Cablegate: One Less Rogue in the Gallery: Politician Charged

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Carlos Xavier on August 10 became the
first legislator ever expelled from the District Assembly
(equivalent to a state senate) of the Federal District of
Brasilia. No mean feat, given the Assembly's notoriety as a
haven for scoundrels. Xavier, who emerged from humble
origins, is the subject of an ongoing investigation into a
web of land frauds. But the crime that led to his expulsion
was his alleged involvement in the murder of a 16-year old
boy who had been having an affair with Xavier's wife. While
the evidence against Xavier was overwhelming and his defense
implausible, his Assembly colleagues expelled him by the
bare-minimum vote margin. Some of the other Deputies were
probably concerned about setting a precedent by expelling an
accused criminal, as the 24-member Assembly --never known for
its high-quality work-- still houses a half dozen Deputies
suspected of various crimes. Thus, the entire affair leaves
in doubt whether this is a blow against impunity, a small
step in the right direction, or merely serves to draw a line:
that murderers, at least, will not be tolerated in the
District Assembly. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) One of eleven children of an itinerant bricklayer,
Carlos Xavier put himself through school shining shoes and
selling candy on street corners. Finding work as a
bureaucrat in the Brasilia government, he got involved in
local politics and in 1994 was elected to the first of three
terms in the District Assembly. A member of the PMDB party
and allied to PMDB Governor Joaquim Roriz, Xavier beat
charges in 1998 that he bribed two teenaged girls not to
testify against his brother in a rape case. Since 2001, he
has been under investigation on charges that he and his
cronies benefited from his actions to fraudulently rezone
empty public lots as business sites. Some of the properties'
values increased fifty times.

3. (SBU) In 2002, Carlos Xavier ran for his third term in the
Brasilia District Assembly. During the race, campaign
volunteer Ewerton da Rocha began a sexual affair with
Xavier's wife. In March 2004, Ewerton, 16, was found shot to
death in a field --allegedly killed by two youths sent by
Xavier. Xavier had visited Ewerton's house just before the
killing and threatened his parents. The police and the
District Assembly's Ethics Committee began looking into his
involvement in the murder, and on June 22, a Brasilia court
indicted him for aggravated homicide. A week later, the
Ethics Committee passed a motion for Xavier's expulsion.

4. (SBU) Given a chance to present a defense, Xavier's weepy
ramblings convinced nobody, and on August 5, the full
24-member Assembly cast the bare minimum 13 votes to expel
him. No appeal is possible. Thus Xavier became the first
District Deputy to be expelled from the Assembly in its
thirteen-year history. Afterward, some of his PMDB
colleagues tried vainly to annul the vote, but the expulsion
became official on August 10. In addition to losing his
Assembly seat, Xavier loses his "political rights" and cannot
run in any election until 2014. He will be tried for murder
in a common court along with his co-defendants.

5. (SBU) "Cricketing" ("grilagem") is a term that covers a
range of land crimes from fraudulent zoning to outright land
theft. It came by its name because early perpetrators would
put forged deeds into a box with live crickets, whose
effluence would yellow the documents and lend them
authenticity. Cricketing is particularly common in Brasilia
because the city has sprung up in forty years on near-empty
land in Brazil's interior. Brasilia's real estate and
development agencies, Terracap and Novacap, administer
340,000 hectares of public land, privatizing and zoning it as
necessary. For decades clever bureaucrats, politicians, and
builders have found ingenious ways to manipulate the titling
and zoning processes for immense personal gain. With their
enormous profits and low risk, land frauds are at the heart
of most of Brasilia's scandals and are the basis for the
personal fortunes of many local politicians.

6. (SBU) Thus the Xavier affair no doubt causes some jitters
among those who would rather not set a precedent of expelling
accused criminals. Or as one of Xavier's allies told the
press, "If you open the gate, the whole herd might get out."
Among the suspects:

- Benicio Tavares (PMDB), the Assembly Speaker, who uses a
wheelchair, has built a career as a defender of handicapped
rights. Last year he was convicted of embezzling funds from
the Handicapped Association of Brasilia, of which he was

- Wigberto Tartuce (PP). The "Big Vig" resigned as Brasilia's
Labor Secretary in 1999 under fire for embezzling millions
from unemployment programs and laundering it through offshore
accounts linked to the "Banestado" scandal. His tenure at
the Secretariat has so far resulted in 42 investigations, and
Tartuce has been ordered to repay over US$ 1.5 million. In
June, a judge ordered him to pay back a US$ 370,000 gambling
debt he ran up in four days in a Bahamian casino.

