Senator Aécio Neves, cornered by corruption allegations, secured a huge win for himself last week. The Senate floor overruled a Supreme Court decision to suspend him from office and instead placed him under a mild form of house arrest. Earlier this year, Neves was caught on tape having conversations deemed “improper” – to borrow a popular euphemism in Brasília. Thanks to a narrow majority (44 out of 81 senators), Neves avoided becoming the second sitting Brazilian senator to be punished in democratic times.
In 2015, the Senate confirmed a Supreme Court decision to arrest Delcídio do Amaral, formerly of the Workers’ Party. Amaral was recorded attempting to negotiate bribery payments to a former Petrobras executive, who had signed a plea deal with Operation Car Wash. Neves’ wrongdoing was different: he was recorded asking for 2 million BRL from Joesley Batista, the owner of the JBS meatpacking group and similarly entangled in shadowy corruption schemes. Yet the conversation made explicit some questionable aspects of current governance, including the incestuous relationship between private and public interests in Brazil.
So why did the Senate put Amaral in prison but let Neves go?