounts held by all parties in during the most recent elections. Due to serial allegations of this kind of operation in many campaigns in 2002, including President Lula's, many believed this CPI could result in a legal and concrete reason to start his impeachment process. However this process was aborted.
The Council of Ethics and Parliamentary Decorum of the House is responsible for processing and disciplining members for behavior not in concordance with parliamentary decorum.
To expel a deputy, 257 votes out of 513 are needed. Expelled deputies lose their seats and also their parliamentary privileges and immunity. Members can also be barred from holding public office for eight years. Jefferson for example cannot run for office again until 2015.
On August 24, 2007, the Supreme Federal Court, responsible for criminal proceedings against parliamentarians due to parliamentary immunity, accepted the indictments of 40 individuals related to the Mensalão scandal, most of them former or current federal deputies, and all of whom were or are allies of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The trial began in August 2012.
In the first 23 sessions[clarification needed] of the trial the Supreme Court found that misuse of public money and bank loans did occur. Ten of the 37 defendants received sentences, including Marcos Valério, a ringleader. Three were acquitted.[needs update]
On 15 September 2012 Veja published a new story alleging that Valério had told friends that former president Lula masterminded the corruption scheme. José Dirceu's allies called this a lie and said Valério was out of his head and desperate, a convict facing prison.
On September 17 the court began to examine the primary accusation, which included allegations that Dirceu led of the vote-buying scheme which laundered and then disbursed millions in public and private money to secure votes in Congress from 2003 to 2005. The rapporteur found clear evidence that such activities occurred, saying "there is no doubt that this scheme existed."
On 9 October 2012, the court found Dirceu, José Genoino and Delúbio Soares guilty of bribery (Corrupção Ativa). On 15 November 2013 the STF president ordered them imprisoned. This coincided with the anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic so there was much debate about Barbosa's[who?] reasons for waiting until then. Some days later Genoino was transferred to house arrest out of concerns about his health.
Documents from the Conselho de Controle de Atividades Financeiras (COAF) indicate that between July and May 2003, withdrawals of 27 million reais were made from the accounts of businessman Marcos Valério.
According to deputy Roberto Jefferson, the money for the mensalão came from Banco Rural and the Banco do Brasil. Documents from COAF validate the withdrawals from Banco Rural; the withdrawals from the Banco do Brasil have not yet been traced.
The table below shows a side-by-side description of some of the withdrawals and allegedly connected votes in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.
The following members of other parties that gave political support to the Workers' Party before the scandal: PTB, PP, PL, and the PMDB.