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  • Wilson Witzel poses with a gun as he vows to fight criminals, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2019.

    Wilson Witzel poses with a gun as he vows to fight criminals, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2019. | Photo: Twitter/ @LemusteleSUR

Published 28 August 2020 (7 hours 33 minutes ago)
Opinion

Governor Wilson Witzel structured a complex criminal organization to benefit private companies.

Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice (STJ) Friday ordered that Wilson Witzel be removed from the post of governor of Rio de Janeiro for six months due to irregularities in the management of public funds during the pandemic. It also issued arrest warrants for 17 people linked to the corruption network involving officials, politicians, and businessmen.

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Previously, the Attorney General's Office denounced the governor, his wife, and the Rio de Janeiro Legislative Assembly President Andre Ceciliano for corruption.

The Court's decision was notified to Witzel at his official residence, where the authorities also carried out the raids determined by the justice against his wife.

Inside the regional government, Witzel structured a criminal organization that was divided into three groups, all of which disputed power among themselves by paying bribes to public agents.

"These groups controlled institutions such as the Health Secretariat in which they implemented schemes that benefited private companies," the Prosecutor's Office explained.

The Governor reportedly used his wife's law office to receive money embezzled through four simulated contracts worth about US$91,000.

On May 26, the authorities ordered to search the Governor's residence and his wife's office. The local Legislative Assembly then opened a political trial against Witzel.

Friday began with the removal of Witzel and the arrest of Pastor Everaldo, who is the president of the Christian Social Party (PSC), which is President Jair Bolsonaro's former party. Pastor Everaldo is also responsible for the stage baptism of the Catholic president in the Jordan River, which was circulated as proof of Bolsonaro's conversion among the evangelists.

The Governor's removal destroys the image he built for himself over the years, through which he presented himself as a person of high moral values who would relentlessly fight criminals.

"Wilson Witzel and Jair Bolsonaro came out of political anonymity and achieved electoral victories using morality... as a solution to the problems of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil," local outlet Diario do Centro do Mondo recalled.

"Both the former judge and the former Capitan said they would impose order... both argued they were in crisis because of the previous governments' corruption."

Currently, Rio de Janeiro, which has 17 million inhabitants, is the third-largest source of coronavirus infections in Brazil. Regional authorities have reported over 200,000 COVID-19 cases and 5,000 deaths.

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