Transparency’s Gestation at 9 Months – Does Bolsonaro Deliver?

Transparency for them, privacy for us! As its honeymoon draws to a close, the Bolsonaro government has revealed an insecure commitment to transparency. There are good reasons for feeling insecure. My research (here and here, and forthcoming book) has shown that few democratic regimes are as undecided about transparency as uncohesive minority governments, of which Bolsonaro’s is a prime example. Not only does Bolsonaro lack a reliable majority coalition in Congress, but his administration has been riveted by divisions among politicians...

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Legality, Legitimacy and Logic – Why Expanding Secrecy Makes No Sense

Published in O Globo, authored by Gregory Michener & Irene Niskier. While President Jair Bolsonaro spoke in Davos, his Vice President, Hamilton Mourão, and Chief of Staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, perpetrated a small change in Brazil’s freedom of information (FOI) law that will amount to big negative effects for transparency, the federal public administration, and the current administration. To recap, a secrecy decree (9690/2019) increased the number of authorities who can classify information as reserved, secret, and ultra-secret. The...

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Bolsonaro and generals

Bolsonaro’s Turn to Secrecy – Weakening Brazil’s Freedom of Information Law

Originally published in Folha de São Paulo, authored by Gregory Michener and Irene Niskier. President Jair Bolsonaro was elected based on two noble promises: advance the rule of law to fight crime and corruption, and strengthen Brazil’s fiscal position by creating a more efficient state. Transparency is a precondition for advancing both of these promises. So how does a decision to greatly expand secrecy (decree 9690) in government contribute to realizing Bolsonaro’s promises? It does not; it does exactly the opposite. What is...

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Brazil’s Next President – “O Maluco” v. “A Máfia” (The Madman v. The Mafia)

Tomorrow, people will be forced to decide whether to vote for what one group of voters is calling a “madman” (Jair Bolsonaro) and another group of voters often refer to as “a mafia” (the PT or Workers’ Party). There is no least of these worst choices  – they are both appalling. It is an anti-candidate election; the winner will be the candidate voters reject less, not the one viewed to be the better choice. It’s hard to predicate a solid democracy on a contest between “not him” and “not that party”...

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Brazil’s Information Ecology: Adrift at Sea, Stranded in Information Deserts

September 28th marked International Right-to-Know Day, which celebrates citizen’s right to know about what their government does and how it performs. But the right to know is more generally about transparency and, ultimately, the political ecology of information. Brazil’s access to public information law does have problems of compliance, implementation, under-investment and political commitment, as we show in an article published this August in Revista de Administracao Publica (FGV). But thinking more broadly about Brazil’s information...

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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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