“Petrobras is bigger than all of us,” declared Brazilian President Dilma Roussef. “Petrobras is as big as Brazil.” Brazil’s federal police had raided the state-run oil company’s headquarters three days earlier, on April 11, and President Roussef was defensive. “No one and nothing,” she said, “will destroy Petrobras.” That the probe proceeds despite President Roussef’s warnings demonstrates the power of the Brazilian people. While it is too early to know whether Brazil will prosecute its biggest company, the investigation, and a separate congressional inquiry, may be testaments to the impact that mass public protests — involving more than 1 million protestors over the course of the last year — have had on prosecutors and government officials.
The Petrobras probe’s initiation months before a presidential election, and the political battle surrounding it, however, raise a red flag: are the people speaking, or are powerful political groups?