Brazilian police have arrested two former governors of Rio de Janeiro state — one for involvement in the sprawling Petrobras corruption scandal, one for allegedly buying votes — within a 24-hour period.
On Wednesday, police in Brazil arrested former governor Anthony Garotinho after a legal probe uncovered evidence that he had, according to the Associated Press, planned to “fraudulently enroll people in a poverty reduction program in exchange for votes in municipal elections in the city of Campos dos Goytacazes.” Garotinho’s office responded to the arrest by calling it “arbitrary” and denying all charges against him.
On Thursday morning, police arrested former governor Sérgio Cabral, Garotinho’s successor. Cabral, a member of the ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), was a stalwart ally of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during his presidency, and has been arrested on corruption charges that have ensnared da Silva, as well. Reuters reports that Cabral’s arrest is related to a $64 million embezzlement scheme related to the Petrobras scandal known as “Operation Car Wash,” in which government officials systematically overcharged on government contracts for the state-owned oil corporation and pocketed the change.
Cabral was arrested along with eight other individuals following a request from Judge Sergio Moro, whose leadership in the Operation Car Wash scheme was largely responsible for the resignation of da Silva’s successor, socialist former president Dilma Rousseff. Shortly before the Brazilian Congress voted to impeach her, Moro released audio of a conversation between Rousseff and da Silva in which she agreed to grant him executive immunity should Moro’s investigation lead too closely back to him. Rousseff had abruptly appointed da Silva her chief of staff, granting him immunity after Moro ordered da Silva to come in for questioning regarding the corruption scheme.
Cabral is facing charges for laundering money and engaging in organized crime in relation to Operation Car Wash.
Garotinho’s personal blog has celebrated Cabral’s arrest. The Brazilian newspaper O Globo notes that a post published Thursday on the blog reads, “Sérgio Cabral’s time has come… it is important to note that Cabral’s situation is completely different from Garotinho’s.”
The arrests appear to heighten the alarm around da Silva’s camp, as new revelations indicate he was aware of the million-dollar kickback scheme as president. The Brazilian magazine ISTOÉ published a report last week claiming that Brazilian conglomerate CEO Marcelo Odebrecht, currently serving 19 years in prison for his ties to Operation Car Wash, had signaled to authorities that da Silva was part of the operation.
The corruption investigation has continued to trigger protests across the nation. On Wednesday, an estimated 60 protesters stormed the Brazilian Congress, noting the PMDB’s ties to the corruption probe and the Workers’ Party’s and demanding the military intervene to remove President Michel Temer. Temer’s spokesman, Alexandre Parola, condemned the infiltration: “Episodes like today’s are unacceptable and will be fought in the light of law and in defence of the integrity of each of the state’s institutions.”