Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) has just dared do what the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) did not dare to do: stand up to Big Business. In an 8-3 vote, STF declared that a law permitting companies to make political contributions, whether to parties or to candidates, was unconstitutional.
Hallelujah! Unlike SCOTUS, a majority of STF Justices figured out that corporations do not actually vote, they simply buy votes through contributions to political campaigns; the votes they buy are typically those of politicians who support their “business” objectives.
These “business” objectives, as has become clear with the Lava Jato and other related investigations, are usually illegal: bid rigging, cartels and price fixing are the norm in Brazilian heavy construction and numerous other industries.
Needless to say, the owners and directors of Brazil’s major industries have become even more rich than they were, either squirreling their ill-gotten gains offshore or using hapless go-betweens (“laranjas”) in Brazil itself, where bank secrecy laws ensure (or used to ensure) no one would know.
More importantly, the owners and directors of Brazil’s major industries have also ensured that Brazil’s major politicians have likewise been able to feather their personal nests to a degree previously unimaginable in a democratic society.
Ask any Brazilian you know to name one single Brazilian politician who is not on the take from some corporation that wants his or her vote.
Ask any Brazilian you know to name a single Brazilian political party, any of the thirty and more, that is not on the take from some corporation that wants its votes.
Ask any Brazilian you know to name a single Brazilian politician or political party that truly has the interests of the Brazilian people in mind, rather than their own personal interests in getting rich.
Do not be surprised when no Brazilian you know can name anyone at all. But do not give up hope.
The STF decision has given Brazil an opportunity to forsake the populist/plutocratic model implanted by the 1988 Constitution and rigged by all parties and politicians since for their own private gain. As long as the Brazilian judiciary and the Public Ministry stand firm, there is hope for Brazil.
The alternative is Venezuela or Argentina. Or Donald Trump.
The Curmudgeon will emit more Smidgens opportunely, hopefully less dismal.