- Jose Edmar (PMDB), jailed for a month in 2003 during a land
fraud investigation called "Operation Cricket". Edmar, who
now fortuitously chairs the Assembly's Land Affairs
Committee, has threatened to kill Tartuce, whose backroom
maneuvers he blames for landing him in jail.

- Pedro Passos (PMDB), chairs the Justice Committee. A crony
of Governor Roriz, together and separately they have been
subjects of many land fraud allegations. In 1995, an
Assembly investigation called him Brasilia's "greatest land
predator". In 2002, he was convicted of land fraud in a case
that is now on appeal. A 2003 case for stealing land in
public parks has yet to come to trial.

- Junior Brunelli (PP), started his cricketing career as an
evangelical church leader selling plots of land in heaven.
In April, he was in line to fill the urgent vacancy as Chair
of the Ethics Committee, which was then in the middle of the
Xavier case, until it emerged that he was under investigation
on suspicion that, during the 2002 campaign, he set up an
amateurish gang that intimidated opponents and murdered a
man. In early 2004, Brunelli was allegedly behind the
murders of two of the gang members to silence them. The
police investigation continues, but the District Assembly
thought it prudent not to make Brunelli the Ethics Committee

- Odilon Aires and Gim Argello (PMDB). Odilon was caught on
tape in 2002 complaining that his bribe for processing a huge
block of fraudulent land titles was only 50 lots, whereas Gim
Argello (now the Vice-Speaker) received 200. The Assembly's
Ethics Committee buried the case.

- Luiz Estevao (PMDB), no longer in the Assembly because he
was elected to the federal Senate in 2000, and then expelled
the next year when his construction firm was caught engaging
in massive overcharging and contract fixing on the 1999
construction of a Sao Paulo courthouse.

- Jose Tatico (PTB), elected Federal Deputy after serving
three terms in the District Assembly. Caught using Assembly
funds to pay employees at a supermarket he owns, he was given
an ethics warning.

7. (SBU) No Brasilia politician has ever been seriously
punished for corruption and many are reelected even after
their misdeeds become public. Some, like Estevao, Tatico,
and Jose Roberto Arruda (a Federal Deputy who in 2002 won the
most votes in Brasilia's history a year after he resigned
from the Senate in a scandal), even make it to the federal
Congress. Ruminating on Carlos Xavier's expulsion, Federal
Deputy Maninha (PT-Brasilia) doubts that there will be a
domino effect of other expulsions because the Deputies have
the goods on each other. "There won't be a second Carlos
Xavier in the short-term", she says, "these Deputies are
living archives, and now they'll be shut tight. Morality
will only come with popular pressure."

--------------------------------------------- --
8. (SBU) Brasilia's District Assembly has never been known
for the high quality of its work. In the first three months
of 2004 alone, Governor Roriz vetoed 40 of the Assembly's
bills because they were unconstitutional on their face.
After long debate, the Assembly in February passed one bill
to create a fishing pond for the unemployed to catch their
dinners and another that would build public bathrooms
exclusively for gays (both were vetoed). The Assembly spent
months choosing a wolf as Brasilia's official animal after
the first choice, a type of fish, was black-listed when it
was discovered to be a hermaphroditic species. Workers'
Party (PT) freshman Deputy Erika Kokay has lost her taste for
the legislature, saying she will not run for reelection in
2006, "I have no intention of staying here. This place is a

9. (SBU) Given the gravity of the charges against him, it is
encouraging that Carlos Xavier was expelled. But it seems
unlikely that the case is the tip of the iceberg in terms of
cleaning up the District Assembly. His colleagues voted him
out by the narrowest majority and Brasilia's voters have
remarkably short memories where corruption is concerned. It
is not at all clear whether the Xavier affair is a resounding
blow against impunity for Brazilian politicians, a small step
in the right direction, or merely serves to draw a tremulous
red line: that murderers, at least, will not be tolerated in
Brasilia's legislature.

© Scoop Media

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