Saturday, May 30, 2020

In Brazil, the "oranges" affair provokes a crisis in the presidential party

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonar at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on 8 October. ADRIANO MACHADO / REUTERS

In Brazil, it's called an "orange". Yet, unlike citrus, the expression does not refer to something healthy, but rather to a financial scandal, and more specifically to a person whose identity is used to conceal fraud, committed by a third party. The origin of the popular metaphor is mysterious. But, in a case of misappropriation of funds affecting power, she finds herself today in the media of the country.

According to the Public Prosecutor's Office, which handed over the results of its investigation on Friday, October 4, the Minister of Tourism, Marcelo Alvaro Antonio, would indeed be suspected of being at the heart of a vast case of embezzlement of campaign funds. The scandal, revealed by the daily newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo early 2019, would involve, in several regions of Brazil, cadres of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), training of President Jair Bolsonaro. It could ultimately have serious consequences for the future of the movement.

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The story goes back to the 2018 elections, and the march to power of the far-right candidate. Marcelo Alvaro Antonio is then deputy, leader of the PSL in Minas Gerais (southeast) and candidate for re-election. It was at this point that he diverted the campaign funds allocated to several ghost candidates (the famous "oranges") to the post of deputy. These candidates would never have actually campaigned. In all, for the only Minas Gerais, nearly 190 000 reais (42 000 euros) would have been subtracted in justice, and this for the benefit of leaders of the training.

A judge must decide whether or not to open a trial. For its part, the Minister of Tourism has ruled out leaving his post. "Why withdraw me, when I have a clear conscience? " Alvaro Antonio simply commented on the radio on Monday.

"The opposition remains fragmented"

The retention of Mr. Alvaro Antonio in his post questions as clues against him multiply. The case has already had serious repercussions. In February, the all-powerful secretary general of the presidency, Gustavo Bebianno, involved in the same scandal, was brutally dismissed by Jair Bolsonaro. But it seems today that Mr. Bebianno's dismissal is more the result of his execrable ties with one of the president's sons, Carlos, than this case of misappropriation of public funds. In a clan-based power, getting angry with the elder Bolsonaro, nicknamed the "pittbul" of the president, is, in fact, a crime of lèse-majesté.

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