To exactly nobody’s surprise, it turns out that corruption in Brazil isn’t just about state oil company Petrobras: the whole establishment is a den of cronyism and baksheesh. The Wall Street Journal:
Investigators allege many of the oil company’s suppliers inflated contracts, with some of the extra money divvied up among Petrobras executives and some funneled to dozens of politicians. At the health ministry and Caixa Econômica, the cost of advertising contracts was inflated by as much as 10%, prosecutors said, with the surplus also passed along to politicians.
Normally that alone would not anger too many Brazilian voters, as it has been going on since colonial times and has never been much of a secret. However, as Brazil slowly modernizes, more people have access to more news and so the long-established corruption patterns are becoming more visible.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets this weekend across the country to protest, with many calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rouseff. Even beyond the corruption allegations, three trends are converging on Dilma in a particularly nasty way. First, a bad economic slowdown is making people generally angry. Second, she denied during her re-election campaign that the economy was headed down the tubes—although it clearly was. Any sitting president would be on the receiving end of some public hostility in these circumstances, but her election stance made her particularly vulnerable. And third, the austerity measures and policy changes that the government now has to introduce are increasing public discontent.
The culture of impunity in Brazil is beginning to fade—the poor are no longer passive bystanders, and the rise of a mass middle class is making special privileges for elites less tolerable. People from across the socio-economic ladder are beginning to demand better service from the state. People aren’t going to put up with the old corruption and incompetence forever.