Weakened Anti-Corruption Bill Sparks Outrage
The Petrobras scandal fed a groundswell of public support for new anti-corruption measures in Brazil. A petition signed by 2.5 million Brazilians led to the writing of a corruption-fighting bill that made it to a vote before Congress. But before lawmakers voted on the measure, they amended it to remove some of its strongest provisions. By voting in favor of the weakened anti-corruption bill, lawmakers may have only reinforced a widely held belief among the public that politics and corruption go hand in hand.
Congress’s lower chamber voted to pass the anti-corruption bill by a vote of 450-1. Yet the bill they approved was a shell of the original. Important provisions, such as the legal definition of the crime of illegal enrichment and protections for informants, were removed from the measure, according to The Guardian. In their place, lawmakers added new penalties for judges and prosecutors who abuse their authority. Political and legal observers say such changes would have the effect of helping to shield lawmakers from prosecution.
Part of the controversy surrounding the vote was its timing. Lawmakers voted to pass the bill in the early morning hours, giving the appearance that they were trying to avoid public scrutiny. The vote also followed the plane crash in Colombia that killed most of the players from the Chapecoense soccer club, also drawing media attention away from the vote.
However, the legislative maneuvering has not gone unnoticed. Prosecutors investigating the Petrobras kickbacks now say they will resign if President Michel Temer signs the bill into law. Sérgio Moro, the judge presiding over the Petrobras case, said in a Senate debate one day after the vote that the revised bill was an attempt to intimidate judges, according to Reuters.
Some critics of the new bill see it as a threat to Brazil’s independent judiciary. While President Temer previously stated he would veto any bill that shields politicians from prosecution, his aides now say that he will wait until Congress is finished before making his decision. Much is riding on his decision. The Brazilian public may not have been watching when Congress initially voted on the bill in the dead of night, but all eyes are certainly watching now.