Brazilian capital prepares for a new government

Cabo Patrício, president of Brazil’s federal district chamber of deputies, established the criteria for the elections to select the next governor on April 17. (Marcus Bennett for Infosurhoy.com)

Cabo Patrício, president of Brazil’s federal district chamber of deputies, established the criteria for the elections to select the next governor on April 17. (Marcus Bennett for Infosurhoy.com)

By Marcus Bennett for Infosurhoy.com—15/04/2010

BRASÍLIA, Brazil – Since the Brazilian federal police carried out Pandora’s box operation earlier this year that found corruption practiced by the local government in Brazil’s capital, three governors already have come and gone in the nation’s capital.

A fourth is expected to take command in April 19, mere days before Brasília celebrates its 50th anniversary, on April 21.

With the imprisonment and impeachment of the elected governor, José Roberto Arruda, and the resignation of the vice-governor, Paulo Octávio, the post then fell into the hands of the president of the legislative chamber of the federal district, Wilson Lima, who will serve as governor temporarily.

Since the Brazilian Constitution establishes the need of indirect elections 30 days after the posts of governor and vice-governor are vacated, the district deputies will have to choose a new commander for the federal district on April 17. The appointed individual will hold office until Dec. 31.

On Jan.1, the governor to be elected in the regular elections of Oct.3 will be sworn in, becoming the fifth governor of the federal district within a year.

Of the seven tickets that will square off in the indirect elections, two are among the most favored to win. One is headed by the deputy and current interim governor Wilson Lima, with fellow deputy Agnaldo de Jesus as his vice-candidate.

The other favorite ticket is comprised of former university of Brasília’s dean Antônio Ibañez, with unionist Cícero Rola as his vice-candidate.

In order to avoid having interim governor Wilson Lima as the only candidate on the ticket, the chamber of deputies decided to be flexible on the requirements for candidates to run for office.

With the decision, all candidates who qualify for the regular election on Oct. 3 were allowed to be part of the indirect one on April 17. With the decision, candidates affiliated for less than a year with their parties or who were still in an executive position in the past six months will run for governor of the Federal District.

“Neither the candidates nor anyone knew, a year ago, that now in April there would be indirect elections,” Cabo Patrício, president of the chamber of deputies, says. “So, because these elections will be atypical, and after consultations with the regional electoral court and the electoral public ministry, we came to this decision.”

Still Virgílio Macedo, gubernatorial candidate for the Christian social democrat party (PSDC in the Portuguese acronym), submitted a petition on April 12 to rescind his decision to run for governor, which was formally presented on April 8.

“The party decided not to participate in the elections in the way that they are being conducted,” Macedo said.

Federal intervention

Attorney general Roberto Gurgel asked for the federal government to intervene in the case. In these indirect elections, Gurgel says the ones to decide the future governor will not be the people but the district’s deputies, who also were accused of receiving kickbacks from the ex-governor, José Roberto Arruda.

“The deputies do not have the moral conditions, ethics and democratic sensibilities to elect another politician,” Gurgel says.

Gurgel awaits a decision from the federal supreme court (STF in the Portuguese acronym), but the president of the STF, minister Gilmar Mendes, already has said that the court will not be able to review the request before he leaves office on April 23.

Therefore the request for federal intervention will have to wait until the next president of the STF, minister Cezar Peluzo, takes the helm.

Unheard of in Brazilian politics, a possible federal intervention in the capital is not being viewed positively by many jurists and justice department ministers, who already have spoken out against the request.

If federal intervention is approved, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will have to nominate an acting governor until the new governor takes office on Jan. 1.

Arruda freed

In a special session of the Brazilian supreme court (STJ), eight of the 15 ministers decided to free the federal district’s former governor José Roberto Arruda.

Arruda was arrested Feb. 11 by the federal police in Brasília. In his criminal trial, Arruda was identified as the leader of a scheme to distribute kickbacks to sympathetic district deputies, business leaders and his administration’s employees.

Even with the attorney general’s office asking for an upholding of Arruda’s sentence, minister Fernando Gonçalves, commenting on the case on behalf of the superior trial of justice (STJ in the Portuguese acronym), explained that there was no further justification to keep Arruda in jail, seeing as how Arruda was no longer governor and it would be difficult for him to influence or disturb the investigations of Pandora’s box operation.

With the decision, district deputy Geraldo Naves, who was accused of being involved in an attempt to bribe journalist Edson Sombra, also was freed. Naves reassumed his post in the chamber of deputies on April 13, which will allow him to vote for the federal district’s governor on April 17.

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