The Believably Unbelievable

Some disheartening facts from the recent Brazilian election,

-Out of a total of 136 million eligible Brazilian voters, 18 million did not vote in the recent election, in a country where voting is mandatory for all citizens. This is nearly 15 percent of the electorate.

-The “clean docket” (Ficha Limpa) law was passed just before the election, which prohibits criminally convicted politicians from being elected to public office. The Supreme court is currently reviewing the constitutionally of the law, and in the meantime, the criminally-convicted have run for office hoping that it will be struck down. The believably unbelievable of it all is that over 8 million Brazilians voted for politicians with criminal records– a full 6 percent of the electorate.

-It appears that Brazilians elected an illiterate clown to office— literally. TV personality and clown, Tiririca, garnered more than 1.2 million votes in the recent election, easily defeating his challengers. One of his television advertisements had him dressed in semi-clown outfit and making the following appeal (I paraphrase): “I’m not sure exactly what they do in the Chamber of Deputies, but elect me and I’ll let you know.” Because he is an illiterate, the electoral courts will likely bar him from taking office.

GRAND CORRUPTION GARNERS PAGE 10 RESPONSE

The Brazilian media continues to give only page 10 coverage of serious allegations of corruption and mispropriety. Yesterday’s Folha de São Paulo did well to publish an article (well into the first section) on more than 300 million reais that were unaccountably spent in the Senate between July 2008 and August 2009. But why isn’t this type of news on the front page? One can only imagine the reaction of Canadian or American taxpayers if $200 million dollars went unaccounted for in their respective senates.

NEED FOR MEDIA COVERAGE OF PROSPECTIVE REFORM

Similarly, a bribery/nepotism scandal surrounding the Chief of State’s Office (Casa Civil) and indirectly linked to the presidential candidate Dilma Rouseff received good coverage for a couple of days and then died away. No demands for greater transparency from the news media, no linking of the issue with the pending access to information law now awaiting consideration in the Senate. Today, the committee investigating this scandal archived proceedings until after the election. This sort of political subterfuge is permitted largely because the news media will not risk making what is marginally public knowledge into widely publicized information.

One would think that the theme of transparency–and the pending access to information law in the Senate–should be garnering more attention. Evidently not. Today and Monday a couple of articles I wrote were published on the Brazilian media’s reluctance to provide salient coverage of an access to information law. Without the news media taking an interest in critical prospective reforms– which will benefit the country both politically and economically– corruption and impunity will continue to keep Brazil behind– no matter what rate of economic growth is achieved.

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