LATIN AMERICA

Anger at Brazilian politicians’ misuse of official planes

Congress speaker used plane to attend Confederations Cup match

Juan Arias
Río de Janeiro -
A protestor shouts outside the home of Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral on Thursday.
A protestor shouts outside the home of Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral on Thursday.Marcelo Sayão (EFE)

Brazilian politicians have found themselves at the center of fresh citizen outrage following reports that many of them have been using official jets and helicopters for personal purposes.

After hundreds of thousands of Brazilians poured out onto the streets over the last month to demand political and social changes, these latest allegations have only added to the anger among many sectors.

The total costs involved for these unofficial trips are not known.

Last month, Congress speaker Henrique Eduardo Alves used a military plane to take his girlfriend, family and friends to Confederations Cup match at Maracanã stadium in Rio.

Senate speaker Renan Calheiro, who is under investigation for corruption by the Supreme Court and faces a petition of a million signatures calling for his resignation, used another military plane to attend the wedding of the daughter of a close friend in Trancoso, Bahia state.

Social Planning Minister Garibaldi Alves also used a military aircraft to attend a match at Maracanã, and Sérgio Cabral, the governor of Rio state, has been using an official helicopter, which cost the government eight million dollars, almost daily.

Cabral has not been able to get to his home recently because it has been surrounded by protestors. According to the magazine Veja, he also uses the chopper to fly to his ranch on the weekends, taking his employees, dog and family.

At first, both speakers of Congress and the Senate tried to justify using the planes by falling back on a law that allows them to use official military craft. But pressured by public opinion and by angry protestors, the two leaders apologized and have begun paying back what they spent.

Each flight in a military jet costs some 70,000 reals, or 24,000 euros. Governor Cabral has not said if he will return what he owes and nor has he given any explanations for using the chopper. Politicians have the right to airline tickets paid for by the government, and use of military aircraft is meant to be a limited right.

Political analysts said that the behavior of these politicians while protests raged in the streets shows a total disregard for the seriousness of the demonstrations on the part of elected officials.

President Dilma Rousseff has promised holding a referendum to introduce sweeping changes to the country’s political establishment and social structures. But Brazilians are demanding that the reforms should start by eliminating all privileges for elected officials, including reducing salaries, which are among the world’s highest for politicians.

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