Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – June 23rd was a historical news day—Britons voted to leave the EU. Here in Brazil, it was also an important news day—one of Dilma’s former ministers was arrested for having skimmed money off a government-subsidized payroll deduction plan. That’s right, a government plan to make borrowing less expensive for government employees became yet another means for politicians and political parties to unjustly enrich themselves.
The good news has less to do with the actual arrest than it does with the geographic location of the court that ordered it—São Paulo. Up to now, the headlines have all been garnered by crusading Judge Moro in Curitiba. A while back, however, the Brazilian Supreme Court had effectively restricted Moro to investigating corruption involving Petrobras.
Moro’s investigations had uncovered evidence of graft involving Electrobras and other government entities; many of those busy ransacking the Petrobras coffers had their sticky fingers in other cookie jars. These cases were ordered transferred to federal courts in other jurisdictions, and many feared that the federal police, public prosecutors and courts would be less diligent in pursuing malefactors than Judge Moro had been.
Yesterday’s news, then, was most welcome, for it showed that in at least one other jurisdiction, the judicial authorities were unstinting in their efforts to uncover corruption. This dedication, it is hoped, will be contagious, and will inspire other courts to conduct their investigations speedily, diligently and efficiently.
This diligence is absolutely essential if Brazil’s institutional integrity is to be maintained. Over the past dozen years, the executive and legislative branches of government have, knowingly and hand in hand, slithered into the sink of corruption, because they “knew” they would not be punished. That perception has begun to change, and needs to continue to change, if Brazil is to have any future.
The Curmudgeon still wants to believe that Brazil has a bright future ahead, despite the abysmal record of most of its elected officials.