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Where will Brazil’s new president take Operation Car Wash?

Tom Fox | May 31, 2016

The fight against bribery and corruption in Brazil took a decidedly sinister twist as leaked recordings appear to demonstrate new cabinet officials, who came on board after the departure of President Dilma Rouseff, were working to subvert the very probe which has brought her government such grief.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “Transparency Minister Fabiano Silveira—whose job is intended to fight corruption—was heard in a recording apparently advising Senate President Renan Calheiros on how to dodge investigators.” Reuters.com reported that “Silveira criticizes prosecutors in the probe focused on state-controlled oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA, known as Petrobras, which has already implicated dozens of politicians and led to the imprisonment of top executives.”

Silveria said his comments were “taken out of context.” Of course, this was immediately before he resigned his position. Senate President Calheiros acknowledged it was his voice on the tape but said he “supports the investigation.” The was at the end of a very bad week for the new administration as Planning Minister Romero Juca “took a leave absence after another such recording allegedly captured him talking about the need to slow down the investigations.”

Both of these embarrassing episodes come after Interim President Michel Temer (the acting president) dissolved Brazil’s principal anti-corruption agency, the Comptroller General (CGU), replacing it with a new Transparency Ministry, which of course, was headed by the now-resigned Silveria. Reuters.com also reported that “Earlier on Monday, Ministry of Transparency staff marched to the presidential palace in Brasilia to demand Silveira's ouster and restoration of the comptroller general's office, which Temer renamed to show his commitment to fighting corruption. All employees with management duties at the ministry resigned their posts to press their demands, according to union leader Rudinei Marques. Protesting employees had earlier prevented Silveira from entering the ministry building. They then washed its facade with soap and water to symbolize Temer's need to clean up his government.”

Temer’s actions in dissolving the CGU and now these high-profile resignations demonstrate just how difficult it will be to clean up Brazil from the scourge of corruption.