Brazil rocked by yet another corruption Scandal

A millionaire fraud affects six electoral courts who moved 1.5 billion euros through questionable practices.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 1, 2012

Corruption has never been as closely associated with Brazil as it is today. That is not because Brazil wasn’t sufficiently corrupt in the past, but because given its new position in the world — as one of the fastest growing and most attractive markets for foreign investment — the country has been put more often than not under the magnifying glass. Brazil will host the FIFA soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 in what seems to be its launch into global relevance. Before, Brazil has only been know for its Samba, naked parading women and extreme poverty.

However, as the country becomes more visible on the world stage, Brazilians and the world are more likely to learn about the depth of the corruption pit hole both at the local and national levels. A few years ago, authorities in Brazil began investigating a new financial scandal involving electoral courts in the State of Sao Paulo. Police kickstarted what they call Operation Pretorium,a sting led by the Federal Police since since 2004.

The goal of the operation was to investigate allegations of fraud at six regional electoral courts, which in Brazil are named Regional Electoral Tribunals (TRE). One of the most serious cases is that of Roraima, one of the 27 federal states of the country. After 8 years of investigations police have apprehended at least six people in connection with the mis appropriation of 3,000 million reais (nearly 1,500 million euros) in a corruption scandal that spreads to five states, including Amazonia and Rondonia.

In a separate corruption case, the Federal Supreme Court  of Brazil — the highest court in the country — condemned 25 people including politicians, businessmen and bankers for their participation in the widely publicized scandal known as the Mensalao, a political scheme conducted by the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) or Worker’s Party, which included bribing other political groups to obtain votes that helped advance the party’s agenda in order to make government programs and policies seem successful.

During the investigations conducted under Operation Pretorium, the Federal Police discovered a group within the criminal justice system in six states, which inappropriately made use of  public money to pay for work and services that only existed in their imagination. The investigation began once Brazil’s Attorney General issued request to the Federal Police to look into what seemed to be a scheme to steal public money. The web of corruption included, according to police, several types of illegalities, including overpayments of allowances and administrative omission adopted to ensure that compensation for services was issued even when those services hadn’t been performed.

Although the investigation is still ongoing, it is already possible to determine the scope of the corruption in this new scandal. For example, police have detected ghost tours supposedly taken by judges, which were used to receive compensation and government workers simulating trips away their offices while still being in their cities. In one case, public officials benefited by being reimbursed for airfares paid by the Regional Electoral Tribunal of Roraima on the false claim that they had participated in official events inside and outside the country.

The scandal also includes payments made because of supposedly working overtime as well as for diverting public money for court elections in 2004. The list of fraudulent behavior continues with public workers being obligated to use their own money to pay part of their salaries to relatives of some judges who worked at the TREs or otherwise face the possibility of being fired without just cause.

Although police estimates that the total of money diverted reached about 1,500 million euros, police officers involved in the investigation say that the past 8 years have barely begun to scratch the surface of a scandal that could make the Mensalao fraud scheme look like an innocent mistake. José Francisco Mallman, a police investigator says that this is only the first phase of the investigation and that more revelations are likely to surface.

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The People of the World Reject Genetic Pollution

By Rady Ananda

Early Sunday morning, French police stood help  less as sixty people, locked inside an open-air field of genetically modified grapevines, uprooted all the plants.  In Spain last month, dozens of people destroyed two GMO fields. On the millennial cusp, Indian farmers burned Bt cotton in their Cremate Monsanto campaign. Ignored by multinational corporations and corrupt public policy makers, citizens act to protect the food supply and the planet.

French citizens destroy trial vineyard

The French vineyard is the same field attacked last year when the plants were only cut. But the security features installed after that incident kept authorities at bay while the group accomplished its mission yesterday.

Speaking for the group, Olivier Florent told Le Figaro that they condemned the use of public funds for open-field testing of GMOs “that we do not want.”

Pitching tents in the rain near France’s National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) site in Colmar the night before, the group waited until 5 AM before converging on the site and locking the gates behind them. They uprooted all 70 plants, then submitted to arrest.

This is the second attack on GMO crops to make international news this year. In July dozens of people destroyed two experimental corn crops in Spain. In an anonymous press release, they wrote, “This kind of direct action is the best way to respond to the fait accompli policy through which the Generalitat, the State and the biotech multinationals have been unilaterally imposing genetically modified organisms.”

In the 1990s, Indian farmers burnt Bt cotton fields in their Cremate Monsanto campaign. Monsanto did not disclose to farmers that the GM seeds were experimental. “Despite the heavy use of chemical fertiliser, traces of which still can be observed in the field, the Bt plants grew miserably, less than half the size of the traditional cotton plants in the adjacent fields.”

Indian citizens burning Monsanto's Bt Cotton plants.

After the Haiti earthquake this year, Monsanto offered 475 tons of hybrid corn and terminator vegetable seeds in partnership with USAID. In June, 10,000 Haitian farmers marched in protest of the “poison gift” which produces no viable seeds for future plantings and requires heavy chemical inputs. Haitian farm leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste observed that the biotech plan makes farmers dependent on multinational corporations.

In the US, GMOs were secretly foisted on the public in the mid-1990s, and only now is the US Supreme Court addressing the scourge. In June, the high court upheld partial deregulation of GM alfalfa, which permits limited planting while the USDA prepares an Environmental Impact Statement. Natural and organic alfalfa supply is threatened by the very real potential of GM contamination. This would destroy the organic meat and dairy industry.

Last Friday, a federal court took a tougher position on GM sugar beets. Judge Jeffrey S. White revoked USDA approval of the GM beet, while allowing for its planting this year only.

Also this month, a British farmer exposed that milk and meat from cloned animals had secretly entered the food supply.

Public opposition to GM crops has grown in recent years as more evidence surfaces that DNA-altered crops:

Meanwhile, President Obama has stacked his Administration with biotech insiders going so far as to appoint Islam Siddiqui as Agriculture Trade Negotiator. Siddiqui is a former pesticide lobbyist and vice president of CropLife America, a biotech and pesticide trade group that lobbies to weaken environmental laws.

The US is pushing hard at the world to accept GM foods. Recently, the American Farm Bureau Federation called for stronger sanctions against the European Union for its GM crop ban.

But as governments and trade agreements circumvent the will of the people, some take matters into their own hands. The rise in GMO crop destruction is a clear indication that the world’s people reject chemical and genetic pollution of the food supply and the environment.