Brazil’s all-corrupt politics


Sharing a joke? President Michel Temer (right) and São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin at the National Car Dealers’ Federation fair in São Paulo PHOTO/Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty

Brazilians will elect a new president this month. But the leading candidates come from some of the most corrupt political parties in Latin America, and they are hoping to keep things just as they are.

Brazil’s media, legal, judicial and corporate factions have insisted for the last three years that systemic political corruption is the nation’s gravest problem. They were so upset about it that in 2016, ignoring dissent, they united to support the most drastic step a democracy can take — removing the elected president, Dilma Rousseff, before the end of her term.

But indignation over corruption and criminality was only a pretext for her impeachment. By removing Rousseff, they knowingly empowered people whose behaviour makes the budgetary manipulations used to justify Rousseff’s removal seem as petty as jaywalking. How did her political opponents, and Globo television journalists, manage to keep a straight face while they trumpeted their indignation about them?

The man they replaced Rousseff with — Michel Temer — was caught on tape ordering the payment of bribes to silence Eduardo Cunha; Cunha, as House Speaker, led the impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, but is now a convicted criminal serving a 15-year prison term for corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. Congress members who removed Rousseff, and made noisy speeches of disgust about her alleged embezzlement, have been taking bribes from Temer for the last two years, in return for suppressing accusations of malfeasance against him (1).

In the course of the presidential election campaign, both the media stars and the elite families who own the television channels have lost the last vestiges of credibility. The Brazilian media’s actions are now so corrupt and so clearly deceitful that they are evident to even the least suspicious observers.

Guardian of the status quo

Brazil’s press is openly backing São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, an establishment figure from the conservative Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB); he’s a South American version of Hillary Clinton, and so uncharismatic that his nickname is ‘Cucumber’. He’s been in politics for decades, funded by the corporate interests he serves; he never rejects the favours requested and granted within Brazil’s political class, so, for the powerful, he’s the perfect guardian of the status quo.

For good reason, Alckmin’s main political tactic is to hide. He doesn’t hold rallies (only insomniacs would attend), and his bid for the presidency relies on backroom deals between powerbrokers, with massive amounts of money from the elite interests he serves. This is exactly the kind of legalised corruption that is undermining Brazilian politics and that the media pretends to loathe.

Alckmin, despite being loved by Brazil’s media, has yet to score even 10% in voting intention polls. As in other countries, voters are more and more contemptuous of the political elite, and turning away from them.

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