Lest anyone think American politics is exceptionally corrupt, take a look at the vote-buying scandal undermining Brazil's ruling party.

Now, even the modestly progressive elements of these reforms have now been overshadowed by the corruption scandals that exploded in June 2005 after a revelatory TV interview by a member of congress from a small party allied to the PT, Roberto Jefferson (who has himself fallen victim to the process he unleashed). It is generally admitted that the cúpula (group at the top) of the PT bribed political parties of the right to join their parliamentary alliance and gave monthly payments to congressmen of the right to support their legislation.

The corruption extended also to the PT's strategy for winning the 2002 election. This, it turns out, was based on a secret slush fund or caixa dois (literally "a second cash till") sourced by donations from businesses contracted by PT municipal governments, public companies and private companies seeking government contacts. The publicist responsible for Lula's 2002 advertising campaign admitted he had received money from these PT funds through an illegal account held by the PT in the Bahamas.

Despite the ethics problems of our representatives, if anything they may be far more honest than the politicians plaguing the rest of the world. For Brazil, corruption is a way of life that reaches back centuries.

As a result of this tradition of corruption, people in Brazil seem to have become quite lax about the problem. In fact, there are politicians who have been re-elected after many evidences of corrupt behaviour. On certain occasions it seems that corruption has even enhanced the popularity of the politician.

This might be true for the case of Adhemar de Barros, the governor of São Paulo in the 1950s and 1960s. Voters knew that he liked very much to steal public money, but kept voting on Barros for considering him a 'generous' leader for themselves. Believe it or not, the slogan of Governor Barros during his political campaigns was 'Rouba Mas Faz' ("He Steals but He Makes Things Happen"). ...

In another and more recent scandal, the Workers' Party (PT) has been found paying bribes to members of other political parties in return for their votes in Congress. The case started being unveiled when a political appointee who works at the postal service was filmed telling two bogus businessmen that they could win public contracts by paying bribes to Roberto Jefferson, the parliamentary leader of the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB).

In an attempt to deviate the attention of the media from himself, Jefferson ended up disclosing another and more serious scandal. On June 15, 2005, he told a congressional ethics' committee that the PT was paying a monthly allowance of US$ 12 thousand to some parliamentarians, in return for their support to government-sponsored law proposals. If the allegation is confirmed, as it has been on an almost daily basis, the PT government has built a 'de facto' parliamentary majority by means of bribery.

Fascinatingly dysfunctional.

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