Brazil takes on an centuries-old foe: corruption
Brazil is making strides in purging government corruption – a 500-year-old problem that persists today in Latin America because of cultural acceptance, inequality, and prevalent drug money.
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Their resignations have been wildly popular among Brazilians, who see Rousseff as taking a stand where her well-loved predecessor, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose administration was dogged by a vote-buying scandal, did not. A September CNI/Ibope poll showed 85 percent of respondents calling her performance great, good, or normal.Skip to next paragraph
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Not all believe that the resignations represent a commitment to rooting out corruption, but rather Rousseff was caught off guard and is steering the narrative.
"She is tackling [corruption]," says João Augusto de Castro Neves, a Brazilian independent political analyst. "But if it were intentional it wouldn't be as disruptive as it has been.… She would have begun this administration with a clear goal of tackling corruption."
And Brazil's freedom of information law, while hailed by supporters, took years to pass. Mr. Angelico says the country may have been forced to pass it now to play down contradictions: It touts transparency with the OGP while lacking such principles at home.
Still, the resignations, the new law, and other new legislation that require budget transparency and forbid officials convicted of crimes from taking office have helped strengthen perceptions that corruption's grip is weakening in Brazil. Further, its ranking on Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index improved this year.
Unmaking 'systems of corruption'
Corruption continues to be a serious problem throughout the region, but countries are making important strides, says Alejandro Salas, regional director for the Americas at Transparency International.
Arthur Massuda, who works for rights group Article 19, which pushed for Brazil's freedom of information law, says that many of the gains at the federal level have not been embraced by states or municipalities – and that puts activists, and thus the movement, at risk. "Without a strong civil society, there can be no real fight against corruption," he says.
There are vulnerabilities ahead, including the stubborn inequality in the region and the growing clout of drug-trafficking money. And Mr. Salas says that countries such as Mexico and Brazil have to reconcile the fact they have modern economies and strong laws but continue "ancient practices" of patronage at the local level. "Generations in Latin America were born into systems of corruption," he says.
And Claudio Weber Abramo, executive director of Transparency Brazil, says that the movement could be undermined by murky goals. "It's a protest against something which they don't quite know what it is," he says. "Most people think this is a moral question. But it's not moral – it's very objective."
IN PICTURES: Brazil: sights to see
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