Raymond Colit, Arnaldo Galvao – Bloomberg, 12/20/2012
Joaquim Barbosa once pored over law tomes while working nights as a typesetter to pay for college. Now he is rewriting them — and the history books as well — as the first black chief justice of Brazil’s Supreme Court and the presiding judge in a landmark corruption case.
Barbosa, 58, rocketed to celebrity for his role in a trial that convicted close aides of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who appointed him to the top court in 2003. In a country where few politicians are ever tried for corruption and virtually none go to jail, Barbosa led the way in arguing that Lula’s aides stole public money, used it to bribe lawmakers and should be punished with lengthy prison terms.
The son of a brick-layer and a cleaning lady, Barbosa overcame racial prejudices to galvanize sentiment for cleaner politics. While non-whites make up more than half of Brazil’s population, they hold only 8 percent of seats in Congress and earn half as much as whites, according to the statistics agency.