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Not in Kansas Anymore | «Brazil’s anti-graft battle could break the mold»


File under «Anglophone coverage of the big monthly allowance case».

It’s not unusual for Latin American countries to prosecute politicians for real or imagined corrupt practices: in fact, most new governments go after their political rivals from preceding governments as soon as they can. But Brazil is doing something much more noteworthy: it is prosecuting prominent leaders of the ruling party.

While neither Rousseff nor Lula da Silva face charges, there is a consensus that the former president’s image would be hurt if some of his former top advisers are convicted.

«There is a consensus»? There is never a consensus, except perhaps among mainstream media organizations. 

I wanted to respond further to this analysis on the Kansas City Star Web site, but gave up because the registration process was too unwieldy. My analysis follows.

I would say that Brazil is doing something more than just calling elected and appointed members and allies of the government to account.

In my view, it is demonstrating the axiom «doe a quem doer» — «no matter who it hurts» — by calling a wide spectrum of poiticians to account — opposition,  situation and the opportunistic.

After all, the Minas Gerais PR executive behind the so-called “big monthly allowance” is charged with running the self-same scheme — same cast of characters, same banks, same siphoning procedures, same campaign finance schemes — for the opposition PSDB during the elections of 1998 and 2002.

The cases of the “big monthly of the PSDB” and “big monthly of the DEM-PFL” receive little ink here but nevertheless resonate with the public in ways that it may be difficult for Kansans to fathom. This is not, as we often say, Kansas anymore.

During the 2005 crisis, for example, Lula pointed to statistics showing a ten-fold increase in white collar indictments by federal police and prosecutors, compared with the record of his predecessor — and rightly so. This is a highly signficant stat.

Brazil suffers from a totally unregulated lobbying sector, which explains the murkiness of these underhanded, though not always unequivocally  illegal, political mechanisms.

Commentators this Sunday in the Estado and Folha de S. Paulo suggest that the current trial will set important precedents for future prosecutions, and that this is for the most part a welcome development.

Hard to disagree. Imposing stricter transparency rules in combination with implementing public financing of election campaigns could make Brazil an innovator in this area of public policy.