The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
First For Brazil: Police Investigate Corruption

Just a few weeks after a high profile, months-long corruption case drew to a close in Brazil, another big one popped out of the woodwork. On Wednesday, a group of Brazilian government officials were charged with taking cash in return for jobs and other political favors. While the new case does not match the scope of the recent mensalão (large monthly payment) case, it again features officials from the Worker’s Party, the party professing undying love for the poor and the party of current President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luis Inácio Lula de Silva.

But if the mensalão was notable for being the first to put officials in jail, this case is remarkable because of who initiated the charges: the police. In Brazil, the first evidence of corruption has generally come from television exposés, but not this time, as the Wall Street Journal reports:

But the latest case followed a more institutional path, coming in the form of official charges brought by the Federal Police as result of an investigation.

Indeed, the Federal Police, Brazil’s version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, has become increasingly proficient in using wire taps and other techniques to make corruption cases in recent years, gaining public trust in a country where skepticism about police is generally high. The fact that a whistleblower felt confident bringing such evidence to the Federal Police is a measure of the agency’s growing credibility as legitimate corruption fighters, political analysts said.

For supporters of President Rousseff, this new case is proof that the first was not a fluke, and that whatever problems exist in her party, Rousseff herself is working to change things and to eliminate entrenched corruption.

It will take more than a corruption case or two before centuries old traditions of corruption in Brazilian politics can really change. But despite all the problems, all the backsliding and all the legacy issues from the past, Brazil is moving forward and becoming a stronger and a more capable society. We can only wish that some of its neighbors would do the same thing.

Published on December 1, 2012 3:00 pm