Federal Police arrested Fernando Pezão, governor of Rio de Janeiro State, on corruption charges on November 29, as part of the Lava Jato (Car Wash) Operation, suspected of receiving bribes surpassing 25 million BRL between 2007 and 2015. Arrest warrants were issued for several other government officials and businessmen, which together with Pezão are suspected of integrating a criminal organization involved in embezzlement of public funds. Pezão was vice-governor of Rio from 2007-2014, under former Governor Sérgio Cabral, who in 2016 was jailed for corruption and suspected of integrating the same criminal organization.
This development underscores entrenched corruption reaching the highest levels of government in Rio de Janeiro State, as well as throughout Brazil. That said, the arrest marks another success of Lava Jato, which has started to provide, to corrupt agents and the general population, the feeling that impunity is no longer a given in the country. With former Lava Jato judge Sérgio Moro as minister of justice, the legal system will be emboldened to continue targeting high-profile individuals and firms, with potential consequences running from the short to long term. More immediately, given that Pezão's mandate would in any case finish at the end of 2018, we assess his arrest will have little impact on the functioning of the government and the transition of power to Governor-elect Wilson Witzel.