Corruption scandals are rocking the administration of Brazil’s new president Dilma Rousseff – yesterday saw the ouster of the fifth cabinet-level official since June. According to the WSJ:
Though none of the officials have been formally charged with any crimes, the scandals have reminded Brazilians that despite recent economic gains, corruption remains a significant obstacle to overall progress.
Some allies of Ms. Rousseff have applauded the departures as a signal that her government will tolerate less corruption than leaders have in the past. Critics, however, believe she has merely reacted to scandals that wouldn’t have come to light had it not been for the local media.
Widespread graft in a developing country? That’s not news. It would be far more noteworthy to hear that Dilma’s government is clean as a whistle. The real story is that the Brazilian press is growing increasingly confident and competent, and gleefully digging up more dirt on Brazil’s crooked political leadership.
This kind of muckraking journalism is a drastic change for Brazil – it never would have been permitted during, say, the 1970s dictatorship – and it reflects the growing democratization and strengthening of society. As regular people demand greater accountability and the media becomes more willing and able to oblige, Brazil’s corrupt political culture is going to have to change. All this can’t be any fun for Dilma, caught in the transition, but it’s good news for Brazil in the long term.
Our advice to the Brazilian press: Dig, baby, dig!