It isn’t much fun being in Brazil at the moment. In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a lot going on in Brazil right now that would be enough to make a good man turn bad: Zika virus, recession, crap football team, an Olympics nobody really cares about…
On top of all this, we have the lava jato (car wash) corruption scandal. Now, after living in Brazil for a while, you start to become a bit inured to corruption scandals as they seem come around as regular as a . But this one has turned out to be a bid different. It’s been a corruption scandal with bells on.
It is a long story and, if you would like to know more about the details, you could start with a good infographic showing the participants from the New York Times, read a basic background description from The Guardian, or have a laugh with John Oliver.
Living here with the drip drip, and occasional gush, of stories surrounding the scandal, it can at times seem a bit of a scary place. A lot of the time, these fears are of what might happen based on what we have already seen:
As well as quite a few businessmen either in prison or facing charges, there are now about 50 of these politicians now under investigation.
And that is just one scandal. All in all, according to The New York Times, 60% of are accused of various crimes from electoral fraud to murder.
The Lavo Jato enquiry has found that some $3.5bn has been involved in various kick backs and bribes. Who knows how much more has been missed or is involved in other schemes.
These are just some of the numbers involved and are truly shocking and force people to think that all the politicians are only in it for themselves and there is nothing that can be done.
Update: While writing this, a document has been released from Odebrecht, a construction company heavily implicated in the scandal which has just done a deal to allow its executives to turn state witness. This document lists the politicians who they have bribed in the past, so this number of 50 is already out of date and is now much higher.
There has always been a certain amount of hatred of the governing PT (Workers’ Party) and these corruption scandals have given everyone with an axe to grind the perfect reason to protest. And protest they have, with millions coming on to the streets to call for the impeachment of President Dilma, the arrest of former president Lula and for the whole corrupt gang of the PT to be thrown in prison.
The rhetoric from the anti-government quarter has been strident, but recently it has been matched by pr0-government supporters. Red and black are shouting at yellow and nobody is listening. And the protests look as if they are going to continue, be even more vocal and even more polarised.
Yellow has become the colour of choice of the protestors angry at the current government. Yellow is, of course, in the national flag and is the colour of the national football team. Many of te street protests of have been a sea of yellow with original Nike football shirts very prominent.
Before a recent protest there were posts on Facebook that people should avoid wearing red, as this is the colour of PT and the left, and they should also avoid black as this is the colour of the anarchists or the Black Block.
There were some reports of people being attacked by protestors because they were wearing the wrong colours, although the vast majority of people have been peaceful.
So far, there have been only sporadic incidents of violence at the protests. There are many people predicting that levels of violence will increase if Lula is charged or if Dilma is impeached. Who knows what will happen? It is, however, a genuine fear that the rhetoric used by both sides is only going to increase the propensity for serious violence further down the road.
Sergio Moro is the judge who has taken the lead in prosecuting those involved in the lavo jato case. Depending on your point of view, he is either the caped crusader coming to save Brazil in its hour of need, or an example of how judges are using their power to corrupt the political system and engineer a coup.
And in the background there is the looming shadow of the military. It is not too long since we had a military regime here and the genuine fear from a lot of people is that we might be heading back that way. This is not helped by photos of people holding banner at protests calling for a military to kick out the corrupt politicians. Of course, there was never any corruption under the military government at all. Or at least, we never heard about it.
It all seems pretty bleak at the moment. But of course there are two sides to every story, so tomorrow I’ll be looking at some reasons to be cheerful.