Of the 54 senators elected in 2018, 9 resorted to an old political habit: appointing wealthy businessmen as alternate members. One of them is Ogari de Castro Pacheco (DEM-TO), founding partner of the pharmaceutical company Cristália and 2nd substitute of Senator Eduardo Gomes (MDB-TO), who took office on February 1st.
Pacheco and seven other executives from the Cristália laboratory invested 2.1 million BRL (US$ 567,000) in Gomes’ candidacy, which represents 87% of the total collected by the campaign. “We are also going to innovate in politics,” says the businessman in an interview with Repórter Brasil. “I will have a sub-cabinet inside Eduardo’s office. The responsibility for health rests with me”.
Electoral donations are emblematic of the laboratory based in Itapira, in the interior of São Paulo. In the last three general elections, the group donated 7.3 million BRL (US$ 2 million) to candidates from 8 parties, such as PT, PSDB, MDB, DEM and PCdoB. The only politician benefited in the three elections was state deputy Barros Munhoz (PSB-SP). 300,000 BRL (US$ 81,000) were received in 2010, 475,000 BRL (US$ 128,000) in 2014 and 70,000 BRL (US$ 19,000) last year.
It came from Munhoz the idea of giving the laboratory a piece of land on the margins of the SP-147 highway, purchased by the city of Itapira, for Cristália to build a distribution center in the city. Munhoz also worked with the state government to release the funds that reformed the highway in front of the new Cristália unit.
The state deputy said to Repórter Brasil that there is no relationship between electoral donations and his parliamentary actions. “Every year [donations] are made without any compensation, so only now is there a compensation?”, he asks. “The municipality gained an industrial district for free. Now, nobody is going to build an industry or business on a road without access”, he says.
See below the main excerpts from the interview with Ogari Pacheco, in which he denies conflict of interest in the laboratory’s donations and reveals that he entered politics influenced by economic interests.
What was your motivation to participate in the 2018 election?
We are developing a product that requires large greenhouses with reduced humidity. Tocantins is a natural greenhouse. Looking for the best place to install [the new production unit], I met Eduardo Gomes, who sought, through local political leaders, to offer some advantages, such as tax incentives and land donations. This did not persuade me. After some back and forth [he said]: ‘Wouldn’t you be interested in being part of a Senate ticket that I lead?’ Then things changed, because we have been discussing in Abifina, Abiquim and in FarmaBrasil group issues of the country and the pharmaceutical industry for a long time. We always criticize that you have to eventually use an intermediary to explain what you think. Nothing better than someone from the field who can translate these problems. That was what led me to accept the nomination for alternate for Eduardo Gomes.
Cristália and its executives donated 7.3 million BRL (US$ 2 million) in the last three elections to 8 parties. What is the motivation for donations and what is the company’s expectation regarding the actions of these politicians?
The laboratory was never individually involved in politics. There is a group, FarmaBrasil, which brings together most national companies and leads the parliamentary front of the chemical industry. Our donation was made because the donations were not from FarmaBrasil to anyone, but they asked: “Look, the front is made up of A, B, C and D parliamentarians. You could contribute as follows: so-and-so donates to A, another to B, C…”. It is just like that. There was nothing else behind it, no motivation, nothing settled with anyone.
As an alternate senator, will you be open to influencing the mandate of Eduardo Gomes and the Parliamentary Front of the Chemical Industry?
Cristália is known for its leadership in innovation. We will also innovate in politics. In the agreement I have with Eduardo [Gomes], he will take office, but I will start working now, I will not wait to assume the mandate to work. “I will have a sub-office inside Eduardo’s office. Health matters will be under my responsibility, and a series of projects that are already under development. He is going to present them, because he has the voice and the vote, but I will support him and provide the information necessary for him to try to approve these projects.
You criticize the dependence on the “intermediaries”, but Cristália received incentives from the city of Itapira…
[Interrupts] No, no. We don’t have any units that received incentives. Except in the case of Itapira. I needed to build a distribution center, and several other cities offered me advantages. When the city of Itapira found out, they offered land, a space at the entrance to the city, where our distribution center is located. Now, on the other hand, [there is] the demand from the population, the portion that supports the opposition, that asks: “How many jobs have you created? What is the quality of the jobs? How much will you increase in billing?”. A series of questions that I think are pertinent, but I did not want to be subject to such demands in Tocantins. I intend to install a unit with my own resources [there] and so I owe nothing to anyone.
The politician who stands out in Cristália’s donations is state deputy Barros Munhoz. He worked for the assignment of the land on which the distribution center was built. Is there a conflict of interest between the electoral donation and the deputy’s action?
Deputy Barros Munhoz is from Itapira, has served as mayor on several occasions, and has several deputy terms. He works in favor of the region as a whole and of Itapira in particular. We are the company that generates the most jobs, the largest contributor of the Tax on the Circulation of Goods and Services (ICMS in the Portuguese acronym) in the city. As Barros Munhoz works for the region and for Itapira, we do support him. I see no conflict of interest. On the contrary.
What is your prevision for the national pharmaceutical industry for the coming years?
What Brazil is unable to produce is the pharmaceutical inputs, the raw material. Any project to stimulate the national pharmaceutical industry involves stimulating pharmacochemistry. You cannot make a medicine without an active ingredient, and therein lies the biggest drawback.
The sector’s trade balance has a deficit of US$ 5 billion per year. Will foreign dependence increase in the coming years?
As it is, it will only get worse. I have a suggestion that can change this situation, but I will do it via a bill in the Senate. Going through the pharmacochemistry, if not it is pointless. Moreover, without using a penny of the public funds.
This story was originally published on 19th February 2019