Heated Exchanges as Brazilian Lawmakers Start Petrobras Probe
1:22 PM BRT
March 5, 2015
(Bloomberg) — Shouting and finger-pointing between lawmakers marked the opening of Congress’s latest probe of corruption allegations at Brazil’s state-controlled oil company.
Lawmakers raised their voices and yelled accusations as they argued over the creation of subcomissions in the first day of the parliamentary investigation into Petroleo Brasileiro SA, according to video posted on the Globo News website. Some legislators argued that they weren’t consulted in setting up the groups, leading to unbalanced political representation, Globo said.
The belligerent climate in Congress reflects a politically charged environment as Brazil’s biggest corruption scandal spreads from the oil company into the political sphere. The creation last month of a parliamentary investigation, known as a CPI, coincides with a request by the prosecutor general earlier this week to the Supreme Court asking for authorization of a probe of senior politicians for their roles in the scandal.
The investigation of politicians threatens to weaken the governing coalition and deadlock Congress as President Dilma Rousseff seeks approval for spending cuts and tax increases. The scandal has contributed to a decline in Rousseff’s approval rating, which is the lowest of any Brazilian president in 15 years.
Some of the kickbacks allegedly paid by contractors in the Petrobras case went to legislators and political parties, including as much as $200 million to the ruling Workers’ Party, or PT, according to Pedro Barusco, a former Petrobras services manager who made a deal to turn state’s witness. The PT has said that all contributions were within the law.
During the furious exchanges at the opening of the CPI on Thursday, some lawmakers continued calling each other “your excellency,” the honorific style given to certain state officials.