Part of over 2 Million Signatures for the Popular Initiative

Brazil’s Anti-Corruption Showdown

With impeachment little less than imminent, the question is whether a new government will strengthen or weaken the legislative tool-box of corruption-blasting policies I wrote about yesterday. Given the PMDB’s involvement in corruption allegations and its amorphous policy principles and democratic history, it is not surprising to read that PMDB leaders in Congress are supporting legislative measures to weaken key plea bargaining arrangements. Let’s get this straight – if the Public Prosecutor and Federal Police lose the power to offer...

Continue reading

Lula & now imprisoned Chief of Staff José Dirceu - Better Days

Colluding Against Brazil’s Criminal Justice System? Good Luck.

The Minister of Justice, Eduardo Cardozo, resigned about a month ago, buffeted by pressures to reel-in the Federal Police. No one doubts what these pressures are about – the ferocious prosecution of the Car Wash (Lava Jato) investigation. Now the government is apparently looking to replace the director general of the Federal Police, who is administratively and financially beholden to the Minister of Justice. This ostensible ‘neutering’ of the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Police is a first political stab at bringing the Car Wash...

Continue reading

In Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro at noon today

Media Against Dilma – Brazilians For Change

Today, several million people are taking to the streets to protest a corrupt political system and a rent-seeking, bloated state. Let’s make this clear; Dilma is a poor political leader and her governments have precipitated nothing short of an economic fallout. But she is not the problem incarnate. My wife (and son) is at the protest in Copacabana Rio de Janeiro not because of ‘Dilma’, nor because of ‘the government’ per se, but because my wife and millions of others are fed up with what they see to be corrupt, wasteful and misguided...

Continue reading

Considering the Diversion of Public Monies in Brazil -A Cool US$35 Billion for Starters

US$35 billion of public monies stolen. A colossal affront to the cities and country they work for? Yes. Preventable? Not yet. The most significant news item on the diversion of public monies I have seen in some time appeared in yesterday’s Globo as the lead opinion piece: “The Indicators Show Billions Stolen.” The article cites grim figures: of 131 municipalities audited by the Comptroller General, 90 percent showed irregularities; and it is estimated that municipal officials and their accomplices steal 30% of federal and...

Continue reading

The Threat of Media Reform as Effective Media Control

Your party will win the next election and you want to make sure the media keeps providing you with reliably un-critical if not favorable coverage– here is your media strategy: you promise to change the regulatory status quo of the media before the election, and you renege on the proposed reform following your victory. The media behaves with deference for fear of reform, and treats you favorably once entreaties by media lobbyists to “delay” reform are met. On December 20th 2010 President Lula asked the party’s National...

Continue reading

Bursting Bubble-Thinking About Brazil

000…Brazil is a country of the future. —-…Brazil will always remain a country of the future if average educational achievement stays at seven years of formal schooling per capita. Higher education enrolls only 2% of the population, but consumes a quarter of the total education budget (see Hunter and Sugiyama 2009). 000…Brazil is economically stable. —-…Brazil is still mainly a commodity exporter, and in the long run commodities will always be the most volatile type of export. 000…Brazilian policies...

Continue reading

Government Decides to Keep Archives Closed: Opacity to Prevail Under Dilma?

The Brazilian government has decided to keep its historical archives on the military dictatorship (1964-1985) closed, according to a report published today by ABRAJI. The move breaks with previous promises and effectively renders a conference I paid $100R to attend– International Seminary on Access to Information and Human rights –irrelevant. A boycott of the seminary (see banner photo) is now underway, with prominent NGOs Artigo 19 , Transparencia Brasil, and ABRAJI (Brazilian Association for Investigative Reporting) refusing to...

Continue reading

Large, Insular Countries

It’s a peculiar thing about countries with large populations that they often tend to be insular, uninformed about what goes on in other parts of the world, and mildly paranoid, if not xenophobic. The U.S. provides a leading example: the intermittent periods of “isolationism” provide a testament to insularity. Proverbially clueless about the world outside their borders, Americans have also gained fame for their paranoia and xenophobia. But the prominence of these characteristics is tempered by the country’s historic openness, large...

Continue reading

The Brazilian Validation of my Ph.D.

I’m still months away from being validated. But at least 95% of the paper work is in. It was easy, really: -Sent Diploma and full academic transcript to Brazilian consulate in Houston (closest consulate to graduating institution). $10 verification. -Had documents sent to Brazil. $93 -Had said documents verified by a notary: $11 -Documents translated by an “official” translator: $217 -Paid fee to the “validating” Federal University (UFRJ) in my case: $41 -Handed-in documents to UFRJ! -Realized that they also want a...

Continue reading

Moralistic Blockaders versus Subversive Altruists

Carol and I have been watching political candidates advertise their wares on TV. The Brazilian election is just around the corner and as I mentioned before, it’s not looking promising. Things are good economically, so there’s little incentive for reform. I am reluctant to venture the opinion that someone “looks” corrupt – as the adage goes: looks often deceive – but it’s hard not to infer from the slick manner and silky words of some candidates that they’re in the game for more than just helping their country get ahead...

Continue reading