The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) recently published the Pandora Papers, which revealed that Brazil’s Economy Minister, Paulo Guedes, has kept a sum of US$ 9.5 million invested in a company called Dreadnoughts International, which is based in the British Virgin Islands, since 2014. Since Guedes took up the job at the start of the Bolsonaro administration in January 2019, these assets have been shielded from the huge 40% devaluation of the Brazilian Real.
During the same time span, a severe economic crisis has pushed 112 million Brazilians—more than half of the population—into food insecurity, while 19 million are facing utter destitution and famine. The jobless account for 14% of the workforce, or 14 million people, with another 20 million working part-time. The revelation also disclosed that the head of Brazil’s Central Bank, Roberto Campos Neto, had an offshore account from 2004 to 2019. It was closed 14 months after he was appointed. These discoveries bear witness to the severe socioeconomic inequality that is a distinguishing feature of Brazilian capitalism. Brazil, the world’s 12th biggest economy, has the second-highest number of billionaire offshore wealth holders in the Pandora leak. Nearly 60,000 Brazilians hold US$ 192.6 billion in tax-free accounts overseas.
The disclosures in the Pandora Papers have caused widespread concern among Brazil’s governing elite. The main corporate newspapers in Brazil, including Folha de S. Paulo, Estado de S. Paulo, O Globo, and Valor, have either ignored the issue or focused solely on foreign authorities, international sports figures, and pop music superstars. The financial newspaper Valor interviewed Campos Neto on Monday and did not ask him even a single question on the discoveries. None of these corporate sources are affiliated with the ICIJ, which is represented in Brazil through the web-based Metrópolis and Poder360, as well as the magazine Piauí.
Major government antagonists in the establishment media, such as Globo’s Miriam Leitão, scrambled to clear Guedes of any financial misconduct, emphasizing that he had correctly declared his overseas assets to Brazil’s Federal Internal Revenue Service and the Presidential Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee is in charge of evaluating potential “conflicts of interest” involving state officials and cabinet members, who are prohibited by law from having financial interests directly affected by their policy decisions—such as the exchange rate of the Real in the case of the finance minister and the Central Bank chief.
Guedes has been sheltered by the corporate press and top authorities out of the fear that his departure will cause additional financial turmoil in the country. The bourgeois opposition and major news organizations have generally been against the Bolsonaro government on the grounds that it is incapable of solidifying Guedes’ “free-market reforms.” Despite its minimal condemnation of Guedes’ “social insensitivity,” the Workers Party (PT), the political opposition’s major force, has completely backed this right-wing resistance to Bolsonaro. For nearly three years, the party has centered its criticism of Bolsonaro on the charge that he is incapable of stopping the hemorrhaging of financial assets from the country and the Sao Paulo stock exchange, causing the Real’s value to fall, and that he has harmed trade with China and Europe due to his fascistic anti-Chinese and anti-environmental rhetoric.
More importantly, all of the aforementioned forces are worried about Guedes harboring his investments via offshore accounts abroad while brazenly supporting brutal austerity, high inflation, and Bolsonaro’s herd immunity policy at home. The murderous herd immunity policy is something that has unanimous approval among the country’s bourgeoisie governing elite as it helps them maintain their profits even it means the death of their workers. This includes the proprietors of the mainstream corporate news outlets like the Globo, CNN Brasil, the far-right Jovem Pan radio station, amongst others.