Brazil’s mensaleiros go to jail

Jonathan Wheatley – Financial Times, 11/13/2012

Astonishing news from Brazil on Monday night: politicians are going to jail. Not just being convicted of crimes, you understand: actually going to jail.

It was big enough news in October when Brazil’s supreme court began handing down guilty verdicts to those accused of involvement in the mensalão, a vote-buying scheme allegedly operated in Congress in 2003 and 2004 by people close to then President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. That those people will really do time is a huge advance for the rule of law and respect for institutions in Brazil.

If it seems odd to be surprised that people convicted of wrong-doing should be punished, bear in mind the history of impunity  in Brazil. Steady nerve and a brass neck – plus, as required, cash and lawyers – have traditionally been enough to let powerful Brazilians both literally and metaphorically get away with murder.

Read more…

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