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Brazil fights corruption at home as it signs Open Government Partnership with the US

Today, Brazil formally unveils its plans for the multi-country initiative, a timely move as ministers are sacked and people take to the streets to demand more transparency.

By Greg MichenerGuest blogger / September 20, 2011

It is a pivotal moment for Brazil. While the government presents Brazil’s plans for the Open Government Partnership at the UN in New York today, anti-corruption movements are mobilizing across Brazil. In the wake of the September 7 demonstration in Brasilia that brought together almost 10,000 protesters, the Globo newspaper reports that around 30,000 protesters have mobilized through Facebook for a protest in Rio de Janeiro to be held between 17:00 and 20:00 in one of the city’s largest squares, Cinelandia.

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The Broom as a Symbol

To attract attention for the event, citizens planted 513 brooms on the beach of Copacabana last night, representative of the country’s 513 Lower House deputies (see the video at original post =>1:00).

Citizens are disgusted with a secret vote that took place in the Chamber of Deputies three weeks ago, acquitting Representative Jacqueline Roriz of corruption charges. As I reported a couple of weeks ago, Deputy Roriz was caught red-handed on videotape receiving a large bribe of public money.

Citizens are also mobilizing in support of the President’s faxina (cleaning). The Minister of Tourism, Pedro Novais, was the fourth minister to resign because of a corruption scandal during the President’s nine months in office. Tourism is a key posting because of the upcoming 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, both to be held in Brazil. For this reason, advocates hoped that Rousseff would make a technical appointment following Mr. Novais’ resignation. Yet the pressure of coalition allies such as José Sarney (PMDB), President of the Senate, forced Rousseff to accept yet another political appointee.

Explaining Brazil’s Embryonic Movements Against Corruption

The public largely views President Rousseff as hostage to a political establishment steeped in corruption. Ironically, Rousseff has ostensibly been trying to shake the image of a anti-corruption crusader in order to keep congressional allies from rebelling.

Yet the public has been eager to support this faxina. “Everyone Against Corruption” (Todos Contra a Corrupção), is the headline anti-corruption movement in Brazil, but it is composed of smaller, local movements. In Rio de Janeiro, I spoke with the leader of the 31 of July Movement (@fora_corrupto), Marcelo Medeiros. What is odd about Mr. Medeiros’ initiative is that it is composed principally of 60-something middle- and upper-middle-class residents of Rio de Janeiro. Many people who lived part of their adult lives under the dictatorship (1964-85) have a Pavlovian aversion to speaking critically about politics. In the cause of self-preservation, most avoided speaking about government under authoritarian rule. Yet Medeiros and his colleagues seem to have overcome this ingrained response.


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