Brazil Justice Minister Stepping Down as Probes Fuel Dissent

  • Jose Eduardo Cardozo was at odds with ruling party over probes
  • Cardozo now will take over as nation's attorney general

Brazilian Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo will step down and take over as the nation’s attorney general, fueling concerns about political meddling in the country’s largest ever corruption investigation.

President Dilma Rousseff will replace Cardozo with Wellington Cesar Lima e Silva, the chief prosecutor from Bahia state, according to a government statement. The current attorney general, Luis Inacio Adams, previously said he would resign at the end of February. The cabinet changes are planned to be implemented on Thursday, according to a government official who was briefed on the matter.

Cardozo faced months of attacks from fellow members of the ruling Workers’ Party for allowing federal police to investigate allies on allegations of corruption and graft. The federal police in Brazil are technically part of the Justice Ministry but have operational independence. Cardozo’s exit will make him the second senior cabinet member to leave the administration amid heavy criticism from the Workers’ Party in recent months, after finance minister Joaquim Levy in December.

Police Investigations

The cabinet shakeups underscore how Brazil’s largest-ever corruption investigation is creating tension between the Rousseff administration and her party, whose members say she should do more to protect their allies. The rift became so tense that Rousseff on Saturday skipped an event in Rio de Janeiro to commemorate the party’s 36th anniversary.

The police investigation, known as Car Wash, has landed dozens of business executives and politicians in jail, including members of the Workers’ Party, known as the PT.

Over the past month, a founder of the party and mentor to Rousseff, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, himself has moved to the center of police probes. He said at Saturday’s celebration that he expects authorities to gain access to his bank records as part of their investigations. He denies any wrongdoing.

Cardozo, who began his political career in Sao Paulo with the PT and helped with Rousseff’s 2010 presidential campaign, has served as the justice minister since 2011.

Two federal police organizations said they are concerned about political pressure on police operations after Cardozo’s departure from the Justice Ministry, according to statements published Monday.

Cardozo’s exit “could threaten the current model for criminal investigation,” the National Federal Police Federation said in a statement. The federation hopes the new minister, Cesar, will continue to scale up the fight against corruption and protect the police from political influence, the statement said.

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