Transparently 2017

So much has happened since I last wrote 6 months ago that I am rather embarrassed not to have captured some of the more savory parts of the Brazilian drama in writing. But the academic’s life, alas, is about publishing the sort of article that only a few experts read – in journals that take a year or more review and print our works…by which point they become relatively irrelevant…. One of my goals as an academic is to strive for policy relevance, so here is a short summary of how I have modestly achieved this goal since the beginning...

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Former Presidents Decide on International Outsourcing of Brazil’s Government*

In discussion late last night at President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Atibaia vacation propery, Brazil’s three living unimpeached presidents decided to pursue the international outsourcing of government in Brazil. “It has to be admitted, Brazilians have simply proven themselves unfit to govern the country,” said former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC). The plan, according to FHC, is to pursue a constitutional reform that would suspend Congress temporarily and concentrate legislative and executive power in the hands of...

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Not just the Corruption, but the Spending

Reading the newspaper these days in Brazil is a journey through chaos and despair. The country is a black hole. Repulsive? Your mind immediately thinks corruption and rent-seeking, at which Brazil has proven its eminence over the past few years. Few days go by when one does not read about tens or hundreds of millions – or even billions – being siphoned off in the most brazen and repulsive of manners. I always think to myself… if it became known that a governor of a US state led a scheme to defraud the state health system of...

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Summary – Moving Brazil Forward

Prologue: I wrote this piece as part of a presentation I made to visiting students from Holland. It assembles my thoughts on how current events pertaining to corruption and the rule of law might transform Brazil. I amply plagiarize my previous work. GM A Conflagration of Corruption in Brazil – Will it Lead to Transformation? Over the past five years or so, Brazil has witnessed a transformation in the rule of law quite unlike anywhere else. Much of this revolution seems to have started with a legislative vote-buying scheme that Carlos Pereira...

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Will Brazil’s ‘Prosecutocracy’ Transform Brazil for the Better?

Will any good come of Brazil’s new prosecutocracy? All are amazed at how Brazil’s Federal Police, Public Prosecutors, and Courts continue to arraign high-level politicians and private sector accomplices on charges of corruption. We are witnessing an extraordinary and unprecedented application of the rule of law, quite unlike anywhere else. Do not be fooled, however; this is not a popular movement to clamp down on corruption. Instead, this is a struggle between politicians and an emergent legal technocracy, or better put, a...

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Corruption by Design – The Forgotten R$19 Billion

The Car Wash Investigations are sexy. After all, they tell the story of Brazil and Petrobras’ parallel rise and fall, from Petrobras’ discovery of pre-salt oil, which made it one of the world’s most capitalized companies, to massive waste and corruption, which have rendered the company among the world’s most indebted. The Zealot (Zelotes) Investigations are not sexy, and many will indeed ask, ‘what the heck are these?’ Well, while everyone has been aghast at the Car Wash and impeachment, a congressional inquiry has been crawling...

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Non-Responses to Citizen Demands – Congress and The Media

Chanelling Demands Crisis can be a key catalyst for reform, but all depends on the ability to effectively channel citizen demands and the responsiveness of key political actors. The Channel is clear – the “popular initiative” (Art.62 of the 1988 Constitution), which requires signatures by 1% of the electorate (1.34 million citizens) spread across at least 5 states, with signatures in each state representing at least 0.3% of its electors.* Political Responsiveness The problem is responsiveness. Today, Contas Abertas reports...

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Proposals to Root-Out Political Corruption in Brazil

As I have opined in previous posts, a) the party and electoral system is the key to understanding political corruption in Brazil; and, b) the media has been loathe to provide salience to any concrete proposals for reform, especially among civil society advocates. Simply put, Brazil’s fragmented party system, giant districts, and open-list competition produces hearty profits for the media. Why rock the boat if you can have the captain walk the plank? If the media will not give salience to reform proposals, let me indulge you with one...

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It’s the Party System. What To Do about It.

The irony of Brazil’s political system is that its fragmented party system – so seemingly appropriate for countering historical legacies of patrimonialism and monopoly power – has provoked forms of neopatrimonialism, whereby state resources are used to buy the support of other politicians. What can be done to fix Brazilian politics? As I wrote last post, it’s the party system, stupid. Moderate party systems work best, we know. Political scientists have found this out by examining tradeoffs in representativeness, accountability...

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Mensalão + Car Wash = It’s the Party System, Stupid.

It is safe to say that the problem with Brazil’s government is not its choice of coalition partners, but rather the lack of choice. Faced with a governing coalition in disintegration, Rousseff has given larger pieces of the state pie to several of Brazil’s many rent-seeking parties. One of them, the Partido Progresista (PP), has been accused of receiving R$358 million (US$100 million) in illegal party finance, bribes, and kickbacks in association with Petrobras and the Car Wash Scandal. Grim  details about the scandalous exploits of...

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