Brazil is in tatters. The economy is in a deepening recession: Last Tuesday, Moody’s downgraded Brazil’s credit rating to just about junk. A massive corruption scandal involving the national oil company Petrobras has ensnared scores of politicians and businessmen. The legislature is in revolt. President Dilma Rousseff’s popularity rating, less than a year after her re-election, is down to one digit, and nationwide protests on Sunday reverberated with calls for her impeachment.
In all this turbulence, it is easy to miss the good news: the fortitude of Brazil’s democratic institutions. In pursuing bribery at Petrobras, federal prosecutors from a special anticorruption unit of the Public Ministry have not been deterred by rank or power, dealing a blow to the entrenched culture of immunity among government and business elites. Former Petrobras executives have been arrested; the wealthy chief executive of the construction giant Odebrecht, Marcelo Odebrecht, is under arrest; the admiral who oversaw Brazil’s secret nuclear program has been arrested, and many others face scrutiny, including Ms. Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.