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Dilma Rousseff © Senado Federal

Was Dilma Rousseff Really An Honest President?

According to businessman Marcelo Odebrecht, former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff knew all about the illegal financing of her 2014 campaign.

In 2016, Dilma Rousseff lost her office as the Brazilian president after a highly controversial impeachment process. Officially, she was ousted for having doctored the federal budget and committing fiscal crimes. Her supporters, however, cried foul and wrote off the impeachment as the reaction of a corrupt political establishment against an “honest president” who refused to play by the men’s rules.

There’s no doubt that the Brazilian political establishment is corrupt. But how much truth is there in calling Rousseff an “honest president”? It depends on what we consider honest.

According to businessman Marcelo Odebrecht, the former CEO of Brazil’s largest construction firm, Rousseff knew about the dirty money financing her re-election campaign. In a statement to Brazil’s superior electoral court, Odebrecht said that the former Brazilian president was aware of his company’s massive contributions. She also knew that the money wasn’t on the campaign’s books.

In Brazil, however, people try to separate a politician who benefited from corruption to finance his or her campaign from the one who puts dirty money into their pockets. Rousseff, as far as we know, does not belong to the latter group. Unlike former Governor Sérgio Cabral, she didn’t receive an allowance from corrupt businessmen. Nor did she spend $1 million during a Paris trip, as did the wife of former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, the nation’s poster boy for corruption. But can we still say that Rousseff was an honest politician, with no nuance in that assessment?

Of course, there is a moral gap between those who use dodgy campaign funds and those who use bribes to pay for a lavish lifestyle. But considering any of those politicians as “honest” is dangerous. Elected officials shouldn’t be able to pick and choose which laws they will respect.

Brazilian President Under Threat

In addition, Odebrecht’s statement further complicates the situation of incumbent President Michel Temer. Odebrecht is a key witness in the case that is investigating whether or not the Rousseff-Temer re-election campaign of 2014 received money from corruption schemes. The case began immediately after the election and continued even after Rousseff lost her office.

If the court decides on a conviction for the campaign, the presidential race will be annulled. The result will be the impeachment of Temer and new, indirect elections for president.

Temer’s defense team wants to prove that the presidential and the vice-presidential committees had separate finances. His lawyers say that he didn’t benefit from any funding coming from the Workers’ Party.

However, as plus55 showed in November 2016, that defense strategy has major holes. A construction company donated $300,000 to the Workers’ Party National Committee back in 2014. According to the executive, that money was a kickback. But the check in question was not to the Workers’ Party, nor to Rousseff’s campaign committee. The check had Temer and his party, the PMDB, as beneficiaries.

*[This article was originally published by plus55, a partner institution of Fair Observer.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Senado Federal