Brazil: Will The Corruption Allegations And Political Turmoil Ever End?


New allegations of obstructing justice and corruption have been made against the President of Brazil. In a report issued in May 2017 by the Brazilian Attorney-General, an investigation has been ordered into the behaviour of President Temer. An audio recorded conversation appears to have evidence of President Temer ensuring Eduardo Cunha, who is imprisoned for corruption, that he will continue to be paid for keeping his silence. Eduardo Cunha is a former politician. Both President Temer and Eduardo Cunha have close links with Joesley Batista, who co-owns JBS, a large meat packaging company, and who was involved in a previous corruption scandal.

Many Brazilians have responded to these new allegations with protests to show their displeasure. Some have called for President Temer to resign, and for elections to be held. Others believe he is unfit for the role of President, as he has failed to learn from previous incidents that captured him in a similar manner. Mauricio Santoro, professor of external relations at Rio de Janeiro State University, claimed, “All signs point to the end of the government….” Mara Telles, of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, shares a similar view, as do many other academics. O Globo, the main newspaper in Brazil, published an editorial urging the President to vacate the office. This gained support from a former Chief Justice Joaquim Barbossa. Members of the Opposition have called for President Temer to be impeached, although this is unlikely, as the ruling coalition in which he has links has a large majority in Congress.

President Temer has denied that he obstructed justice, and is questioning the content and legality of the audio tape. However, the Supreme Court has accepted it as evidence, which puts the President in a very awkward position. President Temer announced on television, “I will not resign…. I know what I did.” Although they acknowledge that a meeting with Batista took place, the President’s office denied any wrongdoing. If President Temer resigned he would lose his position of privilege and face legal action.

President Temer is highly unpopular in Brazil. His name is often linked to questionable political practices. He came to office in September 2016 after Dilma Rousseff was impeached for budget law transgressions. Many of those currently supporting the President are likely to withdraw their support, providing further difficulties for him. Unpopular reforms initiated by his government to get the economy onto a more positive, progressive path add to the current situation. More than 14 million people are unemployed and the new allegations have caused the currency to drop 7.5% of its value, which negatively affects the already poor economy.

Corrupt politicians use their power to meet their own needs, not those of the people they serve. Their unethical behaviour lacks integrity and produces low public confidence in their political decision-making. Brazil’s current economic structure is one of excessive regulation, which provides an opportunity for corruption to occur. Furthermore, the lack of accountability and official discretion are masks under which deception can take place. Reducing monopolies, providing realistic economic incentives, and having competition are some ways that corruption opportunities could be reduced. All political parties would have to work cooperatively to reach a consensus on which regulations would remain. They would have to compromise on some issues, which could be challenging for many of them. Clarification of the remaining regulations would increase understanding and remove the need for official discretion. Accountability for those practising the regulations would be a logical progression. The economy and politics of Brazil are closely entwined and involve agency and power. Democratically elected by the people, politicians in Brazil are supposed to distribute resources justly to benefit all people. Businesses and civil society also have an important role to play in corruption prevention. Individuals will assert their agency, and report corrupt situations if systems are in place, which provides no risk to those doing so.

People in Brazil will continue to suffer until politicians adopt integrity in word and deed. When this can be realized, effective governance and ethical behaviour at all levels of politics in state entities will be produced. By acting in this way, politicians will over time regain the confidence of the people. Only then, together, they can strive for economic stability and growth.

Louisa Slack