Brazil's ongoing corruption probe has claimed another round of victims, this time from the highest ranks of President Michel Temer's administration. On March 14, Brazilian General Prosecutor Rodrigo Janot asked the country's Supreme Federal Court to open an investigation into a handful of the figures in Temer's inner circle, alleging that they had received illegal campaign donations and bribes from one of the country's largest engineering firms, Odebrecht. (The company was one of several firms swept up in the massive corruption scandal surrounding Brazilian energy giant Petrobras that broke in 2014, and its executives signed a plea deal with Brazilian authorities last year.)
The list of politicians in Janot's crosshairs was leaked to the media on March 14, a tactic that investigators have used in the past to keep the Petrobras scandal in the public eye. The names include Chief of Staff Eliseu Padilha, Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes, Secretary-General of the Presidency Moreira Franco, Communications Minister Gilberto Kassab and Cities Minister Bruno Araujo. Janot also requested probes into the heads of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, as well as into top lawmakers from the ruling Brazil Democratic Movement Party and the Brazilian Social Democracy Party.
Janot's list was not limited to officials currently serving in the government, either. He also asked to look into the activities of former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, as well as former finance ministers Antonio Palocci and Guido Mantega. Because these figures no longer enjoy the immunity that came with their previous jobs, their cases — along with 207 others — will be forwarded to the lower courts for deliberation. Meanwhile, the Supreme Federal Court will review the 83 investigations into current officials that Janot requested. Judge Edson Fachin, who is tasked with handling the Petrobras corruption debacle, will likely take three days to consider the cases and decide whether the testimonies of Odebrecht officials that led to the charges on the list will be made public.
Fachin may rule that there is not enough evidence against the politicians on Janot's list to proceed with the probe against them. If, however, he chooses to begin the investigations, the cases could take up to two years to wrap up. But regardless of the cases' outcome, the damage to Temer's administration will be done. With many of his allies weighed down by accusations and legal proceedings, the president will have an even tougher time pushing his controversial pension and labor reforms through Congress. The bills, which would increase the retirement age and introduce flexibility into labor legislation, are deeply unpopular and have already prompted strikes by labor unions. The latest revelation of misdeeds at the highest levels of government will only add to the unrest as demonstrators take to the streets on March 26 to protest corruption in Brasilia.