The Petrobras (Petroleo Brasileiro SA) corruption scandal caused the outrage of the Brazilian public opinion, determining tens of thousands of Brazilians to get out on the streets and ask for their president’s impeachment. Protests have sprouted in 22 Brazilian states, as well as in Brasilia, the federal capital. Sao Paulo, the most populous city in the country and an important opposition headquarters, was the scene of the largest and most vocal revolts. Brazilian data analysts at Datafolha estimate the presence at the protests on Avenida Paulista to around 200,000, but the police say it was one million. In Brasilia 40,000 demonstrated in front of the Congress building, which led to allegations of a coup d’état attempt, given that the president was just elected for a four-year mandate last year, by a majority of 55%.
Many of the protesters wore green and yellow clothes and shouted slogans against the currently leading Workers’ Party and especially against corruption. The reason for their rage is that they are convinced the president was aware of the high-level corruption in the state oil company, Petrobras. Many politicians accused of taking bribes are part of the governing coalition, and it is known that President Dilma Rousseff was head of the company when the bribery took place. 54 officials were under investigation by the Supreme Court for the Petrobras kickback scheme. Apparently, private companies gave large sums of money to politicians to obtain Petrobras contracts. The list of high-level corrupt officials includes the Senate President (Renan Calheiros), the President of the Chamber of Deputies (Eduardo Cunha), the ex-Minister of Energy (Edison Lobao), and the ex-President (Fernando Collor de Mello). They all deny involvement in corruption schemes, but the public opinion is convinced that they were guilty.
Braskem SA, the largest producer of petrochemical products in Latin America, is among the companies called to testify in the federal investigation. Although its involvement is not proven yet, its stocks have fallen abruptly over the past week. Braskem, whose headquarters is in Sao Paulo, denied having taken any illegal steps in its interaction with Petrobras. They said all the contracts and transactions respected the legal requirements. They claim that the fall in their bonds is due to their being tied to the American dollar.
However, evidence speaks against Braskem. In their testimony in front of the Supreme Court on March 6, Paulo Roberto Costa and Alberto Youssef from Petrobras confessed that they had received annual bribes of $5 million from the Sao Paulo petrochemical company, between 2006 and 2012, for the purchase of petroleum products such as naphtha and propylene at lower prices. Petrobras provides around 70% of Braskem’s naphtha, a chemical ingredient needed for most of the polymers it produces.
image source: BBC news