Publish in Special Reports - Monday, August 27, 2012
Former Brazilian presidential chief of staff Jose Dirceu is being tried for a scheme to pay legislators. (Photo: José Cruz/Agencia Brasil)
Former Brazilian senator Luiz Estevão was forced to repay 468 million reais (US$231 million) in public funds. (Photo: Roque de Sa/Agencia Senado)
In September, it will be 20 years since the Brazilian congress voted to impeach then-President Fernando Collor de Mello. (Photo: Fabio Pozzebom/Agencia Brasil)
Corruption remains widespread in Latin America and there is little chance of improvement in the worst countries, experts say.
BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
Last week, a former Brazilian senator was forced to repay 468 million reais (US$231 million) to the Solicitor-General’s Office in Brazil after he was implicated in a construction scheme involving public funds. That’s the largest settlement in the country in a case of misuse of public money.
Meanwhile, this month, Brazil’s Supreme Court started a major corruption trial of 38 defendants, including former presidential chief of staff Jose Dirceu, over an alleged scheme to pay legislators a monthly retainer in exchange for their support in the national assembly – the so-called mensalão scandal.
“We are currently experiencing an important moment for the fight against corruption in Latin America,” says Alejandro Salas, Regional Director for the Americas for Germany-based Transparency International. “Brazil is showing its willingness to tackle corruption: the current mensalão trial, the recent resignation of ministers, the signing into law a freedom of information bill, the hosting of the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference, and the co-leadership of the Open Government Partnership, among others. As Brazil is a regional leader this could prove to have a trend-setting effect, and could signify a transformational moment for the region as a whole.”
Seven Brazilian ministers have resigned over corruption scandals, including the transport, tourism, labor, agriculture and sports ministers.
“We may have seen seven ministers expelled from President Dilma Rousseff's government for corruption, but at least they were expelled,” says Simon Strong, Senior Managing Director, FTI Consulting.
PRESIDENTS AND CORRUPTION
Notwithstanding the settlement with the former senator and the ongoing mensalão trial, neither Brazil nor Latin America has an impressive track record of fighting corruption. Few leaders end up in jail over corruption charges.
Twenty years ago, the Brazilian congress tried to...
Keywords: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela