Operation Car Wash’s Sandcastle

Years before Operation Car Wash and Judge Sergio Moro shattered the Brazilian political system, another probe threatened political parties and construction companies. Back in 2009, Operation Sandcastle investigated illegal donations these companies made to parties from all sides of the political spectrum—and nearly pulled the thread to reveal how putrid the Brazilian political establishment had become. Sounds a lot like the Car Wash case, right?

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But if you&#8217;ve never heard of Operation Sandcastle, it&#8217;s because it was dismissed by the Superior Court of Justice for relying on illegal proceedings. The probe gathered evidence of money laundering schemes, tax evasion, corruption, and illegal campaign donations—everything went to the trash. Some fear (others hope) that Operation Car Wash could share the same fate.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If confirmed that then-Judge (and current Justice Minister) Sergio Moro coordinated with the prosecution, and nothing has indicated otherwise, he committed an illegal act—even if this has, sadly, become the norm in Brazil&#8217;s Justice system. &#8220;From the go, he was making decisions not to impartially judge, but rather to reach goals—to convict people on trial,&#8221; says Guilherme Ziliani Carnelos, from the Institute for the Right of Defense.</span></p> <h4>Could Lula be released from prison?</h4> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In November 2018, former President Lula filed an appeal to the Supreme Court saying Mr. Moro&#8217;s decision to join Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s cabinet proved he acted politically in convicting him (in the lead up to the election, Lula led all opinion polls before he was removed from the ballot). The case was put on hold in December, after Justice Gilmar Mendes (an opponent of Operation Car Wash) asked for more time to analyze it. Yesterday, Justice Mendes decided he was ready to give his vote. The case could be heard by a panel today.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another Lula-related case is on today&#8217;s docket: a request to nullify the former President&#8217;s conviction. The case was set to happen virtually, but Justice Mendes called for the full court to sit and trial the matter.</span></p> <h4>Isolated Moro</h4> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Amid the reactions to the case, there was one notable absence: Mr. Moro&#8217;s boss, President Jair Bolsonaro—who has said he will only talk after a private chat with his Justice Minister. Except for Car Wash prosecutors—who are trying to save their own skin—and military officers in the cabinet, support for Mr. Moro was scarce and unrestricted. It doesn&#8217;t help that Mr. Bolsonaro has already complained to allies that he believes Mr. Moro wants his seat in 2022.</span></p> <ul> <li><b>Go deeper:</b> <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/06/10/sergio-moro-leaks-operation-car-wash/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Justice Minister message leaks could destroy Op. Car Wash</span></a></li> </ul> <hr /> <h2>Chief of Staff could spark reaction by missing summoning</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">President Bolsonaro&#8217;s Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni was summoned to talk tomorrow at the House&#8217;s Constitution and Justice Committee about the government&#8217;s gun control decree. While the law forces him to comply with the request, Mr. Lorenzoni sent a letter to the committee saying he will be too busy, offering alternative dates.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The move is a rather puzzling one, as members of Congress often hold a grudge to this kind of snub. Mr. Lorenzoni&#8217;s letter comes on the eve of one of the most important congressional votes for the administration: on whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. A deal was celebrated between government officials and centrist parties to authorize an extra BRL 248.9bn, but the refusal could spark fury—in what has been a tense relationship between Executive and Legislative.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The hearing with Mr. Lorenzoni was called after multiple legal challenges to the decree—coupled with opinion polls showing that most Brazilians are actually against looser gun rules.</span></p> <hr /> <h2>Legal marijuana in Brazil?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil&#8217;s National Agency of Sanitary Surveillance (Anvisa) will begin a vote today on two proposals to regulate the growing of cannabis in Brazil for medicinal and scientific purposes. If approved, the motions will undergo a process of public hearings before becoming official. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is currently prohibited to plant cannabis on Brazilian soil—barring a few exceptions. Since 2015, however, Anvisa has cleared the therapeutic use of cannabinoids—substances based on THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical responsible for most of cannabis’ psychological effects. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But bureaucracy is an issue, as well as elevated prices. Parents of children with microcephaly must pay BRL 1,500 for 30 milliliters of a THC-based oil that helps their kids bear the symptoms of their condition. The high price of treatments has led 46 families to file suit against Brazil’s public healthcare system, asking the government to pay for the import of the cannabis-based products.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For Margarete Brito, member of an association to support cannabis-related medical research, the process is far too complicated for most patients. “Many families are not able to import and often end up buying from the illegal market,” she complains. “Also, many doctors don’t even prescribe these medicines, as they know that the patient won’t be able to get their hands on it.”</span></p> <ul> <li><b>Go deeper:</b><a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2018/07/23/medical-marijuana-brazil/"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">What’s the status of medical marijuana in Brazil?</span></a></li> </ul> <hr /> <h2>Also noteworthy</h2> <p><b>Hacks.</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Even if the source hasn&#8217;t been revealed, many assume that </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Intercept</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> got the messages exchanged by prosecutors by way of a hack. That has worried high-profile companies, who immediately started to discuss alternatives to messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram to discuss company matters. Last year, a survey among CEOs showed that </span><a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2018/01/19/cyber-attacks-brazil-businesses/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">cyber attacks, not inflation</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, are more of a worry to Brazilian businesses.</span></p> <p><b>Petrobras.</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Brazil&#8217;s state-controlled oil and gas company Petrobras is expected to reach a deal today with antitrust authorities, clearing the path to sell off half of its oil refineries. The company wants to put an end to investigations into alleged abuses in the oil refining market—in which Petrobras has a market share of over 99%.</span></p> <p><b>Impeachment. </b><span style="font-weight: 400;">It seems, after all, that Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella will be able to keep his job. The special impeachment committee in Rio&#8217;s City Council is set to pass a report stating there is no evidence of the mayor having participated in irregular deals with advertising companies. In Mr. Crivella&#8217;s </span><a href="https://oglobo.globo.com/rio/comissao-da-camara-dara-parecer-contra-impeachment-de-crivella-23730532"><span style="font-weight: 400;">favor</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, councilors fear that next year&#8217;s mayoral election could see a win for an extreme-left or extreme-right party.

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BY Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.