Main menu

Latin America: Brazil's Anti-Corruption Drive Faces a Backlash

August 11, 2019

In mid-May, life for Brazil's new justice minister Sérgio Moro was going well. He met the British ambassador, senior business figures and a handful of lawmakers in the capital Brasília. What he did not know is that 1,000km away in Rio de Janeiro an unidentified whistleblower was about to make life much more difficult for him.

The whistleblower had delivered files, containing thousands of confidential messages between the men running Latin America's biggest anti-corruption probe, to the offices of an investigative website. The contents of the messages handed to the left-leaning The Intercept were explosive. They appeared to show Mr Moro, who at the time they were exchanged was a high-profile federal judge, giving advice to prosecutors preparing a case against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. After being found guilty by Mr Moro, Lula da Silva was sentenced to almost 10 years in jail, preventing him from running in last year's presidential election...

Roberto Simon, the Brazilian head of the anti-corruption working group at the Americas Society, a think-tank in New York, says the new push against corruption was bound to come into conflict eventually with the way politics is organised.

"There is a structural tension between the new capacity to fight corruption in Latin America and political systems which have big problems, particularly with campaign finance and the links between money and politics," he says...

For the experts who worry about how durable recent gains in the fight against corruption may prove to be, the weakness of judicial and political institutions is a common theme. Yet Mr Simon, at the Americas Society, hopes that the "shocking" reversal of recent gains in Guatemala will prove to be an isolated case.

"It's unlikely we will return to a pre-Car Wash situation in Latin America," he says. "Putting the genie back in the bottle now is extremely difficult."…

Read the full article