With Corruption All Too Common, Brazil Pushes Back

Six years into the Brazilian government's “Growth Acceleration Program” or the PAC, massive allegations of corruption [pt] have arisen. Delta Constructions S/A, one of the leading contractors in the program and the largest receiver of federal resources since 2007 is also involved in a scandal [pt].

Corruption under PAC

When the Brazilian government's Growth Acceleration Program or the PAC launched in 2007, during the second term of ex-president Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva, the goal was to work on major social, urban, logistical and energy infrastructure in the country, to contribute to sustainable development.

In 2011, under the government of president Dilma Rousseff, the PAC entered its second phase. More work and more resources were made available. The idea was simple: more demand for jobs, more jobs, more money in the economy, higher consumption and more infrastructure – a domino effect for the good of the country.

IV Brazil Marching Against Corruption. Photo of the Brazil Movement Against Corruption. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

IV Brazil Marching Against Corruption. Photo of the Brazil Movement Against Corruption. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The contractor Fernando Cavandish increased his revenue from 67 million Reais to 3 billion Reais in nine years, being one of the largest increases ever seen in the country. But in this growth, not only large buildings and soccer stadiums were a part; over billing and high fees contributed to the increase.

When PAC was launched the promise [pt] was:

um conjunto de medidas destinado a gerar mais emprego e renda, desonerar e incentivar o investimento privado, aumentar o investimento público e aperfeiçoar a política fiscal.

a set of measures designed to generate more jobs and income, reduce taxes and increase private investment and improve fiscal policy.


Already in its second phase, among its ten largest works, most of which are in the energy sector, are the Hydroelectric plants of Belo Monte and Santo Antônio, both criticized for the impact that they will bring upon the indigenous populations. The government wishes to invest, between 2011 and 2014, R$ 955 billion.
Mocking the name of the government program, a PAC-Man-inspired game “Roba Roba” (“Steal Steal”) [pt] has even been created, in which players are corrupt politicians and must take as much money as possible to get through the levels.

Roba-Roba. Image Posted on the Website Tech Tudo - "Be a corrupt politician in Roba-Roba"

Roba-Roba. Image Posted on the Website Tech Tudo – “Be a corrupt politician in Roba-Roba” HOW TO PLAY Top Left: The Press – They try to investivate politicians but are easily distracted. Top Right: Justice Department – Is blind and slow. Goes randomly across the map arresting the wrong people. Bottom Left: The people – FILM ME! Don't have their own opinion. Follow the press and follow the politician. Depends on who is nearby. Bottom Right: Federal Police – Is the smartest among them and generally have political motivations. They mean business. Watch out!

Deviations beyond PAC

According to a study by FIESP (Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo), conducted in 2010, and published on the website Desviômetro [pt], that seeks to calculate the value of misappropriated funds due to: corruption, embezzlement, scams, trafficking, and trickery:

[o] custo médio da corrupção no Brasil [é] de 2,3% do PIB, isto é, R$ 69.1 bilhões ano base 2008. Este percentual parece modesto, tendo em vista que as pessoas cuja renda familiar per capita é superior a cinco salários mínimos, 27,8% concordam que o problema mais grave é a corrupção.

[The] average cost of corruption in Brazil [is] from 2.3% of the GDP, this is, R$ 69.1 billion based on the year 2008. This percentage appears modest, taking into account that people whose family income per capita is higher than five minimum wage salaries, 27.8% agree that the most serious problem is corruption.

Desviômetro calculates that from its inception this year until the present day, (and constantly increasing) already more than seven billion Reais have been misappropriated, enough to contract 991,491 high school teachers and build 41,789 affordable homes.

Screenshot of the website Desviômetro: "This is a projection of how much money might have been misappropriated from 01/01/2013 until this exact moment because of embezzlement, scams, trafficking, trickery and corruption."

Screenshot of the website Desviômetro: “This is a projection of how much money might have been misappropriated from 01/01/2013 until this exact moment because of embezzlement, scams, trafficking, trickery and corruption.”

According to the organization Transparency International, in 2012, Brazil ranked 73rd among the 182 most corrupt countries in the world. However, not only politicians and the public sphere are responsible for the fraud and corruption scandals. As seen from the grand works of PAC, private business and individuals outside the government are also involved; after all corruption is an illegal and illegitimate form of business that involves as much the private sector as the public sector.

Among the many cases of corruption, the famous mensalão case [pt] is a different story. Considered one of the biggest corruption scandals in Brazil,  the magazine GPS Brasília explains [pt]:

O mensalão foi um esquema montado no governo Lula para comprar apoio de parlamentares e para saldar dívidas de campanha com dinheiro não contabilizado, o chamado caixa 2. Os acusadores entenderam que pelo menos quatro partidos – PT, PP, PL (hoje PR) e PTB – beneficiaram-se do esquema, além da contrapartida para empresários e funcionários de instituições financeiras.

The mensalão scandal was a scheme put together under the government of Lula to buy parliamentary support and to pay off campaign debts with unaccounted for money, the so called caixa 2 (slush fund). The accusers understand that at the very least four political parties – PT, PP, PL (today PR) and PTB -benefited from the scheme, beyond taking into account entrepreneurs and employees of financial institutions.

First reported in 2005, the case was tried at the end of last year.  With an historic result, the Supreme Federal Court (STF) [pt] convicted a large majority of the 38 defendants, including  José Dirceu, ex-ministerial Chief of Staff, Delúbio Soares, Treasurer of the Workers Party (PT), and the  businessman Marcos Valério.

Historical Conviction

Cerimônia de posse do ministro Joaquim Barbosa. Foto da Agência Senado. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Ceremony held by the Minister Joaquim Barbosa. Photo by the Senate Agency (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Despite new cases of corruption that continue to be revealed in Brazil,  much of the population holds a widespread sentiment that impunity prevails among those involved. Convictions such as those of the mensalão case, highlighting the figure of the Justice Minister of STF, Joaquim Barbosa, signal that times may be changing. Even a campaign for the presidential nomination of the Minister has been launched.

With the aim to end impunity, the Brazilian Association Against Corruption and Impunity [pt] was established. In it's mission statement [pt], the association states:

em nosso país a corrupção tende a ser considerada natural, como se fosse crônica e incurável, com a qual estamos obrigados a conviver, embora a maioria do povo brasileiro não aceite a corrupção e mesmo se revolte com o que vê e ouve. (…) É nessa cultura que se apóiam os atos de corrupção que é preciso eliminar da prática administrativa, política e empresarial e da vida cotidiana em nosso país, desde a prática individual de cidadãos isolados até as atuações organizadas de corporações e governos a qualquer nível.

in our country corruption tends to be taken for granted, as if it were chronic and incurable, with which we are obligated to live with, however a majority of the brazilian people don't accept corrpution and in return are revolted by what they see and hear. (…) It is this culture that supports acts of corruption that need to be eliminated from administrative, political and business practices and from everyday life in our country, from the individual actions of individual citizens to the organized actions of corporations and governments at whatever level.

Along the same lines, movements for open governance and transparent administration have emerged in various parts of the country. Brazil, for example, is one of eight countries to found Open Government Partnership, a global effort to improve governments worldwide. The Ethos Institute [pt] also launched a portal Clean Games to monitor the level of transparency of the host cities for the World Cup in 2014. A majority of the municipalities exhibit a very low level.

The challenge that change presents is great.  However, everyone's participation is essential to ensure that new scandals are in fact scandals, and not just daily news.


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