The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Massive Corruption Scandal Is Victory for Brazilian Courts

In Brazil, a major corruption scandal is coming to a close as 20 of 38 defendants, mostly government officials, have been convicted for their involvement in in a vote-buying scheme. The convictions go as high up as former presidential chief of staff José Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva, who was convicted Tuesday of organizing the entire scheme.

The case is drawing major attention not only because corruption usually goes unpunished in Brazil, but also because many of the officials worked under the widely popular former president Lula, who is denying the entire thing. The NY Times reports on the gravity of the case:

Both Joaquim Barbosa, the justice overseeing the trial, and Prosecutor General Roberto Gurgel, who is in charge of the case and called the scandal “the most daring and outrageous corruption scheme and embezzlement of public funds ever seen in Brazil,” were appointed by Mr. da Silva, the former president.

“This trial shows that Brazil’s institutions are functioning with vigor,” said Thiago Bottino, a law professor at Fundação Getúlio Vargas, an elite Brazilian university. “The justices could have easily washed their hands of this case and walked away; instead, they entered the fight for an ethical democracy.”

While this may make things uncomfortable for current President Roussef, who was Lula’s protégé, it is surely an accomplishment for Brazil, which has often struggled with corruption and a court system easily influenced by corrupt politicans. When this case began, Via Meadia expressed hope that the Brazilian courts would be able to put politics aside and make some hard decisions that might step on the toes of some powerful people. Fortunately, this is what they have done. If the courts continue on this path, they will do much to help Brazil rid itself of the long-standing problems of cronyism and corruption in the country’s politics and assume the global role its leaders so desperately crave.

Published on October 12, 2012 10:13 am